CFP Trivia Challenge Question Game 34

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Postby billybud » Thu Jun 08, 2006 8:24 pm

The Flying Wedge

The suffering wrought by such plays increased dramatically with the introduction of the mighty "flying wedge," a remarkable "kickoff" play invented by Lorin E Deland, a military strategist, chess expert, and Harvard supporter who had never played a game of football in his life. Fans got to see Deland's bold new tactic for the first time in the second half of the 1892 Harvard-Yale encounter.

Deland divided Harvard's players into two groups of five men each at opposite sidelines. Before the ball was even in play team captain Bernie Trafford signaled the two groups. Each unit sprang forward, at first striding in unison, then sprinting obliquely toward the center of the field. Simultaneously, spectators leapt to their feet gasping.

Restricted by the rules, Yale's front line nervously held its position.

After amassing twenty yards at full velocity, the "flyers" fused at mid-field, forming a massive human arrow. Just then, Trafford pitched the ball back to his speedy halfback, Charlie Brewer. At that moment, one group of players executed a quarter turn, focusing the entire wedge toward Yale's right flank. Now both sides of the flying wedge pierced ahead at breakneck speed, attacking Yale's front line with great momentum. Brewer scampered behind the punishing wall, while Yale's brave defenders threw themselves into its dreadful path.

Brewer was finally forced out of the partially disintegrated wedge at Yale's twenty-yard line, where he tripped over one of his own players just as he was tackled by Frank Butterworth. Parke Davis, an early footballer turned historian, wrote of the action: "Sensation runs through the stands at the novel play, which is the most organized and beautiful one ever seen upon a football field."

Yale's incredible defense held and eventually won the game. However, Deland had opened Pandora's box. According to Davis, "No play has ever been devised so spectacular and sensational as this one." Stagg, writing in 1926, remarked that "The Deland invention probably was the most spectacular single formation ever opened as a surprise package. It was a great play when perfectly executed, but, demanding the exact coordination of eleven men, extremely difficult to execute properly."

Harvard's dangerous flying wedge quickly became the standard opening play for teams all across the country. But the play, which used the principle of mass momentum to great advantage, was deadly as well as effective. The cause of numerous deaths, the flying wedge was outlawed after only two seasons. As often happens with new sports rules, however, coaches and players soon found intriguing loopholes that kept the flying wedge alive.

Mass formations resembling the forbidden play crept onto the field on nearly every down. If anything, variations of the flying wedge became even more vicious than the original. Injuries soared, leading an outraged press to denounce the game for its excessive violence. For eleven years the press fueled the public's clamor for substantial rule changes, advocating such things as increasing from five to ten the number of yards a team must cover within four downs.

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Postby Spence » Thu Jun 08, 2006 8:59 pm

So our game of football isn't nearly as dangerous as it could be. Of cours in soccer it is more dangerous to be in the stands then it is on the field.
"History doesn't always repeat itself but it often rhymes." - Mark Twain

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