Cornhusker Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb., Nov. 13 – Through the dismal, cold gray of an unceasing, driving rain, a soggy, dripping football described a perfect arc from the superbly controlled toe of Bobby Stephens over the Kansas Aggies’ cross-bar to a deep, squashing and profitable lodgement in the immunity at the end zone.
On that 30-yard journey of a soggy, dripping football rode the hopes and fears of two slipping, fumbling, skidding elevens, and when it cleared the barrier with inches to spare and buried itself in the muck that was once firm playing field, it buried with it all hopes of the Kansas Aggies for their first Missouri Valley conference championship, all hopes of the Kansas Aggies that this Saturday was their Saturday, and on this day they also would achieve their first victory of all time over the Cornhuskers.
That goal from placement, kicked by Bobby Stephens in the third period wrote into the scoring record all that was written by Husker or Aggie Saturday, but while it carried its message of hopeless defeat to the mud-smeared warriors whose ensign is the Purple, it brought new hope to the Cornhuskers, hope that the victory against the last conference foe of the season again will place them at the Valley conference’s summit where the Cornhuskers in years past were wont to rule perennially. Defeat of Oklahoma A. & M. by Oklahoma’s Sooners on Thanksgiving Day will topple the A. & M. eleven from undefeated leadership to a place well down in the ranks and simultaneously will elevate the Cornhuskers to the pinnacle.
So far as Nebraska’s efforts in its own behalf are concerned, they were completed Saturday afternoon when Bobby Stephens sent a soggy, dripping football arching perfectly from placement and then by a great exhibition of gameness and nerve and excellent generalship matched toe and wits with Cochrane, famous Aggie quarter, and held the Aggies at bay until the “pfap” of the timekeeper’s pistol filtered through the downpour.
Twenty-six thousand of Husker realm’s homecoming host and a hopeful, belligerent pilgrim band from Manhattan watched with alternating thrills and quavers of apprehension the Aggie’s desperate vain, often fantastic attempts to rally, to force the favor of fortune, by brute force to dominate both Cornhuskers and the inexorable elements. They saw the Aggies, late in the closing period, capitalizing advantage gained by a thrilling long-continued exchange of punts between Stephens and Cochrane, loom ominously above the Scarlet goal line, while Stephens, game and unflinching, deliberately punted high and far from behind Nebraska’s uprights.
The 26 thousand, who though shivering and soaked by the hardest downpour ever to beat upon the armor of Nebraska’s warriors, refused to seek shelter, stayed and saw big Dewey Huston stumble through the lowering dusk from the bench where the Kansans huddled and into midfield.
Huston’s toe had beaten Oklahoma in the dying moments but a fortnight before. These were the dying moments of this most crucial of combats. Twice, with but a soaking fumbling interval between, Big Dewey drove his muddied shoe against the ball in placement. Twice Big Dewey Huston’s kicks went low, the first of them crashing into the scrimmage line.
Cochrane, too, that dueler supreme when punts are the weapons, four times tried to gain an advantage by drop-kicking goal. Early in the contest he made his first attempt, and it like the three that followed, were low and wide.
Only the toe of Stephens told a story worth recording in the books where the records are entered. Huston’s two attempts from placement and Cochrane’s quartet of failures at dropping the ball were the only other direct threats at scoring throughout the contest. True, if Bobby Stephens had fumbled that punt from behind his own goal in the last quarter – but Stephens didn’t. Calm and deliberate, with beautiful precision and surprisingly few fumbles of a ball that seemed greased, Bobby Stephens kicked Nebraska to victory, and by a demonstration of superior strategy held the enemy in check.
Saturday was no day for a team that likes aerial cruising, for any aviator knows the dangers that accompany flight through a raging storm. Yet in their desperation the Aggies essayed their bally-hooed passing attack, and to their sorrow. They completed two of nine attempts, neither of them at a period when the completion netted profit. Another was intercepted, and the interception by Shaner in the fourth period put Nebraska out of danger for the remainder of the game.
Nebraska tried a single pass. An Aggie horned into the receiving combination and Nebraska returned to earth and stayed there.
Early in the game, before the field became a swamp, Presnell of the Huskers, and Holsinger and Feather of the Aggies, matched their talents at line plunging, with Presnell, now and then assisted by Brown and Stephens, equaling the efforts of the Aggie backs. Howell went into the fray late in the second quarter, and stayed long enough to hold the ball when Stephens scored his placekick. Howell was called upon for a few plunges, and he made them, but yardage is not to be consistently gained by rushing. Four through the line, then three perhaps – and then a fumble.
The Cornhuskers gained 105 yards by rushing as compared to 84 covered by the Manhattan Farmers. Each team made four first downs, but Nebraska earned only two, while the Aggies earned three.
Cochrane had the advantage of Stephens at actual kicking during the punting duel which all but monopolized the closing period and a portion of the third. Cochrane’s boots averaged 44 yards; Bobby’s mean distance was 39. Bobby was the smarter general, however. Furthermore when a crisis was imminent, Bobby booted the soaking oval tremendous stretches through the deluge. Twice he sent it 65 yards, a distance Cochrane never equaled.
