Nov. 28, 2012
In 1902, Vanderbilt was playing in its 13th season of football. The Commodores ran through their schedule with wins over Cumberland, Mississippi, Central of Kentucky, Tennessee, Washington University, Kentucky, Tulane and LSU. The Tulane and LSU contests were played with one days rest between games for the Commodores. The Nashville Banner gave this report of the Commodores departure from Nashville:
"November 14 -- The Vanderbilt football squad left Thursday night for New Orleans. The regular varsity team except for staunch quarterback Frank Kyle boarded the train for the longest, hardest trip of the year. Kyle was left behind with a lame back. Those making the trip are: Perry, Morgan, Graham, Massey, Lawler, Bryan, Howell, Blake, Hamilton, Harris, Love, Tigert, Capt. Davis, Edgerton, Coach Watkins, Manager Buckley, Assistant Manger Creighton, Dr. W. L. Dudley, Doswell Brown, Martin, Wade, Williamson, Barr and Dunbar. The boys will play Tulane Saturday and L.S.U. Monday."
W. H. Watkins was in his second year coaching Vanderbilt. In this era of college football, touchdowns were awarded five points and field goals were worth four points. The Banner gave this report on the Tulane game played on Saturday, November 15:
"About 8, 000 spectators witnessed the easy victory of Vanderbilt over Tulane Saturday, the score being 23 to 5. It was the largest crowd of the season. The playing of the Vanderbilt team in the first half was fast and furious, and a score of 23 was made. Tulane was saved from a goose egg by the drop kick of Westerfield from the 35-yard line.
"In the second half the game was close. Blake took the place of Davis, and Wade that of Perry. The aim of the Vanderbilt boys seemed only to hold the score. The weather was very hot, and made it especially hard on the visitors. Vanderbilt outclassed Tulane in weight and skill, and did not have much trouble in making their gains. The star players for Vanderbilt were Howell, Davis, Bryan and Hamilton.
"The feature of the game was Howell's 95-yard run. He advanced the ball from the kick off, and almost every Tulane man made a tackle at him. Davis, as usual, made his gains and two long runs. Bryan was in the game from the start, and did good work. Hamilton made two touchdowns. He bundled the Tulane line for one of them, which was a pretty piece of work. Though Westerfield is a good sprinter, Tigert's punts equaled his every time.
"Tulane has a gritty team, and though they played against odds, they improved as the game went on, and did their best to the end. The score does not show the relative merits of the two teams, because the Vanderbilt team was weakened by Kyle and Edgerton being out. Tulane was amazed at the quickness of Vanderbilt and while the Vanderbilt boys regret the score, it was not one to grieve over. Tulane only tried the drop kick as a last resort when they despaired of reaching the goal otherwise."
The Banner gave this report on the Monday, November 17 game in Baton Rouge against LSU:
"Vanderbilt defeated Louisiana State University, 27 to 5, yesterday. It was an ideal day and about 1,000 people witnessed the game. A place kick only saved Louisiana State University from a whitewash. The game was lacking in interest, for Vanderbilt displayed her superiority so strongly that Louisiana was outclassed.
"Louisiana State University kicked off and Vanderbilt advanced the ball steadily for a touch-down. This was repeated, Tigert making the two touchdowns. Louisiana State University got the ball only once in the first half and lost on downs. At the end of the half the score stood 11 to 0.
"Vanderbilt kicked off and Louisiana State University lost on downs in the second half. The visitors advanced the ball for a touch-down. Davis failed, in kicking a goal. Louisiana State University seemed to be very weak. Vanderbilt made her gains every time, and only lost the ball on fumbles. Louisiana State University never advanced far before losing on downs, they were entirely outclassed in weight and skill. It is hard to say who were the star players for Vanderbilt. Every man played a good game. The playing of Edgerton, Davis, Tigert, and Lawler deserves special notice. For Louisiana State University the playing of Sales, deserves notice.
