November 29, 1924 Centre- Georgia
Howard Robertson's "Cento" which was delivered to Breck Hall announcing Homecoming and the Georgia game
Red Robertson's program saved after all of these years
Centre was now 4-1-1 and had won 3 of the 4 games with the Southern Conference members. Georgia was the last challenge. The Bulldogs felt that they had outplayed Centre the year before when the two teams tied 3-3 in Athens. Georgia had a point, as it won statistically. However, Centre would have been victorious had Hennie Lemon's field goal attempt, which hit the goalpost's crossbar, gone a few inches further before it came down just short of a score.
After Centre's big win over Alabama, interest in the Colonels, always great, now intensified. Centre had designated the Georgia game as Homecoming. The other two games played in Danville, against Valparaiso and Transylvania, hadn't really been considered attractions suitable to bring the graduates home. Georgia most certainly was.
Requests for tickets came in from six states. Many of the major newspapers from the South were sending reporters in to cover the game. Ed Danforth of the Atlanta "Georgian," the Atlanta "Journal's" Morgan Blake, Zip Newman of the Birmingham "Herald," and Walter Schwan of the Shreveport "Times," were coming. Macon and Athens papers were sending their representatives. All of the Louisville and Lexington papers, along with the two from Danville, and many of the smaller daily and weekly papers in Central Kentucky, were also going to have their men in the press box. Lawrence Perry from New York, a sports reporter for the North American Newspaper Alliance which served 50 papers, was covering the game.
Georgia had been unwise in its scheduling for 1924. The athletic department had signed a contact for home and away games with Centre in 1923 and '24, and had an agreement to play Alabama in Montgomery in 1923 and Birmingham in 1924. There was just one problem with the 1924 arrangement. Alabama wanted to play their 1924 game with Georgia on Thanksgiving, which fell on November 27, and the Centre and Georgia game was scheduled just two days later, on Saturday, November 29. Georgia, somewhat incomprehensibly, agreed to both dates, which meant that the team would meet Alabama on Thursday afternoon, stay over in Birmingham, and spend Friday on the train coming to Danville. It wasn't an impossible situation, but it meant that the Bulldogs would be taking on two formidable teams within 48 hours.
Adding to Georgia's problem was the fact that it was meeting an Alabama team which had been humiliated by Centre on November 15. The Tide was determined to make a comeback and show the football world that it was still a team to be reckoned with. The Southern Conference title was still in play, and since the Centre loss didn't count as a conference game, beating Georgia meant that 'Bama could claim the championship.
On November 27, Alabama destroyed Georgia 33-0 on the same Rickwood Field where it had met Centre, and finished at 8-1. The Tide surrendered only 24 points all season, 17 of which were put on the board by the Colonels.
( Let's take a moment to reflect on how big that Centre win over Alabama was. As noted, after 'Bama smashed Georgia, it finished at 8-1 and had outscored its opponents, 294-24. The following year, 1925, Alabama was undefeated at 10-0 which included a Rose Bowl win over Washington, 20-19, on January 1, 1926.
In the Rose Bowl win over the Huskies, two of the players who the Colonels had totally neutralized provided the heroics in the Tides' win.
Alabama had been outplayed in the first half and was behind 12-0 as the teams headed to the dressing rooms at the break. Coach Wallace Wade waited for what seemed like forever before finally joining his team.
Finally, he walked in and said, "They told me boys from the South would fight."
And, he walked out.
A fired-up Alabama dominated the second half.
"Pooley" Hubert, who Centre had totally bottled up, scored on a 1 yard plunge to make it 12-7.
Fullback Grant Gillis hit "Johnny" Mack Brown, another back who Centre had shut down, for a 59 yard TD to make it 14-12.
"Pooley" then hit Brown for 30 yards and another TD to stretch the lead to 20-12.
"Johnny" Mack Brown running against Washington in the January 1, 1926 Rose Bowl
Washington fought back and scored on an 88 yard drive, but the Tide held on and won, 20-19.
