Nebraska 13
#14 Oklahoma 7

Nov. 25, 1939 • Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.

N.U. Gives Oklahoma 13-7 Lesson to Take Runner-up Spot in Big Six


Hermie Rohrig fades back from 10, rifles first touchdown pass to Roy Petsch on one. Sooners looked on as he went over standing up to climax 79-yard drive after two minutes of the second quarter. JOHN SAVAGE/THE WORLD-HERALD


Petsch Grabs Pair of Flips for 12 Points

Francis Shines Among Many Stars; on Line Ashburn Stands Out

Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Nov. 25 – The 13-to-7 score doesn’t suggest the thoroughness of the thrashing the Cornhuskers inflicted upon the Sooners this afternoon.

The Cornhuskers defied the Sooners to display their most crushing power, their most spectacular speed and their most devastating assault from the air.

The Cornhuskers repulsed them all. They stifled the plunges and sprints and passes in a manner that dismayed the Sooners, and at intervals all but demoralized them.

Demonstrate to Masters

Then the Cornhuskers demonstrated the proper employment of these maneuvers to the boys who had been acclaimed masters of their usage.

Through the late moments of the first period and throughout the second, 20 or so Cornhuskers became two of the most brilliant offensive combinations to wear the Scarlet in many an autumn.

And it was against Oklahoma, generally regarded as the mightiest in the midlands despite its 6-to-7 loss to Missouri, that the Cornhuskers did this.

Mightiest on This Day

Hail, then, Missouri, the new champion of the Big Six!

But on this day, for most of the time allotted to warring, the Nebraskans were not only the season’s mightiest in the conference, but certainly also among the mightiest in the land.

Against Missouri, though, they were not. By Missouri they were convincingly defeated, and so tonight they rank as the runners-up, forced into that role by the Missouri victory – the only one scored against them during a campaign that, although it did not return them to league preeminence, in other respects combined to produce the most brilliant record in almost a generation.

Oklahoma to Third

Into third position dropped the Oklahomans, the defenders who this term had been cast as a prairie-sweeping scourge.

And the reverberation from their fall must have been heard down on the proud and confidence Redlands, and produced deep mourning there.

Only when a minute and a half remained, while No. 3 defenders sought to dud Beryl Clark’s attack from above, did the Sooners manage to cross the Cornhuskers’ goal.

This they accomplished on three straight pitches by Clark. The third was snatched out of twilight by End Alton Coppage who stepped from his one-yard line across the double stripe. Then Clark place kicked true.

Whitewash Possible

As reliable second-guessing as is possible says the Huskers wouldn’t have had to yield this score, for the nearly-two elevens of Huskers who waged most of the convincing chastisement presented for the first time in nine opportunities a defense that wrecked what the figures say had been one of the finest aerial offensives in the land. But maybe it’s just as well. Maybe Major Jones turned charitable as time approached the end, and it was certain that one touchdown could do no damage.

Major Jones, along with most of the nearly 37 thousand who watched the climactic finale, could reflect happily on the prodigious performance of those nearly-two elevens. They’d have been two complete lineups had relief been given Vike Francis and Jack Ashburn during the second or third periods.

These Two – Vike, Jack

For 45 minutes Jack, the senior, and Vike, the sophomore, did jobs that each in its different way was ruinous to the Oklahomans’ objective.

It was Jack on defense – Jack and his farewell-saying mate, George Seemann.

It was Vike on offense – Vike whose foe-crushing, foe-scattering plunges perhaps made him the Cornhuskers’ sophomore of the year.

But this is no tale of the heroic accomplishments of individuals. It is the tale of team conquest – of two teams’ conquest of two other teams.

Riddle O.U. Line

Its high moments for the throng came swiftly in the second period, after the early sweeps and drives of the inflamed Sooners were abruptly extinguished by a combination of fumbles and Cornhusker savvy, chiefly the latter, for the fumbling business had been rather impartially done.

Without a hint of what was to come, the Cornhusker starters late in the quarter began from their own 21 a smashing, slashing, deceptive advance that made lost boys of what many an expert had called the finest line in the conference.

