"A sensational exhibition of one man's prowess was the football contest between West Virginia Wesleyan and Salem College as part of an Armistice Day program at Clarksburg today."
That was the way an Associated Press sports writer in 1931 described probably the greatest single-game college performance turned in by Wesleyan's immortal Cliff (Gip) Battles.
Clifford Franklin Battles now lives in Bethesda. In 1955 he became the first small college player and the first not named on All-America to enter the national College Football Hall of Fame in 1968 the former All-Pro halfback with the Boston and Washington Redskins also was named to the professional hall of Canton, Ohio.
Art Bachtel, the "other halfback" (or wing-back at West Virginia Wesleyan in the Battles era, believes Battles would have been on All-America player for three years at a larger school.
"He was the greatest and best open-field runner I ever have seen," said Bachtel, who lives at Clinton, Ohio. "He didn't run, but seemed to hope along. I recall when we took laps after practice, I had to take almost two steps to his one. It was his natural way of running. Whenever we broke him through the scrimmage line, it was almost certain to be a touchdown. It was seldom that one tackler could bring him down."
Another former college teammate, Edison Rine of Wellsburg, W.Va., a retired school administrator and former football coach, called Battles "the greatest college halfback of his time."
During the first three years Battles played tailback for Wesleyan, the Bobcats had a mediocre record of 14-162. But the little Methodist college at Buckhannon, W.Va., played West Virginia University.New York University, Georgetown, Duquesne and Marshall. Its record against small college teams was 12-1-1.
"The galloping ghost" or "blond blizzard," as the Akron, Ohio, native often was referred in West Virginia newspapers, was famous for his long runs. In his junior year Battles scored 94 of Wesleyan's 153 points.
During his senior year Battles was a marked man. Yet he continued to run well, sparking a 6-3-1 record that included a 12-0 upset of Duquesne, a 13-7 victory over Dayton and a surprising scoreless tie with Navy.
Wesleyan had a small team, even for that day, averaging no more than 175 pounds. Battles was one of the larger members at 190 pounds.
The Orange and Black compiled the best Wesleyan record in seven years and was one of the stronger team produced by Coach C. B. (Cebe) Ross in 25 years.
The Salem game had been scheduled for Clarksburg's Washington Irving field as part of the Armistice Day celebration. That meant playing only four days after the Bobcats had played West Virginia and Salem had met George Washington.
About 5,000 fans turned out that Nov. 11, a pleasant Indian Summer afternoon.
After several exchanges of punts in the first quarter, Battles returned a punt 29 yards to the Salem 25-yard line. In four plays, with Battles carrying once for seven yards, the Bobcats moved to the Salem five-yard line and then Battles went off left tackle for the first score.
One of the most exciting plays of the game occurred in the second period - an 86-yard touchdown run by Battles on a triple lateral behind the line of scrimmage. It was not designed that way.
"We had no triple pass as the write-up read," Bachtel recalled. "The play was to have been a reverse by me. I became penned in, saw Gip back to me, yelled and lateralled the ball to him. Reversing his field a couple of times and throwing off a couple of tackles, he found running room around end and went for a touchdown."
The Clarksburg Telegram sports writer said Battles broke four or five tackles on that play, and that he lugged players on his back for 10 to 15 yards on other occasions.
"He had the reflex and know-how to throw-off would-be tacklers," Bachtel said. "He was not a brute runner but one who used his natural ability and know-how. Can you imagine a player like Gip behind one of these present day lines?"
In addition to his running, Battles' kicking, pass catching and defensive abilities "were much better than average," according to Bachtel. In those days of single-platoon football, Battles was the safety man in a 6-2-2-1 defense and handled the punting and much of the place kicking for the Bobcats.
Shortly before the half Salem blocked one of Battles' punts and fell on it in the end zone to reduce the Wesleyan margin to 12-6.
The third period belonged to Battles. He showed his versatility as he scored on an eight-yard slash through tackle, caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Bachtel, ran 56 yards around left end to score and returned a punt 62 yards for another touchdown.
Early in the final quarter he scored again on a 10-yard run around end, then retired for the day as fans from both schools joined in loud applause.
Battles had run for 354 yards, added 24 on his TD pass reception and returned punts for 91 yards - a total of 469 yards in a little more than three quarters. He had scored 42 points on seven touchdowns. The final score was 51-6.
Battles was not just a football star at Wesleyan. He lettered in basketball, baseball, track and tennis. He also made Phi Beta Kappa and passed up a possible Rhodes Scholarship to play professional football.
After helping the Redskins win the National Football League championship in 1937, he announced his retirement to become an assistant coach under Lou Little at Columbia University. The salary at Columbia was $4,000 a year - $1,000 more than he had received as one of the top backs in the NFL.