1893 Yale vs Princeton

The 1893 Princeton-Yale game was the most anticipated match-up to that time in college football history.  Both teams were undefeated, but Yale had so dominated their competition that season they were heavily favored to win.  Princeton’s upset of Yale by a score of 6-0 gave them the National Championship.  Until being defeated by Princeton, Yale had not lost since 1890 and had only allowed six points to be scored upon them in that time span.  It was the only loss in Frank Hinkey's playing career.  Below is a small tribute to that legendary Princeton team.

1893 Yale vs Princeton Football Program (Hinkey Archive)


December 1, 1893 - The New York Press (Clipping in Greenway Scrapbook)

First Half

Princeton won the toss, and chose the ball and east goal.  Instead of the wind, as only a gentle zephyr from the west floated across the field.  This was not thought by Captain Trenchard sufficiently strong to give Yale any advantage in punting.  This slight advantage gained by Princeton's captain was considered, however, as a precursor of the ultimate result, and shouts of exultation from Princeton throats rent the air as the teams lined up for what proved the greatest struggle ever played on the gridiron field.

Phil King, the gamiest little quarterback the country had ever seen, strode to the enter of the field to make the first play.  He had a confident look, as if he was perfectly sure of himself and the great team behind him.  He stooped down, grasped the ball, and with a warming look to the men behind him, he said:  "Are you ready?"  An answering shout from Captain Trenchard and the whole Princeton team came flying down toward Yale's sturdy line with the hurricane rush of the famous flying wedge formation which has been found almost irresistible in its dire momentum.  King was crafty however, and looked to see how Yale would form to meet this, the first aggressive play against them.  King failed to touch the ball to the ground, consequently it was not in play, and the men took their places as before for the "kick-off".

Phil King, 1893 Princeton Quarterback (Hinkey Archive)

King had evidently sized up his opponents, and giving the signal again, the same hurricane wedge came flying against Yale's line.  Balliet, Wheeler and Taylor came surging at Yale's big center trio, as if to carry them bodily clear over Washington Heights in the mad rush.  Stillman, McCrea and Hickok braced themselves to meet the onslaught, when suddenly the whole wedge formation turned like a machine of perfect mechanism and launched itself in one irresistible mass on Yale's unexpectant and surprised left end.  Hinkey and Murphy were like chaff before the wind in the terrific rush, and before they could be supported by their associates the wedge had been successful, and King behind it had made the first gain of the day.  It was full twenty yards, and being the first, too, it gave Princeton the confidence which they maintained to such good advantage throughout the contest.  It gave the sharp eyed Captain Trenchard and his able lieutenant, Phil King, a pointer, too, that Captain Hinkey's end was a possible weak point, and they were not slow in taking advantage of it when the supreme moment came.  It was at this end that nearly all of Princeton's aggressive playing was done thereafter, and it was here, too, that nearly all the noteworthy gains were made.

In the next play King made his only bad error of the entire game.  It looked to be serious at the time, but was only a momentary setback for the orange and black.  On the snap back from Balliet he fumbled the ball for an instant only, but it was long enough for the agile and quick eyed Thorne to get through and fall on the pigskin before any Princeton man could.  If Princeton's friends had shouted before, the Yale contingent now fairly yelled with joy, and the azure tinge that pervaded matters extended as far up on "deadhead hill," where even Yale "rooters" roosted.

Now came Yale's first chance of aggressive work, and it was watched most anxiously by their friends.  Thorne, the famous half back, who did such great work at Springfield against Harvard, was sent against Princeton's center.  King was on him like an avenging angel, and tackled him before he could gain an inch.  This first move showed that rumor had not exposed the strength of Princeton's line.  For Yale hearts sank from that moment on.  On the next play, without any bucking or weakness at the line, Butterworth punted.  It was a good punt, and the ball went sailing thirty yards toward Princeton's goal, seemingly getting additional speed from the exultant Yale shouts which accompanied it.  Morse caught well, but Hinkey escaped Trenchard and had downed Morse in his tracks without a gain.

