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1921 Centre Praying Colonels football team

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Conference  Independent
Head coach  Charley Moran
Assistant coach  Tiny Thornill
1921 record  10–1
Assistant coach  Chief Myers
Offensive scheme  Single wing
1921 Centre Praying Colonels football team

The 1921 Centre Praying Colonels football team represented Centre College of Danville, Kentucky in the 1921 college football season. Led by coach Charley Moran, the Praying Colonels compiled a 10–1 record, scoring 334 points while allowing 28 points (282 and 6 in regular season play).

Contents

The Colonels' victory in its game versus Harvard is regarded as one of the greatest upsets in college football history. Centre also played in two postseason bowl games after the season. The Colonels defeated Arizona 38–0 in the San Diego East-West Christmas Classic before losing to Texas A&M in an upset at the Dixie Classic (a precursor to the modern Cotton Bowl Classic), a game which originated the Aggies' 12th man tradition.

The Colonels' captain was "Army" Armstrong. Several players received postseason recognition. End Red Roberts was a first-team Walter Camp All-America selection, a rarity for a player in the South, and quarterback Bo McMillin made Camp's second team and was recognized as consensus All-American. McMillin was an inaugural inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Before the season

Centre College was a small college in Danville, Kentucky. From 1917 to 1924, Centre compiled a 57–8 record while playing against some of the best teams in the nation. The 1919 team first brought the Praying Colonels to national attention. In 1921, the school's student body numbered just 274.

The Colonels had closed the 1920 season by convincingly routing Texas Christian (TCU) in the Fort Worth Classic, 63–7. This season they started their schedule with much stronger competition than the previous year. Several publications relay: "In 1920, the slogan of Centre College was "Score"...In 1921 Centre changed the "Score" slogan to "Hold 'Em".

Coach Charley Moran used a single wing system like his former mentor Pop Warner. Tiny Thornill, a former Pitt star under Warner, and future Stanford head coach, assisted as line coach.

In 1921, football used a one-platoon system, with players featuring on both offense, defense, and special teams. Center Red Weaver, who had posted record numbers for placekicking extra points, graduated and was replaced with Ed Kubale.

Week 1: Clemson

Centre opened the season with a 14–0 victory over the Clemson Tigers. A 7-yard run behind left tackle from Tom Bartlett got the first touchdown. McMillin skirted right end for the game's other score.

The starting lineup was: Bradley (left end), Roberts (left tackle), Jones (left guard), Kubale (center), Cregor (right guard), James (right tackle), Gordy (right end), McMillin (quarterback), Bartlett (left halfback), Armstrong (right halfback), and Tanner (fullback).

Week 2: VPI

The next week was a 14–0 victory over VPI. Centre scored both touchdowns in the final quarter. They were scored in rapid succession by Tanner and Armstrong.

The starting lineup was: Bradley (left end), Roberts (left tackle), Jones (left guard), Kubale (center), Cregor (right guard), James (right tackle), Gordy (right end), McMillin (quarterback), Bartlett (left halfback), Armstrong (right halfback), and Tanner (fullback).

Week 3: at Saint Xavier

Next was a 28–6 victory over Saint Xavier (now Xavier University) of Cincinnati. This game marked the only time during the regular season that Centre gave up any points to an opponent.

The Saints outplayed the Colonels in the first half. Herb Davis recovered a fumble for a touchdown. "Trembling from excitement, Noppenerger missed the goal."

"McMillin, Covington and Armstrong carried the ball 46 yards to the one-foot line on three plays" before Tanner went over and kicked goal for the lead. In the third quarter, Thomasson bucked it over on runs of 9 and 1 yard. Davis once broke free, and with only Tanner to pass, had Tanner knife through three blockers to push him out of bounds. "The Colonels then showed their greatest offense when in five plays they took the ball 72 yards for a touchdown." Later, McMillin got the last touchdown.

The starting lineup was: Gordy (left end), Roberts (left tackle), Gibson (left guard), Kubale (center), Cregor (right guard), James (right tackle), Snoddy (right end), McMillin (quarterback), Bartlett (left halfback), Armstrong (right halfback), and Tanner (fullback).

