Football

Football was first played at Princeton on crisp fall afternoons in the 1840s when students gathered behind Nassau Hall for impromptu games. Opposing teams were made up of residents of East and West Colleges or members of the Whig and Clio Halls; sometimes, all the A to L's were pitted against the M to Z's. After the Civil War, increasing interest led to interclass matches and eventually to an epochal event -- the first American intercollegiate football game, between Princeton and Rutgers, in New Brunswick on November 6, 1869.

The twenty-five players from each college played in their street clothes, and the several hundred spectators stood around on the side or sat on a wooden fence. There were no coaches, no officials, no programs -- the Rutgers Targum, on which we chiefly depend for the record of the game, tells us that Princeton's first goal was made ``by a well directed kick, from a gentleman whose name we don't know, but who did the best kicking on the Princeton side.'' The Targum is equally silent about the identity of the first wrongway player in American football history, a Rutgers man ``who, in his ardor, forgot which way he was kicking,'' and scored for Princeton instead of Rutgers. By agreement, the home team's style of play was used, and Rutgers won, 6 goals to 4; a week later, Princeton won the return match on its grounds, 8 goals to 0.

The game that Princeton and Rutgers played was a form of association football, forerunner of later-day soccer, as was the game that Princeton and Yale played in 1873 (Princeton 3, Yale 0) in a match that inaugurated the longest continuous rivalry in American intercollegiate football. Harvard, meantime, had been playing the ``Boston game,'' which was more like rugby, and in 1875 Harvard beat Yale, 4 to 0, in a rugby-type match, inaugurating this series. At this game, two spectators from Princeton, Jotham Potter 1877 and Earl Dodge 1879, were so taken with rugby that they resolved to press for its adoption at Princeton. Despite strong sentiment for retaining association football -- ``rather less rowdyish and more scientific'' than the Harvard game, said the Nassau Lit -- Potter's and Dodge's views prevailed by a narrow margin at a spirited mass meeting. Subsequently, on Princeton's initiative, Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale representatives met on November 23, 1876, and formed the Intercollegiate Football Association, which adopted modified rugby rules.

Princeton's success, which had been marked in association football, declined temporarily with the change to rugby, but by 1878, when Woodrow Wilson and his classmate, Earl Dodge, were directors of the student-managed Princeton College Football Association, Princeton won all six of its games, defeating both Harvard and Yale in the same season for the first time.

American football, as it evolved from rugby, became so rough in its early years that after watching a Harvard-Yale match, bare-knuckle heavyweight boxing champion John L. Sullivan declared, ``There's murder in that game.'' Princeton contributed its share of roughness with its invention of the ``V-formation wedge,'' which compared favorably with other engines of attack such as Harvard's ``flying wedge'' and Yale's ``tackles back'' formation. There were repeated efforts at reform, but relief from the continuing hazards of football came only in 1906, when, in response to public outcry, the game was opened up with legalization of the forward pass and other rule changes designed to reduce injuries.

THE 1880s

Princeton excelled in kicking throughout the 1880s. In the 1882 Yale game, John T. Haxall 1883 place-kicked a 65-yard goal, setting an intercollegiate record that the outstanding college kickers of subsequent years found hard to equal. In the second half of the 1883 Harvard game, the home-grown Princeton captain Alec Moffat 1884 (son of a professor of Greek) kicked two field goals with his right foot and two with his left, thus accounting for 20 points in Princeton's 26-7 victory. Moffat is credited with inventing the spiral punt, further developed by ``Snake'' Ames 1890, another superb kicker and a slippery open field runner.

The teams of 1885 and 1889 won all their games. The 1885 team scored 637 points and allowed its nine opponents only 25 -- a Princeton record, which by now must be considered indestructible. After winning its other games by an average margin of 75 points, it came from behind in its last game to edge out Yale 6 to 5, with the famous run of Tillie Lamar 1886. In the closing minutes a Yale punt bounced off the shoulder of another player into the outstretched hands of Lamar who, catching the ball on the run, streaked 90 yards for a touchdown.

A tower of strength on both the 1885 and 1889 teams was Hector Cowan who played tackle for five years, the last two as a Seminary student. In the various ``all-time'' teams in vogue up to World War II, Cowan was mentioned more frequently than any other Princetonian.

THE 1890s

The 1893 team, which also had a perfect record, was remarkable for its strong defense -- and for its spirit of thankfulness. Standing ``naked and covered with mud and blood and perspiration'' in the dressing room after their climactic 6 to 0 triumph over Yale (Richard Harding Davis reported in Harper's Weekly), the victorious Princeton players sang ``Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow.''

