1918 Pittsburgh Panthers football team

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1918 Pittsburgh Panthers football
Pitt Panthers wordmark.svg
National champion (Helms, Houlgate)
Co-national champion (NCF)
Conference Independent
1918 record 4–1
Head coach Pop Warner (4th season)
Offensive scheme Double wing
Captain George McLaren
Home stadium Forbes Field
← 1917
1919 →
1918 NCAA independents football records
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
Navy         4 1 0
Pittsburgh         4 1 0
Army         1 0 0
Maryland State         4 1 1
Notre Dame         3 1 2
Villanova         3 2 0
Dartmouth         3 3 0
USC         2 2 2
Penn State         1 2 1
Washington State         1 1 0

The 1918 Pittsburgh Panthers football team represented the University of Pittsburgh in the 1918 college football season. In a season cut short by the Spanish flu pandemic, coach Pop Warner led the Panthers in a schedule played all in one month, including a convincing victory in a highly publicized game over defending national champion and unscored-upon Georgia Tech. A highly controversial loss ended the season and snapped a 32-game Pitt winning streak, but the Panthers outscored opponents 140–16 in that short season and were retroactively selected as the national champion by the Helms Athletic Foundation and Houlgate System and as a co-national champion with Michigan by the National Championship Foundation.[1]

Before the season[edit]

The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 saw the implementation of quarantines that eliminated much of that year's college football season, including five of Pitt's originally scheduled contests. All of Pitt's games that year were played in November, including a high-profile game played as a War Charities benefit against undefeated, unscored upon, and defending national champion Georgia Tech, coached by John Heisman.


Date Opponent Site Result
November 9 Washington & Jefferson Forbes FieldPittsburgh, PA W 34–0  
November 16 Penn Forbes Field • Pittsburgh, PA W 37–0  
November 23 Georgia Tech Forbes Field • Pittsburgh, PA W 32–0  
November 28 Penn State Forbes Field • Pittsburgh, PA (rivalry) W 28–6  
November 30 at Cleveland Naval Reserve League ParkCleveland, OH L 9–10  


Season summary[edit]

Georgia Tech game[edit]

Georgia Tech at Pittsburgh
1 234Total
Ga. Tech 0 000 0
Pitt 7 7126 32

Pitt swept through its first two games and then dismantled Georgia Tech 32–0 in front of many of the nation's top sports writers including Walter Camp, ending Tech's 33-game streak without a loss.[4] The game was played for the benefit of the United War Work Fund.

Pitt's Tom Davies runs against undefeated and unscored upon Georgia Tech in the 1918 game at Forbes Field. Pitt won the game 32–0 and is considered by many to be that season's national champion.

Warner historian Francis Powers wrote:

At Forbes Field, the dressing rooms of the two teams were separated only by a thin wall. As the Panthers were sitting around, awaiting Warner's pre-game talk, Heisman began to orate in the adjoining room. In his charge to the Tech squad, Heisman became flowery and fiery. He brought the heroes of ancient Greece and the soldier dead in his armor among the ruins of Pompeii. It was terrific and the Panthers sat, spellbound. When Heisman had finished, Warner chortled and quietly said to his players: 'Okay, boys. There's the speech. Now go out and knock them off.'[5]

Pitt's first score came on a pass from Tom Davies to Katy Easterday.[3] The next score came soon after the start of the second quarter, when Davies retutrned a punt back 50 yards for a touchdown. A double pass got the next score. The fourth touchdown was a 6-yard toucchdown by George McLaren. "Guyon and Flowers were very clever at intercepting forward passes, which in a measure made up for the fumbling in an early part of the game."[3] A 55-yard touchdown run by Davies was the final score.[3] Guyon also starred on defense.

The starting lineup was McCarter (left end), Hilty (left tackle), Stahl (left guard), Stein (center), V. Allshouse (right guard), Mervis (right tackle), Hurrington (right end), Gougler (quarterback), Easterday (left halfback), Davies (right halfback), McLaren (fullback).[3]

Cleveland Naval Reserve[edit]

The final game of the season at Cleveland Naval Reserve resulted in "Pop" Warner's first loss at Pitt and is one of the most controversial in school history.[6] Warner, along with some reporters covering the game, insisted Pitt was robbed by the officials who, claiming the official timekeeper's watch was broken, arbitrarily ended the first half before Pitt was able to score and then allowed the Reserves extra time in the fourth quarter to pull ahead 10–9 before calling an end to the game.[7][8]

