Supriya Ghosh (Editor)

1922 Vanderbilt Commodores football team

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Conference  Southern Conference
Assistant coach  Wallace Wade
Offensive scheme  Short-punt
1922 record  8–0–1 (5–0 SoCon/SIAA)
Assistant coach  Lewie Hardage
1922 Vanderbilt Commodores football team
Head coach  Dan McGugin (18th year)

The 1922 Vanderbilt Commodores football team represented Vanderbilt University during the 1922 Southern Conference football season. During the season, Dan McGugin's 18th as head coach, Vanderbilt compiled a record of 8–0–1 (5–0 in conference games) and outscored its opponents 177 to 16. The Commodores' defense was unrivaled in the South, leading the nation in giving up just 1.8 points per game, none of them at home.


1922 was immediately dubbed one of the best seasons in Vanderbilt and Southern football history. It was also the Commodores' first year in the newly formed Southern Conference (SoCon), in which the team tied with North Carolina and Georgia Tech for the conference championship. This was Vanderbilt's second consecutive year as leader of its conference, having tied with Georgia, Centre, and Georgia Tech for the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SIAA) title in 1921. Sportswriters often recognized the undefeated Commodores as the greatest Southern team, leading some to consider them among the best teams in the U.S., along with Princeton, Cornell, California, Michigan, and Iowa. Both Clyde Berryman and James Howell named Vanderbilt as a retroactive national champion for the second consecutive year. The season included a tie with Michigan at the dedication of the new Dudley Field; the first stadium in the South to be used exclusively for college football.

Several Vanderbilt players received post-season honors. Walter Camp selected Lynn Bomar for his All-America team, a rarity for a player in the South. Walter Eckersall and Frank G. Menke also gave Bomar All-America honors. Bomar was a unanimous All-Southern selection, receiving votes at both end and tackle. Camp gave honorable mentions to end and punter Scotty Neill, quarterback Doc Kuhn, and halfback Jess Neely. Bomar and Kuhn also appear on Billy Evans National Honor Roll. Bomar, Neill, Kuhn, and three other Commodores players were selected for Billy Evans' Southern Honor Roll. Neely was one of Vanderbilt's greatest-ever team captains and was also the team's best passer. Neely to Bomar is considered among the best pass-receiver tandems in Vanderbilt's history.

Before the season

In the first season of the new Southern Conference (SoCon), freshmen were barred from play. Vanderbilt coaches prepared to choose the occupants of 23 roster spots from its pool of veteran players. Georgia coach Herman Stegeman predicted a fine season for Vanderbilt in 1922. One commentator noted the Commodores' increase in weight. The previous season's yearbook notes the 1922 team "should have a good chance to repeat the splendid record of '21", expecting to lose just captain Pink Wade and Fats Bailey to graduation. Last season's leading scorer Rupert Smith also did not return for 1922; neither did end and punter Thomas Ryan, who preferred to remain at his job in the oil industry in Tampico, Mexico. The team also lost tackle Pos Elam, who decided to attend the Middle Tennessee State Normal School.

As the season began, Vanderbilt's team included players from Nashville and central Tennessee, including captain Jess Neely Captain who came from Middle Tennessee State Normal School. Fifteen starters returned from the previous season including: Neely, Doc Kuhn, Percy Conyers, Alf Sharpe, Tot McCullough, Hugh Mixon, Hek Wakefield, Red Rountree, Freddie Meiers, Tex Bradford, and Fatty Lawrence. Lynn Bomar, who played fullback in 1921, and replacement quarterback Alvin Bell were also returning for their sophomore campaigns. Newcomers included guard Garland Morrow and halfback Gil Reese – who was given particular attention from first-year backfield coach Lewie Hardage. Tuck Kelly, who had formerly played center for Kentucky, was also a transfer . Tom Zerfoss, the new varsity assistant and head coach of the freshman team, also transferred from Kentucky to Vanderbilt.

Centre and Georgia Tech were favorites to continue their previous season's success and be crowned best team of the South. Centre and Georgia Tech had lost more players in the offseason than other teams. Vanderbilt, along with Auburn, Georgia Bulldogs, and Sewanee, retained enough experienced players to be considered contenders. Nationally, traditional Eastern teams Yale, Harvard, and Princeton, as well as Cornell and Navy were expected to be contenders for the title. Michigan, which also had a strong squad, was favored to win the West.

The 1922 season included the new "try for a point" rule. Teams were allowed to either kick an extra point after a touchdown or to place the ball anywhere beyond the 5-yard line and try to score, either by touchdown or by a kick, and receive one point if successful. Under the "try for a point" rule, any foul by the defense meant the point was awarded to the offense and any foul by the offense invalidated the try.

