MINNEAPOLIS — Eleven minutes were left of the twenty-second meeting between the Cornhuskers and Gophers.
Each team had seven points.
Forty-two yards from the Nebraskans' goal the gold-armed home boys lined up for a third-down play.
To some seven thousand scarlet-decked migrants who packed the south stands there was nothing menacing in this situation.
To some 35 thousand Minnesotans there was little that was promising.
The No. 1 Nebraska unit, with Herman Rohrig in Harry Hopp's position, had equaled with a third-quarter pass and placement the seven points scored by the Gophers in the previous period against the No. 2 Nebraska unit, in which the sophomoric influence had been too strong for such an encounter as this.
Then through the third period and up to now, the No. 1 Nebraska unit had cared capably for the Gopher attack.
No, there was nothing very menacing, and little that was promising.
"Well," said Cornhusker fan to Gopher fan, "We'll settle for seven points," and the statement found general agreement.
Then, on that third down, Half-back Bruce Smith threw a pass. He threw to End Bill Johnson.
Bill Johnson was far behind weary Roy Petsch, which was not as the Huskers' defensive tactics required. Unhampered, Bill Johnson caught the ball on the 10-yard line, and unhampered he crossed for the six points that won.
Leonard Muskin blocked Smith's attempted placement. The total was 13-7, and there the dragging, sweat-soaked Nebraska veterans managed to hold it, because time was on their side.
They managed to stave off the Mighty Men's closing drive toward a third touchdown because the clock ticked even faster than their strength and endurance ebbed.
Maj. Jones risked his spent veterans rather than send back the combination that in the second period had yielded the first touchdown, and none can challenge his judgment. This was no time to carry on a teaching process.
And so the time ran out and for the Cornhuskers the contest entered the realm of defeat and might-have-been.
Bernie Bierman pretty well encompassed the whys and wherefors before saying:
"Biff's reserves were too inexperienced."
Biff's first team, until it fagged, was the peer of any of the often-changing combinations Bernie chased onto the field. But those often-changing combinations kept themselves relatively fresh. They wore the Nebraska kids down. And until they did so, they played 'em even, thrust for thrust, and almost break for break, for they were far more efficient and able than against Washington a week ago.
Yes, that's right almost break for break. Almost.
In the third quarter, with the score 7-0 against his side, Butch Luther broke through the right side on a reverse and raced 66 yards across the goal. Mates spilled pursuing Gophers.
It was a heroic dash, a seemingly perfect play.
But it wasn't. Its beginning was faulty. Linesman John Waldorf saw both teams offside. Back to the Huskers' 34 went the ball, and from there the Huskers had to do it over again, in a harder, slower way.
Passes by Rohrig to Fred Preston and Rohn covered most of the 66 yards on the encore advance. The scoring play was a pitch to Rohn from seven yards out. Henry pounded toward the sidelines behind four blockers, then cut back across the goal.
Rohrig's placement tied the points the Gophers had credited to themselves in the second period after the first Nebraska lineup had stopped their opening quarter drive and forced Smith to dropkick wide from the 21.
The Huskers had something of an opportunity in that inaugural interval, too. Royal Kahler's blocking of Sonny Franck's punt gave them possession on the enemy 36. They advanced it to the 16, and then an end-around, with Preston lugging, dudded miserably. On the maneuver they lost nine yards and possession.
The quarter ended and the second unit went to work. It included four debutants, Guard Ralph Whitehead, End Burdette Wertman and Backs Wayne Blue and Allen Zikmund. It included holdovers like End Bob Ludwick, who played a little a year ago.
At intervals it was spectacular when it had the ball. Zikmund's first play was an 11-yard dash on a double reverse. Sometimes the beginners made resounding and swift tackles. Wertman and Whitehead did.
But it was on the defensive that the youngsters faltered and failed and retreated. They were foxed by the smart generalship of Franck and Warren Plunkett.
From their own 20, where they got possession after a punt, the Gophers raced and passed 80 yards to take the lead. Franck swept 18 yards before old head Bob Burrus pulled him down. Joe Mernik passed to Plunkett for nine more. Zikmund wasn't sure where he should be on this maneuver.
Then, Sophomore Fullback Bill Daley, who learned fast against Washington, burst through a hole in the middle and hurried at sprint speed 47 yards to the five before Zikmund pulled him down. From there Daley plunged twice. That was enough. Mernik's placement made it seven.
Before the half ended the Might Men progressed again against these desperately trying, too verdant youngsters, from their own 27 to the youngsters' six. Biff sent back his old hands.
The old hands in the line threw up an impenetrable barrier. On fourth down, Guard Gordon Paschka tried to kick a placement for the 11.
The kick was low. It hit a mass of linemen and bounded back. Bob Paffrath picked it up and tried to run it. He was ganged a yard from the goal.
And then Hopp punted 51 yards from the end zone.
Nebraska is 25-33 all-time against Minnesota.
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