The crowd welcoming the victorious Alabama team at the Tuscaloosa train station on the return from the January 1, 1926 Rose Bowl win.
The Centre win over Alabama in 1924 further proved that Centre and its "Seven Immortals" deserved a significant place in the roster of great football teams of the 1920's.
It was appreciated then but somewhat forgotten now. Hopefully, this retelling of the exploits of little Centre College will rekindle the realization of what this remarkable group of young men achieved some century ago.
In 1926, Alabama's record was 9-0-1, with the tie being 7-7 with another Rose Bowl opponent, Stanford. For the 3 years, 1924-26, Alabama had a 27-1-1 record. It outscored its opponents during that run, 840-77, winning by a rounded-off margin of 29-3.
Alabama's only loss during the 3 years was to Centre College, 17-0, and that loss was no fluke. Centre totally outclassed a team that many had felt was the best eleven of the era. )
Georgia was having a great year until running into the fired-up Alabama team.
Coming into the game in Danville, it was 7-2. The only defeat other than the one that 'Bama put on them was a 7-6 loss to Yale in New Haven on October 11. Yale was undefeated in 1924 with a record of 6-0-2. It tied Dartmouth and an Army team which only lost to Notre Dame, which was undefeated. The one point loss to the Yale Bulldogs, on the road at the Yale Bowl, was an indication of the strength of the Georgia squad.
Georgia 26 Mercer 7
Georgia 18 South Carolina 0
Georgia 6 Yale 7
Georgia 22 Furman 0
Georgia 3 Vanderbilt 0
Georgia 33 Tennessee 0
Georgia 7 Virginia 0
Georgia 6 Auburn 0
Georgia 0 Alabama 33
Other than the Alabama drubbing, Georgia had been stingy on defense, giving up only 14 points in the other 8 games.
The Colonels and Bulldogs had 2 common opponents. Both beat Tennessee by similar scores, with Centre winning 32-0 and Georgia, 33-0. Alabama routed the Bulldogs and Centre soundly beat Alabama.
Chief Myers invited the Kentucky Wildcats' team to come to Danville and be guests of Centre. He also requested that the Captain Sanders sit on the bench.
Several coaches wired the Centre athletic board that they were going to be in attendance. William Alexander, Georgia Tech's coach since 1920, was coming from Atlanta. Fred Murphy of Kentucky was coming. Bob Peck, an All-American at Pittsburgh in 1914 and now head coach at Culver Military Academy, sent word that he needed a room and asked for assistance. Former Colonels and now coaches, Bill Shadoan from Valpo and Ed Diddle from Western Kentucky, planned on attending. Ashel "Bum" Day, a Walter Camp All-American at Georgia Tech in 1918, was coming to watch his brother, Rose Day, who was playing in the center position at Georgia.
Despite all of the reporters and other notables who were going to be in Danville on November 29, the really big news and attraction was that Bo was going to be on the sideline, cheering on his former teammates, the seniors now known as "The Immortals," who had been freshmen during his senior year during the 1921 season.
Everybody was really thrilled that Bo was coming back to Danville for the Georgia game. He was still the biggest thing to ever happen at Centre. Of course, as freshman team manager, I was in the dressing room helping out when he came in to greet and speak to the team. Bo said that the great victory over Harvard was something that he would always remember and feel great pride in having taken part, but he said when he heard of the equally great victory over Alabama, he thought he was just as happy as he was in 1921 when he heard "Tiny" Maxwell tell him that the game was over, and Centre had beaten Harvard.
It was, "Once a Centre man, always a Centre man."
The week leading up to the Georgia game was filled with Homecoming events. Classes weren't held on Thursday and Friday due to Thanksgiving, but most of the student body decided to stay in Danville and attend the game and participate in Homecoming.
Wednesday morning there was a big pep rally after chapel and a dance in the gym that night.
