Living up to a reputation which has developed in fierce battles of the past to such a point that it approached a superstition, the gallant Cornhuskers of Nebraska fought the burly, confident and much touted Gophers of Minnesota to a veritable standstill on the Vinton park gridiron yesterday afternoon, holding them to a scoreless first half and losing to them in the second by the highly respectable and in every way gratifying total of 14 to 0.
The big stadium was jammed with some 8,000 raving enthusiasts, mostly wearing the scarlet and cream of Nebraska, but well sprinkled with the maroon and gold of the Gophers. That Minnesota would win was such a foregone conclusion that the comparatively slender margin by which they accomplished the feat was almost in the nature of a triumph for the Cornhuskers, who came upon the field with slender hope to bolster them up and with no enviable record for the past few weeks up on which to rely. It was a conflict of desperation and the magnificent defense piled up before the mighty masses of the Minnesotans will long be a source of joyous remembrance to the worshipers of Nebraska and a lasting tribute to the consummate skill and ability of King Cole, the grand coach of the cream and crimson.
From the time the huge bands of “Huskers” began to fill the stand and their corps of rooting officials took charge, it was a case of braving out what appeared on the face of it to be an impending and devastating storm. It was with courageous and desperately smiling faces that the thousands from Lincoln watched their braves take the field and saw the seasoned and formidable forces of the enemy confidently array themselves against them. It was expected that the gory slaughter was about to occur at ‘Oh, you Cornhusker spirit.’
The ball was often in the Gophers’ territory and seldom in Nebraska’s for long, and at no time was the goal of the Cornhuskers in danger. Whenever the pigskin wobbled threateningly near to the last chalkline, captain Buck Beltzer’s good right toe booted it far and away into safety, and the rooters from the vicinity of the much disputed North Pole were grieved and shocked when the whistle squealed the conclusion of the initial segment of the fray.
As far as the whole game is concerned, Nebraskans for years to come will far prefer to ponder on the first half than the second. Coach Doc Williams, who don’t like Nebraska nohow and having heard so many tales of woe concerning the indisputable weakness of the Cornhuskers this year, tried to fool with them the first half. Wally Steffens, the great quarterback of last year’s Chicago team, was on the sidelines having a look at what the Gophers will offer Stagg’s gang two weeks from yesterday. If Williams had any idea of covering his pet plays he was certainly forced to unbuckle in the second half, and the bottle was opened full wide. The sum total of his best offense against the young and worn out array presented against the young and worn out array presented against him was two touchdowns well seasoned with luck and one splendid drop kick by captain McGovern
During the progress of the game it was announced per megaphone that Pittsburg had won the championship of the baseball world. This suggested to the football experts in the press stand an apt parallel between Hans Wagner, better known as “The Pittsburgh Team,” and Johnny McGovern, who is equally well-entitled to the moniker of “The Minnesota Team.” It was against this unhurtable, stocky, belligerent little captain that the Cornhuskers had to center most of their defense, for the 286 yards gained by the Gophers, McGovern certainly gained nearly 200. He was everywhere, especially in the second half. He did the kicking and ran back almost all of Beltzer’s long, difficult return kicks. He carried the ball two out of three times and the Nebraska backfield seemed helpless against him. He capped the offmax of a day of great achievements by kicking a beautiful drop from the 35-yard line squarely between the goal posts.
But before all this surprise and excitement had been loosed, there were stirring times in the heart of the city. The myriads of rooters who came from Lincoln and Minnesota had considerable difficulty in finding a means of reaching the park. The cars were crowded to the guards and many took the more convenient method of walking. Upon reaching the grounds they were better cared for, as a competent system of gatekeepers and ushers had been provided by the able management under manager Eager. The Nebraska Cadet band was stationed before the east grandstand and favored the multitude with several selections before the trouble commenced.
The Cornhuskers arrived in autos shortly before 3 o’clock and immediately began passing the ball and running through signals back of the east stands. Soon they took the field and were greeted with a great explosion of cheers, songs and rah-rahs typical of a true and loyal college spirit. Minnesota also came in the scoot wagons and occupied a tent pitched in the northeast corner of Pa Rourke’s lot. Big piles of straw on either side of the gridiron furnished lounging places for the players and substitutes and the Gophers were seen on the scene. The band played desperately and the Minnesotans vied with the Nebraskans in making loyal noises. Nebraska chose to defend the north goal and Beltzer kicked off. The memorable conflict was on.
The Cornhusker line outweighed the Gophers by a few pounds, but also seemed to have a system which baffled their opponents regardless of avoirdupois. Realizing this, McGovern tried the ends. He had better fortune here, and made a few gains, but the Cornhusker guards and tackles developed a nasty habit of breaking through his interference and nabbing the fleet skirmishers behind the chalk before they could operate their peculiar and far-famed trick plays.
McGovern and Johnston were the whole show as far as the Gophers were concerned, both playing in the backfield in defense and carrying the ball most of the time in offense. Time after time they ran back Beltzer’s long punts through a scattered field, the Cornhusker runners seeming to be unable to nab them when there was practically no interference. And again, when Minnesota had the ball, they would elude the Nebraska ends and circle for long gains. That no touchdown was made in this half was entirely due to the almost superhuman efforts of the linemen who always rallied at critical moments and pounded the Gophers into the ground before they could start on their long journeys.
