Memorial Stadium, Minneapolis, Minn., Nov. 8 – To beat the previously thrice-beaten Cornhuskers 9-0 today, mighty Minnesota was forced by desperation into the air.
Mighty Minnesota had to put its hopes of victory on a passing offense that had been precarious.
Mighty Minnesota had to assure triumph with a field goal.
Early in the second quarter, atomic Bud Higgins pitched three times with the freezing northwest wind to advance the fiercely contested battle line from his own 43 to the Cornhuskers’ 11. A costly rebound of Dale Bradley’s quick kick had given the frustrated, sweating Mighty men possession on the last play of the opening period.
From the 11, Higgins and Bob Sweiger managed three times to pierce the astonishing, brilliant rampart in red.
The last thrust, an explosive plunge by Sweiger, carried him the needed yard.
Vic Schleich rose like the soaring, flaming cap of an onrushing red wave to block Bill Garnaas’ attempt to place kick a seventh point.
When yards were vital, the Mighty Men never again were able to break the valiant Husker defense.
Twice when the end was drawing close they had to finish their penetration into the enemy domain by attempting field goals. The first, which failed, was from the 30, at an almost impossible angle by Bill Daley. That shows how desperate the Mighty men were.
A few plays later, Bill Garnaas bisected the crossbar with his fourth-down placement from the 14.
That gave the Mighty Men their furiously hard-won safe 9-point margin.
Twenty-three yards. That was the closest the Huskers pitched and ran their way to the Gopher goal. They did this as the first half ended with the indestructible, indomitable Dale Bradley powering the drive with his churning legs and his tireless throwing arm.
Yet it is no paradox to say that the Huskers threatened throughout. It was the ever-dangerous threat of an unquenchable spirit, the sort that might explode spectacularly at any minute.
And the Mighty Men felt the threat and that was why they strived so ferociously to the very end to add to their single touchdown advantage.
And to the very end the Huskers beat them off on the ground, and when they owned the ball they launched with their weary, aching bodies a new assault that was always ominous in its unbelievable freshness and speed.
But the Huskers could not score because defensively the giants in gold plus Higgins, the atom in gold, were even better than their own surprising selves. And this same dynamic mite represented most of the difference in the margin between the offenses of victors and vanquished.
Those 9 points are a fair and accurate numerical representation of the variance in power and talents of these teams today – the Mighty Men, who doubtless still were weary and plainly were crippled after two punishing weekends of warring in the Big Ten, and the kids in the bright red, who rose from crushing humiliation seven days ago to wage this utterly unexpected titanic battle of defense.
Remember the names of those glorious, unyielding 10 – remember them, render the acclaim they so richly merit: Marvin Thompson, Wayne Blue, Clarence Herndon, Fred Preston, George Abel, Howard Kelly, Fred Metheny, Victor Schleich, Fred Meier and Dale Bradley.
Remember them – say them again – and always be sure that the names of Thompson and Blue lead all the rest.
For 60 punishing minutes, nearly 43 thousand watched amazed as seven of those 10 confounded and stifled the power and brawn of the Mighty Men.
For almost that long, the other three fought as gloriously. Injuries forced Bradley, Preston and Thompson to the sidelines, but injuries could not keep them there.
Only the fleet Allen Zikmund was forced by hurts to watch a good part of the struggle from the bench.
Metheny left the field only while Garnaas made his ill-fated attempt to kick the point after touchdown. Time was out then. Metheny was back at the kickoff.
Maker and victim of terrific tackles, the iron-bodied, iron-willed Bradley would be crushed to the cold turf and dazed. He would be led to the sidelines, staggering and limping. And in a minute or so his head would clear and back he'd dash, eager to inflict and eager to take more punishment.
Herndon came back after nearly a month on the sidelines and not only was his magnificently rugged body a precious obstacle and a tremendous asset. His talent for rallying and inspiring his mates was more valuable still.
He and his veteran mate Abel set the fiery emotional tempo. They set it for two who surpassed them. Say their names again – Marvin Thompson and Wayne Blue.
Thompson and Blue, the understudies. The substitutes.
Through others' misfortunes they got their chance. Thompson replaced the injured Gerry Kathol, who lay in a hospital back home. Blue supplanted the scholastically inadequate Vike Francis.
And no end in red ever played more brilliantly than the lean, mustang-tough kid from the Panhandle. There were times when announcement of his succession of electrifying tackles became almost a litany. He spilled Gophers one-handed from in front, from the side and in their own backfield.
And at the other end of the line, his tall mate Preston matched his skill ind riving in the golden-armored way-clearers, and at driving past them and dumping the man with the ball.
Vike Francis never played such a defensive game as the big fresh-faced kid from Tecumseh played this day. No Nebraska fullback ever played a better one. Unerringly he performed his difficult assignment as backer of the five-man line which through the shifting of himself and his fellow backers, Kelly and Abel, often became an eight-man wall that the Gophers could neither skirt nor rend.
And when the Huskers drove their offense that often looked so skilled and promising between the 25-yard lines and earned seven first downs rushing, Blue plunged with swift power that no other Nebraskan has shown at the fullback position for several seasons.
Across the scrimmage line the feats of these dauntless kids were matched – and sometimes surpassed. This, of course, had been expected. It was the way of the Huskers that so thrilled and surprised the throng, and earned the sincere cheers of the sporting Minnesota fans.
Tackle Dick Wildung was darned near Superman. Is there a better player at this position in the land? I doubt it. And the Gopher ends were generally as brilliantly effective as the wings who faced them. Bob Fitch and Judd Ringer, and Herb Hein and Bill Baumgartner who relieved them, had much to do with stopping Nebraska's threats.
Higgins, of course, was the fuse and much of the explosive in the Gopher backfield. His passes delivered when the ground assault was so unexpectedly checked. He was able sometimes to scamper for yardage when yardage simply had to be made. And to start the last quarter, he forced Nebraska into a hole from which it never could completely rescue itself by kicking 39 yards out of bounds three short paces ahead of the Nebraska goal.
Nebraska is 24-32 all-time against Minnesota.
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