Week 1: Middle Tennessee State Normal School

Vanderbilt's season opened on September 30, 1922, with a 38–0 victory over the Middle Tennessee State Normal School at Curry Field. The Middle Tennessee State Normal School's team was led by Alfred B. Miles in his eighth season as head coach. The game was marked by "the brilliant running of Gil Reese". As well as Reese, game accounts praise quarterback Doc Kuhn and halfback Freddie "Froggy" Meiers for displaying skill while sprinting around broken fields.

Vanderbilt scored all of its touchdowns via end runs and forward passes, which the Normal School's publication The Normalite said attested to the underwhelming play of the Commodores' line against Normal's squad of "big stalwart, husky fellows, with proper training in the fundamentals of the game".

Vanderbilt coaches expected more from their attempted line plunges and were concerned by the weak showing of the line which needed to improve if Vanderbilt was to have confidence in the mid-season, and in particular against Michigan. The highlight of the game for the Normal School was its only first down, a 12-yard (11 m) end run from its halfback Delay.

The starting lineup was: McCullough (left end), Bomar (left tackle), Morrow (left guard), Sharpe (center), Kelly (right guard), Lawrence (right tackle), Neil (right end), Kuhn (quarterback), Wakefield (left halfback), Neely (right halfback), and Porter (fullback).

Week 2: Henderson-Brown

In the second game of the year, Vanderbilt beat Henderson-Brown 33–0. Vanderbilt was sluggish in the first half, which saw Doc Kuhn, Alvin Bell, and Freddie Meiers each play quarterback, but apparently failing to find a rhythm. Vanderbilt was limited to three first downs in the first half, while Henderson-Brown was limited to two. The only points scored during the half was a 70 yd (64 m) touchdown run in the first quarter as Commodore halfback Gil Reese darted through the entire Henderson-Brown defense. Hek Wakefield kicked a goal. Reese's long run was an anomaly in the first half. Vanderbilt's running backs were ineffective and its line was arguably outplayed by the weaker line of Henderson-Brown. The Commodores did not complete a single pass during the game. Henderson-Brown also had no success with the passing game; its only attempt was broken up by Vanderbilt's defense.

Vanderbilt found its stride in the second half, scoring 26 points including touchdowns on defense and a blocked punt. Halfback Red Rountree took over at quarterback sparking the offense. Two drives resulted in nine first downs and two touchdowns, one by Jess Neely and the other by Rountree soon after the fourth quarter had started. Fatty Lawrence recovered a fumble in the end zone for Vanderbilt's fourth touchdown. Later in the fourth quarter, Garland Morrow broke through the line and blocked a punt that crossed the goal line and was recovered by Scotty Neill for the final touchdown. Hugh Mixon accounted for two extra points.

The starting lineup was: McCullough (left end), Bradford (left tackle), Morrow (left guard), Sharpe (center), Kelly (right guard), Walker (right tackle), Conyers (right end), Kuhn (quarterback), Reese (left halfback), Neely (right halfback), and Wakefield (fullback).

Week 3: Michigan

The third game brought the high point of the season, a scoreless tie with Michigan Wolverines at the dedication of Dudley Field. The tie was the greatest achievement for the underdog Commodores, and "a great surprise to the sporting world." It features prominently in the school's history. According to one account: "The Commodores[,] surprising even to their followers, fought the Michigan eleven, headed by Coach Yost, to a standstill." Another account reads: "Thousands of cheering Vanderbilt fans inspired the surge of center Alf Sharpe, guard Gus Morrow, tackle Tex Bradford, and end Lynn Bomar, who stopped Michigan cold in four attempts." Commodore fans celebrated by throwing around 3,000 seat cushions onto the field. Many publications called it "one of the big moments of the gridiron season".

The game matched Michigan head coach Fielding H. Yost against his former player and brother-in-law Dan McGugin. McGugin learned what he knew of football while playing under Yost as a guard on Michigan's "point-a-minute" offense; Yost recommended McGugin for the Vanderbilt job. Owing to the relationship between Yost and McGugin, Vanderbilt and Michigan played nine times between 1905 and 1923, with Michigan winning eight times. The 1922 game was the first since 1913.

The Wolverines were a national power and the favorite to win the game. Michigan had beaten Vanderbilt at all prior meetings, and had the much healthier lineup. During the pre-game dressing room talk, coach McGugin is reported to have said: "You are going against Yankees, some of whose grandfathers killed your grandfathers in the Civil War." Also reported, probably more accurately, is: "Out there lie the bones of your grandfathers ... and down on that field are the grandsons of the Yankee soldiers who put them there", referring to a nearby military cemetery. There is an often-cited addendum that McGugin's father was an officer in the Union Army.

