Memorial Stadium, Minneapolis, Minn. — Nebraska’s football players—and some 1,500 travelers from home—learned the hard way here Saturday afternoon.
The Huskers absorbed a 33-6 lesson from a Minnesota team which excelled at the fundamentals of blocking and tackling before 51,093 fans.
That’s a pretty one-sided licking, but actually the Huskers showed enough promise to make the future anything but dark.
Coach Bernie Masterson’s pupils flashed one offensive threat for a third-quarter touchdown and spent the other three quarters learning that mistakes are costly against a Bernie Bierman squad.
The Nebraskans were glaringly weak at pass defense, and their expected aerial attack failed to jell. The offensive failure may have been because Sammy Vacanti suffered a badly bruised nose early in the second quarter, and was in the game after that on sheer courage.
A hopeful sign was frequent flashes of speed by the Husker backs. These backs should be much tougher to stop later in the season, when they have more experience with the T formation.
The real Husker hero was Bill Moomey, 162-pound halfback from York, who played at Muhlenberg last year as a Navy trainee.
Moomey was a hard-running leader during a 67-yard march in the third period. He climaxed this drive by making a neat cutback inside tackle for a 10-yard touchdown run.
And he contributed a sparkling 28-yard run to the 22-yard line four plays ahead of the scoring feat. This came on a deep reverse play, with Vacanti handing the ball to the York fleet-foot about 10 yards back of the line of scrimmage.
Most of the Gopher defenders were fooled on this one. They were sucked over to their left and too late saw Moomey scooting out the other way.
It looked for a moment as if Bill was going to score. But he finally was hemmed in and forced out of bounds.
But that run ignited a spark. Roy Long was spilled for a yard loss, then on the next play took a lateral from Vacanti and ran to the 16-yard line. Tom Novak powered through for six yards on the next play, then Moomey went the rest of the way.
The Minnesota power plays kept the Husker defense up close. And this left wide openings for forward passes.
The Gophers picked their spots for passes very well and made 12 of 15 aerial efforts good. Only one touchdown was made directly on a pass, but the other four scores were set up by forwards.
The five Gopher touchdowns were made by as many players, as coach Bierman paraded 46 players onto the field. In contrast, Nebraska used only 29.
The Huskers were tired by the last period, when fresh Minnesota players added two touchdowns to change what had been a rather close game.
The previously-untested Nebraskans were guilty of a couple of errors of judgment which kept them in a hole most of the first period.
The first mistake, as things worked out, was electing to receive the opening kickoff.
Dick Hutton got back only to the 15, and the Nebraskans were backed up against their own goal line most of the first quarter, during several exchanges.
Another wrong choice led to the first Minnesota points — and the only ones in the first quarter.
One of Long’s punts had been returned only to the Husker 44, but the Gophers were off side on the play.
The Huskers could have refused the penalty, but they took it, failed on a line play, and then had to punt again.
This kick of Long’s was blocked by Leo Nomellini, 238-pound guard, and bounded out of the end zone for an automatic safety and a 2-0 Minnesota lead.
The second period was five minutes old when the Gophers made their first touchdown.
Everett Faunce’s passing set the stage, he tossed one to Bill Baumgartner for 11 yards, then one to Bob Sandberg for 13. This carried to the 15-yard line.
Four plays later Chuck Avery ran the last three yards on a reverse while the Huskers looked for a pass.
The Gophers drove 60 yards for another touchdown to hold a 15-0 lead at the half. Two Faunce passes to Sandberg featured this march, the last one carrying to the 1-yard line. From there Kenneth Beiesdorf plunged for the score three minutes before the intermission.
The Huskers’ third-period score cut the margin to 15-6, but passes led to another Minnesota score five minutes later.
Herb Hein juggled one of Faunce’s throws, but held onto it at the Husker 22. Faunce then found Sandberg all alone in the end zone for a scoring throw.
Harry Elliott had beautiful blocking for a 10-yard line scoring run in the last period, after Wheeler had passed to Thiele for 13 yards.
And the final points came on a 6-yard end run by Mark Heffelfinged, grand-nephew of the famous old-time All-American, Bill, who still lives in Minneapolis.
Only a minute and 22 seconds remained in the game when that run boosted Minnesota’s total to 33 points.
So the Huskers trooped to the dressing room thoroughly whipped—but with the knowledge that things they learned Saturday should prove valuable in their remaining eight games.
Nebraska is 25-33 all-time against Minnesota.
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