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The Big Game -- VPI-VMI

Origins of the V.P.I.—V.M.I. Thanksgiving Day Football Game

These are reports from the The Roanoke Daily Times in November 1896, about the first game between the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and the Virginia Military Institute to be held in Roanoke. This was the start of a long tradition between the two schools.


Roanoke Will Have the Great Football Game Between V. M. I. and V. P. I.

It is now an assured fact that the people of Roanoke will have the pleasure of witnessing a fine game of football on Thanksgiving day. In a letter received yesterday morning by John H. Morris from F. Phinizy, of the Virginia Military Institute, that gentleman stated that he had heard from Blacksburg that the game had been arranged for this place and asked that the grounds be put in first class order. This will be a great contest, and it is estimated that several thousand people will be attracted to Roanoke to witness the stubborn fight between the evenly matched elevens representing the Virginia Military Institute and the Virginia Polytechnic Institute. The Norfolk and Western railroad will run special trains from Buena Vista, Lynchburg and Radford and make special rates from points on the Roanoke and Southern.

The business men of this city are taking great interest in the matter. They should do all they can to make it a complete success, for aside from the fact that this game will decide whether or not the great college teams will play here in the future, the matter of so many strangers being in the town will be a great benefit to all lines of business. The Stone Printing and Manufacturing Company has made the first “kick-off” by donating 2,000 admission tickets, printed and numbered complete. The game will be called promptly at 3 o’clock and tickets will be on sale on and after Saturday next at Paul Massie’s Pharmacy and Vaughan’s Terry building cigar stand.

There will be no game in Lynchburg on Thanksgiving, so far as Roanoke College or Alleghany Institute is concerned, those institutions having promised to attend the game here that day.

The Roanoke Daily Times, Volume 17, Number 35, 18 November 1896, pg. 4


At last the arrangements for the football game on Thursday afternoon between the V. M. I. and V. P. I. teams have been completed and now there is no doubt but that the game will come off. The tickets are now on sale at Johnson & Johnson’s and Massie’s drug stores. C. E. Hardy, manager of the Blacksburg team, was in the city yesterday arranging the preliminaries for the game. He stated to a Times reporter that 250 Blacksburg students would attend the game, coming here from Christiansburg on a special train. Special trains will also be run from Lexington, Radford and other points and greatly reduced rates will be given on regular trains. Many hundred college students from all over the country will, it is understood, be in attendance, especially from Washington and Lee and the V. M. I. This will evidently be a hard fought game, and owing to some little differences, which have been amicably arranged, it is most likely to be spirited, as the combatants will do all in their power to win the game for their respective teams.

The Roanoke Daily Times, Volume N/A, Number 40, 24 November 1896, pg. 5


The tickets for the football game tomorrow are on sale at VanLear Brothers’ drug store, Massie’s Pharmacy and Vaughan’s news stand in the Terry building. The V. M. I. headquarters have been arranged at the Ponce de Leon, while the V. P. I’s will be quartered at Hotel Roanoke. Extensive preparations are being perfected to make the game a great success. Prof. E. A. Smyth, of Blacksburg was in the city yesterday arranging for the football game to-morrow. Prof. Smyth says that 350 students will attend the game from the V. P. I. Tickets for the game are also on sale at VanLear Bros.’ drug store.

The Roanoke Daily Times, Volume 17, Number 41, 25 November 1896, pg. 5

V. M. I. VS. V. P. I. TO-DAY.

The football game to-day between the V. P. I’s. and the V. M. I.’s promises to be a grand success. The attendance will doubtless be the largest ever witnessed in this city on a like occasion. The game will be called promptly at 2:30 p. m., and the lovers of the sport may expect to witness the hardest fought battle over the pigskin ever seen in this section. The contest will decide the championship for the State. This will make the third game played between these two schools. The first was won by V. M. I., while the last was won by the Blacksburg boys and to-day will be the rub game. An admission of 50 cents will be charged. These great championship games are only played on Thanksgiving Day of each year, which is a general holiday, and the management of both teams, after considering the question of expenses, decided to charge the above named price. In New York and Philadelphia tickets get into the hands of brokers and bankers for the Thanksgiving games and good seats are always sold at prices ranging from $2 to $10. There will be a large crowd of visitors in the city from Lynchburg, Lexington, Christiansburg, Blacksburg and other points on the Norfolk ami Western.

The Roanoke Daily Times, Volume 17, Number 42, 26 November 1896, pg. 4


Great Game Here Between The College Lads.

The long anticipated Thanksgiving game between the V. M. I. and the V. P. I. football teams is now a thing of the past, and once more the V. M. I. has gone home with colors trailing in the dust, whilst the V. P. I., with jubilant shouts and blowing of trumpets, carries back with her the laurel wreath of victory and a score of 24 to 0 in her favor. Let no one think from this that such a score was easily made. For sixty minutes the contest was waged, a battle royal, in which brain was pitted against brain, muscle against muscle, and success crowned the stronger side. From the very first kick off to the minute and a half touch down and goal it was evident that the V. M. I. was outclassed, but if they felt it there was nothing in their faces to indicate it, for with strained nerves and bursting sinews they fought as only brave men fight who know that upon them rests the honor of their alma mater, and are determined to win or die. The game was characterized by nothing of the brutal, but from start to finish was a clean, gentlemanly game, and such as to give umpire and referee nothing to settle in the way of disputes. There were few or no tricks resorted to, both teams depending upon straight plays throughout, and one such example of ball as this will do much to break down the prejudice to the game that has for some time been growing among our college faculties. The attendance was perhaps the largest seen at a football game in Roanoke, and is variously estimated at from 1,500 to 2,000. The grand stands were crowded and on either side of the lines there was one vast surging crowd made up of the citizens of Roanoke and visiting schools. Field and stands was a blaze of colors, the red, white and yellow of the V. M. I.’s, the maroon and yellow of the V. P. I.’s and the crimson and blue of the Alleghaney[sic] Institute, all blending into a gorgeous whole. Many friends of both schools were found among the ladies present, and colors seemed to lie about evenly divided among them.

