No armistice for Navy football in 1918

World War I left America with newfound might. As if to prove it, on Nov. 16, 1918 — five days after hostilities ceased — Navy’s football team went out and thrashed its opponent, 127-0.

Pity Ursinus College, from Collegeville, Pa., the victim of that rout at Farragut Field in Annapolis. Navy, coached by “Gloomy” Gil Dobie, led 75-0 at halftime before playing its reserves, who continued the onslaught by scoring 52 points. All told, the Midshipmen tallied 16 touchdowns. Their 127 points, still a school record, was one short of the then-national college mark set six days earlier by Georgia Tech in a 128-0 victory over North Carolina State.

“Every lad in the Navy backfield played a game of the stellar order,” The Sun reported. “In spite of it all, however, [Ursinus] plugged along pluckily until the ... referee’s whistle. It was rather remarkable how the little fellows stood the battering.”

(In Ursinus’ defense, it was the only college team that hadn’t bailed on Navy in 1918, though its squad, like others, had been wracked by the war.)

A week later, Navy (4-0) played undefeated Great Lakes Naval Training Station, a team of ex-college stars. Navy led 6-0 late and was driving again when its captain, Bill Ingram, fumbled near the goal line. A rival player grabbed the ball and ran for paydirt when a Navy reserve, Bill Saunders, leaped from the bench, raced out and tackled him.

Great Lakes was awarded a touchdown, kicked the extra point and won, 7-6. It then won the Rose Bowl. And Ingram? He coached Navy to a national championship in 1926.

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

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