The Wolfpacker

September 2018

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 93 of 95

94 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BY TIM PEELER O ne hundred years ago, NC State College shut down everything, and it was the low point in the history of the school's athletics programs. Turned into a military training school shortly after the United States entered the first World War, the school was also caught up in the worldwide Spanish flu pandemic. More than 450 students, faculty and staff came down with the dreaded disease, resulting in 13 student fatalities. Enrollment suffered, and the school's foot- ball program — coming off a 6-2-1 record and state championship under the guidance of coach Harry Hartsell in 1917 — was com- pletely decimated by both mandatory military service and the flu pandemic. Hartsell was drafted into military service, turning the football program over to his only assistant, Tal Stafford. A Raleigh native, Staf- ford was a former teammate of Hartsell's seven years earlier and was known primarily as the quarterback who completed the first forward pass in school history. While the school didn't officially shut down, all 593 students were drafted into the school's Student Army Training Corps, which required five days of drills and multiple mili- tary science classes through the week. The week after Stafford's football team opened the 1918 season with a 56-0 victory over Guilford College, all extracurricular activities were canceled because of military expectations and widespread illness. The stu- dent newspaper stopped publication. Only the school yearbook, the Agromeck, survived the war. The flu outbreak killed an estimated 50 million people, which amounted to about three percent of the world's population and was almost twice the number of deaths at- tributed to World War I. It was particularly bad in Raleigh and on NC State's campus. Among the fatalities were two nurses at the State College infirmary, Eliza Riddick and Lucy Page. Riddick was the niece of Wallace Carl Rid- dick, the school president and former engi- neering professor who is generally considered the father of NC State football and the name- sake of the Wolfpack's former football home, Riddick Stadium. The outbreak was scary, and all students were quarantined to campus. The 1918 North Carolina State Fair, held annually at its loca- tion across the street from NC State's cam- pus, was canceled, and the exhibition grounds were turned into a camping area. As the campus community battled the sec- ond wave of the flu, more than 30 students — including seven starters on the football squad — were sent to officer training schools around the country to prepare for European deployment. When the flu subsided, student activities resumed the first week of November, includ- ing football practice. However, it was limited to just 90 minutes after classes ended at 5 p.m. With no lights installed at Riddick Field, there were only 45 minutes of daylight available to conduct drills. Players were asked if they wanted to re- sume the football schedule, a question that was answered with a resounding "yes." Unfortunately, the next game on the sched- ule was against John Heisman's Golden Hur- ricane of Georgia Tech, college football's big- gest powerhouse, Heisman's team was legendary, scoring 421 points in nine games in 1916 (including a 222-0 victory over Cumberland College) and 491 points in 1917. They had won 32 games and tied one in the three seasons before host- ing NC State in Atlanta on Nov. 10. Stafford's team hoped to get a boost from the return of the five former starters stationed at Camp Gordon, who received weekend passes so they could play in the game. But the contest did not go well. State lost four players to injury on the open- ing kickoff. Heisman's Hurricane scored two touchdowns on its first four offensive plays and owned a 33-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. Three times after his team scored, ac- cording to former Wolfpack player Thomas Park, the Georgia Tech kicker booted the ball through the end zone and into the stands, where fans threw the ball back on the field, al- lowing Hurricane players to "recover" the ball in the end zone for three more touchdowns. In all, the Hurricane scored 19 touchdowns in the game for a 128-0 victory, the worst defeat in NC State football history. It was the third time in four games that the Hurricane scored more than 100 points and its fifth con- secutive shutout of the season. State's only two first downs in the game came with the assistance of penalties. It did not complete any of its 12 forward passes. However, on one brilliant play, NC State tackle John Ripple of Lexington, North Caro- lina, picked up a Tech fumble and rumbled 80 yards for a touchdown. However, State was called for holding on the play, wiping out the first touchdown against the Hurricane defense. Despite the negated score, Ripple im- pressed famed college football observer Wal- ter Camp enough on the play that he put the State standout on the second squad of his annual All-America team. Ripple became the first college player from the state of North Carolina to earn a spot on the yearly list. Two days after the demoralizing loss, Ger- many signed the Armistice of Compiegne that ended World War I, a great cause for celebra- tion on NC State's campus and around the world. Still, State lost its final two games of the shortened season, going scoreless against Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. "The team as a whole lacked cohesion and smoothness in action, but we did the best that we could under the circumstances," wrote a student reporter in the 1919 Agromeck. The next year was much better for NC State athletics. The basketball team beat North Carolina in a specially arranged basketball game to determine the state championship. The football team, under the director of new coach Bill Fetzer, posted a 7-2 record that in- cluded the first scheduled game against North Carolina in 14 seasons. Fetzer's second edi- tion followed with another seven-win season in 1920. ■ ■ PACK PERSPECTIVE 100 Years Ago, The Spanish Flu And World War I Interrupted Football Tim Peeler is a regular contributor to The Wolfpacker and can be reached at The Wolfpacker is a publication of: Coman Publishing Company, Inc., P.O. Box 2331, Durham, N.C. 27702. Offices are located at 905 West Main St., Ste. 24F, Durham, N.C. 27701. (919) 688-0218. The Wolfpacker (ISSN 0273-8945) is published bimonthly. A subscription is $39.95 for six issues. For advertising or subscription information, call (800) 421-7751 or write The Wolfpacker. Postmaster: Send address changes to: The Wolfpacker, P.O. Box 2331, Durham, N.C. 27702. Periodical mail postage paid at Durham, N.C. 27702 and additional offices. First-class postage is $14 extra per year. E-mail: • Web site: Depsite the team's hardships, John Ripple became the school's first All-American, earn- ing a spot on the Walter Camp second team. PHOTO COURTESY NC STATE MEDIA RELATIONS

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