1891 Yale vs Harvard

Below is a detailed account of the 1891 Yale vs Harvard football game held in Hampden Park, Springfield on November 21.  This was published in the New York Herald the following day.  We have highlighted the key plays for quick review.  Touchdowns were awarded four points each. A successful goal from touchdown (extra point) was  awarded two points.

1891 Yale Football Team (Hinkey Archive)

November 21, 1891 - as witnessed by Walter Camp

First half

Harvard lost the toss, and as there was almost no perceptible wind, McClung chose the ball and Harvard took the north goal. 

Yale formed for a close wedge with McClung just inside, but passed the ball to Sanford, who ran out from behind and made a gain of five yards.  Barbour then gave Bliss the signal and the little light-haired half-back tried pluckily for an advance, but the Harvard line was too much for him, and he made but a slight gain.  In his eagerness he nearly lost the ball, but fell on it.  The Yale captain then took a turn himself and cut in at tackle for four yards.  Barbour fancied Heffelfinger for the next chance, but Harvard had their hands ready for him and down he went in the line.

McCormick had his first try upon this down and he took five yards out of the Harvard territory, bringing the ball steadily nearer the Crimson goal.  Heffelfinger dropped back, but McCormick was the man to whom the ball went and again he made his distance, bringing the ball all but over the line.  Barbour picked out his strongest plunger for the next play and sent Morrison over the line for the first touchdown.  Although it was not a difficult goal to kick McClung lost his aim and the ball sailed off to the left of the posts.


1891 Harvard vs Yale Football Program (version 1 - Hinkey Archive)

Harvard brought up the ball to the twenty yard line and a small tight wedge formed, which put its nose into the Yale line for five yards.  Corbett had the first try for a run and went for the Yale right tackle, but only took a slight advance.

Lake came next and fared better, plunging through with that lion-like tossing of his head and shoulders which bothered the Yale forwards.  At least eight yards he went before brought to earth, and his run was straight gain all the way.

Trafford dropped back and sent a pretty punt down the field to Bliss, who caught it.  As a reward Barbour gave him the first chance to play it and he slashed through for five yards.  Winter took his maiden plunge on the next down, and swung in at tackle for some three yards.  Barbour sent the captain to complete the gain, but he failed to turn in anywhere along the line and came down at the hands of Newell and Hallowell.

Bliss dropped back and sent a low punt down to Trafford, who heeled it and formed his men for a wedge with Lake inside.  Lake had a good start and tried to go over Wallis, but only took three yards.  However the Yale tackle was hurt stopping him. Corbett took his turn as soon as Wallis was ready to line up again, and as he struck the line lost the ball.

At least two Harvard and one Yale man had their hands on the ball and couldn't hold it, but Harvard finally fell on it.  Lake was sent at left end, but Hinkey and McClung received him and he failed to gain.  Once more Harvard sent him, but he couldn't get through and Trafford punted.  McCormick tried the catch but was bowled over by the Harvard forwards, who came down sharply.

The interference gave Yale her fair catch, but McClung instead of trying a wedge lined his men out as on a down and tried a run around from tackle.  This was too easy for Harvard and they downed him almost on the same line.  Bliss was sent to the right, but Harvard's blood was up and their tackle whirled him over for no gain.  Bliss was called upon for a punt and lifted the ball down to Trafford, who heeled it on Harvard's thirty yard line.  Corbett had a try at the Yale right end, but could find no hole and was shut down.

Trafford sprang up into the centre of the next down and was well backed up, crowding the Yale centre trio back for a five yard gain.  Immediately after this he dropped back and punted down to McCormick, who took the ball easily and heeled.  McClung gave his fast centre-man an opportunity and Sanford went down the right side for a good gain of ten yards.

McClung himself tried the tackle next, and through a nice opening and with good interference gained twenty yards.  Morrison carried on this work for eight yards through the centre, but Heffelfinger failed to repeat the gains so Winter had a chance.  He took five yards with his head down and working hard for it, Bliss went between end and tackle for another gain.  This so stirred up the Harvard line that they were too eager on the following play and Mr. Coffin (referee) gave Yale five yards for the offside play of the Harvard line.

