Time has not forgotten 110-0 loss

John Steadman

December 19, 1990|By John Steadman

Battered by a dreadful score of 110-0 is not an experience soon to be forgotten. And it hasn't been. Not for 63 years, at least among the survivors, including one Ralph Johnson, who has vivid recall of when Blue Ridge College, located in New Windsor, Md., was all but annihilated by Temple University on Oct. 1, 1927, in Philadelphia.

Poor Blue Ridge, trampled 110-0. So many Blue Ridge players were carried off the field that the Temple coach, Henry "Heinie" Miller, lent them some members of his squad in a sporting gesture.

ZTC But, hold on. The game did not last the allotted 60 minutes. At halftime, the tally was 78-0, which suggested to Blue Ridge it had a lot of catching up to do. The officials decided as an act of mercy to cut the second half to 10 minutes, which only allowed Temple to add 32 more points.

Johnson, a native of Federalsburg, Md., and gifted with amazing recall, says, "I'm now 83 years, 1 month old but when you lose 110-0 it stays with you for life." Any other recollections of the awful pounding?

"Well, we stayed at the Majestic Hotel in Philadelphia and I heard the school got $1,500 for playing the game. I remember I picked up a fumble and started to run. I weighed around 120 pounds. I got hit by half the Temple team. Then I saw something rolling on the ground. It was my helmet. I honestly thought for a second my head was inside of it."

Blue Ridge, named after the mountain range that is 18 miles away, was founded as Calvert College in 1839 by the Catholic Church and, subsequently, became New Windsor College and the Maryland Collegiate Institute. In 1927, Blue Ridge, affiliated with the Church of the Brethren, reduced the curriculum from four to two years.

That was one reason Blue Ridge was undermanned against Temple and all the rest of its rivals. It's a story that mirrors less complicated and sophisticated times. Johnson's memory, going back to what happened the year Charles Lindbergh flew the Atlantic, is incredible. There was doubt registered by a listener when he said the team went the entire schedule without scoring a point.

But a check of the records proved his accuracy. The Red and White, which soon became the black and blue, lost to Gallaudet, 21-0; Shippensburg, 25-0; Bridgewater, 9-0; American University, 38-0; and Shepherd (in Hagerstown at Willow Lane Park), 19-0. How was Johnson so certain of his facts?

"Because I was the extra-point kicker," he replied. "I never got a chance to kick for the simple reason we didn't score a touchdown." For further evidence of the kind of team Blue Ridge presented, let's see what happened to Bridgewater, which won by a modest 9-0 count. In two later games, Bridgewater lost to Emory & Henry, 82-0, and was mauled by Roanoke College, 83-0.

The Blue Ridge aggregation was coached by J. Walter "Duffy" Speicher, who became so disgusted during that long season he put himself in the game at fullback, even though Johnson says he wasn't enrolled. Blue Ridge also let a team follower, Speigle Benedict, a high school student, travel with them and, on occasion, inserted him in the lineup.

Another former Blue Ridge squad member, Bob Bounds, a tackle from Sykesville High School who had never played football before, has fading memories of the 110-0 debacle. "Just say it was a painful experience and let it go at that," he said from Apache Junction, Ariz., where he moved after retiring as plant manager of the Glenn L. Martin Co.

Bounds is proud to point out that one of their halfbacks, Charles Engle, nicknamed "Rip," transferred to Western Maryland College, 7 miles away, and went on to coach with such success at Brown and Penn State that he's enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. No doubt, the frustration of dear old Blue Ridge, the 110-0 game and a season when the team didn't score a point, conditioned him for any future football eventuality.

And what about Blue Ridge? It returned to being a four-year college in 1937 and continued to lose football games by boxcar-sized scores. It shut down completely in 1942 and, two years later, 26 acres of the campus and four school buildings were sold for $31,300 to the Church of the Brethren Service Committee. Today, the property is known as the Church World Service Center.

For one more documentation of Blue Ridge's 110-0 debacle, let's turn to the "Templar," the Temple University yearbook, which reports: "The varsity played havoc with them and many of the visitors were forced to the sidelines with injuries. 'Heinie' Miller, coach of the home squad, sent in a number of Owl players to finish the contest."

The College Football Encyclopedia tells us Tom Hanson of Navesink, N.J., one of Temple's finest athletes, scored 29 of the 110 points. As an oddity, Temple didn't record a first down, which tells you that virtually every time it went on offense it exploded for the distance.

It got so that Blue Ridge was kicking on first down. It didn't want the ball, proving it placed a higher value on life and limb than crossing the faraway goal line.

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