Week 4: at Transylvania

In the fourth week of play, Centre easily defeated Transylvania by the score of 98–0. According to Spalding's Football Guide, McMillin ran back a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown.

The starting lineup was: Roberts (left end), Gordy (left tackle), Jones (left guard), Kubale (center), Shedoan (right guard), Cregor (right tackle), James (right end), McMillin (quarterback), Snoddy (left halfback), Armstrong (right halfback), and Thomasson (fullback).

Week 5: at Harvard

On October 29, 1921 Centre met Harvard University, a team that had never lost to a team outside the East, and had not lost a game since 1918. It was coming off a victory in the 1920 Rose Bowl after an undefeated national championship season in 1919 - the school's fourth national championship in the prior ten years.

Coming into the Centre game, Harvard was also undefeated and unscored upon in the 1920 season. Some reports recall the players wearing work clothes to cultivate the image of the underdog. Coach Moran had Happy Chandler, who was at Harvard Law School, scout the Harvard team and take copious notes.

After a scoreless half, early in the third quarter Red Roberts told Bo McMillin "it's time to score, ride my hump" and McMillin ran for a 32-yard touchdown. He dodged three of Harvard's secondary. Harvard coach Bob Fisher said after the game: "In Bo McMillin Centre has a man who is probably the hardest in the country to stop."

All around Danville students painted the "impossible formula" of C6H0. The campus post office has the last vestige of this on a side wall. Tulane coach Clark Shaughnessy later wrote the win "first awoke the nation to the possibilities of Southern football." In 1950, the Associated Press named C6H0 the greatest sports upset of the first half of the 20th century. In 2005, The New York Times called it "arguably the upset of the century in college football." In 2006, ESPN named it the third-biggest upset in the 138-year history of college football. On the return celebration in Danville on Monday, Governor Edwin P. Morrow remarked "I'd rather be Bo McMillin this moment than the Governor of Kentucky."

The starting lineup against Harvard was: James (left end), Moody (left tackle), Shadown (left guard), Kubale (center), Jones (right guard), Cregor (right tackle), Roberts (right end), McMillin (quarterback), Armstrong (left halfback), Snoddy (right halfback), and Bartlett (fullback)

Week 6: Kentucky

Centre then defeated Kentucky 55–0. McMillin had three touchdowns. In the middle of the second quarter, up 7–0, McMillin skirted left end and cut back across the field for a 49-yard touchdown. Herb Covington next had a 39-yard touchdown. In the fourth, a 30-yard pass to Roberts was followed shortly by a 35-yard pass to Hennie Lemon for the touchdown. Bobby Lavin starred for the Wildcats.

The starting lineup was: Roberts (left end), Gordy (left tackle), Jones (left guard), Kubale (center), Shadoan (right guard), Cregor (right tackle), James (right end), McMillin (quarterback), Snoddy (left halfback), Armstrong (right halfback), and Bartlett (fullback).

Week 7: at Auburn

In the seventh week of play Centre defeated Auburn 21–0. Roberts scored the first two touchdowns. Ed Sherling had Auburn's best run of the day around left tackle for 15 yards, but McMillin tackled him and forced a fumble, recovered by Armstrong putting Centre in striking distance for the second touchdown. McMillin scored the third touchdown in the fourth quarter. "There is no doubt that we were outclassed" said Auburn coach Mike Donahue.

The starting lineup was: Roberts (left end), Gordy (left tackle), Jones (left guard), Kubale (Center), Shadoan (right guard), Cregor (right tackle), James (right end), McMillin (quarterback), Snoddy (left halfback), Armstrong (right halfback), and Tanner (fullback).

Week 8: vs. Washington & Lee

Washington & Lee was then defeated 25–0 in the mud in Louisville. McMillin threw a 25-yard pass to Armstrong for the last touchdown. Judge Robert Worth Bingham hosted a dinner dance in honor of the two football teams.

The starting lineup was: Roberts (left end), Gordy (left tackle), Jones (left guard), Kubale (Center), Shadoan (right guard), Cregor (right tackle), James (right end), McMillin (quarterback), Snoddy (left halfback), Armstrong (right halfback), and Bartlett (fullback).

