LINCOLN — Big Ten beef and an inadequate pass defense were Nebraska’s undoing Saturday as Minnesota plucked a 26-14 victory in the Cornhuskers’ home opener.
Giant Gopher forwards — with 250-pound Frank Brixius and 243-pound Tom Brown showing the way — overpowered the Nebraska line and jarred the precision out of the home club’s attack.
And behind those monsters, Sandy Stephens, a Negro quarterback from Pennsylvania, proved he has learned a lot since his fluttery debut as a sophomore against the Huskers a year ago.
Nebraska won that encounter, 32-12, and hoped this day to complete the first two-game sweep over Minnesota in the series that began in 1900.
However, the Huskers failed to make one serious drive into Minnesota territory.
To the dismay of 38 thousand fans, Nebraska couldn’t score until the dying moments of the third period — when the invaders from the North were riding a 26-0 advantage.
When the Huskers finally did click, though, the entertainment was good.
The spark was provided by Quarterback Pat Fischer, who otherwise had a poor day. Minnesota had counted its fourth touchdown on a Fischer pass intercepted by sophomore Bill Munsey. The rookie halfback, swiftest man on the squad, raced 28 yards with the poorly aimed aerial.
The cause appeared hopeless but Fischer was burning.
After Bernie Clay returned the kick-off to the Nebraska 22, Fischer wheeled for four yards. Thunder Thornton made it a first down on the 32.
Then Fischer squirmed for 11.
With the ball on the 43, Thornton gave fans a glimpse of the running that had made him the key figure in scrimmage reports.
The rookie fullback rammed into the middle, cut sharply from the nearest defenders and angled to his left on a 57-yard touchdown gallop.
End Tom Hall pursued Thornton all the way and hurled himself at the Husker from the five. The tackle was solid but the Thunder Man from Toledo, O., fell across the goal line.
Ron Meade made the first of his two conversions.
Nebraska rooters still had no reason to take the flare-up seriously.
A minute and 40 seconds later, however, it appeared there might be a miracle in the making.
Taking the kick-off, Minnesota ran two plays before the third period ended. On the first play of the final quarter, with the ball on the Gopher 32, Stephens attempted to pitch out to Fullback Roger Hagberg.
Husker Guard Gary Toogood grabbed the fumbled pitchout. The big lineman lumbered into Stephens arms–and right back out of them.
Convoyed by a pack of Scarlets, Toogoo got his touchdown without further interference.
Meade made it 14-26 with 14:50 remaining in the game.
Three plays after the kick-off, End Don Purcel crashed in to force a fumble by Gopher Halfback Dave Mulholland. The crowd screamed.
There was a scramble and several Huskers touched the ball. But Munsey recovered for an 11-yard loss and possession on the Minnesota 49.
Nebraska was to have two more cracks at moving the ball.
A motion penalty and an incomplete pass wrecked the first opportunity. The second ended with Captain Greg Larson stealing Meade’s pass.
With a little less than five minutes to go, many fans started toward the gates.
The “miracle” was merely a wild application of salve for a Husker beating, and now they acknowledged the fact.
For most of the first three periods, Nebraskans had little to cheer other than Archie Cobb’s spectacular punting. The long-legged Alabaman finished with a 45.3-yard average for seven kicks; had a topper of 68 yards.
Each team had the ball three times before any major excitement occurred.
Minnesota made trip No. 4 pay off, using two teams but keeping Stephens at quarterback.
He steered a 12-play sweep from the Husker 49 that included only one pass — a nine-yard shot from Sandy to End Hall, the Big Ten’s leading receiver last season.
With the ball on the two early in the second quarter, the 215-pound Stephens crashed into the middle and squirmed just enough to collect six points.
Kayoed on the play, Nebraska’s Fischer was forced out of action and did not return until the second half.
Minnesota had possession again a few minutes later and drove 64 yards in just 10 plays.
The climax was built on three consecutive passes that looked alarmingly easy.
Stephens tagged End Bob Deegan for six yards, Halfback Bill Kauth for 10 and then, dropping back from the NU 23, rifled expertly to Mullholland.
The halfback took the ball in stride in the end zone after getting behind defenders Bernie clay and John Faiman.
Judge Dickson, brother of ex-Husker Joe Dickson, kicked the conversion to produce the half-time margin of 13-0.
There was no reason at that point to believe Nebraska, sluggish compared with its sharp play at Texas a week earlier, ever would be able to handle these vengeance-seeking visitors.
Nebraska had played 27 minutes and 50 seconds before making its initial first down — that a nine-yard keeper around end by Meade.
Minnesota’s third touchdown was set up midway in the third period when Bell’s hard tackle made Fischer lose the ball and Brixius recovered on the NU 21.
This was another power display, third-team Fullback Jim Rogers grabbed the final yard on a plunge over his left guard.
Nebraska ran only one play before Munsey pirated Fischer’s pass and raced 28 yards to the final Minnesota touchdown.
The Huskers’ best sustained thrust into enemy territory came on three tosses by Meade — to Pat Clare, Thornton and End Bill Comstock — the last time they had the ball.
The Comstock catch put the ball on the 37, but then Larson came up with his interception.
The total yardage comparison, 275-140, accurately reflects Minnesota’s superiority.
The Huskers, having sampled Texas speed and Minnesota muscle, at least are well conditioned to open their Big Eight campaign against two of their peskiest foes of recent years — Iowa State and Kansas State.
Nebraska is 25-32 all-time against Minnesota.
|Iowa State||Oct. 1|
|Kansas State||Oct. 8|
|Oklahoma State||Nov. 12|
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