The good fortune disconcerted Yale, for between Sanford and Barbour there was a bad fumble, but the little quarterback (Barbour) dropped on it.  McCormick tried the centre in vain, although the Yale wanted badly to score and McClung tried a desperate plunge.  The Harvard line under their own goal seemed like a stone wall, and McClung made no impression upon it and the ball was turned over to Harvard.

William Walter "Pudge" Heffelfinger, Class of 1891S (Hinkey Archive)

Trafford with good judgement rewarded his men for their brace by sending the ball well down the field and out of danger (punted).  McClung caught and held it, but looked a bit disheartened at the knowledge of how much hard work it would require to get the ball back into Harvard's goal again.  He was evidently pleased with the last result of sending Sanford and gave him another turn.  He tried across the field and although he ran a long distance only advanced a few yards.  Bliss followed him with a quick turn in just outside the tackle which gave Yale five yards more.  On the next snap there was a bad pitch between Sanford and Barbour, but the latter finally delivered the ball to the waiting Morrison, who went through the centre for four yards.

Bliss tried his old point outside the Harvard tackle, but it was not so easy a second time, and he came down with only three yards.  A bad mess Yale made of the next snap, the ball eventually getting into McCormick's hands, who was of course glad enough only to secure and hold it.

By this time it was evident that the Harvard line forwards were edging over the dead line, for Coffin gave Yale five yards on the next down.  Yale could not advance, however, and the ball went to Harvard, who sent Corbett at the Yale end.  Hinkey was ready for him, however, and over he went.  Trafford sent a small wedge to the left for a slight gain, but feeling the pressure too heavy relieved his men with a good punt, which McClung caught and heeled.

From this Yale tried a close, straight wedge, which went tumbling down for no gain.  Morrison who seemed a hard man for the Harvard centre to handle took five yards, and the Yale captain followed it up with one of the most brilliant runs of the day, going for the left end and using his arm well, turning off Hallowell and then Lake, who both made tries at him.  The run netted twenty-five yards.  Unfortunately Bliss couldn't keep it up, but plunged into the centre for no gain.

Heffelfinger made a dash through the line for a good distance, but was called back and the ball given to Harvard for holding. Trafford went in behind a wedge, but found no help, and Corbett tried left tackle with similar result, so Harvard was forced to kick.  Trafford sent the ball down to McCormick, who tried to run with it, but was downed in his tracks.  Bliss pretended he was about to punt but Barbour passed to McCormick, who went dashing through for nearly twenty yards.  Heffelfinger tried the centre, but Harvard was ready for him and he couldn't gain his length. Winter came across for a gain but there was a holding and the ball went to Harvard.

Corbett took the left end for eight yards and then Trafford returned the compliment of Bliss by pretending he was about to kick and then ran.  Hartwell and Heffelfinger spoiled it though.  Lake took four yards and Trafford punted to Bliss, who was knocked down when catching the ball.  Yale tried twice for a gain and the ball went to Harvard on holding.  Trafford tried for a run but Winter brought him down beautifully.  Corbett also fell a victim to McClung and Trafford was forced to punt.  Bliss heeled it and Sanford was tried.  Harvard was ready for this play and no gain resulted.  Bliss punted, and the ball just tipped the finger of the Harvard forwards.  Corbett tried to catch the ball, but juggled it and Hinkey fell on it.  Bliss fumbled the next ball but fell on it.  Morrison punted for a change and Corbett again juggled the ball and Hinkey fell on it at the same time, getting two hundred pounds of Hefflefinger on him.  It nearly finished him, but they stood him up at end again.

Bliss took five yards on the right and Morrison went through the centre.  Both teams completed the first half with minimal gains and trading punts.