Captain Thomas G. Trenchard, 1893 Princeton Right End (Hinkey Archive)

It was Princeton's ball now, and Morse was sent through Yale's center for the first time.  Balliet and Wheeler made a hole which gave the runner six yards.   Ward then had a chance, and he made play at Hinkey's end and gained another six yards.  Princeton's fast, dashing style evidently surprised Yale, for they held a confab in the middle of the field.  It was evidently a successful consultation, for Princeton railed on the next tries at center and finally lost the ball on downs.  It was Yale's turn to shout, and her admirers fairly roared.

Butterworth then attempted his bucking of the center which had made him famous and which gained his team victories over the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard.  It was not successful this trip, however, and Yale hearts sank a few notches lower.  Armstrong then tried to get through Lea and Taylor, and he too failed.  Princeton was then given the ball for off side play by  Hickok, and following up this unexpected advantage Morse was sent around Yale's right end for the longest run of the game up to this time.  The lively half back made a dash as if for the center and, suddenly darting to one side, went through the line between Beard and Greenway, and aided by the most beautiful of interference by King and Wheeler circled the side for a good twenty-five yards.  It was a brilliantly executed maneuver and uproariously appreciated, and developed more unexpected weakness in Yale's line.

To give his backs a rest just now - for the struggle had been of the most terrific description for fully ten minutes - Blake was called on to punt.  He was successful and the ball went low and swift for 40 yards, and landed safely in Butterworth's waiting hands, only 6 yards from Yale's goal line.  Princeton's delegation of orange and black wearing shouters went fairly crazy with delight right here, and Yale was "blue" for a fact.  Blake's punt was most successful, for King had grouped his men by a signal as if for a rush, and then suddenly changed it to a punt signal.  It was a great piece of strategic play, and showed the acme of perfection in team work.

James R. Blake, 1893 Princeton Fullback (Hinkey Archive)

It was thought that Butterworth would punt for safety, but instead Yale showed some of the best aggressive work of her day's play for the next few minutes.  Armstrong made a small gain through the center, and Butterworth followed it up with three more yards.  Armstrong tried again and failed, but Butterworth gained a good four yards through Trenchard and Lea.  The playing now was magnificent in its strength in both defense and aggressiveness.  Thorne made a small gain also of about a yard.  The ball had been gradually forced away from Yale's goal, notwithstanding Princeton's strong endeavors to prevent it, and it was their friends first sad moments of the day as they saw the ball being drawn away from the coveted goal.  Hinkey piled on the agony the next moment by gaining eight yards on a new flying wedge play - which was one of the tricks they had planned in secret.  Butterworth did not follow up the advantage gained by bucking the line and fearing to tire out his men, he punted.  It was high and was Ward's ball in center of field.  This was much better than within six yards of Yale's goal.

The spirits of their friends arose accordingly.  They sank a minute later, however, for Morse made another great run around the end for fifteen yards before he was tackled heavily by Armstrong.  Ward gained only two yards through the center on the next play, but Yale obtained the ball by reason of offside play by their opponents.  It was most unfortunate and due entirely to over anxiety.

Franklin B Morse, 1893 Princeton Right Half-back (Hinkey Archive)

Butterworth found a hole between Trenchard and Lea, but made only a two yard gain.  Yale's great full back very seldom fails to make a gain, but he was evidently becoming weak from his exhausting work.  A "bluff" was made by Yale for a wedge formation on the next play, but instead of executing it Butterworth punted.  It was a brilliant kick, being low and strong.  Blake caught the ball on a run and thought to make a gain before being tackled.  He bent his head and dashing off was under full speed.  Hinkey was coming like the wind, his head and body bent to tackle low and strong.  He turned slightly to launch himself upon Blake.  The two men came together with the speed of flying locomotives and the shock was terrible.  Blake's bowed head struck Hinkey on the right side of his neck, and in an instant it was seen he was badly inured.  Blood appeared, flowing in a stream from a bad cut in his neck and his canvas jacket was soon drenched with the flow.

