Lincoln — In 1936, the Hoosiers led, 9-0, at the finish of the first half.
At the end of the game the Cornhuskers were ahead, 13-9.
A sweltering 33 thousand this afternoon came close to witnessing a repetition of this still famed two games in one — with the roles reversed.
The Cornhuskers led, 13-0, at the end of the first half, and indications said they’d probably double the reckoning during the last sun-fried 30 minutes.
Instead the Cornhuskers managed by desperate warring to hold a margin through two very trying after-recess intervals. Not until little more than a half minute remained did they regain command of a situation that had almost overwhelmed them. They held on, and the final bookkeeping read:
Nebraska 13, Indiana 7.
During the first half the Hoosiers penetrated just once into enemy territory, and then the penetration constituted no more than an academic threat.
During the last half the Hoosiers were almost constant dwellers within raid alarm distance of the Huskers’ last thin stripe.
But there was a difference between the two-in-one thriller four years ago, and the almost two-in-one-thriller of this day.
Then the reinsertion of Sam Francis at the third quarter’s start brought a quick change from bungling passivity to a fierce yen for aggression.
Today the Huskers’ own mental and physical misplays gave the Hoosiers the opportunity and encouragement they needed to try to overcome what had seemed a hopeless deficit.
There was no hint of this during the opening half hour. The Jones Boys were almost faultless in their execution of maneuvers that produced six points when two minutes remained in the first period and seven more after a third of the second had been played by Biff’s strongly sophomore flavored second unit. Indeed, the kids were doing so well that Biff, after the second touchdown, dipped into his third lineup - and the results were booming.
The first touchdown capped a 64-yard advance that presented Herman Rohrig in a brilliantly performed all-around role. In two smashes through the left side he bounced and dodged and drove for 25 yards.
Then Herman pitched toward Ray Prochaska. Bob White half checked the ball in midair. It bounced up — and then down, into Prochaska’s big hands for 12 yards profit.
The valiant, sinister black line yielded grudgingly and insufficiently to thrusts by Herman and Vike Francis, so Herman threw again.
And again Senator Prochaska made the catch, this time just on the near side of the goal, across which he stepped unhindered.
Ed Rucinski blocked Herman’s placement and the count stayed at 6 until the No. 2 battalion got going.
The No. 2 youngsters had to try once and fail before the capitalized. It didn’t take long. With Harry Hopp pitching to Sophomores Allen Zikmund and Gerry Kathol they continued the drive begun by the starters late in the first quarter, when Rohrig rolled back 22 yards to the Hoosier 49 with Harold Hursh’s punt.
They drove to the Hoosiers’ five, did those kids, mostly through the air, and then on fourth down, following three dudded running plays, the annoying Eddie Rucinski knocked down Hopp’s pass.
From the end zone Hursh punted out on his own 30, and from there three plays were enough. Rohn plunged for six. Hopp refused to be trapped trying to pass and added four by running left end.
Then Harry threw to Zikmund. The highly-potent beginner from Ord fielded the ball near the east sideline, and with Hursh and Earl Doloway diving at him from behind, dragged them across the goal. Rohn kicked the placement that made it 13 to 0.
Husker third hands were shooed into the battle, and they mingled effectively with the second stringers to continue the aggression until injury forced Zikmund’s departure just before the half ended.
It looked then as if the recess would only delay the onslaught. Instead —
The Huskers — the first-choice Huskers — began strange conduct. Thirteen points ahead they were, and Rohrig had just made the punt of the day - a 65-yard zoomer that cut the sideline just ahead of the goal-line flag.
The ball was almost on the chalk as the Hoosiers lined up for Hursh to punt from the end zone. The ball rolled dead 39 yards ahead.
Then, with the advantage all on his side, Rohrig passed! Gene White intercepted and dashed almost 25 yards to the Huskers’ 34 before Leonard Muskin grounded him.
From then on, almost without interruption until just before the taps gun, the Hoosiers were the bosses.
The Hoosiers revived. Their line, which from towering black Archie Harris to the ever-present Ed Rucinski had bothered the Huskers in the first half, became the markedly superior rampart. Despite the brief breathing spells given these two fine ends and the mate who played between them, the line remained superior almost to the end.
It was the line that made the Hoosier backs look good on running plays — backs who are slow. It was the line that held the Huskers off hurling Master Hursh until he usually had time to take careful aim.
He passed to the little skeeter Harold Zimmer, who waited in the corner, Zimmer eluded Prochaska and Butch Luther to make connections. Then Prochaska tried to tackle the busy mite. Had he succeeded, Zimmer would have failed to make a first down. Instead Zimmer wasped around the Senator and scooed over the goal. Gene White’s boot made it 13-7.
Then Nebraska dropped the ball while attempting reverses. Nebraska intercepted passes, then fumbled away possession.
The bungling wasn’t entirely on Nebraska’s side. If it had been Nebraska almost surely would have yielded another touchdown, maybe more.
The Indianans boggled too, but they kept trying. They kept driving. They kept passing.
Vike Francis’ spectacular 56-yard plunge and run which was cut to a net 26 because of clipping was only a brief interlude in action whose hue was dominantly black — the black of the Hoosiers’ armor.
But Ray Dumke couldn’t get through the holes opened by his blockers quite often enough. Hurling Hal couldn’t connect any more in profitable succession.
When time had about run out the Huskers were suddenly in command again. Freddy Meier interrupted one of Master Hursh’s throws and pounded to the Hoosiers’ 12 before Bob White thumped him down. The Viscount rammed to the Hoosiers’ four as the pistol popped, and the Huskers had won the first half and the ball game.
The Huskers had accumulated a better pitching average than the team whose strength was supposed to lie in pitching almost exclusively. The Huskers had looked very good — and then very bad. The Hoosiers, at the same time had looked outmanned and outpowered and then, suddenly, terrific! And in the line they were.
Nebraska is 8-9 all-time against Indiana.
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