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March 8, 2010

1910: The Night UGA's Campus Shook

Georgia opened its 1910 campaign by thrashing Locust Grove, 101 to zero; the 101-point total and scoring margin both remain single-game school records 100 years later. 

Locust Grove was indeed a "preparatory school" but, as mentioned in my previous post, this was a Georgia team that had averaged only 3.3 points in its previous 14 games.

The 101 points were more than the Red and Black had scored in its last 16 games combined, spanning nearly two entire seasons.  In fact, with its first three touchdowns versus Locust Grove, Georgia scored nearly as many points against the Cadets in the first six minutes of play (18) than it did during the entire eight-game, 1909 season (19). 

And the reason for Georgia's sudden good fortune?

Coach Alex Cunningham (Photo: UGA Sports Communications) and halfback Bob McWhorter had come to UGA from the Gordon Institute.  Cunningham implemented preseason practices starting a full two weeks prior to any other Georgia team.  The innovative coach also executed player substitutions in games like few had ever seen in football, especially in the South.

McWhorter would simply become the most valuable player in UGA football history.  His spectacular play began immediately, scoring five touchdowns against Locust Grove.

Against Gordon, McWhorter crossed the goal line seven more times in the Red and Black's second consecutive blow-out victory—a 79-0 win.  Georgia's Cunningham, McWhorter, and quarterback Hafford Hay, who had also played for Gordon the year before, had no trouble whatsoever against their old teammates in a game called in the third quarter.

Next on the schedule was Alabama, who had not lost to Georgia in five straight games, outscoring the Red and Black 72-11 in those meetings.  Alabama also sported a 2-0 record while the game was being played on the road in Birmingham.  It was Georgia's first true test of the season.

Nevertheless, once again the Red and Black held its opponent scoreless while McWhorter ran wild in a 22-0 Georgia win.  McWhorter had two of the team's four touchdowns, scoring "on a delayed pass through the center" in the second quarter and on a 30-yard end run in the third.

In the final quarter with Georgia leading 16-0, McWhorter's replacement, John Slater, picked up an Alabama fumble and returned it 85 yards for a touchdown.

The victory celebration in Athens that followed on UGA's campus was like none other before or in the 100 years since.

Reserve player Charley Wall, who did not travel with the team to Birmingham, later wrote to author and historian John Stegeman, describing the big bash. 

After receiving word of Georgia's triumph over Alabama in a telegram, Wall was part of a group of about 200 boys who began building a bonfire in the middle of the Red and Black's home field of Herty Field. 

The wood and boxes to build the fire came from downtown, including the final load, which contained a barrel of gasoline.  All the gas was carried up the pile from person-to-person in buckets and then poured on top of the contents. 

While the band played "Glory to Old Georgia" and partiers performed a "snake dance" around the field, a match was struck and thrown onto the pile.

BOOM!  "That was it!" said Wall.  "The gas-saturated air went off like gunpowder, and blew out every window pane in New College, Moore College and Candler Hall, and also some in the Beanery downhill from the field."

Like many others, Wall was in the snake dance and fell over with the blast.  He was not severely hurt but the same could not be said about everyone.  A boy named Michaels, a student who actually started the bonfire, was unfortunately hospitalized for quite some time.

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