Syracuse 28
Nebraska 6

Oct. 14, 1961 • Memorial Stadium, Lincoln

Syracuse Pounds Nebraska Despite Thornton’s Heroics

Willie Ross runs out of his shoe, so his sock digs up turf, now the sock reaches in front and here it goes into flight. JAMES ROBINSON/THE WORLD-HERALD

LINCOLN — The Nebraska football honeymoon ended early Saturday as Syracuse let the wind out of the Cornhusker sail, 28-6.

Except for the opening minutes when the Huskers briefly had command, Syracuse had the situation under firm control.

The superiority of the highly touted Easterners was so evident even the most partisan of the 36 thousand watchers left the Stadium feeling the Orange, if called upon, could repeat by just as decisive a margin.

For the Nebraskans, the afternoon was not without its reward.

While the Scarlet was absorbing punishment Thunder Thornton, Nebraska’s sizzling junior, was offensively outgaining and defensively outplaying Syracuse’s much ballyhooed Ernie Davis.

Davis, who moved into Lincoln sporting an All-America tag, lived up to advance notices.

Big Ernie moved his 210 pounds with terrific power and some finesse. He boosted his touchdown total to a career 27 to surpass the school record owned by Jim Brown, now of the Cleveland Browns.

But on this mid-October afternoon Nebraska’s Thornton was better.

With a losing team Thunder roared to 134 yards and lost one for a net 133.

The best Davis could do was 130 yards gained, 10 lost for a net 120.

Thornton made his side of the All-America argument the more convincing by compiling his yardage on 15 carries, while Davis needed 22 rushes.

Nebraska’s other consolation for an afternoon of uphill work was a touchdown scored in the last two minutes.

Thornton took a pitch-out and raced for the corner to score from three yards out.

Earlier Nebraska threats ran out of gas 13, 25, six and 10 yards from pay-offs.

The well-organized Syracuse attack which emphasized power and made infrequent use of the pass, was as impressive as the steel barrier dropped around the goal line.

Orange touchdown drives carried 98, 99, and 92 yards respectively.

Nebraska apparently weathered the storm physically which should help when it returns to its own backyard for a Big Eight assignment at Oklahoma State Saturday.

While Thornton was blazing the yardage trail ahead of Davis, sophomore Dennis Claridge was making the fans forget Archie Cobb, ace punter called to the Army.

Claridge compiled the amazing average of 57.3 yards with three kicks.

One of his punts carried 59 yards to the Syracuse one, another rolled 68 yards dead on the Orange eight.

While Claridge’s punting was sensational, his early passing left much to be desired.

A long second-down pitch which Quarterback Dave Sarette took away from Nebraska’s Larry Tomlinson near the flag inside the Northeast corner killed an early Husker bid.

Before his pass went astray Nebraska had returned the opening kick-off to the Husker 31 and in four plays hustled 45 yards to the Syracuse 24.

Thornton, Rudy Johnson and Willie Ross got in these early licks on flankers which had the Syracuse defense momentarily gasping for air.

Sarette’s sensational piracy gave Syracuse possession on its two-yard marker.

It was then the Orange lost no time in proving their superiority. In 10 plays Syracuse banged its way 98 yards to score.

With Davis and Fullback Bill Schoonover applying power mixed with well-baited traps the Orange was to the Nebraska 40 before the Husker defenses knew what was happening.

Two swift plays and the Easterners had six points.

Schoonover found a yawning hole in the Husker middle for 17 and Pete Brokaw raced the last 23 on a slant.

Then the Orange showed it was going for broke by trying a Sarette-Davis pass for a two-point conversion which failed.

This ability to smash its way out of desperate situations was shown by Syracuse twice again.

After a Claridge punt had rolled to the one, the Orange needed only 14 plays to cover the 99 yards.

Davis got the score from five yards out.

This was the clincher as on the first play of the second quarter Walt Sweeney, Syracuse right end, had taken a Clardige pass away from Husker End Jim Huge and rambled 50 yards to score.

A Sarette-Brokaw pass was the two-point conversion which gave the Orange the early 14-0 cushion.

The fourth-quarter Syracuse touchdown was a replica of two of the three early scores.

This time the Orange marched 92 yards after a Claridge punt had rolled to the eight.

Davis plunged from the one for the six points and Quarterback Bob Lelli added two conversion points with a keeper.

Nebraska marched 58 yards for its touchdown.

The Huskers maneuvered through an assortment of Orange reserves who received first string reinforcements after Thornton broke loose for 33 yards and a first down on the Syracuse 18.

Claridge got to the three with a nine-yard option and Thornton, after being stopped at the line, took a pitch on the next play and ran over standing up.


More coverage

World-Herald post-game coverage (PDF)

Series history

Nebraska is 5-7 all-time against Syracuse.

See all games »

1961 season (3-6-1)

North Dakota Sept. 23
Arizona Sept. 30
Kansas State Oct. 7
Syracuse Oct. 14
Oklahoma State Oct. 21
Missouri Oct. 28
Kansas Nov. 4
Iowa State Nov. 11
Colorado Nov. 18
Oklahoma Nov. 25

This day in history

Nebraska has played 18 games on Oct. 14. See them all »

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