The 1896 team marred an otherwise perfect record by incurring a scoreless tie with a strong Lafayette team, but was, nevertheless, considered Princeton's best team up to then, overwhelming teams like Penn State and Cornell and defeating Harvard, 12 to 0, and Yale, 24 to 6. This was the last year that Harvard and Princeton met until 1911.

In 1898, Princeton missed a perfect record by the same narrow margin as in 1896, suffering a 5 to 5 tie with Army, the only team it did not hold scoreless. Arthur Poe won a 7 to 0 victory over Yale by snatching the ball from an opponent's arms and dashing the length of the field for a touchdown. The next year he clinched an 11 to 10 victory over Yale by kicking a last-minute field goal, the only one he had ever attempted. His were the most memorable of many exploits of six brothers who played for Princeton from 1882 to 1902 (Poe Brothers).

VERSATILE JOHN DEWITT

The 1903 team, undefeated and untied, scored 159 points against its eleven opponents, giving up only 6 -- all to Yale. Its captain, John DeWitt '04, a big fast guard, was probably Princeton's most complete player in the pre-forward-pass era. He could block, tackle, run with the ball, punt, drop-kick, and place-kick equally well. He used his talents most strikingly in the last game of his career, when Princeton gave Yale its first defeat in two years.

Yale scored its six points (five with a touchdown and one with a kick) early in the game. Toward the end of the first half a Yale drop-kick was blocked, and DeWitt scooped up the ball and ran 75 yards for a touchdown; Roy Vetterlein '06, the Princeton quarterback, kicked the extra point, tying the score. With only a minute left to play in the game, DeWitt kicked a 43-yard field goal (then worth five points) from a difficult angle, for the winning score. That Monday mornmg, placards all over the campus jubilantly announced: John DeWitt 11, Yale 6.

In the formal picture of his team, broad-framed Captain John DeWitt is clad in a white sweater with a black P -- the best that a Nassau Street store could produce in his size, at a moment's notice, to replace the soiled and torn jersey he had brought with him to the photographer's studio. DeWitt's makeshift attire later became standard garb for captains of Princeton championship teams.

SAN WHITE'S RUNS

From 1903 until the outbreak of the First World War, Princeton was eclipsed by Yale, and then by Harvard, except for two seasons. In 1906 strong Princeton and Yale teams had perfect records until their last game, when they held each other to a scoreless tie. The Princeton captain that year was Herbert L. Dillon '07, later the principal donor to the gymnasium that bears his name.

In 1911 Sanford White, at end, scored all the points that brought Princeton its first Big Three title since 1896. Against Harvard he recovered a blocked drop-kick and ran 90 yards for a touchdown, ``without a hand being laid on him,'' the Alumni Weekly reported. Later he tackled a Harvard back behind his own goal line for a safety, adding the two points needed to win, 8 to 6. Two weeks later, on a field of mud, he picked up a Yale fumble at mid-field and raced goalward. The Yale safety caught him at the four-yard line, but White struggled across the goal line, with the Yale defender holding on, for the winning score of 6 to 3.

Less spectacular, but equally important, was the all-round play at tackle of Eddie Hart, captain in 1910 and 1911. One of the most powerful linemen who ever played for Princeton, he became a legend in the American Expeditionary Force during the First World War when, responding to an offer by a professional strong man in a Paris theatre to take on anyone in the audience, Hart, on orders from his colonel, went forward to the stage and threw the challenger into the wings.

In 1911, just before Hart's team was photographed, someone doing research on the rights and privileges of champions discovered John DeWitt in his white sweater. A similar sweater was made ready for Eddie Hart, thus transmuting the 1903 improvisation into tradition.

In 1912 Hobey Baker '14 scored 92 points, an individual Princeton season record for more than sixty years.

THE ROPER ERA

Bill Roper '02, who coached both the Dillon and the Hart teams, was head coach from 1919 through 1930. He was a great orator and a classic example of the inspirational coach. ``Hell,'' one of his opposing coaches complained, ``He's not a coach; he's an evangelist.''

Roper's 1919 and 1920 teams tied Harvard and beat Yale; his 1922, 1925, and 1926 teams were Big Three champions. The 1920 team, captained by Mike Callahan, center, scored a decisive 20 to 0 victory over a Yale team led by Mike's older brother Tim, an all-American guard.