The game of yesterday is one long to be remembered, and will go down into the annals of Virginia football as one of the hardest fought of the series of ’96. Here follows the game in detail:


V. M. I. won the toss and chose the west goal, Blacksburg having the kickoff. Herbert, Blacksburg’s fullback, started the fun by sending the ball flying down the field for 35 yards. V. M. I. failed to catch and a Blacksburg man fell on the ball. Then in three rapid rushes the leather was forced over for a touch down in one minute and a half. Ingles, the captain and left half, aided by good interference, circled right end and thus secured the first four points. Johnson kicked an easy goal. Score, 6 to 0 in favor of Blacksburg. The ball was brought to the center of the field and Moore kicked for 50 yards to Eskridge, who made a beautiful run of 40 yards before being downed. At the next line up a double pass was tried with Quarterback Martin, who gained 10 yards through center. Then by short rushes by Eskridge and Ingles between end and tackle, the pigskin was forced rapidly down the field, Blacksburg playing quick, snappy ball. Ingles secured the second touch down in five minutes play, going around right end and aided by good interference by Martin and Johnson. Johnson again kicked an easy goal. Score, 12 to 0.

More[sic] again sent the spheroid down the field for 40 yards to Ingles, who brings it back 10 yards before being tackled. Herbert makes two yards between guard and center; Eskridge makes 10 yards around left end; Herbert tries center again, but makes only one yard; Eskridge was downed for a loss of two yards; then, on the next down, the ball goes over. Steger made 15 yards between tackle and end, but the V. M. I. could not gain against the mass of muscle now against them. After a loss of two yards the ball was fumbled and goes back to Blacksburg.

Here, for the first time, Blacksburg introduced Pennsylvania’s play of putting the guards back. It worked admirably, and they never failed when this was tried to make gains. The double pass between Johnson and half through center was also now tried and proved successful. The heavy Blacksburg guards were also run with the ball, but they only made short gains. By rushes between end and tackle and on center Ingles, Eskridge and Herbert forced the ball down the field. Finally, after 20 minutes, the ball was passed to Eskridge, who scored the third touch down. Johnson kicked goal. Score, 18 to 0.

There was only three and one-half minutes to play before the end of the first half. Moore kicked off to the 5 yard line to Whitehurst, who made a beautiful run of 20 yards before being stopped. On the line up the ball was given to Ingles, who tore around right end, the way being opened for him by Martin and Whitehurst, for a gain of 22 yards. Whitehurst and Eskridge both made short gains around ends and through center. At this juncture the ball was given to V. M. I. on account of holding in the line. Moore made two yards between tackle and end, but as Lawson attempted to go around left end he was stopped suddenly in his career by Martin’s beautiful tackle. Here the whistle was blown and the first half was up, with the ball near the center of the field.

During the intermission the spectators came on the field and there was much good humored guying on the part of those who were loyal to the maroon and yellow, but there was plenty of the red, white and yellow on all sides. The Blacksburg cadets then marched around the field singing enthusiastically their college songs. Moore kicked to Whitehurst and the little full back pluckily gained 15 yards. Eskrldge made 5 yards through right guard. Then the guards came back of the line and Whitehurst, Ingles and Eskridge each put the 5-yard line behind them. Wood was given the ball, but lost it on a fumble. Here the V. M. I. braced

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up and played with snap, as indeed they they did all during the second half. Their opponents had to work hard for every gain. Steger made three yards between tackle and end and Lawson made two more, but was beautifully tackled by Johnson. Lawson made 4 more yards, but with only one yard to gain the ball went over. Eskridge made 10 yards, but was well tackled by McGill, V. M. I.’s plucky little end. Ingles made 10 yards around right end. Here the ball went back to V. M. I. for holding in the line.

Moore made two yards between tackle and end. With 4 1-2 yards to gain on the third down V. M I. tried the quarter back kick, but no gain was made, as Whitehurst got the ball. Then by rapid rushes the ball was sent down the field. In a few minutes Whitehurst was shoved through the center for a touchdown. Johnson kicked goal. Score, 24 to 0.

Moore kicked to Ingles, who advanced the ball 15 yards. Eskridge, aided by splendid interference, made 20 yards and Wood made 5 more. Johnson made 5 yards on a double pass through the line; Mayer made 4 yards through opposite guard. The ball was here fumbled and a V. M. I. man fell on it. Lawson started for what he thought was opening between right end and tackle, but he was met and thrown on the spot by Martin without gain. On the third down with 4 yards to gain, V. M. I. tried the quarter back kick, but the ball struck a lineman and bounded back for 10 yards. Lawson fell on it. The ball went over.

Blacksburg here tries her quarter-backs and continued to make short gains. Time was called with another touchdown only 8 yards off. The time of the halves was 30 minutes each.


Harman Left End Johnson
Mills Left Tackle Starke
Rice Left Guard Mayer
Marrow Center Herbert, R. A.
Montgomery, P R. G. Pelter
Harding Right Tackle Wood
McGill Right End Tredwell
Montgomery, B Q. B. Martin
Lawson Left Half Back Ingles
Steger Right Half Back Eskridge
Moore Full Back Herbert, E.H.

Officials: -- Umpire, Duke; referee, Dr. Waldon; linemen and timekeepers, Dashiell and Marshall.

The Roanoke Daily Times, Volume 17, Number 43, 27 November 1896, pg. 1