MINNEAPOLIS — Nebraska’s football team showed flashes of high potential Saturday while absorbing a 19-7 defeat at the hands of Minnesota before 55,147 fans.
Ron Clark’s sparkling 48-yard touchdown run and Andy Loehr’s extra-point kick enabled Coach Bill Glassford’s Huskers to hold a 7-6 lead.
But Murray Warmath’s debut as Gopher mentor was made more pleasant when Minnesota took a 12-7 lead after the intermission and added the clinching points 15 seconds from the final gun.
Actually, the Huskers weren't whipped as decisively as the 12-point margin indicates.
They remained very much in the running through the third period and up to the final four minutes of the fourth.
Only five points behind, they always held the threat of breaking Clark or some other back loose to regain the lead.
But they couldn’t do it, because the big Gophers in the line seemed to get tougher as the afternoon wore on.
Coach Glassford kept changing lineups whenever the limited substitution rules permitted. And both of his lines did better than had been expected.
Quarterbacks Dan Brown and Don Erway had the sliding-T attack working about as well as could be expected in an opening game.
And above them all stood Loehr, the senior end from Turtle Creek, Pa.
He did a tremendous job of blocking and tackling all the way, throwing his 175 pounds against his much heavier foes with amazing skill.
The more-than-a-thousand Nebraskans who were in the stands naturally got their biggest thrill when Clark broke loose for 48 yards and the only Husker touchdown.
It gave the Ravenna senior, 23, a pleasant tonic to offset his earlier fumble which had set the stage for Minnesota’s first touchdown.
And it demonstrated that he had lost none of his running ability while spending three years in the Army.
Clark’s first-quarter fumble had given the Gophers the ball just 20 yards out from the Husker goal.
Two plays later Geno Cappelletti ran the last nine yards for six points. But he missed the kick.
Clark’s revenge play came with lightning suddenness early in the second period.
He took a short pitch-out from Brown as he ran to his right near the North stands and directly in front of the Gopher bench.
Perfect blocking sprung him past the line of scrimmage and all of the secondary defenders were sucked over to that side.
Then Clark changed directions quickly and headed back out toward the center of the field. Before the Gopher backs could recover he had raced in the clear.
The last 30 yards there was no question that he was going all the way.
Loehr’s extra-point kick sailed straight and true for a 7-6 Husker lead.
And that margin was protected to the intermission when the Huskers checked a stout Gopher bid two yards from pay territory.
Only 49 seconds remained in the half when Cappelletti fumbled on a third-down play. Guard Bob Wagner cuddled the ball on the two.
A brother act enabled the Gophers to regain the lead early in the second half.
The McNamara boys, Bob and Pinky, set up a double safety when Clark went back to punt.
Senior Bob fielded the kick, then criss-crossed to Sophomore Pinky.
A fine was of blockers escorted Pinky down the field and he threatened to go all the way. But he finally was pulled down on the Huskers 34, after running 44 yards.
A few plays later, Cappelletti ran 16 yards to the two and Bob McNamara rammed across a 12-7 lead.
The Huskers came back strongly and penetrated as far as the gopher 19 on a bid to regain the lead.
But Clark suffered a leg injury and had to leave two plays before the ball was lost on downs.
In the final four minutes the Gophers moved 59 yards for their other touchdown, the McNamara boys playing the leading roles with Pinky getting across just 15 seconds before the end.
The Huskers changed lines during this late enemy drive. But they couldn’t deny the Gophers another score.
The Nebraskans for some reason seemed to tire in the 75-degree heat more than the Gophers.
Minnesota made 16 first downs to only seven for the Huskers. But it had a total yardage margin of only 304 to 206.
Nebraska didn’t try as many passes as had been expected, throwing only seven times, four of which connected.
And the Huskers didn’t call for Sophomore Willie Greenlaw to carry very often, He gained 20 yards but lost 14 on his seven tries, so netter only six yards.
Clark had 110 yards for the afternoon to 95 for Fullback John Baumgartner of Minnesota.
Besides his consistently powerful tackling and blocking, Loehr caught three passes for 33 yards.
Nebraska is 25-32 all-time against Minnesota.
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