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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — If nothing else about Nebraska’s wartime football lives in memory when the good old days of Cornhusker power return, there’ll have to be a place for the Jinx number 54.
Three times last year opponents made 54 points for the highest total ever scored against Nebraska. Minnesota, Indiana and Missouri hit that figure in Nebraska’s 54th year of football in 1943.
And, by a strange coincidence, Indiana made exactly 54 points to the Huskers’ nothing here Saturday afternoon.
Only four seconds remained when Bob Miller passed to Bill Armstrong for the touchdown that made it 54. Johnny Tavener rushed back on the field to try the kick that would have created a record score of 55 — but it sailed a few feet low.
The cold facts are that Indiana simply had too much stuff — ability, experience and coordination — for the young Huskers. The first downs were 20 for Indiana and one for Nebraska, which pretty well tells the story.
That football savvy owned by the Hoosier team performed smoothly before a homecoming day crowd of 15 thousand, which watched the game in a hot and clear atmosphere.
But before going into details of the Hoosier scoring, there are a few things worth recording about the Huskers’ play. Though the score won’t show it, Coach Adolph Lewandowski’s pupils played better than they did against Minnesota two weeks ago.
Ends Lyle Colerick of Alliance, and Bob Koenig of Yankton, S.D., did some fine charging and tackling. Jack Selzer carried on nicely for the absent Bill Betz at left halfback, and came in for many a tackle when the Hoosier runners broke into the secondary.
And center Keith Doyle tried gamely as line backer until going out with an injured right shoulder in the fourth period.
But the one thrill for the Huskers bench was furnished by Doug Nelson, the basketball player from Wausa, Neb.
This play came immediately following an Indiana touchdown which made the score 28-0 early in the third quarter, Selzer tried to field Indiana’s kickoff, but the ball slipped through his fingers. Nelson picked it up on the Husker 20, and started running around, about and over the startled hoosiers.
Down the south sideline he dashed for 25 yards, then he reversed his field, and for a moment broke into the clear toward the faraway northeast corner.
It looked for a moment as if this would be a touchdown — but Nelson grew tired. A dark-skinned little guard, J.C. (Rooster) Coffee, finally overtook Nelson and pulled him down on the Indiana 25-yard line. It was a 55-yard run.
The Huskers couldn’t follow through this opportunity, losing the ball on downs after gaining only four yards in four efforts.
Here’s how the charges of Bo (Show-Them-No-Mercy) McMillin collected their 54 points:
1. Bob Hoernschemeyer ran wide around the Husker left end for 28 yards and the opening touchdown five minutes after the first kickoff.
2. Miller scored from the 3-yard line toward the end of the first period after help on the march from George Sundheim, specializing on delayed bucks and 196-pound Mike Modak.
3. Only touchdown of the second period was Sundheim’s 3-yard plunge.
4. Delmar Russell passed to Ted Kluszewski for 34 yards and third period score, after a bad pass by Nebraska’s substitute center, Duane Berkey, was recovered cat-like by Coffee.
5. Russell ran the last eight yards to score standing up, three plays before the last quarter opened.
6. Ralph Thompson raced 18 yards to score after Buzz Hollins’ punt was blocked by Carl Nestor and recovered by Frank Ciolli.
7. Russell sprinted 28 yards to score, with a good change of pace.
8. The eight touchdown as a second straight pass from Miller to Armstrong for 15 yards.
9. And John Tavener, the fifth-year center, kicked six extra points, the first five in a row, being a surprise starter and almost steady player despite Bo’s advance statement that he wasn’t in shape to hobble off the bench.
The only consolation for the thoroughly beaten Huskers is that things won’t always be like this.
Nebraska is 8-9 all-time against Indiana.
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