As an Aggie fan, I’ve watched a lot of bad football lately. This combined with some equally terrible football elsewhere around the country got me thinking…what is the worst college football game of all time? Turns out it’s in Texas (surprise surprise)…but thankfully not College Station. This dubious honor belongs to our good friends in Lubbock and Centenary College of Shreveport, Louisiana.
The Red Raiders and the Gentlemen (yes that was Centenary’s nickname) squared off on November 11, 1939 in the middle of a downpour in Shreveport. With the rain and the field turned to mud both teams could not get their offense running so they punted and hoped the other team would screw up. The game featured 77 total punts and 14 fumbles, six of which were turned over. 42 punts were returned, 19 went out of bounds, ten were downed, one went into the end zone for a touchback, four were blocked, and one was fair caught. 67 punts occurred on first down, including a stretch of 22 first down punts in a row. The game ended 0-0, obviously the strategy of hoping for a muffed punt and recovering for a touchdown failed for both teams.
The game holds a special place for all the wrong reasons in the NCAA record books. 13 sing game records were set as a result of this match-up. Four individual records were set in the game. Charlie Calhoun, Texas Tech’s punter, kicked more punts and recorded more punting yardage than any punter since with 36 punts and 1,318 yards respectively. Centenary’s punt returner, Milton Hill, set records for most punt returns in a single game and most punt and kickoff returns in a single game with his 20 total returns. The teams set nine records. The combined 77 punts stands as a record but Texas Tech holds the single game record for most punts in a game with 39, Centenary comes in second with 38. Both teams combine to hold the record for most punt returns in a game with 42 and Tech holds the team record for most punt returns in a single game with the 22 punts they returned that day. Tech recorded the fewest plays in a game with 12 while Centenary holds the record for holding a team to the fewest plays with Tech’s 12. Both teams combined for a total 33 plays, their combined 30 yards gained is the least amount of combined yards gained in a game. Lastly, both teams hold the combined record for fewest rushes with 28.
The real kicker (you’re welcome) in the game is the state of both teams that season. Centenary went 2-9-1 in 1939, they would shut down their football program after the 1941 season when they went 0-8. Texas Tech finished 5-5-1 and when they played Centenary they were in the middle of a two game scoreless streak having lost 0-13 to Duquesne on 10-28-39 and then 0-19 to Miami (FL) on 11-4-39. It took Tech almost a full month to score a touchdown between their 19-7 win over New Mexico on 10-21-39 and their 13-0 win over Montana on 11-18-39. When you consider that Centenary had a winning record the previous year, and had been undefeated as recently as 1927, but then won three games until war time stress shut down the program in 1941…you can make an argument that this game killed a football program.
So there you have it, as bad as your team played today at least they didn’t repeatedly punt on first down resulting in a loss so inexplicably bad it helped to shut down the actual program.