Thursday evening, the freshman team had a banquet at the Gilcher.
Friday morning, there was a "Get Together" at the First Presbyterian Church. That evening, there was an alumni smoker at the Boyle-Humphrey Gymnasium. All fraternities had open houses, and then there was a huge bonfire and pep rally out on the football practice field.
Saturday morning, there was an event called "Freshman Stunt Day," and of course, in the afternoon, there was the matter of a football game.
Centre dedicated the contest to the seven seniors who would be running out onto Cheek Field for the last time.
"The Immortals" were featured
As the game approached, the weather began to turn cold. On the day that the "Southern Championship" was to be determined, it started to snow, and then came the wind. The temperature was recorded at 25 degrees, but felt more like it was in the low teens. One reporter wrote that the wind-blown snow and sleet "made ones face feel like it was being peppered with buckshot."
What had been foreseen as a sellout from advance tickets sold turned out to have only 5,000 in the stands who braved the weather. Those who attended felt they had certainly gotten their money's worth as it was a smashing, hard fought, excellently played game.
The Centre partisans stood and cheered when the "Seven Immortals" were introduced. They appreciated that they had the opportunity and privilege of watching seven unique and talented individuals over the last 4 years.
"The Immortals" ran out onto the 50 yard line for pictures to be taken as applause rocked through the stadium. From left to right, it was Gordy, Covington, Lemon, Thomasson, Rubarth, Lynch and Kubale.
The 7 seniors who Chief Myers had so aptly named "The Immortals" for playing nearly every moment of the 1924 season
Covey still had his warmup over his jersey. Thomasson and Kubale were bareheaded while the others wore their gold helmets.
Herb Covington finished a sterling career at Centre from 1921-24 with his last game as a member of the "Praying Colonels" on November 29, 1924 against Georgia.
Going into the Georgia game, "The Immortals" had taken the field 36 times over the last 4 years and their team had been victorious in 29 of those contests, with 2 games ending in ties. They had traveled all over the country representing Centre from coast to coast. The home crowd had the opportunity to watch them compete 13 times in Danville before the game with the Bulldogs.
Now, after 60 more minutes of play, they would be gone.
Junior Walter Skidmore, who had to be taken out of the Alabama game during the last 2 minutes due to a foot injury, was diagnosed after returning to Danville with what was called "a fracture in his arch."
"But, I can play, and will," he announced.
Frank Rubarth was still having pain from his broken collar bone, and had swelling in his right ankle due to a sprain which he had sustained in the Alabama contest.
Now, he too announced, "I can play, and I will play."
Everyone else was healthy.
Centre started the same lineup as had started against Alabama, with the "Immortals" designated by *.
*Left End - Hennie Lemon
Left Tackle – Walter Skidmore
* Left Guard - Frank Rubarth
* Center - Ed Kubale
Right Guard - Alex Bush
* Right Tackle - Howard Lynch
* Right End - Case Thomasson
* Quarterback - Herb Covington
Left Halfback - Elmer Rabenstein
Right Halfback - Reginald "Mutt" Wilson
* Fullback - Minos Gordy
Centre won the toss and elected to receive. What followed was a dogfight, a clean, hard-fought game between two dedicated teams giving their all on every play. It was a shame that one had to lose. Bruce Dudley of the Louisville "Courier-Journal" captured that afternoon of November 29, 1924, perfectly.
The team of Bob Myers has emerged from the crash of Southern football without a blemish.
It stands supreme, majestic among the bent, battered and bruised battlers for the coveted crown.
Georgia, the last and deadliest threat, goaded to outraged fury by the humiliation heaped upon by Alabama, slashed into Centre today and swooned back, crumpled by 14- 7, but only after a fight worthy of the name of Georgia.
Georgia is the team that lost by only one point to Yale, which beat Princeton 10-0 after Princeton had badly beaten Harvard.
