Strange But True: Mismatch

Sometimes colleges schedule games that are complete mismatches. One team has absolutely no chance to win. But never was a score so lopsided as in the game between Georgia Tech and Cumberland on October 7, 1916.

Tech was coached by the great Johnny Heisman, for whom the Heisman Trophy is named. Cumberland, a tiny school, located at Lebanon, Tennessee, had a total enrollment of only 178 students. The Cumberland team agreed to play only because Tech promised the team a cash guarantee–money that would help support future football at the school. But within a few minutes, the Cumberland players regretted they had ever come.

The slaughter began almost immediately. After one quarter, Tech had scored nine touchdowns and led 63-0. At the end of the half, the score was 126-0.

Georgia Tech scored whenever and however they pleased. Once Ev Strupper, who scored six touchdowns in the game, ran the ball up to the goal line, then stopped and put the ball down. He wanted his teammate, Canty Alexander, to carry the ball over the goal and get credit for a score.

After scoring 126 points in the first half, Georgia Tech let up a little and scored only 96 in the second half. The final score was 222-0.

Total statistics were forgotten after a while, but some numbers were kept. For instance, Tech rushed for 538 yards on the ground and never attempted a forward pass. The team ran back punts 220 yards. And place-kicker George Preas kicked 18 points-after-touchdown in a row.

As for Cumberland, not only did it fail to score but it even failed to make a first down. Some accounts claim that its longest gain was a 4-yard loss from the line of scrimmage! Things were so bad that when Cumberland quarterback Ed Edwards fumbled the snap from center, none of the Cumberland players wanted to pick it up.

“Pick it up! Pick it up!” hollered Edwards.

Fullback Len McDonald took one look at the charging tech linemen and yelled back, “Pick it up yourself! You dropped it!”

From The Giant Book of Strange But True Sports Stories by Howard Liss. Illustrations by Joe Mathieu.

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  1. There’s a lot more to this story than Liss talks about. Seems that Cumberland was forced to play for that $500 because not doing so would have cost them a $3,000 breach of contract penalty. Heisman was insistent on playing the game because the previous year he was on the receiving end of a 22-0 loss when coaching baseball against Cumberland–and there were allegations that Cumberland brought in ringers–so we wanted revenge. Also, Cumberland had actually killed its football program the previous year so they didn’t even have a team. The “coach” basically got his fraternity brothers to play (one of which it is reported didn’t even know the meaning of the word “lose”).

    I used to live about 40 minutes from Cumberland University and every time I saw their billboard on the highway, I always thought about this story.

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