Judy Harlan, formerly of Georgia Tech, and Moon Ducote, formerly of Auburn starred for the Cleveland Naval Reserves.[9] Ducote kicked the winning field goal. Warner declared him "the greatest football player I ever saw".[10] Harlan stated: "I intercepted a pass and returned it to midfield in the fourth quarter. I felt I at least had evened up some of the losses we had at Tech."[11]


Despite the loss, the 4–1 Panthers of 1918 were named as a national champion for that season by multiple selectors,[12] several of which are considered to be "major" selections by the official NCAA records book.[13]

List of national championship selectors[edit]

The 1918 team was selected or recognized as national champions by multiple selectors, several of which are listed as "major" (i.e. national in scope) by the official NCAA football records book.[13] College Football Data Warehouse also recognizes Pitt as a national champion in 1918,[14] as did a 1970 Sports Illustrated study that has served as the historical basis of the university's historical national championship claims since its original publication.[15]

The are the selectors that determined Pitt to be national champions in 1918.[14]

* A "major" selector that was "national scope" according to the official NCAA football records book.[13]

All-American selections[edit]

*Bold - Consensus All-American[19]


  1. ^ National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) (2015). "National Poll Rankings" (PDF). NCAA Division I Football Records. NCAA. p. 108. Retrieved January 4, 2016. 
  2. ^ "Pittsburgh Yearly Results". 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Panthers, With Open Attack Defeat Tech by 32 to 0 Score". The Tennessean. November 24, 1918. p. 24. Retrieved May 4, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication – free to read
  4. ^ https://books.google.com/books?id=4LD1S47AQbcC&pg=PA3&source=bl&ots=zV3JBIPKJL&sig=BuvechMi6zMeE0YCocftaL_SRpk&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjcpamD-8TMAhXLSSYKHTMiBJIQ6AEIODAE#v=onepage&q&f=false
  5. ^ Powers, p. 42
  6. ^ Keck, Harry (November 30, 1918). "Navy Reserves Steal Game From Pitt". Pittsburgh Sunday Post, republished in The Greatest Moments in Pitt Football History (1994). Nashville, TN: Athlon Sports Communications: 33. ISBN 1-878839-04-7. 
  7. ^ Keck, Harry (November 30, 1918). "Navy Reserves Steal Game From Pitt". Pittsburgh Sunday Post, republished in The Greatest Moments in Pitt Football History (1994). Nashville, TN: Athlon Sports Communications: 33. ISBN 1-878839-04-7. 
  8. ^ Sciullo Jr., Sam (2008). University of Pittsburgh Football Vault: The History of the Panthers. Atlanta, GA: Whitman Publishing, LLC. p. 36. ISBN 0-7948-2653-9. 
  9. ^ Morgan Blake (1918). "Foot Ball in the South". Spalding's Official Foot Ball Guide. p. 55. 
  10. ^ "Richard Ducote Dies In Orleans". State Times. March 26, 1937. 
  11. ^ Wiley Lee Umphlett (1992). Creating the Big Game: John W. Heisman and the Invention of American Football. pp. 141–142, 144, 148, 151–152. 
  12. ^ "College Football Data Warehouse: Yearly National Championship Selections: 1918 National Champions". Retrieved 2009-04-08. 
  13. ^ a b c 2012 NCAA Football Records (PDF). The National Collegiate Athletic Association. 2012. pp. 69–72. Retrieved March 4, 2013. 
  14. ^ a b "1918 National Championships". College Football Data Warehouse. Retrieved March 4, 2013. 
  15. ^ Borghetti, E.J.; Nestor, Mendy; Welsh, Celeste, eds. (2008). 2008 Pitt Football Media Guide (PDF). Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh. p. 156. Retrieved 2010-07-07. 
  16. ^ "Camp's All American: Football Dean Names Three Teams from Last Season's Records" (PDF). The New York Times. 1918-12-31. 
  17. ^ ESPN College Football Encyclopedia, p. 1153
  18. ^ Robert W. Maxwell (1918-12-19). "Alexander and Ackley Placed on First All-American Team by Bob Maxwell". Syracuse Herald. 
  19. ^ Consensus All-American designations based on the NCAA guide to football award winners Archived 2009-07-14 at the Wayback Machine.


  • Powers, Francis J. (1969). Life Story of Glen S. (Pop) Warner, Gridiron's Greatest Strategist. Chicago, IL: The Athletic Institute.