Stan Keck, a big, fast, all-American tackl~e -- ``the ubiquitous Mr. Keck,'' one reporter called him -- was the leading blocker in 1920 and 1921, and Don Lourie, an all-American quarterback, was the star of the attack. Lourie was ably assisted by Hank Garrity, Ralph Gilroy, and Jack Cleaves. Their exploits moved Frank D. Halsey '12 and A.C.M. Azoy '14 to lyrical flights:

Lourie and Garrity, Gilroy and Cleaves,
Footballers flightsome as autumn-blown leaves,
Filling the Princetons with riotous joy,
Lourie and Garrity, Cleaves and Gilroy.
Gilroy and Cleaves and Lourie and Garrity,
No hope for Harvard or Yale to get charity;
Worthy a wager of all your wife's dowry --
Garrity, Cleaves, Gilroy and Lourie.

In 1922 Roper's ``team of destiny,'' as it came to be known, completed Princeton's first perfect season since 1903. This team had little offense (some of its plays were made up on the field), but its defense was invincible. In most of its key games, the narrow margins of victory were provided chiefly by Ken Smith '24's field goals and extra points. Its most thrilling victory was over heavily favored Chicago. Trailing 18 to 7 (Chicago had missed all three of its extra points), with only twelve minutes left in the last quarter, Princeton rallied to score two touchdowns, and Ken Smith kicked the extra points, making the score 21 to 18. Five minutes later, with only seconds to play, Princeton held Chicago on fourth down, inches from the goal line.

During this game, a Princeton fan became so excited when Howdie Gray '23 grabbed a Chicago fumble and raced 43 yards for a touchdown that he whacked someone sitting in front of him with his rolled-up program. ``Watch out there!'' a man cried, ``that's my wife you just hit.'' ``Terribly sorry,'' the enthusiastic fan replied, ``that's my son who just made that run!'' ``Oh,'' said the husband, ``go ahead, hit her again.''

The 1925 and 1926 teams were led by Ed McMillan '26 at center and John Davis '27 at guard, and expertly directed by Dan Caulkins '27 at quarterback. In the 1925 Yale game, Jake Slagle '27, a triple-threat halfback, took the ball from punt formation, stiff-armed and side-stepped several tacklers and, behind alert and effective interference, swept 92 yards for a touchdown that was reminiscent of the one Tillie Lamar had scored forty years before.

THE I930s

Al Wittmer '22 was coach in 1931, Fritz Crisler (later coach and director of athletics at Michigan) from 1932 to 1937, Tad Weiman from 1938 to 1942, and Harry Mahnken in 1943 and 1944.

In 1932 the Class of 1936 freshman team won all of its games and held all of its opponents scoreless. In the three succeeding varsity years members of this class, together with some excellent players from neighboring classes, won 25 games and lost only one -- an upset by Yale, 7 to 0, in 1934. Teams captained by Art Lane '34 and Pepper Constable '36 were undefeated and untied in 1933 and 1935. The 1933 team held seven of its opponents scoreless and gave up only 8 points to the other two. Donald G. Herring '07, who covered football for the Alumni Weekly, said the 1935 team was the best college team he had ever seen. It overpowered Harvard and Yale and then went on to overwhelm Dartmouth in the last game, played in a near blizzard and made further memorable by the presence of a twelfth man in Dartmouth's line-up during one of its goal-line stands -- a spectator in mufti, unconnected with Dartmouth, but with a consuming passion for the underdog.

Princeton beat Yale in 1938, 1939, 1940, and 1941, at that time the longest string of Princeton victories in the history of the series. High scorers in these years were Dave Allerdice '41, one of Princeton's greatest passers (in three years he gained 2,492 yards by passing and set half a dozen other records), and Bob Peters '42, whose skill in running, passing, and kicking made him a powerful triple threat.

THE CALDWELL YEARS

Charlie Caldwell '25, a member of Roper's 1922 ``team of destiny'' and a coach at Williams for seventeen years, was head coach at Princeton from 1945 until his death in 1957. He developed a highly effective offense that added elements of deception, associated with the more modern T formation, to the power blocking of traditional single-wing football.

His teams won six successive Big Three championships, 1947 through 1952, bettering by two the previous record set by Percy Haughton's Harvard teams, 1912 through 1915. Six captains, accordingly, wore white sweaters and lit victory bonfires at the Cannon: Dick West '45 (a war veteran who graduated in 1948), Ed Mead '49, George Sella '50, George Chandler '51, Dave Hickok '52, and Frank McPhee '53.