The game, which featured the season's top-two defenses as measured by points against per game, saw little offense. Vanderbilt punted 17 times; Michigan punted 10 times. Some writers were surprised by Michigan's lack of offense, citing it as their best feature. During the entire game, Michigan made six first downs, two of which came from penalties, while Vanderbilt made one. Michigan's consensus All-American halfback Harry Kipke had been rendered moot for most of the game and later said: "I picked myself up very, very painfully from every blade of grass in the place." Fullback Franklin Cappon seemed to be the only Michigan player who could gain much for his offense. According to the 2012 Vanderbilt Football Fact Book, the tie was preserved when captain Neely recovered a fumble near the Commodore goal.

A goal line stand was the Commodores' key play. A partially blocked Vanderbilt punt gave the Wolverines the ball at Vanderbilt's 25-yard line. Two end runs, two line bucks, and a forward pass brought them to first and goal after six minutes. The Commodores' defense repelled four touchdown attempts. Three runs straight up the middle were stopped before the goal line. Cappon made a yard, Kipke lost one, and Cappon then drove to within one ft (0.30 m) of the goal. Vanderbilt captain Jess Neely was heard shouting, "Stop 'em." On fourth down, Michigan faked a field goal and ran with Harry Kipke off tackle to the right. Kipke was standing very close to the end zone. One Vanderbilt player pushed himself off the goal post in an attempt to generate a greater backwards thrust as the crowd cheered.

The starting lineup was: McCullough (left end), Bomar (left tackle), Morrow (left guard), Sharpe (center), Kelly (right guard), Bradford (right tackle), Sc. Neill (right end), Kuhn (quarterback), Neely (left halfback), Reese (right halfback), and Wakefield (fullback).

Week 4: Texas

Vanderbilt then traveled to Dallas, Texas, to play the Texas Longhorns at the State Fair for the second consecutive year, beating them 20–10. The previous year Texas, an experienced team, had been expected to defeat Vanderbilt's team of inexperienced players, but lost. This year, Vanderbilt was the fourteen-point favorite. Along with the Michigan game, the match up between Vanderbilt and Texas had been billed as one of the more important intersectional games since the beginning of the season, and among the best of them in the South. Dallas radio station WFAA was to broadcast the game to Austin for Texas students.

The Texas Cowboys honorary men's service made its first public appearance at this game. The teams were fairly evenly matched in terms of bodyweight and, as a rough match was expected, an ambulance was kept at the ready near the stadium's entrance. Several key Vanderbilt players were injured; Neely, Morrow, and McCullough all experienced problems, leading to a significantly shortened playing time. Coach McGugin had said: "We are crippled beyond all repair, but we are going out to Texas to win." Texas was strong between the tackles and it came upon Gil Reese to show his ability at running around the edge.

The first score of the game came from Texas. After the initial kickoff to Vanderbilt, Scotty Neill quickly punted back to Texas as Vanderbilt had much faith in its defense. A 22-yard (20 m) run around the edge by Texas quarterback Franklin Stacy was the highlight of the ensuing drive. A few plays later, Texas found itself on Vanderbilt's 18-yard line. Vanderbilt committed an offsides penalty, moving Texas to the 13-yard line. Texas then lost yards and was at the 17-yard line when Stacy kicked a field goal.

Later, Vanderbilt kicked to Stacy, who fumbled the ball, which was recovered by the Commodores' Hek Wakefield at the 25-yard line. Gil Reese ran twice around the edge, giving the Commodores the ball at the 13-yard line. After working it to the goal, Reese scored with a short run off-tackle. The try was good and Vanderbilt led 7 to 3. A series of punts back-and-forth followed. Captain Neely broke the streak of lethargic offense, running back a 30-yard (27 m) punt return, to the 40-yard line. After two Vanderbilt runs by Neill and Kuhn, Reese jetted around the end, "slipping here, twirling there", for a 45-yard (41 m) touchdown. The try was missed and the score was 13 to 3. The punting duel then resumed; Neill again got the upper hand.

After a short Texas punt and a return from Reese, Vanderbilt found itself in good field position at Texas' 45-yard line. On the next play, the Longhorns' Edwin Bluestein blew through Vanderbilt's line and stopped Reese for a loss. Then came a 15-yard penalty on Neill for slugging. The next play saw a clumsy toss to Neill resulting in a fumble recovered by Texas at the 29-yard line. Texas then got a big play from James Marley, who made a 21 yards (19 m) run. As the first quarter ended, Texas was on Vanderbilt's five-yard line. A short run by Marley set up a touchdown from Yancy Culp. Texas closed the gap, 13 to 10. The punting then continued, but Neill was not as sharp as before and two unsuccessful field goal attempts by Texas ended the first half.