"The Vanderbilt boys are sore over the treatment they received. The Louisiana State University team couldn't take defeat in a sportsmanlike manner. They claimed that Vanderbilt knew their signals and made uncomplimentary remarks from their sidelines, and altogether the treatment was not as good as the team expected. Vanderbilt played a harder game than at Tulane, and Louisiana State University has a much better team than Tulane. Vanderbilt played a much faster game than Louisiana State University and every trick was a success. Louisiana State University depended entirely on straight foot-ball and never succeeded in working any trick.
"The teams were entertained with an elegant dinner after the game by Mr. W. P. Connell, and the University Athletic Association invited the two teams to a theatre party."
The Banner also gave this report on Vanderbilt winning the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association's (S.I.A.A.) championship after defeating LSU:
"Vanderbilt University defeated Louisiana State University here yesterday by the score of 27 to 5; winning the championship of the South intercollegiate athletic association. Vanderbilt made it points on five touch-downs three by Edgerton and two by Tigert. Davis kicked goal twice. The feature of the game was the goal kicked by Landry of Louisiana from the forty-yard line. Time of halves, 25 minutes."
And in the same Banner edition, the resignation of Coach Watkins was announced:
"The rumor that Coach Watkins will discontinue his connection with the Vanderbilt Athletic Association at the close of the present season is creating such interest in football circles. It is reliably stated that Mr. Watkins will resign his position as head coach of the Vanderbilt football and baseball teams in order that he devote attention to the study of law exclusively.
"Walter H. Watkins is the most successful coach who has trained a team in the South for years. He has had charge of the Vanderbilt team for two years, and both years won the championship of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association. The year previously he coached the Auburn team through the most successful season that the institute has experienced on the gridiron in its history. Last spring he coached the Vanderbilt baseball team and was remarkably successful with indifferent and untrained material, winning a large majority. Of the games played. He is an indefatigable worker and has the idea of amateur athletics developed to a clear-out and scientific fashion.
"Walter H. Watkins is a graduate of the Princeton class of '99. He was one of the stars on the baseball team, was prominent in track work and was first substitute on the football team for two years. His loss will be a hard blow to Vanderbilt, as his place will be hard to fill. It is understood that Vanderbilt will make an effort to secure the services of Coach Neil Snow, provided he is not retained by the University of Nashville."
Watkins first season in 1901 at Vanderbilt brought a 6-1-1 record for the Commodores. Vanderbilt finished the 1902 season with a loss against Sewanee and a record of 8-1. J.H. Henry, not Neil Snow, coached Vanderbilt for one season in 1903. His Vandy squad was 6-1. Dan McGugin followed in 1904 and stayed in Nashville for 30 seasons as head coach. McGugin became a coaching legend and Vanderbilt's all-time winningest coach (197-55-19).
On the Saturday that Vanderbilt was in New Orleans playing Tulane, the University of Nashville was hosting the Texas Longhorns on its home field. The Longhorns were victorious, 11-5. Coaching for Nashville was Neil Snow who was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1960. The All-American played four years at the University of Michigan where his teams were 10-0, 8-2, 7-2-1 and 11-0.
In Snow's final season with the Wolverines the team was undefeated and unscored upon (famous point-a-minute team). In the inaugural Rose Bowl of 1902, Snow scored five touchdowns in the 49-0 rout of Stanford. One of Snow's Michigan teammates was Vanderbilt legendary coach Dan McGugin. Other than Texas, Nashville played other large universities such as Vanderbilt and Tennessee. The University of Nashville became the George Peabody College for Teachers in 1909.
How `bout them Gridiron `Dores? Congratulations to Coach James Franklin and his bowl-bound Vanderbilt Commodores for their 8-4 (5-3 SEC) record. The coaches and players have made Vanderbilt fans, the university and Nashville proud. More history is still to come this year.
If you have any comments or suggestions you can contact Bill Traughber via email WLTraughber@aol.com. Now available online and in Nashville bookstores is Traughber's new book "Vanderbilt Basketball, Tales of Commodore Hardwood History." Former Commodore guard Barry Booker wrote the forward.