Centre consecrated itself to Covington, Kubale, Lemon, Lynch, Rubarth, Gordy and Thomasson, waging their farewell fight for the Gold and White, and no team in the world could have hammered back its will to climax the luster of their service in victory.
Victory for the sake of them was an obligation. It had to be fulfilled.
All of the scoring was in the second quarter. Late in the first period, Moore of Georgia punted to Covington who returned the ball close to midfield.
Rabenstein picked up 9, and 2, and it was 1st down on the Bulldogs' 40.
Covey then took the center from Kubale and faked a run to the left but pulled up and fired a perfect pass to Hennie Lemon and Lemon carried it to the 13 before being tripped up.
Gordy, Covey, and Rabenstein picked up 11 yards on three line plungers and it was 1st and goal at the 2. Rabenstein fired into the line and was hit hard and driven back after having gotten a yard on his initial forward motion. The whistle blew and the teams marched the length of the field to take up action again with Centre on the 1 yard line.
Georgia was playing for keeps. Rabenstein got the call again and didn't get an inch. It was 3rd and goal, still on the 1, when Covington barely squeezed it in. The officials had to unstack the big pile of players before finally signaling that Covey had scored.
Lemon was good on the extra point and it was 7-0.
Hennie Lemon then got off a great kick, aided by the wind at his back and the ball sailed into and bounced out of the end zone for a touchback. Georgia had the ball on its own 20.
A vicious tackle by big Minos Gordy dropped the Bulldogs' right half, Martin Kirkpatrick, for a 5 yard loss. Charles Weihers got the 5 back on the next play, but on 3rd and 10, Georgia decided to punt. The same wind which had aided Lemon's kickoff now hindered Georgia, and the kick seemed to actually hit a wall as it shot into the air and went only 12 yards before taking a bounce toward the sideline, out of bounds.
Covington, Gordy and Gordy again picked up 10 yards. It was 1st down on the 22.
Covey sliced through the line for 7, Minos Gordy ran on 2 line plunges and it was 1st and goal just inside the 10.
Rabenstain was called on next and faked a run to the left and then cut back sharply over the right tackle, with Alex Bush and Howard Lynch clearing the way. The Centre halfback burst across the goal untouched. Lemon was perfect, and it looked like the Colonels were going to have their way during the afternoon, as it now stood at 14-0.
Late in the 2nd quarter, a fine Georgia punt, kicked on a low line drive so as to negate the force of the wind, put Centre back on its own 11. Covington decided to try a little trickery, thinking he could catch the Bulldogs off balance as they figured Centre would try to just run out the clock with line plunges and take a safe 14-0 lead into the half-time break.
The play was designed so that Gordy was to start walking back to Covey as if to ask what the signal was, and as he moved back, it was hoped the Georgia players would be distracted. Ed Kubale was then to fire the ball to Covey and the quarterback would circle Georgia's right end, hopefully for a long gainer.
The play looked good in practice, but failed in execution, as Kubale's center pass struck Gordy on the shoulder and fell to the ground where it was smothered by an alert Bulldog right at the line of scrimmage.
It took 3 plays, but Georgia's Tom Nelson scored on a 7 yard run, getting great interference. Howell Hollis was good on the point after, and the half ended at 14-7.
The Colonels had dedicated themselves to not giving up a point during the final 4 games of the season. They had really felt they had the defense, aided by the nearly fanatical drive to succeed, and they could meet their goal. Only a breakdown on an offensive play had caused them to surrender a point.
As the Gold and White jogged through the snow and sleet at the half, the fans shouted, "30 more minutes! 30 more minutes!"
It was true. Two more quarters, 30 more minutes, and the Colonels would wear the crown as the best team in the South.
The 2nd half was a defensive struggle. Centre felt it could keep the Bulldogs out of the end zone, and played conservatively, determined not to make another error and give up the ball deep in its territory as had happened toward the end of the 1st half.