The punting resumed at the start of the second half. Reese recovered his own fumble at the 18-yard line, giving Texas a temporary edge in field position. Texas's chance to score started at Vanderbilt's 43-yard line. Three runs and a pass got Texas to the 20-yard line, but then a pass from halfback Ivan Robertson was intercepted by Lynn Bomar. The field position then shifted in Vanderbilt's favor when Neill netted a punt of about 60-yard (55 m). After a Texas punt, Vanderbilt had the ball at the 45-yard line. Kuhn carried twice for 5 yards (4.6 m) Then Kuhn rushed around the edge for around 9 yards (8.2 m) on a criss cross and Wakefield powered his way through the middle for the rest of the first down. Kuhn went around the edge again, this time for over 20 yards (18 m) as he was downed inside of the Longhorns' 10-yard line. An unsuccessful dive ended the third quarter.

The drive ended with two runs up the middle by Reese having been stopped and an unsuccessful fourth down pass attempt from Kuhn to Bomar. Texas punted again after the next series, the ball rolling to Vanderbilt's 45-yard line. Neill faked a kick and ran for 5 yards (4.6 m), and Vanderbilt made the other five needed for the first down on the next play. Reese then lost yards, and a pass attempt from Neely to Bomar was incomplete. On the next play, Neely hit Bomar on a long pass that went 23 yards (21 m) in the air, with Bomar running for some 20 yards (18 m) more and down close to the goal. Reese ran it in on the next play, and the try was good. Vanderbilt led Texas 20 - 10.

Wakefield later fumbled on a run-off tackle and Robertson recovered it on Vanderbilt's 20-yard line. A few runs and a pass gave the Longhorns the ball at the eight-yard line, but they failed to convert on the next series of downs as Marley fell short of the goal line. Neill then had to punt from his own end zone, and did well with a 52-yard (48 m) punt. The teams traded interceptions but the last play of a vigorous drive saw a Texas run downed at about the 12-yard line as the game ended.

Gil Reese was the widely accepted player of the game, scoring all three of Vanderbilt's touchdowns while breaking tackles and sprinting past the Texas defense. Doc Kuhn was praised for his contributions to the run game and his generalship at the quarterback position, as was Scotty Neill for his fine punting.

Texas felt validated after playing better than was expected. The result of the 1922 game was much closer than that of the previous year. The number of first downs seemed to favor Texas; the Longhorns had fifteen first downs compared with the Commodores' eight. Referee A. M. Venne said Vanderbilt defeated Texas because of its crafty play, and "head work".' Texas was one of the best teams Vanderbilt played this season.

The starting lineup was: Bomar (left end), Bradford (left tackle), Walker (left guard), Sharpe (center), Kelly (right guard), Lawrence (right tackle), Sc. Neill (right end), Kuhn (quarterback), Wakefield (left halfback), Reese (right halfback), and S. Porter (fullback).

Week 5: Mercer

For the fifth game, Vanderbilt beat the Mercer Baptists by a 25–0 score in a "featureless match". Mercer was coached by former All-Southern tackle and Vanderbilt football star Josh Cody. Mercer's team was reduced; many of its star players were suffering with dengue fever. Included on the sick list were: Ed Irwin, Mercer's do-it-all end, best punter, and a good passer; right guard 'Judge' Dasher; left guard and team captain Carl Lancaster; halfback George Harmon, who had hurt his ankle; back-up center W. M. Barron, who had mumps; and tackle Beverly Gaines. It was reported that 'Coot' Lynch, replacement for Ed Irwin, was as good an end without Irwin's passing and punting ability. Glenn Carthron was to replace captain Lancaster, and though big, he did not compare to Lynch, who had just returned from an illness-related absence. Injuries aside, the Baptists outweighed the Commodores by more than 20 pounds (9.1 kg) per man.

For the entire 1922 season, Mercer had been unable to play a full lineup of regulars. Scoring would have been an achievement for the Mercer Baptists. Vanderbilt therefore used this game to rest its injured players and played mostly substitutes. Replacement quarterback Red Rountree was the star of the game, making possible all four of the Commodores' scores with his punt returns and end runs. The Baptists' star was fullback Dave Rice, who got the majority of their yardage on the ground. The Commodores were held scoreless in the first quarter. The first score came early in the second when substitute quarterback Red Rountree ran for 43 yards (39 m) around end. In the same period, Lynn Bomar hit Rountree on a 28-yard (26 m) pass, but Vanderbilt was unable to use this to score. The second touchdown came after a short punt from Mercer and a good return from Rountree set up a line buck into the end zone from Bomar.

In the fourth quarter, the Commodores saw two more touchdowns. A pass to Bomar, and a strong line plunge from S. T. Porter, accounted for the scores. Mercer's only chance to score came in the final quarter; after Vanderbilt had fumbled, Mercer completed a pass down to the 10-yard line when the game ended. Red Rountree finished the game with 132 yards (121 m) rushing and 109 yards (100 m) on punt returns. The Vanderbilt team gained 241 yards (220 m) of offense.

