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March 19, 2010

1910: Trickery on the Mountain

Continued from The Night UGA's Campus Shook...

After Georgia's memorable victory against Alabama  in 1910, subsequent wins over Tennessee and Mercer followed.  In early November, the Red and Black was in a position it had never been before in 19 years of playing football - 5 and 0, outscoring the opposition by an unbelievable 258 to 5 score, and regarded as one of the top teams in the country.

Georgia’s next opponent, Sewanee, had been relishing in success since it began playing football in 1891.  Like the Red and Black, the Purple Tigers were also considered one of the best teams in the nation, but had been for quite some time, having suffered defeat just 14 times in 104 games since the start of the 1898 season.  This included Sewanee’s acclaimed team of 1899, who recorded a perfect 12-0 record, including five wins in a six-day period - all by shutouts and on the road.  The Purple Tigers were also amidst a 55–game home unbeaten streak "on the Mountain" that would not come to an end until 1914.

As expected, Georgia trailed 15-6 late in the game but had the ball on Sewanee’s 30-yard line.  Darkness and a thick fog had settled in and the contest was expected to be called by officials at any moment.  The Red and Black needed a quick score and innovative Alex Cunningham was just the coach to call a play appropriate for the occasion.

George Woodruff (Photo: UGA Sports Communications) dropped back to pass and lofted the “ball” downfield.  Barely able to see through the fog, Sewanee desperately tried to defend the Georgia receivers as it tried to spot the thrown ball.  Much to their chagrin, what was thrown was not a football but Woodruff’s headgear.  Just as the Sewanee defenders realized they were victim of chicanery, they watched as quarterback Hafford Hay, with the actual ball in tow, raced untouched for a touchdown.

The night before, the Red and Black had left Athens by train bound for Sewanee.  The all-night trek endured several delays and the Georgia squad did not reach its destination until immediately prior to game time.  The tired team arrived to a water-laden Hardee Field, an immersing dense fog, and at the home of a team that had not been beaten on its own turf in more than 17 years.

The Purple Tigers’ 15-0 fourth-quarter advantage was highlighted by an 85-yard run by All-Southern Alvin “Chigger” Browne in the opening stanza.  With seven minutes remaining in the game and the fog at its thickest, Bob McWhorter returned a Sewanee punt 80 yards for a score.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Purple Tigers fumbled and Georgia was given a scoring opportunity in Sewanee territory.  On the very next play is when Coach Cunningham caught the Purple Tiger defense off guard with the trickery.

Shortly after Hay strolled over the goal line for the touchdown, the game was called because of fog and darkness.  After dominating most of their opponents for decades, it was reported the Purple Tigers were “glad to grope its way off the field” with a 15-12 victory.

Georgia had stunned Sewanee just as it had all of college football the entire season.  And although the Red and Black might have suffered its first loss of the season, Georgia executed arguably the greatest trick play in the history of football.

The majority of this post is an edited version of a story from my book, The 50 Greatest Plays in Georgia Bulldogs Football History.

1 comment:

William Neilson Jr. said...

Love these stories. Keep them up