Both teams played tough in the second half but neither could score, and the game ended with Centre holding on for a hard-earned, 14-7 win.
THOMASSON BEAT US-THAT THOMASSON BOY BEAT US
Bruce Dudley's story in the Sunday "Courier-Journal" pointed out that the Georgia coach, George Woodruff, had said that Case Thomasson, "that Thomasson boy," had been the cause of the Bulldogs' defeat. Twice, Case had come running, "appearing to fly," after a Georgia back had broken through and seemed certain to score. Both times, he made a dive and brought the runner down.
George "Kid" Woodruff is right, and Centre knows it. Thomasson did beat him and his Bulldogs by making two of the most extraordinary tackles ever achieved in any football game. Failure of Thomasson to arise to such superhuman speed essential for the registration of the tackles would have cost Centre two touchdowns and victory.
Thomasson was the last man between the Centre goal and the runner. No. The runner in each superlative play was actually between the Centre goal and Thomasson. At the start of each play, Thomasson could not be distinguished from the mass of men at the line of scrimmage, and as the Georgia Bulldog sped by the last Centre safety man with a clear field ahead for the goal, Thomasson did not seem to be near. Both plays started around the other end from him, and he was compelled to cover more ground than anybody to become a possibility in the play.
Three minutes after the game started, Moore, beginning from his own 49 yard line, threaded his way around left end, shifting through three Centre tacklers and side stepping the last safety man. Coming like a wild man obliquely across the field, Thomasson gave chase. The hearts of the Centre enthusiasts stopped beating for an instant. It was Thomasson or a touchdown. And if Georgia got that touchdown with such ease three minutes after play began, its effect would be damaging far more than the six points it would grant.
The long legs of Thomasson scissored away at the fleeing Moore, and then by a stupendous effort, he crashed Moore to earth by a plunging tackle six yards from the Centre goal after Moore had dashed for a gain of 45 yards. And then the Colonels, made anew by the supreme deed of Thomasson, wrestled the ball from the Georgians on downs.
In the third quarter, Georgia held Centre on the Bulldogs' 10 yard line, snatching the ball after the Colonels couldn't make a first down. Nelson made six yards and Randall a first down on a seven yard gain.
On the 23 yard line, Nelson pulled down a pass from Kirkpatrick, evaded the Centre safety men, and again the Georgians had a runner loose for the goal with no Centre defender ahead.
Thomasson came with the speed of a frenzied ostrich, obliquely across the field, and taking up the task after his mates had failed, tore on and on for Nelson. Ten feet from the speeding runner and forty yards from the start of the test, Thomasson sprang for him, like a tiger going after his prey. He did not miss, and those cheering for the Gold and White again slumped back onto their seats, limp through another heart-stopping struggle with the lure of the victory giving speed to the foe, and the horror of defeat charging Thomasson with an even greater speed.
"That Thomasson boy beat us," said Coach Woodruff.
Mr. Woodruff is right, and Centre knows it.
In a scene reminiscent of Tiny Maxwell handing the ball to Bo at the end of the 1921 Harvard game and declaring, "Mr. McMillin, here is your ball," referee Ernest Quigley picked up the ball as the final whistle blew and walked over to Captain Herb Covington.
"Your team played a wonderful, clean game. I am honored to present you the ball."
"You are truly the Southern Champions."
Herb was surrounded by his teammates, and they then all ran to the bench and formed a circle around the Chief, Coach Ofstie and Red Roberts and gave "three cheers" for their mentors. Standing on the sideline were Bo, Bill Shadoan and Ed Diddle, smiling and cheering as loudly as the team.
Bruce Dudley had always been a great admirer of the Chief.
Back of every Centre advance was the motivating spirit of Bob Myers, the Chief, the soft-spoken Christian gentleman who has made Centre what it is today. The Chief, who always preached that if one could but believe, any dreams imaginable could come true, is the heartbeat of Centre College, and has been for years.