The starting lineup was: Brown (left end), Bomar (left tackle), Orr (left guard), W. Porter (center), Lawrence (right guard), Walker (right tackle), Sc. Neill (right end), Rountree (quarterback), Mixon (left halfback), Meiers (right halfback), and S. Porter (fullback).

Week 6: Tennessee

In the sixth game of the year, Vanderbilt beat the Tennessee Volunteers at Knoxville, 14–6 "principally due to the fact that Neill was able to outkick the great Campbell." It was Vanderbilt's first game at Shields-Watkins Field, the Volunteers' new stadium, which had opened on September 24, 1921. The Tennessee Volunteers were "after revenge" — they had only beaten the Commodores twice and Vanderbilt was ahead in points scored by 347 to 53.

Tennessee also hoped to improve its SoCon record after losing to Georgia Bulldogs. Both teams had rested their starters the previous week; Vanderbilt won over Mercer and Tennessee beat Mississippi 49–0. It was therefore thought the game should be closer than in previous years, but Vanderbilt was only a slight favorite. The 18th meeting between Vanderbilt and Tennessee packed the stadium; it was the largest crowd of the season for Shields-Watkins Field. The game was hotly contested, so many writers felt Vanderbilt was outplayed but not outfought; the week off for many Commodore starters may have hindered the team's ability to play its best.

Tennessee drove down to the seven-yard line in the first quarter but was held on downs. The first score came from Vanderbilt in the second quarter on a 31-yard (28 m) touchdown pass from Jess Neely to Doc Kuhn. Wakefield kicked a goal. In the fourth quarter, Tennessee reached the one-yard line after a series of long passes. Tennessee fullback Roe Campbell charged over the line for the touchdown. The Volunteers' Rufe Clayton failed to kick goal. Later, Vanderbilt intercepted a Tennessee pass in Volunteer territory, leading to a chance to score. After runs at the line failed, a 5-yard (4.6 m) pass from Neely to Lynn Bomar got the touchdown. Wakefield's try was successful.

After the game, Neilly, Lynn Bomar, Gil Reese, and Fatty Lawrence were all mentioned as the Commodores' best players; Campbell was cited as the star for the Volunteers. Accounts stated that Neill out-punted the Volunteers on nearly every occasion. The Nashville Banner said Lawrence had been "in there doing a man's job blocking a kick and tackling with the deadliness of a tiger unleashed in a cave of lions." The same week, Tulane lost to North Carolina, leaving Vanderbilt as the only undefeated member of the Southern Conference.

The starting lineup was: McCullough (left end), Bradford (left tackle), Morrow (left guard), Sharpe (center), Kelly (right guard), Walker (right tackle), Sc. Neill (right end), Kuhn (quarterback), Neely (left halfback), Rountree (right halfback), and Wakefield (fullback).

Week 7: Kentucky

In the seventh week of play, Vanderbilt beat the Kentucky Wildcats in a "hard fought battle" by a 9–0 score. Though the Wildcats were not expected to win, they had some confidence going into the game against Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt was also confident.

Lynn Bomar's kickoff, fielded by Turner Gregg, was returned to the 16-yard line. Three runs from Kentucky gained nine yards (8.2 m), and on fourth down the Wildcats punted the ball out of bounds at midfield. After the punt, Vanderbilt moved deeper into Kentucky territory. The drive started poorly; Doc Kuhn lost yards as a run around the end was snuffed out by the Kentucky defense. The next play was the beginning of Vanderbilt's success—Freddie Meiers had an eight-yard (7.3 m) run. Then on a fake kick, Bomar ran around the end for 5 yards (4.6 m). On the next play, an 18-yard (16 m) drop kick by Henry Wakefield split the uprights. Kentucky drove to Vanderbilt's 20-yard line on the next possession. Any attempt to move further was stopped by Vanderbilt's defense, and a 35-yard (32 m) dropkick from Gregg missed. Freddie Meiers was the star of the contest.

The Commodore's first drive of the second quarter centered around Kuhn, Meiers, and Jess Neely; but after reaching Kentucky's 35-yard line the ball was turned over on downs. Kentucky eventually punted away. The next series saw a 70-yard (64 m) drive from Vanderbilt. With fourth down on the one-yard line, Meiers punched it in for the touchdown. Wakefield's try was missed. A later punt by the Wildcats saw Kuhn return the ball 43 yards (39 m), tackled by the last man before the end zone—Kentucky's punter Gregg. The half ended before Vandy could use this to score.

