Sunday, January 30, 2011

30 January 1892: Georgia Is Victorious in First Football Game, Creates an Athens Obsession

On this day in 1892, "the Black and Crimson" welcomed Mercer University ("the black and yellow") to the University of Georgia campus for "the first intercollegiate football game in the Deep South." Kickoff was at 3pm, and more than a thousand people attended the game on what is now known as Herty Field on North Campus.

The Weekly Banner set the scene:

The Mercer boys came in at twelve o'clock and brought with them two cars full of students and citizens of Macon, Madison, and other places along the line of the Macon & Northern. They were taken in charge by the University boys and entertained at their different homes. The Mercer colors, black and yellow were seen on nearly two hundred breasts, and several young ladies from Macon were along to attest their faith in the Mercer boys. It was a fine delegation of young men and young ladies, and a nicer crowd never came on a visit to Athens.

The University campus was decorated with black and crimson and on the field one goal was decorated in University colors, the other in Mercer colors. Long before three o'clock the crowd began to assemble and the yells of the two colleges were alternately raised with a vim by the boys. The University goat was driven across the field by the boys and raised quite a ripple of laughter. At three o'clock there were over one thousand people on the ground, and the presence of so many young ladies from the city, the Lucy Cobb and the Home School added inspiration to the occasion.

Georgia dominated the game, and was leading 28-0 at the end of the first half. At the time, touchdowns counted for just four points, with two points awarded for the post-touchdown kick, and field goals were worth five points.UGA Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Charles Holmes Herty, brought the sport to campus and acted as the team's first football coach.

The Banner's description of the second half begins thusly:

By this time the game is irretrievably lost to Mercer, but the black and yellow were not tamed in their enthusiasm. They were true grit and when the time was called they lined up like men and went at the second half with a will.

The final score of the game would be 50-0, though later, Georgia right tackle A. O. Halsey said the team had scored another 10 points that were missed when the scorekeeper left the game to ensure he made it to the liquor dispensary before it closed at sundown.

After the game,

Enthusiasm was supreme, boys were riding around on a sea of shoulders, even the goat was ridden.

The Mercer boys took defeat very gracefully, and were escorted to the train by the University boys and went off amid the yells of both crowds.
Georgia's next and final game would be against Auburn in Piedmont Park in Atlanta on February 20th. The Black and Crimson finished their first football season with a record of 1-1.

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