Game of the century (cont.)
Posted: Friday September 28, 2007 9:56AM; Updated: Sunday September 30, 2007 3:26AM
On the sideline, Warner's heart sank. A minute passed and Thorpe was still on the ground. Warner lit a cigarette and nervously sucked the tobacco and paper away into a red-gray line of ash. Two minutes passed. A group of Carlisle players now stood around their fallen star. Warner finally ran out onto the field and took a knee next to Thorpe. He quickly removed Thorpe's shoulder pads. The coach ran his fingers over Thorpe's shoulder, feeling to see if his collarbone was fractured. The referee looked at his watch. He told Warner that Thorpe needed to get off the field and the game needed to be restarted. But then Army's team captain, Leland Devore, interrupted.
"Hell's bells, Mr. Referee," Devore said in a loud voice. "We don't stand on technicalities at West Point. Give him all the time he wants."
Hearing Devore's words, Thorpe immediately popped up like he'd bounced on a trampoline. To Thorpe, Devore's plea to the referee was belittling, and it infuriated the Indian tailback. Though his shoulder was sore, Thorpe was cursing under his breath as he walked back to the huddle. The last thing he wanted was pity -- especially from a player whose grandfather might have tried to kill his ancestors, for all Thorpe knew. Warner's biggest complaint about Thorpe was that he sometimes wasn't as motivated as he needed to be; thanks to Devore, that wouldn't be a problem for the rest of the game.
After holding Army on downs and forcing the Cadets to punt, Carlisle had the ball first-and-ten near midfield. Out of their new double-wing set, Welch handed the ball to Thorpe, who wanted to flatten Devore. Thorpe plowed through the line, dodging a few tacklers before being dragged down after running for 20 yards. Carlisle again threatened to score, but then the Indians were called for holding and eventually turned the ball over on downs.
Starting on its own 49-yard line, Army took control of the game. Relying on their superior strength and size, the Cadets ran straight at the Indians. Every time the ball was snapped, the Army offensive line pushed the Carlisle linemen back on their heels and tore open holes for Eisenhower and Keyes -- who for this game moved to fullback to allow Ike to play at right halfback -- and Leland Hobbs, who was in as left halfback. After a series of pile-driving runs -- eight on one play, 20 on another, six on another -- Army moved to the Carlisle four-yard line, where they had the ball first-and-goal. The crowd was riled, believing that their Army boys were about to draw first blood in this fight. But just when it looked as if the Cadets would roll into the end zone, the Carlisle defense suddenly blinked to life, holding the Cadets to no gains on first and second down.
Now it was third-and-goal. In the Carlisle huddle the Indians, breathing hard, understood that if they stopped the Cadets on this play, Army would be forced to attempt a field goal. In the Cadet huddle quarterback Vernon Prichard called the play: a sweep around the right end. Hobbs would carry the ball; Eisenhower would be the lead blocker.
The ball was snapped to Prichard, who lateraled it to Hobbs. Running to his right, Hobbs followed directly behind Eisenhower, who was looking to paste the first Indian who closed in on Hobbs. The Army duo sprinted around the end, and then wham -- Ike threw a block that rocked one of the Indian defenders with the force of a grenade. With his path cleared, Hobbs pushed into the end zone, scoring the first points of the game.
Behind the south end zone, the air thundered and the ground vibrated when a cannon boomed. A puff of smoke billowed from the tube and drifted in the cool autumn air. Up in the stands the crowd celebrated as if the New Year's Eve ball had just been dropped in Times Square, a tradition that began only a few years earlier in 1907. Suddenly, Army was in control -- which didn't sit well with Warner. He stood on the sidelines with a look of disgust on his face.
The Cadets lined up for the extra point. The ball was snapped back to the holder, and Army's kicker on extra points, Prichard, approached the ball. He swung his right leg back and whipped it forward, connecting solidly with the ball. It flew over the outstretched arms of the onrushing Carlisle players, but then veered wide of the goalposts. Yet this didn't dampen the energy of the home crowd. About 10 minutes into the first quarter, the big white numbers on the scoreboard at the north end of the field, updated manually by a scorekeeper, read: Army 6, Carlisle 0.
On offense, the Indians kept attacking the Cadet defense with reverses and fake reverses out of the double wing. To the fans, the game that Carlisle was playing didn't look like football; it was more like gymnastics or basketball on grass, the way the Indians darted back and forth across the field and flipped the ball around as if there were a rule that at least three players had to touch the pigskin on every play. Few in the stands had ever seen a circus act like this. As Thorpe gashed the defense and ripped off long runs on Carlisle's offensive possessions, even Walter Camp, who was standing on the sideline, was dazzled by Warner's Carlisle Indians, like they were sweet-talking him on every play.