Vanderbilt's play in the third quarter was hampered by fumbles. The ball was kicked off to Kuhn for a 12-yard (11 m) return. Meiers then fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Kentucky. During the ensuing possession, Vanderbilt jumped offside. Vanderbilt's defense made up for the Commodores' poor situation. Kentucky tried an end run that resulted in a loss of three yards (2.7 m) and on the next play a pass was intercepted by Bomar. The next Vanderbilt drive seemed promising with an average of more than five yards (4.6 m) per play, until Vanderbilt again fumbled the ball away. The Vanderbilt defense once more came to the rescue; Kentucky could not get 10 yards (9.1 m) and the ball went over on downs.

The final quarter saw Kentucky attempt a hurried comeback led by forward passes. Only one was completed; a 30-yard (27 m) pass from Fuller to Hollowell. Vanderbilt sent in Gil Reese for Meiers, and Reese closed out the game. One play was a 35-yard (32 m) run; Reese failed to score because Kentucky's Brewer got his feet from behind. At Kentucky's 35-yard (32 m) line the drive was stalled with a turnover on downs.

At the end of the week, Vanderbilt was the only undefeated team left in the South; VMI had lost to North Carolina. The following week, Kentucky hosted the high-scoring Alabama Crimson Tide squad and was the only team of the season to hold that team scoreless.

The starting lineup was: Bomar (left end), Bradford (left tackle), Lawrence (left guard), Sharpe (center), Kelly (right guard), Morrow (right tackle), Sc. Neill (right end), Kuhn (quarterback), Meiers (left halfback), Neely (right halfback), and Wakefield (fullback)

Week 8: Georgia

The Georgia Bulldogs played Vanderbilt for their homecoming. Georgia was hungry to finally beat Vanderbilt and this game was at the top of its list of desirable victories. The Commodores were equally eager to defeat the Bulldogs and claim a Southern championship.

According to a report of Vanderbilt's arrival in Athens: "The Commodores arrived here at one o'clock Friday afternoon, and were whisked directly to the Georgian Hotel. Curious hundreds of Bulldog supporters shuddered at the procession of Vandy giants as they strolled down the sidewalks, led by Huge Tot McCullough, with spry Froggy Miers and clever Doc Kuhn bringing up the rear." Governor-elect Clifford Walker was among the notables in the large crowd at Sanford Field.

Vanderbilt won 12–0, with Bomar described as a "holy terror" to the Bulldogs by W. C. Munday. As it had intended, Vanderbilt left the game as favorite to be crowned champions of the South. The 1922 game between Georgia and Vanderbilt marked the last time Georgia had lost two consecutive games at home to Vanderbilt, having also lost 46 to 0 at Athens in 1912.

Vanderbilt entered the Georgia game as slight favorites; the team usually defeated Georgia but the previous year, Vanderbilt year had to fight to bring the game to a tie, dashing either teams' hopes of an unblemished record and an undisputed SIAA title. In 1922, Vanderbilt was acknowledged as having returned to its full form. Since it had held Yost's Michigan machine scoreless, it was thought Georgia could have a difficult time with the Commodores' defense. Georgia was without its quarterback Dick Mulvehill.

Every Georgia opponent had failed to score through its line during the 1920 and 1921 seasons, but the Bulldogs had defended the forward pass poorly in prior weeks. It was thought Vanderbilt should expose Georgia's defense by using the forward pass. It seemed to work, for though the Commodores were 3 for 9 on pass plays, they made those three count for around 90 yards (82 m). These passes showed the mark of "ceaseless drill" and seemed to come once Vanderbilt had Georgia's defense looking for the run.

Vanderbilt found itself in another game where punts may have decided the victor, and Vanderbilt registered better punts. Scotty Neill punted 14 times with an average distance of 47 yards (43 m). Georgia punted 15 times with an average of 34 yards (31 m). Georgia fans were surprised to see Vanderbilt try an unusual play. Twice after a fair catch, the Commodores lined up as if they were prepared to kick the ball away, then tried a high hanging onside kick from scrimmage. It was tried twice and failed, although Georgia seemed to be caught off-guard by the display.

The first scoring drive of the game started when Gil Reese returned a punt 14 yards (13 m) to the 46-yard line. Kuhn ran behind the left tackle for one yard (0.91 m), putting the ball in the middle of the field. Jess Neely then hit Bomar on a long pass thrown from several yards behind the line of scrimmage. Bomar caught it near the seven-yard line and was downed by Georgia halfback Teany Randall after having run for 5 yards (4.6 m) more yards close to the three-yard line. The next series of downs saw a touchdown from Reese on a run at the left tackle.