Week 9: at Tulane

The season closed with the defeat of Tulane by a score of 21–0. The Colonels were favored, and McMillin played a part in all of the scoring plays. He threw touchdown passes to Bartlett and to Snoddy, and ran one score in himself. He also kicked all the extra points.

Centre finished the regular season undefeated at 9–0 having given up only 6 points all season.

The starting lineup was: Roberts (left end), Gordy (left tackle), Jones (left guard), Kubale (Center), Shadoan (right guard), Cregor (right tackle), James (right end), McMillin (quarterback), Snoddy (left halfback), Armstrong (right halfback), and Tanner (fullback).

Post season

Centre then played in two bowl games to close the season.

Arizona

In the San Diego East-West Christmas Classic, Centre defeated Arizona 38–0 as rain fell throughout the game. Red Roberts scored the first touchdown five minutes into the match. Bo McMillin went over the right tackle for another score. Centre led 18–0 at the half as Arizona was held to no first downs in two quarters of play.

Arizona later made an attempt to drive towards a score, but Centre intercepted an Arizona pass to keep the game scoreless. Herb Covington scored on a punt return and a sweep to seal the victory.

The starting lineup was: Roberts (left end), Gordy (left tackle), Jones (left guard), Kubale (center), Shadoan (right guard), Cregor (right tackle), James (right end), McMillin (quarterback), Snoddy (left halfback), Armstrong (right halfback), and Tanner (fullback).

Texas A&M

After a long trip back, the Colonels played in the Dixie Classic in Dallas, a precursor to the modern Cotton Bowl Classic. The day before the game, McMillin was married. Centre was upset by coach Dana X. Bible's Texas A&M 14–22. It is the game in which Texas A&M's 12th man tradition originated.

The Aggies scored first and early by catching Tom Bartlett behind his goal for a safety. Centre went up 7–2 in the third quarter, Terry Snoddy running in the score after an A&M fumble. The Colonels fumbled the ensuing kickoff. The Aggies got the ball and a pass from Puny Wilson to Jack Evans got the touchdown. Centre fumbled again on the next possession. Wilson scored this time. Centre got the ball back, but Ted Winn intercepted the ball and ran 45 yards for the A&M touchdown. Centre's Snoddy scored again later, but the game ended soon afterwards, 22–14.

The starting lineup was: Roberts (left end), Gordy (left tackle), Jones (left guard), Kubale (Center), Shadoan (right guard), Cregor (right tackle), James (right end), McMillin (quarterback), Snoddy (left halfback), Armstrong (right halfback), and Bartlett (fullback).

Awards and honors

The 1921 team produced the most stars for Centre's all-time team. Red Roberts was a first-team Walter Camp All-America selection, just the fourth in Southern history. Bo McMillin made Camp's second team and is recognized as a consensus All-American. McMillin was a unanimous All-Southern selection. Red Roberts made composite All-Southern, and Kubale and Snoddy made some selections.

Championships

The Colonels were recognized by writers generally as champions of the South. Georgia Tech, Georgia, and Vanderbilt split the SIAA championship. Centre was arguably the strongest of the four, for as one publication reads: "Out of eleven games against eastern teams, Centre and Georgia Tech furnished the only two victories and Tech was later trounced by Penn State." For Georgia coach Herman Stegeman, the contest for the theoretical title of greatest Southern team was between Centre, Georgia Tech, and Georgia. Fuzzy Woodruff explains that Centre "belonged to no governing association" with several players thereby accused of professionalism, and Tech was picked as champion "through force of habit".

Depth chart

The following chart provides a visual depiction of Centre's lineup during the 1921 season with games started at the position reflected in parenthesis. The chart mimics a single wing on offense.

Scoring leaders

The following is an incomplete list of statistics and scores, largely dependent on newspaper summaries.

Coaching staff

  • Charley Moran, head coach
  • Chief Myers, assistant coach
  • Tiny Thornhill, line coach
  • John McGee, manager
  • References

    1921 Centre Praying Colonels football team Wikipedia


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