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1902 Buffalo Football

by Scott Hollander
University at Buffalo Libraries

Team Photo

1902 Buffalo football team looked to be of exceptionally high quality due to the fact that most of 1901’s team members, with the addition of fresh talent, would be available. Heading into September, Buffalo had a nice schedule planned including the season opener with Syracuse University at Syracuse, NY. The two seemingly natural rivals had not played each other since 1899 when Buffalo won 16-0 so the match was highly anticipated.

Unfortunately, Buffalo found it impossible to get its team in condition to play Syracuse by their September 27th game date and asked for a postponement. Buffalo’s request was made, in part, due to the loss of half-back Harley Cramer, a medical student from North Tonawanda, who was injured in practice and out for the season. Buffalo was ultimately disappointed as Syracuse was unable to find an open date for U.B. in 1902. Oddly, it would be over 100 years before the two football teams would play each other again. U.B. replaced the Syracuse game with it’s regular Buffalo practice partner, the Masten Park High School, and squeaked out a 6-0 win. As strange as it sounds today, university men played high school boys regularly back in the day. For a lively description of the game, see “U. of B.’s Close CallBuffalo Express, 29 September 1902.

Buffalo was considerably encouraged by the addition of Ray Turnbull, a player from Elmira, NY who entered the U.B. medical school. The Buffalo Courier said of him: “The dashing work of Ray Turnbull, the ex-Cornell University player, these days has infused the other players with a ‘snap and get there’ which bodes no good to the team from Bucknell. Turnbull is the most aggressive player on the Varsity squad and he shows more willingness to work than any of the others, although no laziness is noticeable on the part of the other candidates. He sets an example to the U. of B. boys, which, if followed, will make the team the best that ever represented the University of Buffalo.” The Buffalo Express called Turnbull “a whole college game in himself” so a lot was expected from him. (Ray Turnbull is also credited with being the head coach of the 1903 U.B. football team but he was in fact a player and the coach graduating from the Department of Medicine in 1904.)

It’s first collegiate foe was against Bucknell University of Lewisburg, PA. Buffalo played “pluckily” but Bucknell proved too solid as they out-weighed the U.B. squad by nearly 20 pounds winning 29-0. Of Bucknell’s 29 points, twelve were made in the first half and seventeen in the second, showing how well the visitors were prepared for a long siege. Bucknell was considered an elite opponent and probably demanded a premium to make the trip to Buffalo. But the Buffalo Express claimed that the fan “turnout was a fair one, but not in keeping with the reputation of the visitors nor of sufficient size to give U. of B. much encouragement to book first-class elevens for home attraction.

The following week was an away game with Columbia University in New York at the Polo Grounds. Columbia was looking for revenge for a defeat suffered the previous fall in Buffalo. And although Buffalo lost, the score was close at 5-0. It was hoped that the showing made by the University of Buffalo eleven against the strong Columbia team would give Buffalo renewed courage and bring them greater support from students at the college. (see “Columbia Has Her Hands Full Beating BuffaloNew York Sun, 12 October 1902)

At the halfway point of the season, the team stood at 1 win, 3 loses, and a tie with the lone win against the Masten Park High School team. On November 3, 1902, the Buffalo Express published the following: “The struggle to maintain a good team at the University of Buffalo seems again a difficult one, but it is to be hoped the season for 1902 is not yet closed. It is to be regretted that the institution can not be more thoroughly enthused on the subject of athletics, for nothing so develops the varsity spirit as success on the field of battle.” Frustration was mounting.

Buffalo plodded through the rest of the season, mostly winning its home games and losing its away games. The highlight was a 28-0 victory over Niagara at home and the low being a surprising 22-0 loss to Western Reserve in Cleveland. The last game of the year was on Thanksgiving Day against the Oakdale Athletic Club football team of South Buffalo. Buffalo, being the town it is, generally favored the Oakdale team as its players were working-class locals with names as Shea, O’Brien and Brophy. The U.B. team was filled with mostly out-of-towners. The Oakdales beat Buffalo 10-0 going undefeated for the year and claimed the title of WNY football champions. U.B. would finish the season with 2 wins, 4 loses and 1 tie against collegiate foes and 3-5-1 overall.

1902 Buffalo Football Season

Date Home Team Score Visiting Team W-L-T Location
9/27/19021 Buffalo 6 – 0 Masten Park High School W Buffalo, NY
10/4/19022 Buffalo 0 – 29 Bucknell University L Buffalo, NY
10/11/19023 Columbia 5 – 0 Buffalo L New York, NY
10/18/19024 Buffalo 0 – 0 Hobart College T Buffalo, NY
10/25/19025 Western Reserve 22 – 0 Buffalo L Cleveland, OH
11/8/19026 Buffalo 6 – 0 Rochester W Buffalo, NY
11/11/19027 Alfred University 12 – 0 Buffalo L Alfred, NY
11/21/19028 Buffalo 28 – 0 Niagara University W Buffalo, NY
11/27/19029 Buffalo 0 – 10 Oakdale Athletic Club (Buffalo, NY) L Buffalo, NY


