Cumberland 0, Tech 222

The most lopsided game in history prompts the most hilarious reunion

Tech vs. Cumberland I n October 1956, six well-dressed, gray-haired graduates of Tennessee's Cumberland University knelt down on the carpeted, makeshift gridiron at the Greater Atlanta Club to face 22 well-dressed, gray-haired engineers from Georgia Tech.

They squared-off in a nostalgic mismatch suggestive of the football game they actually played 40 years earlier on Oct. 7, 1916 - the day Georgia Tech beat Cumberland 222-0.

The stories these gridiron warriors told in a hilarious reunion were almost as outlandish as the score of history's most lopsided football game. The tale-telling brought a cry of foul from the Tech bench.

"This rematch is fixed," lamented one Tech veteran. "How do they expect 22 engineers to out-talk six lawyers?"

Cumberland alum Morris Gouger of Robstown, Texas, staked claim to "one of the smartest bits of football strategy on record."

"I called for a quarterback sneak on fourth down late in the final period," he asserted. "We needed 25 yards and were deep in our territory. I made it back to the line of scrimmage and saved us from really ignominious defeat. If we had punted, as we should have, Tech would have blocked the kick, made another touchdown and the score would have been 229-0."

In addition to the most points scored in a game, Tech set records for the most yards gained (978), most points kicked after touchdown by one player (18 by Jim Preas), most points scored in one quarter (63) and most players scoring touchdowns (13).

One of the players scoring a touchdown was Tech guard J.S. "Canty" Alexander. But it wasn't easy. According to tradition, Tech back Everett Strupper dashed down the field free and clear but instead of scoring, he downed the ball on the one-yard line. The team elected to allow Alexander to score. They put him in the backfield, but when the ball was snapped, Tech provided no blocking. The lumbering Alexander was swamped by Cumberland and dropped in his tracks. It wasn't until the fourth down that Alexander was able to score.

At the reunion, Alexander said it wasn't so. "They framed up on me the game before, but this time I made them swear they would block for me," Alexander said. "I was so busy watching to make sure they blocked that the ball hit me in the chest and I fumbled. But I picked it up on the five and pranced across like a debutante."

George Allen, who became an adviser to several U.S. presidents, was manager of the Cumberland team, which scheduled the game for a $500 guarantee.

Tech's legendary coach John Heisman fielded two teams, which played alternating quarters against Cumberland. Heisman promised a steak dinner to the team that scored the most points. At halftime, Tech led 126-0; each team had scored 63 points.

"You're doing all right, team," Heisman told his players in a rousing, halftime pep talk. "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! Hit 'em clean, but hit 'em. hard!"

At the game's end, Heisman decided that both Tech teams had earned steak dinners.

Sportswriter Grantland Rice, who witnessed the contest, reported tongue-in-cheek, "Cumberland's greatest individual play of the game occurred when fullback Allen circled right for a six-yard loss."

George C. Griffin, a member of Tech's 1916 team, helped organize the reunion and was toastmaster of the event, which was featured in the December 1956 Alumnus. The speakers were L.W. "Chip" Robert, a 1916 Tech assistant coach, and O.K. Armstrong, who played for Cumberland in the game and had written about it in Reader's Digest, "The Funniest Football Game Ever Played."

Tech Coach Bobby Dodd was also there.

"Of all players in all sports who exaggerate about their feats, I know football players are the worst," Dodd said. "But this is one bunch that never has to exaggerate about a score."