Chastened, the Indians blew out Syracuse 33-0, Pitt 45-8 and Georgetown 34-20. They became so cocksure that they taunted Lehigh with their signal-calling in a 34-14 victory. A player in the backfield would yell, "What about going around right end this time?" Then they would race around right end. The Lehigh victory gave the Indians a 10-0-1 record. But that's when the joking stopped. The following week they were going to West Point for the fight of their careers.
Army was in the midst of a four-year stretch during which it went 28-5-1. Cadets tackle Alexander Weyand was a 200-pound sophomore and a tireless one-man wrecking crew. In 1911 he sent two Yale men to the sideline, one with a broken collarbone and one with an injured knee. Leland Devore outweighed Weyand by 40 pounds. In the Cadets' backfield were four future World War II generals: Eisenhower, Geoffrey Keyes, Leland Hobbs and Vernon Prichard. Eisenhower had just average speed and weighed only 175 pounds, but, he said, "I so loved the fierce bodily contact of football that I suppose my enthusiasm made up somewhat for my lack of size."
The Army-Carlisle game had national implications for both teams. The Cadets, who had the best defense in the nation, had lost only once, to Yale 6-0. With a win over Carlisle they had a chance to be No. 1 in the year-end rankings. While the Indians had the best offense in the land, commentators suggested they had run up their extravagant scores against weaker competition. A defeat of gritty Army would end all argument and establish them as front-runners for the title of best team in the country. Then there was the longer view. For Welch, the game couldn't help but recall "the real war out in the West."
The Indians' opening play from scrimmage made football history: Welch and the Carlisle offense lined up in the first double wing formation, which Warner had designed and the players had reserved expressly for Army. Both halfbacks shifted closer to the line, just outside the defensive tackles. The formation infinitely multiplied the Indians' options for trick plays. Anything could happen: Welch, Thorpe and running back Alex Arcasa might run, fake, reverse, pitch, block, catch passes or throw them. "Football began to have the sweep of a prairie fire," Warner observed.
The scheme played havoc with Army—and electrified the crowd. The Indians sheared off huge chunks of yardage. "The shifting, puzzling, and dazzling attack of the Carlisle Indians had the Cadets bordering on a panic," the New York Tribune observed. "None of the Army men seemed to know just where the ball was."
Army scored first, however, when Hobbs broke loose around right end for a touchdown. But Prichard missed the extra point, and the Indians countered immediately with a drive to take the lead. The Cadets tried vainly to defend with a seven-man line, as Eisenhower and his partner at linebacker, Charles Benedict, double-teamed Thorpe. It didn't work. "Starting like a streak, he shot through the line, scattering tacklers to all sides of him," the Tribune reported.
On play after play the Indians showed up Devore. Just after the second-half kickoff, the Army captain lost his temper. As Guyon lay on the field, Devore took a running start and stamped on the Carlisle back. The crowd hissed, and Devore was thrown out of the game. The Indians responded with a seven-play scoring drive to take a 14-6 lead, and from then on they totally outplayed the Cadets. Thorpe, in his greatest performance as a college player, ripped off 20-yard gains as if they were nothing. Once, when Eisenhower and Benedict seemed to have him cornered, Thorpe stopped short. The two defenders crashed head on, and Thorpe galloped past them. His runs set up three touchdowns by Arcasa, whose scoring was merely the finishing touch. Thorpe made one last spectacular play, a circus catch of a 40-yard pass while surrounded by defenders. The final score was 27-6.
The Indians, joyous, spent and bruised, boarded a train for the trip home. As they seated themselves, a distinguished looking gentleman with a silver mustache joined them. Walter Camp introduced himself and congratulated the players on their victory.
All the way to New York City the Indians and the arbiter of the game quizzed each other and exchanged thoughts on strategy. Camp said he greatly admired the team, but he didn't understand its lightning style. "Your quarterback calls plays too fast," he said. "He doesn't study the defense."
Thorpe replied that speed was the point. "Mister Camp," he said, "how can he study the defense when there isn't any defense?"