Centre played only the eleven starters for the entire game. There wasn't a single substitution. Frank Rubarth, nursing his broken collar bone and twisted ankle, played the entire game. Walter Skidmore, with that fracture in the arch of his foot, played the entire game. Howard "Bull" Lynch twisted his knee and ended the game with a noticeable limp. Howard Lynch played the entire game.
Georgia ran in 10 subs during the contest. The Bulldogs had made a determined effort and played excellently. They had played to win. It was just that on that last Saturday of November, 1924, the Centre College "Praying Colonels" weren't to be denied.
Bruce Dudley had said it best.
Centre consecrated itself today to Covington, Kubale, Lemon, Lynch, Rubarth, Gordy and Thomasson. Victory for the sake of them was a sacred obligation. It had to be fulfilled.
The statistics were as close as the score. Centre picked up 14 first downs to Georgia's 13.
Centre gained 270 yards. Georgia, 238.
Besides Case Thomasson's heroics, the outstanding performance for the Colonels was that of their captain and quarterback, Herb Covington. Covey handled the ball 33 times and gained 155 yards in playing flawlessly.
Centre ended the 1924 season at 5-1-1. What had started in such an unspectacular manner- the tie with Valparaiso- had ended in a storybook fashion.
Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia. The total score in those four wonderful November victories was 70-7. Many felt the 1924 season was Centre's finest hour.
Of course, no one knew it at the moment, but winning the "Southern Championship" ended the "Golden Age" of Centre football. The little college would play on, but the days when the Colonels stepped on the field expecting to win, or were expected to win, were coming to a close.
But what a wonderful run it had been!
I left the stadium after the Georgia game with mixed feelings. Of course, everybody was happy about our great win. The four straight victories over the Southern Conference teams were wonderful. It meant we truly had the best team in the South, and the way we were playing, I felt we had to have one of the best teams in the entire country.
But at the end of the game, I also realized that this would be the last time I'd see our team play. I'd traveled all over to watch them. For four years, my life had literally revolved around the team and the players.
I stood on the field and watched our boys cheer the Georgia team, and then they began to walk slowly toward the dressing room and began to fade in the distance as the snow continued to fall, and finally they were a blur, and then I couldn't see them at all, and I felt a tremendous sadness.
What would it be like not to have a team to follow and to love?
I really didn't know, and I remember walking back to the dorm later with a lump in my throat, and tears in my eyes.
I simply couldn't imagine not having the Centre College football team being part of my life.
I got over it, of course. Life goes on, and there are always new experiences and adventures. But if you had lived in Kentucky, and gone to Centre College back in the early 20's like I did, you would understand how a young boy from a small place like Elizabethtown would have felt that he had lived in a magical era, a time when there was a group of young men who were known as the "Wonder Team" of college football, who had captured the hearts of people all over the United States.
I have always considered that I was fortunate to have been a part of what happened during that period, and I think back on those days often, and still see the guys and hear the shouts and cheers, and feel the pride. And I'm certain I'll continue to do so as long as I live.
It was a wonderful time, and there's never been a finer group of guys.
They truly were, in every sense of the word, the "Wonder Team."
At the end of the season, before we went on Christmas vacation, several of the team along with Red Roberts and other students put on a minstrel show at Stout's Theater. Howard and I were included. I must say it was one of the highlights of our years at Centre. We played to a packed theater and the players brought down the house with their participation.
The members of the 1924 team along with Red Roberts and Red's "son," Red Robertson. and Howard Robertson, are highlighted in the advertisement for the minstrel.
Two Centre players were honored as first team members of the All-Southern team in 1924
In the spring of 1925, I attended my last Centre function before graduation. I never missed a Carnival and this one was probably the best of all because of how popular the King of the Carnival was.
It was Robert L. "Case" Thomasson, one of "The Immortals," who everyone felt had been responsible for the win over Georgia which gave us the claim as being the "Southern Champions of 1924."