Home: Buffalo Athletic Field, Main St and Jefferson Ave
Total Points: Visiting Clubs: 78
Total Points: University of Buffalo: 40

  1. U. of B.’s Close CallBuffalo Express, Buffalo, NY, 29 September 1902.
  2. Bucknell’s GiantsBuffalo Express, Buffalo, NY, 5 October 1902.
  3. U. of B.’s Good PlayingBuffalo Express, Buffalo, NY, 13 October 1902.
  4. Hobart All RightBuffalo Express, Buffalo, NY, 19 October 1902.
  5. U. of B. BeatenBuffalo Express, Buffalo, NY, 26 October 1902.
  6. Trailed In DustBuffalo Express, Buffalo, NY, 9 November 1902.
  7. Alfred Football Team ‘Trimmed’ Buffalo MenElmira Daily Gazette, Elmira, NY, 12 November 1902.
  8. Niagara Lost To BuffaloNiagara Falls Gazette, Niagara Falls, NY, 22 November 1902.
  9. Oakdales Won ItBuffalo Express, Buffalo, NY, 28 November 1902.

U of B's Close Call. Turnbull's good workU. OF B.’S CLOSE CALL

Masten Park’s Eleven held their heavier Opponents to one Touchdown.


Maier, Lane and Helmick were the Stars of the Game – Good Turnout.

With a sweltering sun pouring down upon them and a gay crowd watching, the football teams from the University of Buffalo and Masten Park High School struggled fiercely yesterday afternoon on the Buffalo Athletic Field. It was the opening of the season of 1902 for this vigorous game. The enthusiastic throng shouting and jumping in the grandstand showed there was no falling of interest in the sport and the fine athletic forms of the players spoke for the excellent training they had. The crowd poured in early and seemed about equally composed of boys and girls. The bright colored dresses flashed gayly in the black mass of spectators while the girls waved school flags and the boys yelled hideous whoops.

It was just 3:30 o’clock when the blue shirted mob tramped out of the U. B. dressing-rooms into the open like a herd of elephants. Everyone of them was big and heavy and looked twice the size of the Masten Park boys, who were rather slim and younger. Both teams lined up to be photographed and each man put on his ugliest accoutrements and ruffled his hair to make himself look more savage. Then they filed out and trotted down the field yelling and tumbling while the grandstand sent up a shout of admiration for the picturesque, muddy crowd, clad in their outlandish togs.

The Masten Park boys seemed to be full of snap and ginger, which offset in part the weight and bulk of the U.B. men. Not that U. B. was slow, but being so big they could not dodge about and squeeze through holes as their smaller opponents could. The varsity had almost a whole team in Turnbull, a former Cornell player, who slammed through center again and again and needed a whole eleven to stop him. Helmick made a fine stop of Lanclet’s kick on U.B.’s five-yard line that saved a touchdown against the university in the nick of time. Lane did some fine running, though there were no sensational long runs. Maier went through center like a projectile and left a scrambling heap behind him every time. The halfs were but fifteen minutes each, for the men did not want to be too much used up on the first day and a hot one at that. R. B. Adams of Syracuse was referee and Dr. William Bott of U. B. was umpire. The work of Dr. De Cue in coaching the U. B. team from the side line during play was the only unfair thing about the whole game. The timekeepers were Elsbelm for U. B. and Bliss for Masten Park.

Masten Park started off with a kick to the twenty-yard line. U. B. caught the ball and they went through Masten Park’s left guard for two yards. Driscoll grabbed it and started around the end, but was downed without a gain. Center snapped it back to Rice who kicked it to Masten’s 40-yard line, where Lane fell upon it heavily. Now Masten had the ball and went around the end for half a yard. Then Maier, the husky fullback, got through for a terrible yard and a half. Lanclet kicked, but Rice was atop of it rolling with twenty men pushing his face in the mud. Then Driscoll darted around the end for three yards and Hart took it two yards farther. Rice fumbled and Lane was on it again. Spencer took it around the end for 2 1/2 yards and Maier bucked it 21/2 farther through U. B.’s middle. Maier rushed it again through Fish’s legs for two yards, and then Vandenberg got around the end for 2 1/2 yards more. Maier plowed through for only a yard and a half more and then Pinck fumbled on U.B.’s twenty-yard line and the ball went over to the university. De Cue took it around but was stopped before he gained anything and then Kellogg fumbled while Spencer grabbed it and hugged it tight. Vandenberg tried around the end. but got only four yards and a half. They paused a moment while somebody pulled Vandenberg’s leg out straight and the men looked around the field for lost teeth. At it again Maier made a deep furrow through center for three yards, when someone sat upon his neck and ground his nose into the nice, cool mud. Masten fumbled and Spencer saved it by a gallant dive into the sweating crowd, his legs in the air. Maier tried it again through center, but someone stopped him quite suddenly without any gain so the ball went to U.B. on the 25-yard line. Rice kicked for fifteen yards and Maier dropped on it again and rolled a foot with the whole team falling on him. Lanclet kicked to Turnbull, who sat on it on U.B.’s twenty yard line. Driscoll took four yards through center and Kellogg got three more around the end. Someone put his foot Driscoll’s stomach so they waited a momentwhile the smoke cleared and Driscoll gasped. He was at it again, but now Potter retired in favor of Lawrence. The game was becoming interesting. Rice kicked the ball to Masten’s 30-yard line and Lane made a beautiful catch and ran back ten yards, where Rice ran up, grabbed him by the shirt and sat on him hard. Pinck got around the end for half a yard and the second down was made. Maier made his favorite plunge through center and got nine yards in two rushes. Pinck started around the end again for 2 1/2 yards, when somebody threw him. Time was called for the first half.

