On October 7, 1916, the most lopsided game in college football history had taken place. It was on this day that the Georgia Tech football team faced off against Cumberland University(then known as Cumberland College), which is located in Lebanon, Tennessee. The game took place at Grant Field in Atlanta which is now currently part of Bobby Dodd Stadium.
The game itself was nothing short of an epic beat down, and an act of revenge for Georgia Tech. Though game rules were different in those days and one team was cancelling its football program, it’s still mind-boggling how this game unfolded.
In the spring of 1916, Cumberland University beat Georgia Tech in a baseball game, 22-0, as Georgia Tech was managed by John Heisman. Heisman was more known for college football, and he got a $500 guarantee from Cumberland to play the football game in October or they would have to pay a $3,000 forfeiture settlement(about $65,000 in today’s market) if they did not. This was after Cumberland decided not to play football that fall, but they still had to play Heisman’s team or pay the settlement. So Cumberland's George Allen, who was the team's student football manager, had 16 players that made it to go to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech.
Cumberland had a very successful 1903 season in which they shut out Alabama, LSU, and Tulane on a five-day road trip on that campaign. Then they managed an 11-11 tie against Heisman’s Clemson squad that year when part of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association. The very next year, Cumberland played Georgia Tech in Heisman’s first season as head coach in a 18-0 loss. They lost by the same score to Georgia Tech the following year.
Georgia Tech offered Heisman the head coaching job after Clemson pummeled them 73-0 to start the 1903 season. Ironically, his last game at Clemson was against the same Cumberland team in a 11-11 tie that gave the Bulldogs the conference title. Georgia Tech became a powerhouse program with Heisman aboard as head coach as his legendary status was just beginning to take shape.
The game was also quite different in those days as it wasn’t uncommon to see teams score 100+ points in games since total points scored in a season determined national champions. The passing game due to rule changes in 1906 was just in its infancy that would also help boost offensive production.
Further, rules allowed teams that were scored upon in games the choice of either kicking off or returning. That rule did not change until 1922 when the team scored upon was to receive the kick from the scoring team. This played a critical role in the game between Georgia Tech and Cumberland College.
Cumberland College received the ball first and could not make a first down before punting it away. Georgia Tech then scored on a 20-yard touchdown run from G.E. Strupper on its very first play from scrimmage.
Cumberland then proceeded to fumble on their very next offensive play as Marshall Guill recovered and returned it 10 yards for a touchdown. Cumberland then fumbled again on their next offensive play, and Georgia Tech took advantage by scoring again two plays later as Jim Preas scored on a 5-yard touchdown run. Cumberland then lost five yards and were forced to punt it away on their next possession. Georgia Tech scored a touchdown again two plays later as Strupper ran one in from 10 yards out.
The game went like this for the rest of the afternoon.
By the end of the first quarter the score was 63-0 in favor of Georgia Tech. At halftime, they led 126-0. Heisman was in no mood to let up after he was embarrassed in baseball by Cumberland earlier that spring.
Heisman -- according to legend -- said at halftime, “We’re ahead, but you just can’t tell what those Cumberland players have up their sleeves. They may spring a surprise. Be alert, men.”
Georgia Tech wasn’t about to let up, and Cumberland College was in the midst of an epic beat down in the game.
Just to make sure Cumberland could not come back, the Yellow Jackets scored 54 points in the third quarter, and led 180-0 at the of the 3rd quarter. Finally, Georgia Tech ended the 4th quarter by scoring 42 points during that period. Cumberland did complete a 10-yard pass in the 4th quarter which is the only thing they had a statistical advantage in the entire game.