All was excitement in a moment, and an army of doctors, trainers and substitutes rushed to his aid.  He was taken to the dressing room much against his will, and amid the encouraging shouts of Yale's friends, who saw in his retirement dire possibilities, Corcoran was ready to take his captain's place, when glad shouts were heard over toward the dressing room.  Hinkey soon appeared on the field, and his reception was a standing ovation.  Cries of "Hinkey!"  "Hinkey!"  "Hinkey!" rent the air, and even Princeton flags were waved in admiration at the Yale captain's pluck.  He wore a bandage over the wound, and looked pale and worn but he was soon in the thickest of the fight and doing his best to win. (Read more about Hinkey's injury here)

The ball was now on Princeton's forty-five yard line, the firs time it had been in the Tigers' territory.  Then King slipped up on a "foxy" play.  He made a "bluff" to pass the ball to Blake, but instead made the run himself around Yale's right end.  It failed of success, as he was tackled by Greenway and forced back for three yards.  Blake punted high and Butterworth caught neatly, the ball bounding off a Princetonian back.  This success nerved Yale somewhat and Butterworth immediately after made the greatest play of the day for the blue.  He was thought to be making a play for his customary buck of the center, but instead shot off toward Princeton's right end and by most scientific interference by Hickok and Beard he found himself with a clear field and great prospects before him.  He had sprinted for thirty-five yards before Blake managed to grasp and throw him.

David Milton Balliet, 1893 Princeton Center (Hinkey Archive)

It was a great play and also a narrow escape for Princeton, and it was the first real chance Yale had had the moment was taken advantage of for a real "picnic."  The college slogan echoed and re-echoed from the heights now black with humanity and the stands rivaled the sides in their tint.  Butterworth followed up his great gain by making ten yards more with the help of the new wedge play around Princeton's left end this time.  This was the nearest the ball got through the game to Princeton's goal, about twenty-five yards away.  The struggle was such that it looked impossible for human strength and nerve to bear it much longer.

Butterworth overrated his strength and tried the center again.  He failed, and from that time Yale never had another chance.  After Butterworth's failure Thorne tried the center and he failed.  But much more unfortunate for Yale was the fact that Princeton was given the ball for "holding in the line".  Blake immediately punted the ball out of danger to his own forty-five yard line.  Butterworth then tried the center in a vain attempt, and on the same old wedge King got through and blocked the play.  Yale also lost five yards for excellent tackling, and Yale's cup of misery was full to overflowing for on Butterworth's punt King, in catching, was badly interfered with.  Blake punted back immediately, and Yale got five yards for foul tackling in return.  The ball was now at Princeton's forty yard line again. Greenway failed to gain, then Butterworth carried the ball by small successive gains to Princeton's thirty yard line, when it was finally lost on downs.  It was here that Princeton commenced the aggressive work, which has never been excelled on any field.  The team began playing the "split wedge", and from that formation they followed it with almost invariable success.

The "split wedge" is a modification of the revolving wedge, though simpler in execution....By this play, in this instance, the ball was carried for thirty yards by successive gains to the center of the field and then, not to overwork his men, Trenchard called on Blake to punt.  This took the ball to Yale's twenty yard line.  Butterworth returned the punt and King caught it, but Greenway by pulling him over Yale lost five yards for interference.  Princeton now began her work on the wedge play again and Yale men strewed the field after every rush like autumn leaves after a gale of wind and a Princeton man usually carried the ball for material gains.  Lea was badly hurt in one of these rushes and it looked as if he could not continue.  He was nursed back into shape, however though apparently weak on his legs and sick at his stomach.  Cries of "Lea, Lea, don't give up," encouraged the giant tackle and he was at the front again as of old.

