But watch! The enemy's quarter has called his signal, the ball is snapped back by the center and the left half back, who takes the ball from the quarter, surrounded by the other backs there to protect him from tacklers, charges obliquely across and into our left tackle. Our own half rushes forward to meet the interference and dives into it. Circling around behind the melee, which has now been charged by our left tackle also, the runner with the ball emerges all alone and turns toward our goal. Our end closes in, leaps for the runner's knees and throws him fiercely to the ground. The whistle again and the referee calls out, "Second down, three yards to gain." The foe has traveled two yards of that long trip toward our goal.
Again the signals, again the passing, again the rush, but this time it is the enemy's full back who takes the ball. He plunges straight ahead for our center as if the line of men before him had no existence. Between our center and one of the guards, the runner's line men have made a big hole and through it dashes the man with the ball, to fall into the arms of our quarter back, whom he drags a short distance before being downed.
"First down, five yards to gain," again sings out the referee. The rush has netted the requisite distance without the third attempt and the foe can now begin all over again. On all sides of us the home team is adjured to "Hold them," while from the hostile camp across the gridiron rings out a stentorian cheer for the man who made the gain and the school for which he made it.
Again the full back assaults our center, but this time, with a thud of human bone and muscle, plainly audible where we sit, he is stopped as solidly as if it had been a brick wall instead of a human rampart which he was battering with his head and shoulders. Again the human missile is launched at our center and again the gallant fellow stops the play, although the runner manages to wiggle a scant yard while he is falling.
Once more rings out the signal. The foe's formation suddenly changes. The backs form a wedge with the full back, ten yards back of the center, at the open end. It is the formation for a punt, the kick productive of the greatest possible distance and the inevitable result when a team fails to gain by carrying the ball. Another futile attempt at the ends or the line would have handed over possession of the ball to our team with but 30 yards to travel to a touchdown, and this would have been poor generalship.
Back from the center comes the ball as the kicker holds out his hands and on that instant our men charge. The ball, dropped from his hands and meeting the kicker's foot just before it reaches the ground, is booted high in air and down the field. Under it scurries our own full back, 50 yards behind his own line, while his comrades in front of him are doing their best to keep the opponents from getting through in time to make a tackle far down the field. The catch is beautifully executed and the runner starts sprinting back. One of the enemy's ends does succeed in getting through, however, and rushes to meet him. The full back dodges, eludes him and comes tearing up the field while, all about us, men are urging him on. Friend and foe now mingle alike before him, one helping him, another endeavoring to bring him down. Full 30 yards he comes and then, dodging one tackier, rushes right into the arms of another. It is our ball and our turn to carry the oval.
But that visiting team has a defense that is every bit as strong as its supporters have told us. Twice our plays are thrown back and it becomes the duty of our quarter to call for a kick, as theirs did a few minutes ago. The punt sails high in air, although not so far as the effort of the opposing full back, who has the assistance of the wind. The oval twists deceptively and seems to travel a spiral course. The man in the enemy's backfield, there to catch it, runs in, stretches out his arms, misjudges a bit and the ball strikes him, falls, takes a bound to the side and rolls away.
"X fumble," shriek ten thousand throats. Like a shot, through the rush of men one of our ends tears in, dives for the ball, rolling over and over. He grasps it in both arms and tries to regain his feet for a run to the opponents' goal, but there is a man who throws himself at him and flattens him to earth again. It is our ball, however, but 15 yards from the goal, and a touchdown almost within our grasp. Can the team make it?
Almost before the enemy's eleven has recovered from the consternation into which the fumble has thrown it, our men sweep them off their feet again. Straight through the center tears our full back for six yards on the first down. Our left half turns three yards more around their end. We have them "on the run" and our wise little captain knows it. Through the line the full back again plows his furrow, and when he is stopped there is but a yard left to go. Once more the full back is called on but this time the desperate foe is waiting for him and he fails. An attempt at an end run is also thrown back by our plucky foe. It is do or die this time. There is a feint of two or three men at one end, the enemy's defense is drawn away from the center, and once more the full back, with but two men helping him this time, assaults this position.
Percy Field, Cornell - Princeton vs. Cornell.
Photo by Burr Mclntosh.
The play is in plain sight of every spectator except those directly in front of it. Thousands of people give a mighty shove as if to help the runner. He goes through, he keeps going. He falls over the line. It is a touchdown, the regular method of scoring, and the scene in the stands and bleachers beggars description. The undergraduates cheer and do it in defiance of the yell masters who vainly try to infuse into the demonstration some of the system which has been so prominent up to this time. Women shriek, men of middle age throw their hats high in air and forget what directions the headgear take. It is simply pandemonium.