Chandler's and Hickok's teams had 9-0 records in 1950 and 1951 -- Princeton's only consecutive pair of perfect seasons since the advent of full-length schedules in 1876. These teams contributed the major part of a winning streak of twenty-four games (1949-1952), a Princeton record. Both were awarded the Lambert Trophy as Eastern champions, both beat Yale by large margins, 47 to 12 and 27 to 0, and against Harvard, both set records for that series: in 1950, for the highest score, 63 to 26, and in 1951, for the widest margin of victory, 54 to 13. Their narrowest victory, 13 to 7, over Dartmouth in 1950, was ground out in the wake of a hurricane, in torrential rain, with an 80-mile gale blowing through the open end of the stadium; while the offensive team was in the huddle, an official had to hold the ball on the line of scrimmage to keep it from blowing away.

These years were replete with outstanding performances from players like Jack Davison, Homer Smith, George Chandler, Frank McPhe~e -- and Dick Kazmaier. Davison scored four touchdowns against Harvard in 1949, a record for that series equalled in 1952 by Smith, who in that game set a Princeton single-game rushing record of 273 yards. That year Smith also added to the Lamar-Slagle tradition with his exciting 93-yard touchdown run against Yale. Chandler, a great blocker and a fine signal-caller, was the key man of the 1950 team, according to Caldwell. McPhee blocked seven punts in 1951.

Kazmaier ran, passed, and punted equally well. Only 5'11'' and 170 pounds, his strong point was innate skill, perfected by concentration and practice, rather than power. His passes and punts were distinguished by their accuracy, his runs by his change of pace and of direction. He was the only offensive first-stringer from 1950 not lost through graduation, and Caldwell attributed the 1951 perfect season to Kazmaier's effort to improve his own 1950 performance, which set an example for his teammates.

His finest hour came in the fifth game of 1951 against strong, previously undefeated Cornell. He completed 15 of 17 passes for 236 yards, and carried for 124 yards, 49 in an explosive run from a double reverse. All told, he scored two touchdowns, passed for three more, and set up two others. The score was 53 to 15.

In his senior year, Kazmaier gained 1,827 yards, rushing and passing, the best in the nation. His career total offense, 4,354 yards, has long been a Princeton three-year record, as has his 35 scoring passes.

Kazmaier was a unanimous choice for all-American in both his junior and senior years, and he was voted the Heisman Trophy as the player of the year in 1951 by the biggest margin in the seventeen-year history of the award.

In 1950 Caldwell was voted coach of the year; in 1951 he stood fourth.

Princeton was unofficial Ivy champion in 1955. That year, Captain Royce Flippin '56 (later director of athletics) completed a four-year scoring campaign against Yale akin to John DeWitt's virtuoso performance half a century earlier. In Yale games his freshman and three varsity seasons Flippin ran for nine touchdowns and passed for two others, thus having a hand in eleven of the twelve touchdowns his teams scored against Yale.

THE COLMAN YEARS

Dick Colman, Caldwell's pupil at Williams, and for twenty years his assistant as line coach at Williams and Princeton, took over during Caldwell's last illness. From 1957 through 1968, he taught single-wing football with the same conviction as Caldwell and with similar results. His teams won 75 games and lost 33, matching the average (.694) that Caldwell's teams had compiled during his twelve-year stewardship. Princeton won the Ivy championship in 1957 (the League's second year) and in 1964, and shared it in 1963 and 1966, and won the Big Three title in 1958, 1964, 1965, and 1966. Six captains, consequently, wore white sweaters and presided at bonfires: John Sapoch '58, Fred Tiley '59, Bill Guedel '64, Cosmo Iacavazzi '65, Paul Savidge '66, and Walter Kozumbo '67.

The 1957 team rose from the ashes (i.e., their loss to Yale) to win the Ivy championship by overwhelming previously unbeaten but once tied Dartmouth, 34 to 14, in a game, marked by another end-of-the-season snowstorm, and John Sapoch's play-calling and blocking, Bob Casciola's defensive play at tackle, and Dan Sachs's running and passing. The 1958 team won Princeton's first Big Three title since 1952; against Yale it rolled up the largest score (50-14) that Princeton had ever made in this series.