Langdon Lea, 1893 Princeton Right Tackle (Hinkey Archive)

Ball was now at Yale's thirty had line.  Ward made a further gain of three yards twice, and Blake around left end for five yards more.  The same wedge mass plays on Hinkey's end by Ward and Morse gradually drove the ball to Yale's sixteen yard line, and Yale consulted with the object of developing some sort of play to stop Princeton's terrific rushes.  It did not avail, however, and the pigskin was soon within eight yards of Yale's goal line.  The excitement was now intense, and the scene was almost awesome in its silence.  Soon one vast continual roar arose from the excited thousands which was thunderous in its immensity of sound.  Little Morse was forced four yards nearer, and Ward again for another yard.  Yale's fight at this supreme moment of danger was grand.  Not an inch would they give without a fight.  Not a heart faltered, although against overwhelming odds.  They simply were there to die in the last trench, if need be, and they nearly did.

With the ball now within little more than a foot of that line which Princeton had been fighting for since 1889 in vain, would the "tigers" have strength enough against their gamely fighting opponents to succeed?  It was a supreme moment, and the scene will not be witnessed again in a lifetime.  It was Princeton's last chance to gain as if they failed on this down the ball would be Yale's again, and Butterworth would soon punt it far away out of danger.  With one desperate effort Princeton decided Morse was to have the honor.  He was a trifle slow in grasping the ball from King's anxious hands, and before he could settle himself, Thorne was through and had the balls topped at almost the last inch.

Harry Brown, 1893 Princeton Left End (Hinkey Archive)

A wild Yale yell arose as it was seen the ball was not over.  Immediately the Princeton substitutes, who were grouped on the sidelines and watching with bulging eyes and grasping breaths the terrific struggles of their associates, were seen to be going through all the antics of a Sioux war dance.  Blankets were waved in the air, and men were hugging and kissing each other with exultant exuberance.  It soon developed that Hickok and McCrea, in the over-anxiety and excitement of the terrible moment, had infringed the rule by getting "off-side" on the play.

As a penalty Princeton retained the ball and the play went to first down, which gave Princeton four more chances.  This meant virtually a touchdown unless a fumble should occur, and this fully explained the wild hilarity of the "subs" and the eleven.  Ward was then shot over the line as if propelled from a cannon and his beplastered, patched and bleeding countenance looked terribly earnest as he squirmed and wriggled under a pyramid of angry and fuming Yale men.  The ball was no far toward the north side of the field that a kick for gaol would be difficult, so King "kicked out" and Trenchard caught the ball directly in front of the goal pasts. Then the ball being taken out to about twenty-three yards from the goal, King successfully sent the ball between the posts and over the cross bar - 4 points for the touchdown and 2 for the goal kicked from it, made Princeton's score 6.  The boys went to the center of the field, followed by cheers upon cheer, such as only a football contest can call forth.

Yale did their best to brace up, but Princeton was as strong as ever, and, with varying success, in which some great playing was done, the half finally closed, with the ball at Princeton's forty yard line, and the players went their dressing rooms for a well earned rest of fifteen minutes.

Augustus Holly, 1893 Princeton Left Tackle (Hinkey Archive)

Second Half

It was a noticeable fact that, at the beginning of the second half, Princeton colors seemed to be more predominant than at the start.  It would hardly be just to say that some carried both the blue and the orange colors in case of emergency, but it looked like it, and is only mentioned as a visible incident.

It was expected that Princeton with their lead of six points to nothing would play a defensive game throughout the second half, simply endeavoring to prevent Yale from scoring.  It was not their game, however.  They took no advantage in that respect, although it would be a perfectly fair one.  They played even more aggressively in the second half than the first, and the ball was in Yale territory almost entirely during the whole half.  Butterworth came out refreshed, and the very first play with the customary flying wedge, made good twenty yards around and through Princeton's right end.  Center work followed with no success, and it was Princeton' ball on downs.  The "Tigers" failed to gain and lost the ball on downs in turn.  Armstrong made two slight gains through center, and Yale then took the ball on off-side play.

Hart, who had taken Thorne's place after the first touchdown, was tried several times at center and ends, but failed to make any very good gains.  He was not Thorne's equal by far, and evidently weakened Yale's team.  The ball went to either team with varying success for some time, the ball finally coming to the center again.  Then Princeton tried the same wedge which had been so successful in the first half, and the ball gradually got closer and closer to Yale's line.  By a punt Blake drove it to the blue's twenty yard line, and Wheeler tackled Butterworth before he could gain.  The latter punted again, and drove the ball to the center again.

