Earlier this week, I brought the conversation here to a screeching halt with the "TL;DR" fanpost to end all "TL;DR" fanposts, in which I likened this year’s fast-starting yet injury-riddled Georgia Bulldogs to Vince Dooley’s fast-starting yet injury-riddled 1965 squad, in the hope of creating the foundation for an encouraging parallel between next year’s Red and Black club and the 1966 SEC champions. However, as MaconDawg ably illustrated, we are at the point of reorienting our expectations for the 2013 season, so I would like to shift our focus to this Saturday’s opponent, the Vanderbilt Commodores.
In last week’s loss to the Missouri Tigers, the visitors’ starting quarterback, James Franklin, suffered an injury that will sideline him for three to five weeks; that unfortunate occurrence prompted me to remark jokingly that I hoped the ‘Dawgs would knock out the Vandy head coach of the same name. Were that to come to pass, it would not be utterly unprecedented, and, for proof of that, I would like to take you back eleven decades, to 1903:
That autumn featured a new head coach and numerous rookie players in Athens, as the only varsity regular remaining from the Red and Black’s 1902 squad was returning lineman and newly-named captain Harold Ketron, whom the Atlanta Constitution praised as "a whole team in himself." That standout stalwart at center earned his combative nickname---"War Eagle", a phrase modern fans most closely associate with the Auburn Tigers---in his native Habersham County, where he used the words as his battle cry during the scrapes that invariably arose whenever Ketron and his brothers engaged in contests of physical ability. As Dr. John Stegeman succinctly put it years later, "To him, a good fist-fight was an integral part of a hotly-contested game."
Following a 1-2 start, the Athenians met the Commodores on Halloween. Mighty Vanderbilt, bound for its third straight once-beaten season, rolled into the Peach State and hammered the Red and Black by a 33-0 final margin. Over the course of the contest, however, a running quarrel erupted between the Tennessean coach and the Georgian captain.
Vanderbilt was guided from the sideline by J.R. Henry, who routinely relayed instructions to his players on the field in a manner Ketron deemed to be a violation of the rules then in place. Coach Henry, on the other hand, frequently bent the ear of the game’s umpire, who happened to be Atlanta Journal sportswriter Grantland Rice. The Commodore coach was convinced that Ketron was antagonizing his players unscrupulously, probably through the use of one of the Red and Black captain’s favorite tactics. According to Georgia teammate Virlyn Moore, Ketron would grab the player lined up opposite him by the hair and spit a stream of tobacco juice into his face. This often incited the other player to incur a penalty by striking back.
The ongoing argument ultimately reached its head when Ketron went to the Vanderbilt sideline and knocked Coach Henry to the ground. By the time a Constitution reporter was able to break through the surrounding crowd, he found the Classic City captain and the Commodore coach throwing punches at one another. The fight was quelled by the authorities, as noted by the Atlanta journalist: "Ketron was struggling with two policemen, one of whom was throttling him and the other attempting to hold him, while Coach Henry was being forcibly taken off the field by several other guardians of the law." The Georgia player was allowed to re-enter the game, but the Vanderbilt skipper was taken into custody and hauled down to the police station.
Given what happened the last time the Bulldogs visited Nashville, I can’t say I’d call it an injustice if the spirit of War Eagle Ketron showed up and got Coach Franklin confined to the county jail, but, at the end of the day, all I’m really looking for is a W.