After Cochrane had kicked off to Stephens, Nebraska began a pretty plunging offensive that carried the ball from their own 29-yard line to near midfield. A succession of penalties, although almost evenly levied, seemed to nettle the Huskers. After earning a first down by smashing the Purple forwards and receiving another through a Kaggie penalty the Huskers found themselves stopped near their 50-yard line. Stephens then tried the only Nebraska pass of the game and Mr. Fleck, an alert Bachman boy, reached up and took it.
Holsinger and Feather then duplicated the plunging feats of Presnell and his associates, Feather, on a fake pass play, whanging through Nebraska’s right tackle for 26 yards. This put heart into the Aggies and with renewed vigor they sailed into the Husker wall, concentrating their attack at guard and center. To the Scarlet 14-yard line they worked it, then Cochrane back-stepped to his 20-yard line to essay a drop-kick. Lonnie Stiner broke through and blocked it. Thus passed the Aggies’ best chance to score.
For the remainder of the period neither team was capable of a sustained offensive and punts became more frequent as the intensity of the rain increased. Hammond, Kaggie half, completed a 10-yard pass to Cochrane as the quarter ended.
Unable to do much with a Nebraska line that became more formidable as the fray progressed, Cochrane, soon after the second period opened, again tried his luck at drop-kicking, this time from the 34-yard line. The damp ball never had a chance. It skipped low, along the turf beneath the crossbar.
Stephens punted soon after Nebraska took the ball on its 20-yard line. Cochrane punted right back. The dueling quarterbacks kept up a merry fire which was interrupted only infrequently. Once Cochrane passed 25 yards to Hammond, but to no avail. A moment later Mr. Cochrane demonstrated his persistence and refusal to acknowledge failure by making his third trial for a score by drop-kick. This time he increased his distance to 48 yards. It was the worst attempt of his three. Another exchange of punts and Cochrane tried once more, from the same line, with the same success.
Late in the second quarter Blue Howell went in for Frank Dailey. The Aggies had the ball at the time, and kept it until the first half expired, amid ever-increasing bombardment of rain.
The Aggies kicked off at the start of the half. Nebraska failed to make one yard on fourth down and the Aggies took the ball on their 29-yard line. Mr. Cochrane punted forthwith. Stephens booted right back, the ball already handicapped by the weight of water sailing 65 yards to the Aggie 10-yard line.
Sensing danger, Cochrane evidently became slightly panicky and he hoisted a tall one, which covered but 16 yards. It was Nebraska’s bail on its own 26-yard line. Mr. Howell was drafted for purposes of hard-boiled conveyance and ran the ball to the Aggie 20-yard line. Stephens dropped back to the 30-yard line. With caution he and Howell prepared the setting. The ball was snapped to Howell. He poised it in the slick turf. Bobby sighted and snapped forward. The impact of wet boot on wet ball. From the first rise it was apparent the kick would be good.
Stephens kicked off and for the remainder of the quarter the two quarterbacks traded pedal compliments. The third period ended as Stephens punted 60 yards to Cochrane, who ran back to the Aggie 48-yard line before Randells downed him.
Cochrane punted over the Husker goal at the beginning of the closing period. Stephens ran the ball out to the 27-yard line from touchback position. There he fumbled and the Aggies smothered the ball.
This was the break the Bachman boys had been kicking for. Through the semidark lurched Dewey Huston, he who had snatched victory from Oklahoma at just such a time as this. Huston’s first attempt, from the 42-yard line, bombarded the forward wall. A minute or so after, he tried again, from the Nebraska 38-yard line. He failed again.
Back and forth, back and forth, thud! biff! thud! seldom did either Stephens or Cochrane fail to punt on the first down. Slowly Cochrane’s slightly better distance drove Nebraska back. Finally one of his long projections rested on the Husker eight-yard line.
Many there were who hoped that Bobby Stephens would down the ball for a safety in order to get it on his own 20-yard line. This, they chattered and shivered, was safer than risking a kick with that water-logged ball. But Bobby didn’t. From his end zone he sent a heavy spiral to his own 24-yard line, netting four more yards than a safety would have given and at the cost of only superb nerve.
Desperate in the waning moments, Bachman sent in Enns, his injured quarter. Enns lasted one play. He passed, was injured anew and went out, Lyons replaced him, as he had replaced Cochrane, Lyons began passing wildly. A wild one got in sawed-off Shaner’s way. He gathered it in. That happened on the Aggie 42-yard line. Nebraska never again was in danger, although a fumble gave the Aggies the ball shortly after. The Huskers proceeded to nail Lyons for losses before he could project passes out of his hand, and had just recovered a Lyons fumble as the game ended.
Nebraska is 78-15 all-time against Kansas State.
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|Kansas State||Nov. 13|
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