Knox Taylor, 1893 Princeton Right Guard (Hinkey Archive)

On the next line up Lea was given the ball for a run, but Hickok dashed through and tackled the runner so hard that he was knocked out temporarily.  Nothing could induce a Princeton player to retire at this stage, and he resumed play in a very dilapidated condition, but still game as a pebble.  King then made one of his great plays.  On a bluff to pass the ball to Ward he took the ball himself and by fine interference gained twenty yards around the same old end.  The flying split wedge gained eight yards more, and the ball was within seventeen yards of Yale's goal.  Big "Beef" Wheeler then distinguished himself by carrying for eight yards on his broad shoulders the whole Yale team.  Its as a great exhibition of strength, and was cheered impartially by both sides.

Yale got the ball on off-side play at this stage and Butterworth made the longest punt of the day.  He was directly between the posts and yet the ball went fully fifty-five yards down the field.  Wheeler then duplicated his previous Samsonian feat, and Ward made a great run of fifteen yards around Yale's left end, and the ball again was at Yale's thirty yard line.  Morse gained eight yards more, and Yale was fairly dazed with stupefaction.

Ward and Morse gained five and three yards respectively, and "Beef" Wheeler three more.  Then, to many, Trenchard called for a play that was contrary to the best of judgement.  He was within striking distance of Yale's goal, and with the continual success that he was having in bucking the line it would seem the best play to have continued it.  But Blake was called on for a kick for goal from field.  He failed woefully, and the ball, going over the line, was brought out twenty-five yards.  King made a great run after catching a punt on the bound, and, with no one to tackle him, gained twenty-five yards.  The game closed with the ball on Yale's twelve yard line.

Final Score:  Princeton 6 - Yale 0.

Arthur Wheeler, 1893 Princeton Left Guard (Hinkey Archive)

The following is an excerpt from "The Thanksgiving Game" by Richard Harding Davis. (Greenway Scrapbook)

In enthusiasm I do believe I have never seen a more remarkable game than this last, and as an exhibition of delight there was never anything so complete and satisfying as an illustration of that feeling than was the sight of the Princeton substitutes, with their chins in there hands, and their elbows in the mud, and the rest of there bodies balanced in air, kicking and trembling with ecstasy.  Nor was there  ever a more excellent example of Yale grit than that showed by the eleven within three minutes of the last half, when they prevented Princeton from scoring a second time, though the ball was within a few feet of their goal-line.

People who live far way from New York, and who cannot understand from the faint echoes they receive how great is the enthusiasm that this contest arouses, may possibly get some idea of what it means to the contestants themselves through the story of a remarkable incident which occurred after the game in the Princeton dressing room.  The team was being rubbed down for the last time after their three of months of self-denial, and anxiety, and the hardest and roughest sort of rough work that young men are called upon to do, and outside in the semi-darkness thousands of Princeton followers were jumping up and down, and hugging each other, and shrieking themselves hoarse.

William D Ward, 1893 Princeton Left Half Back (Hinkey Archive)

One of the Princeton coaches came into the room out of this mob, and holding up his arm for silence, said. "Boys, I want you to sing the doxology."  And standing as they were, naked and covered with mud and blood and perspiration, the eleven men who had won the championship (after a four year drought) sang the doxology from the beginning to the end as solemnly and as serious and I am sure, as sincerely, as they ever did in their lives, while outside the no less thankful fellow students yelled and cheered, and beat at the doors and windows, and howled for them to come out and show themselves.  This may strike some people as a very sacrilegious performance, and as a most improper one, but the spirit in which it was done has a great deal to do with the question, and any one who has seen a defeated team lying on the benches of their dressing-room sobbing, like hysterical school-girls, can understand how great and how serious is the joy of victory to the men who conquer.

Below is a signed banquet program by the 1893 Princeton Championship Football Team (Hinkey Archive)