The teams lined up again, muddy and hot but not awhile daunted. Masten Park had held her own splendidly against the Blue and White and the varsity in turn was playing with fire and skill. Rice kicked off to Masten’s twenty-yard line and Lane had it again dodging about down the field for fifteen yards. Pinck got around the end and then Lanclet kicked it 25 yards while Turnbull caught it in the center of the field. It was U.B.’s ball and Lawrence dashed round the end for 2 1/2 yards, then Turnbull opened up Masten’s center for 2 1/2 yards more. De Cue made a wide sweep for eight yards and Turnbull bucked clean over the whole team through the center but only got two yards. Driscoll tried the end again but couldn’t make an inch. Rice kicked to the fifteen-yard line and Maier fumbled while De Cue pushed it to Masten’s ten-yard line. There had been no score yet but now it looked like a touchdown. Masten steadied herself, Turnbull heaved with his whole team against the center, but it didn’t budge. Lawrence tried the end but Masten was there and he went down with a thud not an inch gained. Rice stepped back for a place kick but failed on the twenty-yard line and the ball was taken back to the 25-yard line. It was Masten’s ball now and Lanclet kicked it to U.B.’s 25-yard line but Turnbull was there and charged down the field like a bull for ten yards. Lawrence fumbled on the forty yard line and Maier got it. Maier was hurt but resumed play in a moment. Pinck tried the end but made no gain. Lanclet tried to kick but Helmick broke through beautifully and fell on the ball on Masten’s five-yard line. Turnbull tried the center line but got only one half yard, for Masten was desperate now. Turnbull tried again and with a mighty rush he carried it over the line.

Turnbull kicked the goal, making the score six to naught.

Lanclet kicked to U.B.’s twenty-yard line where Helmick got it again and carried it back five yards.Cannon sailed through right tackle for seven yards and Fish took it six yards further through left guard. Then Hart got three yards with it and Fish broke the line for seven yards more. Hart carried it three yards and then Lawrence fumbled while Rice fell on it and thus saved the ball to U.B. The play was fast and furious and Masten seemed to weaken. Metzger plowed through right guard for eight yards and Fish scrambled under for two yards more. Hart made a dash around right end and got five yards when the game was called.

It was a very fair and altogether clean game, Masten Park played magnificently for so light a team and U. B. made excellent work considering the very little practice they’ve had.

Buffalo Express, September 29, 1902



Were it not for Capt. Harold Weekes and Smith, Columbia would have a mournful tale to tell this morning. As things were, the Blue and White barely managed to defeat the University of Buffalo at the Polo Grounds yesterday afternoon. The score was 5 to 0. Neither team was able to score in the first half, although both had several promising opportunities. The slippery field and wet ball provoked many fumbles. No sooner did either team make a substantial gain than a fumble robbed it of the fruits or its efforts. In a scrimmage in the second half the ball rolled from the struggling heap of players and was picked up by Fish of Buffalo, who made a bee line for Columbia’s goal line. His field was clear and five Columbia men were after him. Stangland and Smith were disposed of by the up-State interference, but Weekes was forgotten. He was ten yards behind Fish, but following him and gaining on him at every stride. For sixty yards the race continued, and then the Columbia captain flung himself forward headlong and got his man around the waist. The momentum of the tackle was so great that both men slid fifteen feet in the mud. The play saved the day for Columbia.


Harold Weekes

Twice Columbia’s goal was in serious danger, but each time the line managed to hold on its own 6-yard mark, when a kick made everybody feel easier. At the middle of the first half Columbia took the ball down the field for sixty-five yards by straight football. Smith was designated to carry it over the goal line. He fumbled in crossing and Basey fell on the ball for a touch back which gave Buffalo a free kick from her 23-yard line and nullified Columbia’s previous efforts as far a results were concerned.

The single touchdown was made after five minutes of play in the second half largely through Smiths magnificent line plunges. He got through at almost every point on Sanford’s close formation and seemed to gain unaided by his own team, after it had got him started. The game ended after a series of punting exchanges with Columbia on the 80-yard line, again threatening a touchdown. Stangland’s end playing for Columbia was excellent. He tackled the backs accurately after kicks and downed them twice on line-ups for losses of four and seven yards. Both teams suffered for off-side play and holding in the line.

New York Sun, October 12, 1902