Scoring Summary(according to the Atlanta Journal):
Strupper 20-yard rush(Preas kick) 7-0
Guill 10-yard fumble return(Preas kick) 14-0
Preas 5-yard rush(Preas kick) 21-0
Strupper 10-yard rush(Preas kick) 28-0
Alexander 1-yard rush(Preas kick) 35-0
Strupper 60-yard rush(Preas kick) 42-0
Spence 35-yard rush(Preas kick) 49-0
Strupper 45-yard punt return(Preas kick) 56-0
Spence 90-yard kickoff return(Prease kick) 63-0
Senter 20-yard rush(Preas kick) 70-0
Preas 15-yard rush(Preas kick) 77-0
Guill 20-yard interception return(Preas kick) 84-0
Griffin 10-yard rush(Preas kick) 91-0
Strupper 3-yard rush(Preas kick) 98-0
Glover 4-yard rush(Preas kick) 105-0
Preas 10-yard fumble return(Preas kick) 112-0
Fellers 17-yard interception return(Preas kick) 119-0
Fellers 33-yard punt return(Preas kick) 126-0
Strupper 3-yard rush(Spence kick) 133-0
Shaver 25-yard punt return(Spence kick) 140-0
Spence 10-yard rush(Spence kick) 147-0
Strupper 15-yard rush(Spence kick) 154-0
Spence 35-yard rush(Spence kick) 161-0
Carpenter 8-yard rush(Spence kick failed) 167-0
Strupper 55-yard punt return(Spence kick failed) 173-0
Spence 20-yard interception return(Strupper kick) 180-0
Fellers 40-yard interception return(Fincher kick) 187-0
Griffin 35-yard rush(Fincher kick) 194-0
Senter 2-yard rush(Fincher kick) 201-0
Fellers 40-yard punt return(Fincher kick) 208-0
Fellers 15-yard rush(Fincher kick) 215-0
Senter 30-yard interception return(Fincher kick) 222-0
Touchdown summary: Georgia Tech had 19 rushing, 5 interception return, 2 fumble return, 5 punt return, and one kickoff return for a total of 32 touchdowns in the game. They missed two extra points with Spence missing both of them. Strupper had the most touchdowns in the game with 8(six rushing, two punt return). Eleven different players scored touchdowns for Georgia Tech.
Turnovers: Cumberland College 15, Georgia Tech 0
Fumbles lost: Cumberland College 9, Georgia Tech 0
Interceptions thrown: Cumberland College 6, Georgia Tech 0
Rushing yards: Cumberland College -42, Georgia Tech 528*
Passing yards: Cumberland College 2-for-11 for 14 yards, Georgia Tech 0
Total yards: Cumberland College -28, Georgia Tech 528*
*-Rushing yards total is disputed and varies depending on source.
It has often been disputed about the actual stats of this game. What everyone agrees on is that neither team had a first down as Georgia Tech scored within three downs on every possession and Cumberland never getting one on offense. In fact, they never made it into Georgia Tech territory in the game.
What is also known is that Cumberland attempted 11 passes while Georgia Tech did not attempt one in the game.
Heisman got his revenge in the game and then some. He would go to become a coaching legend in college football and have the most prestigious individual player award named after him in 1936. His team wouldn’t win the national title in 1916, but would do so the following year in 1917. Since then, the Yellow Jackets have won three more national titles(1928, 1952, 1990) and currently play in the ACC.
Cumberland University -- as they are known as now -- did go on to more successful days as did Allen.
Cumberland won the Smokey Mountain Conference Championship four years in a row between 1932-35. They currently play in the Mid-South Conference in the NAIA.
Allen earned a law degree from Cumberland, and later became an advisor to future U.S. President Harry Truman when he served in office. He also has a public library named after him in Booneville, MS.
The score is a record that will never be touched or close to being broken. It’s a good argument to make as to which is more impressive between the amount of points Georgia Tech scored or the margin of victory in which they won by.
Consider that since World War II, the most points by one team in a game was Fort Valley State with 106 in 1969. In 2002, Arkansas and Kentucky combined for 134 points in a game as the Razorbacks won 71-63 as the result of overtime. Georgia Tech scored 126 in the first half alone of this game, which shows how impressive this record is in comparison to those other games.
Both teams will forever be synonymous with each other because of this game regardless of how each program performs from here on out. It may very well be the most unbreakable record in not only college football, but all of sports.