The second quarter began much like the first, with a trading of punts. After a few series for both teams, Reese was hit hard on a punt return and fumbled. Georgia's Randall came out of the pile of players with the ball on Vanderbilt's 40-yard line; the crowd could be heard chanting, "Tie it up!" Fullback John Fletcher made nine yards (8.2 m) on a double pass play. A few plays later, Randall hit Paul Anderson on a pass play to get Georgia inside the 20-yard line. Two more runs by Fletcher for a net gain of nine yards (8.2 m) and Tanner barely getting the yard needed for a first down. Fletcher ran into Vanderbilt's line on the next play for one yard (0.91 m). Randall went at center but the Vanderbilt defense swarmed and turned him back. Fletcher then went off left tackle for two more. Georgia tried to throw for a touchdown on its final down but the pass was knocked down at the two-yard line. The half ended shortly after.

To start the second half, Collings kicked off to Freddie Meiers, who had the best run of the day with a return of 40 yards (37 m), giving Vanderbilt the ball at the 45-yard line. Neill punted to Randall, who fell on his own fumble at the 17-yard line. Vanderbilt held Georgia to a 4th and 1, but jumped offside during the punt, giving Georgia a first down. The next few plays failed and Georgia punted again. Reese returned the punt 20 yards (18 m) to Georgia's 44-yard line. Meiers gained 46 yards (42 m) with a run up the middle on the next play. On a play similar to the touchdown in the first quarter, Doc Kuhn dropped back and hit Bomar for an over 40-yard (37 m) touchdown pass, which went 28 yards (26 m) in the air with Bomar running the rest of the way. Collings tackled Bomar as he was crossing the goal line, hurting himself. Wakefield missed the kick.

By the end of the third quarter, Georgia was trying to pass and completed one for five yards (4.6 m). In the fourth quarter, Bomar intercepted a pass from Randall. After small gains from the Commodores, the ball was punted back to Georgia, which fumbled the punt but recovered. Both teams tried to pass until the game ended, especially Georgia, which tried to mount a comeback. Neither team had any success and the game ended with a final score of 12 to 0. The next week, Georgia finished its season with a loss to Alabama Crimson Tide.

The starting lineup was: Bomar (left end), Bradford (left tackle), Morrow (left guard), Sharpe (center), Kelly (right guard), Walker (right tackle), Sc. Neill (right end), Kuhn (quarterback), Reese (left halfback), Neely (right halfback), and Wakefield (fullback).

Week 9: Sewanee

Vanderbilt finished the season on November 30, Thanksgiving Day, with a game against its oldest rival, the Sewanee Tigers, at Dudley Field. Vanderbilt beat Sewanee by a larger-than-expected margin, 26–0. Clinching an undefeated season, the Commodores achieved 19 first downs to the Tigers' two. The crowd of 20,000 people was the largest attendance ever at a football game in Nashville.

Sewanee got the ball first and rushed to within a yard of a first down but decided to kick the ball away. The Tigers went for an onside kick that was recovered by the Commodores on the 40-yard line. Scotty Neill then muffled a pass from center and was tackled for a 10-yard (9.1 m) loss. The ensuing punt by Neill went 43-yard (39 m). Sewanee failed to gain much and had a short punt out of bounds at the 43-yard line. This led to Vanderbilt's first scoring drive, which was marked by dashes around end from Gil Reese and powerful runs off-tackle by Freddie Meiers. Reese went around the right end for 13 yards (12 m). Meiers then ran all the way to Sewanee's 14-yard (13 m) line and Reese skirted around left end for ten more. After Meiers failed to gain on the next play, Reese carried the ball for a score on a flank attack, and Hek Wakefield kicked goal.

A few minutes later, Vanderbilt scored another touchdown. Wakefield returned a kick for 33 yards (30 m) and Doc Kuhn ran out of bounds for a six-yard gain. Sewanee was then caught off-guard by a trick play. Reese tossed to Kuhn who faked a run. He tossed the ball to Lynn Bomar, who easily ran the remaining twenty-five yards (23 m) for the touchdown. Wakefield kicked goal.

In the second quarter, Sewanee tried to put a drive together unsuccessfully after holding Vanderbilt on downs at the 23-yard line. The Commodores could not do much until the quarter was coming to a close when Bomar intercepted a Sewanee pass. Vanderbilt put together another scoring drive, this time started by Meiers running through Sewanee's line for a long gain. Reese then hit the line to no avail and a pass fell incomplete. Kuhn hit Neill on a 10-yard (9.1 m) pass to get the Commodores inside the five-yard line. On the next series, Kuhn faked his way through the line for a touchdown. The try failed.

The third quarter was Sewanee's best. After trading punts, Sewanee's offense started to click for the first time. The first long gain for Sewanee was because of a Vanderbilt penalty for roughness. Powers made nine-yard (8.2 m) around end, and Gibbons plunged over behind his tackles for four more. A long pass from Powers to end 'Shucks' Shook got Sewanee to about the eight-yard line. Vanderbilt's defense responded again, throwing Gibbons for a loss, and Sewanee's attempted field goal from the 11-yard line narrowly missed.