And, by the way, Nebraska gave an exhibition of as clean football as has probably ever been played. At no time did they indulge in rough work, although in the second half Johnston was accidentally crippled for the rest of the season. In the first half, during a particularly critical stage of the game, Johnston was off on one of his long jaunts around the end when he was tackled by one of Colo’s fleet backs, Rathbone, coming at full speed, deliberately threw himself head-foremost upon the hard ground to avoid needlessly pounding the Minnesota man, who was already in captivity. This was but one of the many instances of chivalry on the part of the Cornhuskers.
In the stands, also, was this spirit not seeable. When Johnston was hurt the Nebraskans gave him many a long and resounding cheer, which to his painstricken senses must have still seemed somewhat of a balm. Other Gophers who were temporarily knocked out received the same treatment at the hands of the rooters, and there seemed to be a genuine sympathy for those who were suffering in honorable battle. Only one man was cautioned for rough work and that was Powers, the giant Gopher right guard in the second half. He was nearly ejected from the game, but on promise of better behavior was allowed to remain.
So, after vainly battering each other up and down the gridiron while the multitudes of both colleges observed, yelled and wondered, the two teams finally finished the first half with the ball in center of the field—no score. Nebraska showed, as has been said, a wonderful defense, but its offense was sadly weak. Often when forward passes were attempted, Bentley stood with the ball poised and found no one to whom to throw it. The backs seemed incapable of getting together to gain ground, and the bulk of the work fell on the line. Beltzer kicked almost even with McGovern, and this, at many stages of the game, aided in preventing a Gopher score.
In the intermission the university cadet band paraded the field, followed by the Nebraska colors and its color guard, firing continuous volleys. Following them were some thousands of enthusiastic students, enjoying, the revelry of the famous snake dance, which is a fearsome sight to look upon. This writhing, rollicking, riotous spectacle lasted almost during the entire siesta, and when it was concluded the rooters were about ready to expire with exhaustion.
The second half was a more grievous matter, coach Williams had to uncork the best he had or run a chance of losing the game and the team’s prestige. So he unveiled his inmost secrets, greatly to the delight of Walter Steffens, the famous ex-quarterback of Chicago and present Stagg scout. The tricks won the game, all right, but that was all—and they cost the services of Johnston, the invaluable half. In one of the first scrimmages following a forward pass, Harte of Nebraska tackled Johnston and threw him heavily to the ground. A bone in his ankle snapped, and his services to Williams’ team were at an end. Rosenwald took his place at left half and played an excellent game.
A lucky forward pass struck a player bounded and was recovered on Nebraska’s 5-yard line. This was a disastrous blow—a piece of most incomprehensible luck. The Gophers gloated in it and twice tried to shove the pigskin over, but the line of Nebraska was adamant. So the Gophers held a conference, piled up all their weight, massed it on right tackle and managed by a superhuman effort to accomplish their first touchdown, pushing fullback Smith across the line. Farnum missed goa. Score—Minnesota 5, Nebraska 0.
Beltzer kicked off and the battle was renewed. Open plays, bewildering to Nebraska, allowed McGovern to romp around the field almost at will. On their 35-yard line Nebraska recovered the ball and Beltzer kicked, but his punt was blocked and rolled far toward Nebraska’s goal, the ball being recovered by a truculent Gopher. On the next play Nebraska was penalized five yards for offside play and Smith was again shoved over for a touchdown. This time Farnum kicked goal and the score was Minnesota 11, Nebraska 0.
It was plain that Nebraska was weakening, but hopes were entertained that she might score by some lucky chance, but that chance never came. McGovern was all over the field, nailing runners and running the ball himself. After he had run the ball by three consecutive plays almost for a touchdown, the Minnesotans were penalized for a failing forward pass, and McGovern booted a pretty drop squarely between the goal posts from the 35-yard line. This was the last point of the game. Score—Minnesota 14, Nebraska 0.
The Gophers (meaning McGovern) once more started their march goalward and reached the 5-yard line before time was called and the affray was over. In the meantime Schauner was put in Johnson’s place at Nebraska’s left end and did splendid work. The game ended with the Cornhuskers were very tired and the Gophers willing to quit.
Of the Nebraska bunch, captain Beltzer showed up supremely great. His kicking, running, tackling and head work was of the highest and the Minnesota men were the first to praise him. Franck, Rathbone and Ewing were other stars. For Minnesota there was McGovern and McGovern and McGov—. Rademacher and McCree also showed when they had a chance.
The attendance and high class of the game is said to insure Omaha at least one big football match each year, which will be good news to the thousands of fanatics in the city. The streets of Omaha had the appearance of a real “university town” yesterday and the populace seemed to revel in it.
Minnesota and Nebraska each sought their haunts last evening—the Gophers to Minneapolis at 9 o’clock and the Cornhuskers to Lincoln later.
Nebraska is 25-32 all-time against Minnesota.
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