Memorial Stadium, Lincoln — It may not last long, but right now Nebraska is all alone on top of the Big Six Conference football standings.
The Huskers smothered Kansas State before 35,500 fans here Saturday, 31-0, in the only circuit business during this infant season.
And coach Bernie Masterson’s pupils showed sufficient savvy with the T formation to promise interesting action the rest of the year.
Bernie cleaned his bench of substitutes, using 42 players and giving his second and third stringers more time on the field than the starters.
Despite too many fumbles and too many penalties, it was a pleasing game for an opening-day home turnout, which fell slightly short of being a record. Threatening weather undoubtedly kept away two or three thousand.
All three Husker quarterbacks — Sam Vacanti, Dick Thompson and Fred Metheny — handled the key-man chores creditably. They mixed pass and running plays well enough to keep coach Hobbs Adams’ Wildcats puzzled most of the time.
The Huskers scored in each quarter, with fleet Dick Hutton of Auburn reaching the end zone on the game’s two most spectacular plays.
Less than a minute remained in the first quarter when the first points were picketed. Thompson had passed to end Alex Cochrane of Ord for 22 yards, and the ball was on the K-State 32.
Hutton took the ball from Thompson and scooted for the east sidelines. He seemed hemmed in, but Pat Rooney put a good block on Gene Snyder to break Dick into open.
Down the sidelines flashed Hutton, barely avoiding the out-of-bounds chalk mark to reach the end zone untouched.
Fans started praising Hutton but that was only a sample of his work. He did even better in the third period.
This was a beautiful play, one of those things which you can see taking shape the moment the ball is snapped.
Vacanti took the ball under center and ran back fully 10 yards. Hutton was the man in motion, and he never broke his stride. As he streaked down the east sideline, Vacanti let fly with a long pass.
Hutton’s speed enabled him to get behind halfback Herman Lesco of Kansas State. And as he sprinted full speed, the ball settled right into his arms.
Hutton made the catch on the 15-yard line, then eased up as he went the rest of the way all alone. The play was good for 56 yards.
The other touchdowns were made by Gerry Moore, holdover fullback from Walthill, and Bill Moomey of York.
Moore made two of them — on a plunge of four yards late in the third period and another of two in the fourth quarter.
The other six-pointer came with five minutes left in the second quarter. It was on a deceptive maneuver engineered by Vacanti.
Vacanti took the ball and ran to his right, faking a forward pass. Then he wheeled, and tossed a long lateral to Moomey, who was hiking in the other direction. Moomey made the 10-yard scoring run untouched.
Vacanti had to kick from the 27-yard line for the only extra point Nebraska scored, because the line had been holding on his first try. The same kind of penalty nullified his good kick following the second score — but on this day extra points didn’t matter.
The Husker forwards functioned much better on defense than they had at Minnesota last week.
In fact, they held the Wildcats to a net gain of 42 yards. The Wildcats gained 59 yards rushing and 58 yards on passing — but they lost 75 yards when Husker forwards broke through and spilled men behind the line of scrimmage.
Kansas State’s two touchdown threats early in the first period were turned back by some savage defensive play.
A Sam Vacanti fumble on fourth down gave the Wildcats the ball on the Nebraska 24. A Ted Grimes to Tom Jones lateral later gave K-State nine yards and a first down on the one-foot line.
The Huskers were penalized half the distance for offside.
Three plays later Kansas State was back on the 2½-yard line and on the fourth down Jones was short by a yard after a double lateral.
Roy Long, punting from the end zone, fumbled and got the kick out only to the 14. But again Kansas State could do nothing, getting only to the 10.
Tackle Carl Samuelson was a leader on these “stop ‘em” quick actions but had good help all along the line.
The Huskers found a way to complete passes, too, something they had failed to do against the Gophers. With the three quarterbacks sharing the throwing, Nebraska complete six out of nine forwards.
Big Jack Pesek came within a couple of strides of getting credit for one of the touchdowns made by Moore.
This was in the third period. Fred Metheny, the much-decorated Army captain, passed right down the middle, from a play starting on the Wildcat 40.
Pesek reached out and took the ball on the 20, and didn’t look back. He was in the open, but Rollie Pence came up from behind and pulled Rassler Tiger John’s boy down on the 4-yard line.
The officials almost wore themselves out blowing whistles and throwing red hankies into the air to indicate penalties.
They called 15 penalties on the Nebraska for 130 yards, and five for 55 yards on the visitors.
Nebraska is 78-15 all-time against Kansas State.
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