Centerville vs Ellery - 11/28/1912


The biggest news - well, the earliest "big" news regarding the 1912 collegiate football season was the slate of rule changes the AIAA put in place to "increase excitement" and generate more offense. While there were frequent blowouts when good teams faced small, less powerful squads, meetings between top clubs often finished with scores like 6-3, in which no touchdowns were scored. Therefore, the AIAA put these rules in place, giving birth to the modern era of football (though playstayles would evolve slowly, these rules gave the game a framework that still exists today):

  • Teams were given 4 downs instead of 3 downs to gain ten yards
  • The value of a touchdown was increased from 5 points to 6 points
  • The field was reduced from 110 yards to 100 yards, and end zones of ten yards were added
  • Kickoff was made from the 40 yard line rather than midfield.

The biggest immediate beneficiary of these changes was Jack Oxendine and his Centerville Indians team mates. Oxendine (or "Ox" as he, unsurprisingly, was known) had an explosive season. Though records are scarce, the scores of Centerville's 14 contests tell the story. The Indians went undefeated (and untied), racking up a 14-0-0 record in which they scored a record 629 points while allowing 79. Coach Pug Johnston rode his workhorse halfback all season long and Oxendine delivered. Centerville opened up on September 21st with a 43-3 victory over Erie Bible College and 47-7 over the Pittsburgh Normal College a week later (yep, Pug still liked to get his squad a couple of easy ones before the real schedule began). Taney College visited the following week and were blown out 50-7. Penn Catholic fell 48-3 on Wednesday, 10/2. Pug had his boys playing just three days later on Saturday and Henrietta College put up a good fight before succumbing 27-16 (Oxendine had a 70-yard touchdown run in that one). St. Pancras was pancaked 44-0 on the 12th of October. Centerville traveled west to take on the Ohio Normal School of Columbus the following week and won 36-7. The Indians avenged their lone 1911 defeat the following week by defeating St. Matt's 48-23 (Oxendine had four TDs). Another "easy" one came the next week - a 48-0 win over Harrisburg Catholic in the Pennsylvania capitol. On November 2nd, Centerville beat Bethlehem College 34-13. They traveled to Georgia to beat Rome College 54-0. Staying in the south, they beat Atlanta Baptist 55-0 and then Hampden 48-0. The season capper was a demolition of Ellery 47-0 to finish the most dominating season thus far in college football history.

Other unbeaten squads included Sadler - whose 9-0-0 season marked a good bounceback from a 4-4-0 record in '10 and a 6-4-0 campaign in '11 - Wisconsin State at 7-0-0 (another riser in the midwest), the College of Omaha (7-0-1) which was quickly becoming one of the nation's best programs - Empire State 6-0-1 who was building a good program in the nation's biggest metropolis - and the Bluegrass State Mustangs, who at 10-0-0 were the closest thing Centerville had to competition for the still unofficial national championship crown. Bluegrass State had the season's biggest blowout - an 86-0 whitewashing of tiny Hamlet University in their shared homestate of Kentucky. The Mustangs' case was hurt by playing only a handful of top teams - but one of those was Noble Jones, who the Mustangs crushed 45-9 in the worst defeat of John Christian's coaching career.

Unsurprisingly, in his 1936 retroactive review of college gridiron history, Thomas Potentas of the Omni Sports Bureau awarded the Centerville Indians the 1911 AIAA championship. Bluegrass State partisans may have disagreed, but most unbiased observers would, like Potentas, point out that Centerville had the nation's best player and arguably the best coach - and they had a tremendously strong body of work.

Mott's All-American Team for 1912:

QB Dudley Archer (SR) Bluegrass State
HB John Oxendine (SR) Centerville
HB Hubert Woods (JR) Bethlehem College
FB Elwood Danvers (SR) George Fox
E Wiley Andrews (JR) Provo Tech
T Oscar Gilbertson (SR) Travis College
G Felix Clouse (SR) Central Ohio
C Lester Fagan (JR) Empire State
G Ronald Thorpe (SR) College of Omaha
T Orland Redwind (JR) Centerville
E Quincy Adams (SR) Chicago Poly