The 1907 Quakers from the University of Pennsylvania were the juggernauts of college football. Heading into a home field matchup with the Carlisle Indians they had not only won, but dominated their previous seven games by a combined score of 189-10.
Their October home game on Franklin field against Carlisle wasn’t expected to be much different. Although the Indians were also undefeated, they were a group of unheralded, undersized players that the 22,800 fans in attendance didn’t give much of a chance against their mighty Quakers.
So what happened? Carlisle demolished Penn 26-6. The most notable play of the game was fullback Pete Hauer’s 40 yard perfect spiral pass that sports historians would later call one of the “three or four signal moments in the evolution of football” and “the sporting equivalent of the Wright brothers taking off at Kitty Hawk.”
These historians attribute Carlisle’s stunning upset that Saturday to Carlisle coach Pop Warner’s exploitation of a rule change that was adopted a couple of years earlier. In order to curb the surging violence in football schools adopted a number of rules changes, most notably legalizing the forward pass.
Warner decisively capitalized on this rule change, confusing the Quakers with long passes and new formations. Penn was playing by the old rules, and caught completely unprepared for the new era of football that they had the misfortune of writing into history that day.