Noble Jones @ Opelika State - 11/24/1910


Several changes were unveiled to the rule book for the 1910 season in collegiate football. For one thing, the forward pass rule was modified (again). Now, only the ends were eligible to catch a pass and it could be no further than 20 yards from the line of scrimmage. And at the time the pass was thrown the passer had to be at least five yards behind the line and all the players except the ends had to be at least one yard behind the line. The "flying tackle" (a favorite teaching point of Centerville coach Pug Johnston) was outlawed; now "the man making a tackle must have at least one foot on the ground." It was also now illegal for team mates to aid (ie., push or pull) a ballcarrier.

Aside from the rule changes, the 1910 season would be interesting in large part thanks to two coaching legends: John Christian and Edward "Pug" Johnston.

In 1909, coach John Christian had left Nobel Jones College to take over as the coach of Minnesota Tech. Noble Jones had a terrible season while Tech went undefeated. So in 1910, Noble Jones made a very generous offer to Mr. Christian. And in a move that was both unprecedented and never repeated, Christian took the Noble Jones job and kept his Tech job too. How? Well, Tech's season started earlier than Noble Jones - largely due to the differences in the weather between Minnesota and Georgia. Christian would run the Tech squad through the first game of the season before heading south to handle Noble Jones for the remainder. Christian had a hand-picked assistant who would stay in Minnesota and with whom he'd be in frequent contact, who would handle the Lakers during games. In the meantime, Christian would remake Noble Jones into a powerhouse.

While Coach Christian was doing double-duty, his counterpart in central Pennsylvania was busy correcting his charges. The 1909 Centerville Chiefs had finished 8-4-0 - a good showing by most standards, but not by that to which Coach Pug Johnston held his teams. With a team that played several games more than any other top-level collegiate program of the time, Pug's men were in top shape, and he had a not-so-secret weapon in sophomore standout Jack Oxendine. The Chiefs were expected to be "back in fighting trim" for 1910 - and that prediction turned out to be true.

Typically Centerville "got in first" with an early game before most schools played - but the Central Carolina Lions beat them to the punch with a September 17th game against Durham College (the game was a boring 9-0 win for the Lions). Centerville played the first of its 14 (yes 14) games on the 21st, a "tune-up" against the Lebanon Valley town club that had beaten them in 1909. Pug had his players in a lather and they easily handled the opposition this time with a 28-0 cakewalk. Three days later they were at it again, with their first Saturday game, a 10-0 victory over Penn Catholic. The Chiefs revenge tour was on - or so everyone thought. In point of fact, the Chiefs let down their guards twice - both against inferior competition and were tied by Clarion College 10-10 and then outright defeated by Gettysburg 10-3. Other than that, Centerville was dominant, finishing 12-1-1. But Pug's squad could have been better - and this was something their coach would not forget.

Meanwhile, the Noble Jones Colonels were rolling under John Christian. The first game wasn't until October 1st, but they won that one by a 54-3 margin (over tiny Mobile City College). Next up was Jacksonville Baptist (a 41-7 victory) and then Alabama Baptist fell 51-3. Cumberland - the team's first real challenge - was a 22-3 victory and the Colonels closed their perfect October with a 27-7 win over Macon State on the 29th. In November, they faced St. Andrew's (a 44-17 win), followed by Coastal State (55-16), Georgia Baptist (17-7) and in the team's biggest game, a season-ending 31-6 victory over a tough Opelika State Wildcat team in Alabama during Thanksgiving week. The Colonels' 9-0-0 season earned them recognition in the 1936 Omni Sports Bureau's "retroactive" national champions list, but Christian didn't wait for that - he claimed the title immediately after defeating Opelika State. 

Unfortunately for Christian and the Colonels, several other teams also claimed the national championship, even if their credentials were not quite up to par with Noble Jones College's claim. Lubbock State and Central Carolina each posted 8-0-0 marks while Liberty College was 7-0-1. All three claimed to be champs. Christian's "other" team - Minnesota Tech - went 6-1-0 with Christian mailing his game plan to his assistant, a fellow named Pete Stenhouse, who would someday turn out to be a pretty good coach on his own.

There was a bit of controversy surrounding the All-American team as announced by Daniel Mott after the season. Sophomore sensation Jack Oxendine was left off the squad. Not because he wasn't worthy - virtually everyone agreed he was among the top players not just of 1910, but of all-time. But Mott left him off because he was a sophomore. "I am not fond of naming juniors to the team, let alone a raw sophomore, regardless of his so-called credentials," he wrote in his article that accompanied the team's announcement in The Sporting Way magazine. The decision, dubious as it was, prevented Oxendine from making history. It would be one of the few times this would be the case for the talented Centerville halfback.

Mott's All-American Team for 1910:

QB Thomas Anderson (SR) Minnesota Tech
HB Reginald Grafton (SR) Noble Jones
HB Bill Daniels (SR) Lubbock State
FB Roger Landers (SR) Central Carolina
E Phil Scruggs (SR) Sadler
T James "Bubba" Martin Macon State
G Everett Ellsworth (SR) Ellery
C Timothy Jackson (SR) Noble Jones
G James Bantum (SR) Centerville
T Elias Thorn (SR) George Fox
E Hank Stamatis (SR) Ellery