The expiration of the interval didn’t stop the reverses of Butch Luther, the slanting thrusts of Harry Hopp and the charges of Vike the Viscount. Vike stayed in after the swap of goals and Bob Kahler and Hermie Rohrig took up where Luther and Hopp left off.

Sooners Bamboozled

The Sooner ends floated when they should have played in close. They drove in when they should have floated. The Sooner tackles were similarly nonplussed. On the few occasions when these linemen weren’t fooled, they were bopped to the unseasonable turf (it’s dyed) by the deadly blocking of Warren Alfson and Eddie Schwartzkopf and Bus Knight and Roy Petsch and their mates.

On and on swept the marvelously timed and tremendously powered advance. On and on, first down after first down – 20 yards, 30 yards, 50 yards, 60 yards, 71 yards.

First down. Eight more yards to shove behind with cleated shoes. Bob Kahler, he of the Ichabod stride, made that first down possible by his way of running a reverse.

Stop Wrong Man

Rohrig lost two trying left end. The Sooners set themselves to stop a sweep by Kahler toward the other flank.

The Sooners were right! There goes Kahler on a reverse. Francis fed it to him. The Sooners will stop him, just as they stopped Rohrig, with a loss.

The Sooners did stop Kahler, but Kahler only lugged a phantom ball. It was only a phantom ball that Vike had slipped to him.

What’s this! Touchdown?

Yes, a touchdown, scored by an unmolested Cowboy Petsch, who hadn’t lugged the ball up to then, and did little more than a stride of lugging to complete the 79-yard drive.

Petsch Overlooked

Roy Petsch caught a swift pass that zinged accurately from Hermie Rohrig’s right arm. It was thrown down the defensive left side, which was practically depopulated of Sooners. The Sooners were chasing Kahler far over on the right.

The Cowboy fielded the pitch untouched and untouched he stepped across in the corner.

Two minutes of the quarter had passed when Rohrig’s placement looped wide.

Nine more minutes had gone when the total was increased to 13 by virtual duplication.

First Down to Six

It was necessary to cover only 58 yards this time. Hermie, the Ambling Barrel, covered the first 13 with a spectacular runback of Clark’s punt. A gang chased him across the boundary on the enemy 45.

From there Francis resumed his line rending, first for 10 yards, then for a dozen. Kahler added three on a reverse to the right, and then Hermie pitched for the second time to Petsch.

This time payment wasn’t so direct. The Cowboy was spilled by Bill Jennings on the six, but that was enough yardage to yield a dividend in the way of another first down. Hermie fired again. The ball bounced off Ashburn’s fingertips in the end zone.

Again Rohrig to Petsch

With one play left in the series, Hermie aimed once again at the Cowboy. Johnny martin couldn’t prevent the catch, but he tried to thwart the essential three-step sprint.

The Cowboy rode hard. He leaped over Johnny, who fell on his belly. The Cowboy crossed again, to score in the season’s last game his only two touchdowns, and these without carrying once from scrimmage.

This time Hermie’s kick added the point, and with the figures 13 to 0, the Huskers spent the third quarter repulsing the Sooners’ desperate efforts aground and above.

Punting Effective

The Sooners never really threatened. They began after intermission as they began the game – a drive that threatened dire things but even as on the first occasion it pfutted. Butch Luther’s recovery of Byron Potter’s fumble was a big help.

Hopp and Rohrig did effective protective punting. No combination of Oklahomans could carry on a sustained drive to overcome their kicks. Tom Stidham used every back, including Jack Jacobs, but the promising Creek sophomore was held captive pretty effectively, as were his mates.

Only when the major went three deep in the backfield could the Sooners effectively combine prayers and passes to score. And then, as already stated, there wasn’t time enough to enable the Sooners to do anything damaging.

More coverage

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Series history

Nebraska is 38-45 all-time against Oklahoma.

See all games »


1939 season (7-1-1)

Indiana Sept. 30
Minnesota Oct. 7
Iowa State Oct. 14
Baylor Oct. 21
Kansas State Oct. 28
Missouri Nov. 4
Kansas Nov. 11
Pittsburgh Nov. 18
Oklahoma Nov. 25

This day in history

Nebraska has played 21 games on Nov. 25. See them all »

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