Georgia Tech defeated Cumberland 222-0

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USA TODAY Sports’ Paul Myerberg discusses Alabama’s strong start, Georgia’s bounce-back effort and Texas entering the danger zone after a loss.

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On this day in 1916, one of the greatest college football teams of its era administered one of the most lopsided victories in sports history against a bunch of frat boys.

The final score is unbelievable: 222-0. 

On one side: The Georgia Tech Engineers (as they were known at the time) were in the midst of a four-season run of excellence from 1915-18, in which they went 30-1-2 – including three straight undefeated seasons – while outscoring opponents 1,611-93.

And, on the other: Cumberland College out of Lebanon, Tennessee, which had opted to drop its football program after the 1915 season.

Cumberland’s discontinuation of its football program mattered little to John Heisman. Name sound familiar? Yup, the Heisman Trophy is named after the legendary coach. Turns out, Heisman could hold a grudge. In the spring of 1915, Cumberland College’s baseball team defeated Georgia Tech, 22-0. Heisman had accused Cumberland of using ringers and semi-pro players. He vowed revenge.

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So, on Oct. 7, 1916, when Cumberland and Georgia Tech were originally scheduled to meet on the gridiron, Heisman was determined to play the game, despite Cumberland having already dropped its program. Heisman demanded Cumberland meet its contractual obligations and play the Engineers. If not, Cumberland would owe Georgia Tech $3,000 if the game were not played.

So, Cumberland rounded up some of its finest frat boys, traveled to Atlanta and were on the wrong end of the biggest beatdown in the sport’s history.

Here are some mind-blowing facts from the famous 222-0 game:

♦ Georgia Tech’s scoring by quarter goes like this: 63, 63, 54, 42. At halftime, with his team up 126-0, Heisman told his team: “You’re doing all right. We’re ahead, but you just can’t tell what those Cumberland players have up their sleeves. Be alert, men! Hit ’em clean, but hit ’em hard!” The rah-rah speech didn’t work … Georgia Tech scored 30 fewer points in the second half.

♦ Georgia Tech ran 29 offensive plays. Yes, 29. Also, not a single forward pass in the bunch; those were all rushes for a total of 501 yards (17.3 yards per play).

♦ Cumberland, meanwhile, did not earn a first down and finished the game with minus-28 in total yards. Cumberland’s favorite play was the punt, which (at the time) was a viable offensive option in the field-position battle during the infancy of the legal forward pass.

♦ In fact, there were no first downs attained in the game. Georgia Tech scored too quickly on its possessions to bother with moving the chains. Cumberland got the ball first, punted and Georgia Tech scored the opening touchdown on its first play from scrimmage.

♦ A kicker recovered his own kickoff to score a touchdown. After Georgia Tech took a 105-0 lead, its kicker – Jim Preas – kicked off to Cumberland, whose returner fumbled the ball. It was recovered by Preas, who then reached the end zone for another Georgia Tech score. Those are the kind of plays you need if you want to drop 200-plus points on an opponent.

♦ Georgia Tech claimed its first national championship a year later. During the 1918 season, Georgia Tech defeated Furman 118-0 and North Carolina State 128-0. 

♦ A bit more than decade before this epic thrashing, Cumberland College was no slouch at football. In 1903 alone, it defeated Alabama, LSU and Tulane by a combined score of 113-0 (Tulane actually gave Cumberland its best game, a 28-0 final) en route to a conference championship.

♦ There’s a silver lining to being on the wrong end of a 222-0 defeat in football for Cumberland College. It likely avoided financial ruin by playing in the game.

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