The mid-sixties were golden years, brightened by Cosmo Iacavazzi's hurdling touchdown leaps, Stas Maliszewski's skillful line-backing, and Charlie Gogolak's renowned place-kicking. The 1963 team shared the Ivy title with Dartmouth, missing sole possession by a single point in its 21-22 loss to that team. The 1964 team achieved Princeton's first perfect season (9-0) since 1951, and set an Ivy League single-game record, beating Penn 55 to 0. In 1965 the opposing teams in Princeton's annual encounter with Rutgers were captained by twin brothers, Peter Savidge for Rutgers, Paul for Princeton. Poetic justice called for a tie game, but Charlie Gogolak's six field goals and two goals after touchdown led Princeton to a 32 to 6 victory. Gogolak ended his Princeton career that year, the possessor of six national collegiate kicking records; one was for 50 consecutive goals after touchdown, six more than the previous record, set by his older brother Pete at Cornell. The Gogolak brothers were soccer-style placement kickers who came to this country with their family from Hungary during the revolt of 1956. Both later kicked for professional teams.

The 1966 team tied Harvard and Dartmouth for the Ivy League championship and also won the Big Three title, as Larry Stupski '67 gave an approximate replay of Sam White's performance in 1911. Stupski made two key tackles which led to the upset of undefeated Harvard, 18 to 14. A week later, after Walter Kozumbo had blocked a punt with less than four minutes to play, Stupski grabbed the ball and ran 60 yards for the touchdown which beat Yale, 13 to 7 -- the sixth successive victory over the Elis, tying a record set in 1952.

In 1967 fullback Ellis Moore scored five touchdowns against Harvard, setting an Ivy single-game record, later eaualled bv Ed Marinaro of Cornell.

THE RECENT YEARS

Dick Colman resigned at the end of the 1968 season to become director of athletics at Middlebury College. He was succeeded by Jake McCandless '51, who had understudied Dick Kazmaier in 1949 and 1950, and had assisted Colman, chiefly as backfield coach, since 1958. McCandless transformed the Princeton offense from single-wing to T-formation. His 1969 team tied Yale and Dartmouth for the Ivy League championship. Two of his players later played professional football: running back Hank Bjorkland '72 (who set a Princeton career rushing record of 2,362 yards) and defensive tackle Carl Barisich '73 (an all-East as well as all-Ivy player). McCandless resigned at the end of the 1972 season, and was succeeded by Bob Casciola '58, who had played tackle under Caldwell and Colman, and had coached at Princeton, Dartmouth, and the University of Connecticut.

Although Princeton's football fortunes suffered a slump through the mid-seventies, autumn afternoons in Palmer Stadium were brightened periodically by fine individual performances that brought new records and awards. In 1973, Bill Skinner '74 set a Princeton career record with 75 pass receptions, while offensive guard and captain Bill Cronin '74 and running back Walt Snickenberger '75 were named all-Ivy. His senior year, Snickenberger also set a Princeton season scoring record of 16 touchdowns and received the Bushnell Award as Ivy League player of the year. The following year quarterback Ron Beible '76 led the Ivy League in yards gained by forward passing as well as in total offense, set Princeton season and career records for forward passes completed (123 and 293) and total yards gained by passing (1503 and 3662), and was one of thirty-three scholar-athletes awarded scholarships for graduate study by the N.C.A.A. That same year, wide receiver Neil Chamberlin '76 set Princeton season and career records for passes caught (44, 78), and open-field runner Mike Carter '77 led the Ivy League in both kickoff and punt returns. Defensive tackle Ted Schiller '77 was named All-Ivy in 1975 and All-East in 1976. In the latter year. offensive guard Kevin Fox '77 was chosen as scholar-athlete by the National Football Foundation.

At the end of the 1977 season, Casciola was succeeded by Frank Navarro previously head coach at Wabash College in Indiana.

LIGHTWEIGHT FOOTBALL

Princeton's 150-pound football teams generally gave a good account of themselves in the Eastern Intercollegiate League after its founding in 1931. Their longest period of excellence came in the late thirties and early forties when, coached by Harry A. Mahnken, their hard blocking and tackling earned them the title ``The Fighting Fifties'' and enabled them to win the championship five of the six years from 1937 through 1942. Some dozen years later, teams coached by Dick Vaughan enjoyed another spell of success, highlighted by the performance of the undefeated team of 1954, which won the league title by overwhelming Navy, champion the five preceding years. Under Coach Dan White '65, the mid-seventies saw another string of winning teams, most notably the 1975 eleven, which defeated perennial league leaders Army and Navy on the way to a tie with Cornell for the championship.


From Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion, copyright Princeton University Press (1978).

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