Commodores Shock Powerful Yale in 1910
By Bill Traughber
On October 22, 1910 Vanderbilt made a venture up north to play the powerful Yale Bulldogs in New Haven, Conn. Yale had gone through the 1909 season undefeated and unscored upon. The northern power was loaded with All-Americans. The game was also special in the event Yale was playing a Southern team for the first time in its history.
The day was murky and a light rain fell on the field for most of the game, as Vanderbilt was a heavy underdog. The Commodores were coached by Dan McGugin and led by quarterback Ray Morrison.
Vanderbilt entered the game undefeated with a 4-0 record and unscored upon. The Nashville Tennessean gave this partial report on the game:
The Gold and Black tonight floats side by side with Yale's disconsolate Blue. The score was 0 to 0, in forty-eight minutes of actual play. Expecting to avoid last week's disaster the big Blue machine fought fiercely, but in place of winning suddenly, found that it needed the hardest sort of effort to prevent being scored upon.
Not only did Vanderbilt repeatedly stand off the heavier Yale rushes at her own goal line but to the big surprise of the Eli supporters and team, the light southerners, play after play fought their way through the Yale line, circled her ends or flashed forward passes that bewildered the New Haven giants and kept them guessing throughout. Vanderbilt displayed a strong, consistent attack, with fine variety and employed with fine judgment.
It was easy enough to see at the start that the southerners had made up their minds to give Yale a fight to remember, whoever won. Both the line and the backfield were on the jump, overlooking no openings and at all times playing with the finest possible sprit. When Yale had chances to rush the ball over the six-yard line, the entire Vanderbilt eleven seemed to be, upon the man with the ball, rolling back the attack with a power hardly to be expected from an eleven fifteen pounds lighter to the man.
The tied game sent shockwaves throughout the North and the South. Newspapers gave the opinion that the Vanderbilt win closed the gap between the two sections of the country. Football began in the North and would spread into the
South. In this era, Yale and the Ivy League schools were considered the best in the nation.
That was the first home game Yale had failed to score a point. A special report appeared in The Tennessean phrasing an historic effort:
The showing made by the entire eleven is deserving of the highest phrase. Individually and collectively, with Dan McGugin at the helm, they have all shown the eastern wing of the continent that football is gradually obtaining a foothold in the south--that off and on they play an imitation of the real stuff down this way, and are slowly but surely edging toward the map Dan McGugin has shown that he was able to cope with the best array of talent in the east--and with but one assistant--Bob Blake--has been able to furnish a few general sidelines they have not yet grasped.
Considering the odds he faced, the Commodore wizard has achieved the finest victory of his great career. From the team, the work of Neely and Morrison stands out, but the detail shows that every man did his duty and added something for extra measure--that Brown and Stewart at ends were in the thick of every fray, and that the muchly abused line fought like wildcats in rolling back the Blue advance when a touchdown threatened. The detail shows that the entire eleven fought without faltering to a game finish--defending its goal and then smashing its way into Yale territory with a rush that sent the drenched Blue flags fluttering limply to half-mast.
From being held as a week eleven, the Vanderbilt delegation arrives home Monday awaiting the greatest welcome and the most deserved that ever fell to the lot of any legion battling beneath the standard of Gold and Black. For so far they have written the brightest page inscribed in the history of the southern game.
These quotes came after the game:
Yale head coach Ted Coy, "It is needless to say that I was greatly surprised and disappointed at the result. But for all that, I have no excuses to make. When Vanderbilt first came on the field I did not believe they were heavy enough to stop us, but her men fought with splendid spirit and were apparently excellently coached in every department of the game."
Coach McGugin, "Vanderbilt teams have never developed the habit of making a spectacle of themselves away from home. I had no hope of the boys turning such a trick, but knew they would fight to the last. No team ever worked with a finer spirit and no team I ever saw deserves the credit Vanderbilt eleven deserves for making such a stand against such obstacles. Every man on the squad simply went in like a tiger, and there was no let-up. They put every ounce of fighting strength they had into every play."
Captain Daly of Yale, "We played the best we knew how, but were not strong enough to win. That's about all there is to say. We were not looking for any such resistance nor for such a well-trained machine. Vanderbilt played good hard football and we have no complaint to offer that the game was a draw."
Captain Bill Neely of Vanderbilt, "The score tells the story a good deal better than I can. All I want to say is that I never saw a football team fight any harder at every point than Vanderbilt fought today--line, ends and backfield. We went in to give Yale the best we had, and I think we about did it."
Vanderbilt finished the 1910 campaign with an 8-0-1 record.
Grantland Rice, a sports writer for The Tennessean could not help but to write one of his famous poems concerning the Vanderbilt/Yale game:
These are the gladdest of possible words,
"Yale Was Unable to Score,"
Sweeter than song from the clear singing birds,
"Yale Was Unable to Score,"
Words that are sweeter than nectar and honey,
Sweeter by far than the jungle of money,
Words that are roseate, golden and sunny,
"Yale Was Unable to Score,"
Find in the classics another such phrase,
"Commodores Draw with the Blue,"
Phrase that is all to the ripple and razzle,
Canonized cluster of words on the dazzle,
Words that have Emerson smashed to a frazzle,
"Commodores Draw with the Blue."
Back in Nashville on the night of the big victory, over a thousand Vanderbilt students (boys) "clad in nightshirts, pajamas and curtailed bonnets," celebrated with a parade march through the streets of Nashville. The Tennessean reported on the cheerful students after their downtown trip of songs and cheers, which included a stop at the Hermitage Hotel:
In an evil moment somebody said Belmont. That was enough. They were off in a bunch for the female college. It took sometime for the long line to get all the way to Belmont, but when they finally arrived, their sprits were fairly effervescing, and they gave all the yules and songs in the deck, then added a few extemporaneous ones. After the girls had had their treat, the parade went back to the campus and a bonfire was built on Dudley Field, where the boys in nighties stayed until far past the hour for young persons of tender years to be up.
Boys will be boys!
1910 Vanderbilt Football
Next week read about Vanderbilt's last victory over Tennessee in Knoxville in 1975.
If you have any comments or suggestions you can contact Bill Traughber via e-mail WLTraughber@aol.com.