1891 Yale vs Harvard Football program (version 2 - Hinkey Archive)

Second half

Harvard came out in the second half with a dash on the wedge by Lake, which gave them five yards before Hefflfinger and Bliss downed him. Corbett found the latter too quickly on the next down and lost three yards.  Lake went behind a wedge but couldn't gain and Trafford punted out of bounds.  Bliss ran on the left for five yards before he fell prey to Lake.  McCormick tried the centre and then Bliss and McClung made a double pass, which owing to the cleverness of Newell, lost Yale five yards.  Bliss punted to Trafford, who heeled it.  After minimal gains and trading punts, Harvard fumbled a Bliss punt and the ball was Yale's.  Heffelfinger took five yards and McCormick none.  Heffelfinger made a gain of three yards and Bliss followed with a fine run of ten yards.  McCormick went dancing through for ten yards more, but McClung couldn't find a place.  Morrison took his length and Bliss four yards through the centre.

Morrison tried the center for less than a yard and Heffelfinger followed him without a gain, and the ball went to Harvard.  Trafford punted on the first down out of bounds and the ball was Yale's.  Bliss was sent at the right end but couldn't get around it.  McCormick was tried and took three yards before he was forced out.

Barbour then called upon McClung and Heffelfinger preceded him to interface, but was bowled over and McClung fell on top of him, giving the ball once more to Harvard.

Trafford punted and McCormick caught the ball without heeling it, running with good interference behind Bliss for fifteen yards.  McCormick was again called upon and Morrison's man got through and stopped him without gain.

Bliss followed with one of his prettiest runs going straight through the centre for twenty yards.  Yale lost the ball on a fumble, and Lake got it.  Hartwell stopped him, however.  Corbett also ran into Hartwell's arms, and Trafford tried the centre without result, so that Harvard was to kick once more.

Thomas Lee "Bum" McClung, cropped 1888 football photo (Hinkey Archive)

Trafford punted to McCormick, who caught it behind Bliss.  McCormick was sent to the left end without gain.  Bliss followed with a punt low and Trafford took the ball on a bounce.  Corbett was sent at Wallis but couldn't get him.  Trafford managed the centre better and made five yards.  Lake tried at Wallis but the Yale tackle stopped him.  Lake was sent again, this time at Hartwell's end and took two yards before Hartwell threw him.

Newell was sent and got three yards.  Then Harvard was given a five yards for offside play by Yale, following which they took the the right end for five yards more.  Twice they tried behind a close wedge and Lake then fell prey to Hartwell and the ball was Yale's.

Bliss, McCormcik and McClkung were tried to succession and settled five yards.  Heffelfinger and McCormcik followed and together made five yards.  Bliss tried the right end to no effect and McClung threw a nice opening between guard and tackle and took four yards.  Heffelfinger was unable to add the extra yard and the ball went to Harvard.  Corbett went down to McClung and Hinkey and then Harvard began some very strong small wedging work.  Lake took the ball five yards, then Trafford with no gain, but the next timeshare yards and three yards more on the following play.  Then, for three times Harvard tried without gaining a yard and the ball went back to Yale.

Heffelfinger fell his length through the centre and McCormick took three yards more.  McClung, however, was unable to gain, although he came back, crossing the field twice, and Bliss punted the ball out of bounds.  Trafford took two yards followed by Lake, at Hartnell's end for no gain.  Corbett was sent, but ran back and was tackled hard by Hinkey, losing the ball. Bliss secured it and ran thirty yards behind clever interference for the second touchdown.  This time McClung kicked a goal.

Corbett ran behind the wedge for the kick off, but was tackled by Hartwell and Wallis.  Then Lake and Trafford began the small wedge work again and steadily forced the ball down the filed.  Harvard not losing it for twelve downs, bringing the ball up to within kicking distance of the Yale goal line, although gains were slight each time.

Trafford tried for the goal, but the ball was stopped.  Harvard, however, succeeded in securing it.

Then Lake, Trafford and Corbett butted the line for seven more downs and Trafford tried another drop but it went wide of the goal, and Yale brought the ball up to the twenty-five yard line for kickoff.  McCormick took a pretty five yards.  Morrison followed it by ten to close out the second half.

1891 Yale Match Safe (Courtesy Lelands.com)

FINAL SCORE: Yale 10 - Harvard 0.