Clash of Titans
Games featuring a future Hall of Fame coach on each sideline.
November 11, 1911: Carlisle @ Harvard
Pop Warner vs Percy Haughton
The Carlisle Indian Industrial School had been founded in Carlisle PA in 1879 as a fede­rally-funded boarding school for Indian youth. Carlisle fielded its first football team in 1893. The Indians relied on speed and guile to compete against opponents who were consistently bigger than them. They became known for trick plays, including the overhand spiral throw and the hand-off fake, both of which spread through all of football.
Glenn "Pop" Warner became the football coach in 1899. After compiling a 39-18-3 record in five seasons, he moved to Cornell for three years before returning to Carlisle in 1907. The Indians went 37-12-2 the next four years with victories over such powers as Pennsylvania, Harvard, Chicago, Navy, Pittsburgh, Nebraska, and Virginia–all on the road.
Carlisle fortunes improved in 1907 when 20-year-old Jim Thorpe stepped on campus. He immediately upgraded the track team and then the football squad. He was a sensational run­ning back, defensive back, placekicker, and punter.
The 1911 Carlisle squad won their first eight games by a combined score of 228-10. Among the victims were Pittsburgh (17-0) and Penn (16-0). The next opponent was Harvard, the defending national champions.

1911 Carlisle Indians
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Jim Thorpe was born in 1887 to parents who were mem­bers of the Sac and Fox Nation near Prague Indian Terri­tory in what is now the state of Oklahoma. At age 17, he entered Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle PA.
The first sport Thorpe played at Carlisle was baseball. But at age 19 on his way to baseball practice, he observed the track team practice and was drawn to the high jump. No one on the track team could clear the 5'9" bar. So Jim tried it and sailed over the bar.
Pop Warner, who coached the track team, heard about Jim's feat and summoned him to his office. Informing Jim that he broke the school record for the high jump, Warner told him he was on the track team.
Thorpe competed in the running and jumping events. In a meet against Navy, Jim defeated Carlisle's star hurdler, Albert Exendine. "Before Jim hit Carlisle, I was quite the athlete around here," Exendine would later say. "It took Jim just one day to break all my records."
Come fall, Jim went out for football. The team trainer told him he was too skinny, but Jim persisted and was reward­ed with a baggy, ragged uniform.
When Coach Warner saw Jim come onto the practice field, he told him, "You're my most valuable track man, and I don't want you to get hurt playing football."
Jim insisted he wanted to play football. So Warner flipped him a football and told him to give the varsity players some tackling practice.
The players were spread out across the field, about 5' apart. There was no chance for a runner to break through since this was tackling practice. Jim started forward, broke free from tacklers around his legs, pushed through out­stretched arms, faked out the remaining tacklers, broke into the open and sprinted down the field.
When Jim returned to Warner, Pop slammed the football in Jim's chest and yelled to his varsity, "Get mean out there! Smack him down! Hit him so hard he doesn't get up!"
Showing an amazing combination of power, agility, and speed, Thorpe ran through the whole team again.
Needless to say, Jim made the football team. He led the Indians to a 10-1 record in 1907, including victories over reigning powers Pennsylvania, Harvard, Minnesota, and Chicago, all on the road. He quickly became the most talked-about athlete in the nation.
The 1908 Carlisle team finished 10-2-1, playing eight games on the road to earn money to improve the school.
Determined to become a professional athlete, Jim left Carlisle and played minor league baseball in 1909 and 1910. Realizing he wasn't good enough to make the major leagues, Jim accepted Warner's invitation to return to Carlisle and use his remaining two years of eligi­bility.
Percy Haughton had turned Harvard into a consistent football power. They were unde­feated in 19 straight games until they lost at Princeton the week before Carlisle's visit to Cambridge MA. The Crimson were three-deep at every position. Warner's squad consisted of only 16 men, most on the smallish side.
Haughton introduced a number of new ideas into football, including the unbalanced back­field, shifting defenses, the five-man defensive line, and the "mousetrap play" by which a defender was allowed to cross the line of scrimmage so that he could be blocked from the side.
One tactic Haughton used to motivate his players had already become legendary. While preparing his Harvard team for its annual clash with Yale in 1908, Percy purportedly choked a bulldog to death in front of his players and tossed the dead carcass at the feet of his players to inspire them. The Crimson broke a six-game losing streak to Yale the follow­ing Saturday. Recent research has determined that Haughton "choked" a paper mache bulldog and dragged it around campus behind his car.

L-R: Percy Haughton, Alex Arcasa, Stancil Powell
Soldier's Field was the ground where Harvard Stadium was built in 1903.
Warner's main problem heading to Cambridge was Thorpe's injured ankle, which had been severely sprained two games earlier against Lafayette. Jim hadn't played against Penn the next week, and the team did fine without him, winning 16-0. But Harvard was a cut above the Quakers.
With Harvard having lost to Carlisle just once in their previous 11 clashes plus Thorpe's injury, Haughton announced that his "substitute eleven" would start against Carlisle. His purpose was to bring the substitutes "up to varsity standard and to give them the experience of a big game." Percy told a reporter that his squad "may not have to use his first team for the game," a statement that enraged Warner, who told his team that Harvard was overlooking them. So confident was Haughton that his second string could beat Carlisle that he scouted archrival Yale's game in New Haven, leaving his assistants in charge against the Indians.
