Home / Featured / A Healthy Test of Manhood: Auburn’s first game against Texas A&M billed as south’s biggest in 1911

A Healthy Test of Manhood: Auburn’s first game against Texas A&M billed as south’s biggest in 1911

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Yeah, well, it was a good thing we WERE big in 1911 because the trip to Typhoid Dallas to play Texas A&M pretty much decimated the team. [Atlanta Constitution]
We’re 0-3 against Texas A&M, and the history of this weird, sickening sentence—I mean, we’re better than Texas A&M—stretches all the way back to October 21, 1911, the first time the two teams met, which was actually the closest Auburn has come to winning. Let’s take a look at it, and refer to a 112-year-old Auburn team as “we” a lot. I know—we rarely investigate Auburn losses. But that’s kind of all we have to work with here. So let’s find some excuses.

Played in Dallas, the game was billed as the biggest in the south that year. One paper even hyped it as the de facto Championship of the South, deeming Auburn the best team in the southeast (pretty standard dope back in the Donahue days), A&M the best in the southwest. That was enough to get 7,000 people to Gaston Park (including scouts from Mississippi State, Baylor, Vanderbilt, and Sewanee, and TCU’s entire team)—pretty stout attendance for 1911, at least below the Mason-Dixon.

Auburn pulled into town the night before with 20 players “handicapped by a train trip of 36 hours.” Not that we were complaining. The undefeated Tigers said they were ready. Ditto the heavier, undefeated Aggies. The press agreed.

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Cocky vs. Classy. [Ft. Worth Star-Telegram]
“Both teams arrived in Dallas last night, and a better looking bunch of athletes would be hard to find in the entire South,” the Fort Worth Star-Telegram wrote. “The players making up the two teams are not of the old style, beefy, heavy, cumbersome men, which formerly characterized the great college sport, but are hard trained, closely-knit fighting machines, tanned and hardened by tests of healthy manhood.”

Soon they’d be muddied by tests of healthy manhood. There’d been heavy rains. The field was a swamp. That didn’t help with the fumblitis that had hampered the Tigers all season, and that the Atlanta Constitution predicted could cost Auburn the game. They were right. We fumbled. We fumbled a lot. We’d be driving, we’d fumble. We’d force them to punt, we’d fumble. We lost, 16-0.

The Farmers scored in the first quarter, and twice again right at the end. Their coach, Uncle Charley Moran, said before the game that he’d knew his team would win. That’s fine. Coach speak didn’t exist at the time. They were all pretty blunt.

But afterward, they acted as if they’d won with pure “straight football,” i.e. nothing fancy and desperate like a forward pass. Uh, your first touchdown was on a forward pass. I don’t know what straight football meant in Texas in 1911, but in Dixie, forward passes were still basically the girl pushups of football, especially when they were perpetrated in the first quarter when you still had plenty of time to see if you could score points on the ground like a man.

So to summarize, I’m pretty positive Auburn’s first loss in the series can be attributed to: 36 hours on the Southern Pacific (and almost certain distraction during a stop in Sodom and New Orleans), mud, cowardly forward passes, pretty much zero fans, and, oh, given what we now know about its incubation period, contracting Typhoid, or at least something close enough to Typhoid to knock several of our stars out of commission for the next few games (including the trip back to the Lone Star State to play Texas a few weeks later) and have us shopping for tiny caskets because everyone thought the Little Irishman was a goner.

So to re-summarize: The Aggies’ possibly poor hygiene may have nearly killed our coach.

Let’s beat the hell out of Texas A&M.

Related: Auburn’s—and America’s?—first homecoming was in 1909.

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About Jeremy Henderson

Jeremy Henderson is the editor of The War Eagle Reader and co-host of Rich and Jeremy in the Mornings on Wings 94.3 FM in Auburn. Follow him on Twitter: @wareaglereader / @jerthoughts / @RichandJeremy

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