Vanderbilt returned to its previous success in the final quarter, with a drive described as a "savage attack". The Commodores got to Sewanee's 17-yard line when two passes failed, one dropped by Tex Bradford at the five-yard line, to turn the ball over on downs. Sewanee started to get desperate with passes, one of which was intercepted by George Waller. Runs around end and through the middle took Vanderbilt down to the one-yard line. After Kuhn got a short gain needed for a first down up the middle, Reese took two runs which together accounted for 19 yards (17 m). Reese then ran up behind center to power his way into the end zone. The umpire was knocked down on this play and suffered a sprained ankle. Sewanee's last drive featured a 29-yard (27 m) pass from Powers to captain Bill Coughlan, which went to the Commodores' 42-yard line. Three more passes were unsuccessful. On fourth down Sewanee hit a nine-yard (8.2 m) pass, not enough for the first down. The game ended shortly after Vanderbilt's offense took the field, ensuring Vanderbilt's undefeated season.

The starting lineup was: Bomar (left end), Bradford (left tackle), Lawrence (left guard), Sharpe (center), Kelly (right guard), Morrow (right tackle), Sc. Neill (right end), Kuhn (quarterback), Neely (left halfback), Reese (right halfback), and Wakefield (fullback).


The 1922 season was among the best in Vanderbilt and in Southern football history. Many publications listed Vanderbilt's season as best in the South. Among sportswriters, Georgia Tech seemed the only challenger for the mythical Southern crown, though the 1922 SoCon championship was officially a tie between Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, and North Carolina. The Commodores shared a conference title for the second year in a row, having tied with Georgia Bulldogs for the SIAA championship in 1921. Vanderbilt's defense was universally acknowledged as the best in the South. One sports editor wrote: "Vanderbilt has a defensive system any coach would give his right eye to possess." Vanderbilt's defense held Michigan, Tennessee, Georgia, and Texas when all were within three yards (2.7 m) of the goal.

Coach Dan McGugin's record in intersectional matchups started to attract attention. He had beaten the Carlisle Indians 4 to 0 in 1906, tied Navy on the road in 1907, tied with Yale on the road in 1910, lost a close fight with Harvard 9-3 in 1912; to which could be added the 1922 scoreless tie with Michigan. The next year the Commodores were again scheduled to play Michigan and Texas. Both matches were to be away games, while the rest of the schedule would be played at home. December 5 at the annual football banquet, quarterback Doc Kuhn was elected captain of the Commodore squad for 1923.

Awards and honors

Lynn Bomar received first team All-American honors from Frank G. Menke. He was also selected as a second team All-American by Walter Camp, a third team All-American by Walter Eckersall, and appears on Billy Evans' National Honor Roll. Bomar was one of the first Southern players to make Camp's team. Grantland Rice wrote the next year, "there was no better end in the country last fall." Jess Neely, Doc Kuhn, and Scotty Neill got Camp's honorable mention. Bomar was one of two consensus All-Southern selections; the other was Red Barron of Georgia Tech. Kuhn appeared on Billy Evans' National Honor Roll, and was the second quarterback after Herb Covington of Centre to be selected for Evans' Southern Honor Roll. Scotty Neill appeared on Evans's Southern Honor Roll, the All-Southern team of Zipp Newman, sports editor for The Birmingham News, and on the second team of All-Southerns chosen by Homer George, sports editor for The Atlanta Constitution. Gil Reese also appeared on Evans' Southern Honor Roll and on George's second team. Other Commodores on Evans' Southern Honor Roll were Tex Bradford and Tuck Kelly. T. H. Alexander selected the entire Vanderbilt eleven as his All-Southern team.

Coaching changes

Assistant coach Wallace Wade left the Vanderbilt football team for the head coaching position at Alabama, where he had much success establishing Alabama's dynasty. He was first pursued by the University of Kentucky, but refused that option because he felt they had kept him too late with a committee hearing. Dan McGugin was first pursued by Alabama but felt content with Vanderbilt and recommended Wade for the position. In his eight years at Alabama, Wade went 61–13–3 with the school's first three national titles, and had the first Southern team to play in a Rose Bowl. His replacement at Vanderbilt was Josh Cody, Mercer Bears coach and former Vanderbilt player.

Depth chart

The following chart provides a visual depiction of Vanderbilt's lineup during the 1922 season with games started at the position reflected in parenthesis. The chart mimics a short punt formation while on offense, with the quarterback under center.

Coaching staff

  • Dan McGugin (Michigan '03), head coach
  • Wallace Wade (Brown '16), line coach
  • Lewie Hardage (Vanderbilt '12), backfield coach
  • Tom Zerfoss (Vanderbilt '19), assistant and freshman coach.
  • Joe Killebrew, manager
  • References

    1922 Vanderbilt Commodores football team Wikipedia

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