The "Redskins" (as the headline the next day in the Boston Herald referred to Carlisle), who hadn't been intimidated playing before 30,000 at Penn, took the field on a picture-perfect New England fall day to warm up before a standing-room-only crowd in the 42,000-seat stadium that would be the largest to attend a sporting event in 1911.
All eyes were on Thorpe, who limped on his heavily-taped ankle, which was still painfully swollen. Nevertheless, Jim was determined to play. Warner had done everything he could to heal the ankle. He massaged it, put liniment oil on it, and even rubbed a vibrating machine over it. Before the game, he put a soft cast of adhesive plastic over the injured ankle.
Knowing that Harvard would be keying on Thorpe, Warner decided to use Jim as a blocker in the first half. Pop also told his boys to attack the middle of the defense rather than their usual reliance on end runs.
Harvard's second string played the first three quarters of the game as the assistant coaches followed the boss's orders. Inspired by their star player's determination and sur­prising the Crimson with Warner's new strategy, Carlisle scored on their second posses­sion. With Thorpe blocking for Stancil "Possum" Powell, the Indians moved to the Harvard 13 before bogging down. So Thorpe, ignoring the pain in his ankle, booted a field goal. Gasp! The Indians were actually leading the mighty Crimson! Carlisle 3 Harvard 0
The Crimson responded immediately. Using the superior size and strength of even their second team, they marched deep into Indian territory before being forced to settle for a field goal. Carlisle 3 Harvard 3
Resisting the urge to give the ball to Thorpe, Warner continued his strategy of pounding the ball between the tackles. Powell carried snap after snap until the Indians faced fourth down at the Harvard 37. So Jim dropped back and boomed a 43y field goal. Carlisle 6 Harvard 3
The Crimson got a big break a few minutes before halftime. Deep in their own territory, HB Gus Welch fumbled when smashed by a defender. The ball popped out of his hands, setting off a mad scramble. The pigskin ended up back in the end zone, where a Crimson player recover­ed it for a touchdown, electrifying the crowd. Harvard 9 Carlisle 6
Warner changed the game plan at halftime. The Indians would return to their standard attack of reverses, passes, and misdirection plays. And Thorpe would touch the ball on eve­ry offensive play. The 6'1" 180lb halfback still wasn't at full speed, but adrenaline helped him han­dle the pain. The fans would now get to see the player they had read so much about.
When Carlisle got the ball, Thorpe took a reverse into Harvard territory, but the Indians were unable to score. Midway through the period, he led his team on a 70y touchdown drive to retake the lead. He ran between the tackles, swept the ends, and passed occasion­ally. The touchdown was scored by Alex Arcasa on a short plunge. Carlisle 12 Harvard 9
A few minutes later, Thorpe kicked a field goal from 37y out against the wind to make it 
Carlisle 15 Harvard 9.
The Harvard starters were chomping at the bit on the sideline. They begged the assist­ant in charge to put them back in, but he steadfastly refused. During the two minutes be­tween quarters, captain Robert Fisher passionately argued that they would lose the game if the starters weren't put in. When the assistant still wouldn't budge, Fisher told all the starters to follow him onto the field as the crowd came to its feet and roared its approval. Across the way, the Indians, already exhausted, saw the bright crimson jerseys enter the fray and realized they would have give every ounce of effort to maintain their lead.
The Crimson first stringers made an immediate impact on the game. With Thorpe in punt formation, a Harvard rusher burst through the line and blocked the kick. T Bob Storer picked up the ball and carried it into the end zone for a touchdown. Carlisle 15 Harvard 15
As you'd expect, Harvard's starters slowed down Thorpe on reverses, but he still gained yardage on pitchouts around the ends. Despite his bad ankle, it still took at least two men–and often more–to bring him down. Warner was amazed at the determination his injured star displayed.
In the final minutes, Carlisle faced fourth down on the Harvard 48. QB Gus Welch­ sur­prised his teammates by calling for a field goal instead of a punt. "Who in the hell heard of a placekick from here?" Thorpe asked. "Let's punt the ball." But Welch stuck with the call. Jim lined up deeper than usual to propel it the extra distance. When the ball was snapped, he took three steps, planted his left foot, and swung his right foot back farther than ever before. The ball just cleared the cluster of Harvard hands at the line of scrim­mage. Then it kept traveling higher and higher until it sailed through the goalposts with ten yards to spare. The stunned crowd was silent. Carlisle 18 Harvard 15
The Indians forced a punt. Thorpe then ran several times to bring his game total to 173y before reaggravating his injury. He was carried off the field as the Harvard fans gave him a standing ovation. The game ended shortly afterwards.
When the game ended, some of the Harvard players cried as they shook hands with the Indians. The record crowd cheered both teams as they exited the field.
Newspaper articles sent across the country lauded Thorpe's incredible performance. The Boston American reporter wrote this: "Even the most partisan Crimson supporter will glad­ly admit, through their admiration for his wonderful work against Harvard, that he not only upheld a great reputation, but that he has placed his name in the Hall of Fame, not only of Carlisle but also of the entire football world. It was indeed a pleasure to see a man not only live up to a great reputation but add to it through work beautifully accomplished."
When Coach Haughton read the accounts of the game, he realized he had grossly un­derestimated Carlisle's skill and vowed to never make that mistake again.
The Tumult and the Shouting: My Life in Sport, Grantland Rice (1954)
Pop Warner: A Life on the Gridiron, Jeffrey J. Miller (2015)
Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team, Steve Sheinkin (2017)