Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Mich. — Fullback Thunder Thornton’s delayed senior debut was worth two touchdowns Saturday as Nebraska whipped Michigan University from start to finish for a 25-13 upset.
A crowd of 70,287 swarmed into the Big Ten bowl to see whether Michigan could win by a large enough margin to signal a strong conference threat.
But optimism became crushing disappointment as Bob Devaney’s pugnacious defense and fancy attack rocked the Wolverines on their heels.
It wasn’t a fluke triumph that lacked statistical support.
The new-look Cornhuskers scored on thrusts of 63, 81, 38 and 75 yards while out-downing Bump Elliott’s host club by 17-13 and out-yarding them, 341 to 253.
It was a particularly satisfying triumph for a couple of former Big Ten personalities — Coach Devaney, a Michigan native and former Michigan State staff member, and Athletic Director Tippy Dye, a former Ohio State quarterback.
"This is a great win for the kids, the staff and the State of Nebraska," Dye said.
We don’t know how good Michigan is but this will do a lot for Nebraska confidence and morale."
This was a first Husker victory over Michigan which rebuffed good N.U. teams in 1905 (31-0) and 1917 (20-0), and tied Jumbo Stiehm’s first team in 1911 (6-6).
Nebraska started slowly this bright, comfortably warm afternoon, but jumped to a 7-0 advantage in the second period on an 11-yard run by Halfback Dennis Stuewe and never permitted the Wolverines to catch up.
Stuewe, a senior halfback from Hamburg, Minn., was the day’s biggest ground gainer despite an ankle injury that kept him on the sidelines the entire second half.
In three carries he accounted for 60 yards. One pass reception added 20.
Denny Claridge proved once and for all he is a topflight quarterback, hitting half a dozen passes for 89 yards, running for 42 and one touchdown, and contributing five punts for good measure.
Thornton, of course, did as much to boost his teammates’ spirits as he did to demoralize the Wolverines.
He plunged and fancy-stepped his way to 40 yards rushing. Apparently completely recovered from the shoulder injury, the gent from Toldeo, O., also blocked with a vengeance.
Kent McCloughan, sophomore halfback from Broken Bow, again exhibited flashes of brilliance; veteran Warren Powers turned in an excellent all-around game at fullback, and Halfback Willie Ross also made major contributions.
However, the line had to deliver the goods up where the going is toughest and this certainly was one of the crowning items of the victory.
In fact, it was an old-fashioned goal-line stand that gave the Cornhuskers their first big boost.
Michigan had dominated first-quarter action, passing and running 20 times; punting once and attempting one field goal while holding Nebraska to eight scrimmage plays and two punts.
The Huskers weren’t being kicked around but neither were they fully warmed up.
Midway in the opening period, Michigan swept from its 27 to a first down on the Husker 13. The defenders from the west yielded only two yards in three downs, forcing Fullback Bill Dodd to try a field goal from just outside the 17. His kick was wide.
Next time Michigan got the ball, it hustled from its 38 to a first down on the N.U. 42, where rookie defenseman Doug Tucker pulled down burly Fullback Wayne Sparknan.
Theisen dumped the brilliant Dave Raimey for no gain. Sub Quarterback Bob Timberlake netted only two yards at his right end before Powers threw him.
Timberlake hit Halfback Bob Strobel with an eight-yard pass, then gambled with 195-pound Raimey on fourth down.
Tackle Al Fischer and Guard John Kirby nailed Raimey half a yard from a first down and the Huskers took over.
The white-clad visitors then drove all the way to a touchdown despite a clipping penalty that wiped out a 14-yard run to the Michigan seven by Ross.
Claridge fired to Stuewe for 20, Fullback Gene Young bulled up the middle for three and Stuewe whipped around his left end for the touchdown with less than three minutes gone in the second period.
Claridge also was in the escort. Thornton was in to block on the 11-yard pay-off. Center Jim Baffico kicked the ball very high and true for the extra point.
That kick quickly gained added importance when Michigan received the ensuing kick-off and belted its way 62 yards to come within 6-7.
Raimey, the Michigan wheelhorse, picked up a first down on the eight on the fifth play of the series. Then McCloughan and Theisen stopped him at half a yard.
Guard and co-captain Dwain Carlson corralled the speedster after 1 and a half yards at left end on second down. Frosty Evashevski came into the game at this point for his collegiate debut.
On a keeper, he was turned in by End Bill Comstock and wrapped in a bear hug by huge Bob Brown for a three-yard loss.
With fourth and eight to go for a touchdown, Glinka came back in at quarter. He apparently was trapped while attempting to pass, but broke loose and ran wide to his right for the touchdown.
Michigan bid for a two-point conversion and the lead. However, Glinka’s pass to End Jim Ward was high.
When Nebraska walked off the field with a 7-6 edge at intermission, veterans of the Big Ten press box merely shrugged.
"Remember," they said, "Michigan always has been a great second-half team on its own field. Nebraska has done well but don’t get your hopes up."
A bristling tackle by End Dick Callahan forced Michigan in a fourth-down punt in the first minute of the second half.
McCloughan lost ground attempting to reverse his field on the return and Nebraska was further hurt by a clipping penalty that socked the ball back to the Husker 19.
Claridge rambled through the left side for 13, then passed to Callahan for 12. Michigan tightened its defense but N.U. got a big break when Michigan was offside on a fourth-and-four punt.
Theisen’s pass to End Jim Huge was good for 31 yards on the next play. Thornton gained two, a pass fell incomplete and Claridge hit the right side on a keeper for a first down on the Wolverine five.
Thornton jumped into the middle for three yards. Theisen was held for no gain, but Michigan was offside and Nebraska had the ball on the one, second down.
The 259-pound Brown led a surge by the N.U. middle as Thornton again vaulted the middle — this time for a touchdown. Baffico’s kick was blocked by six-foot-three End Jim Conley.
Nebraska was ripe for another score minutes later when Powers and Monte Kiffin hit Raimey hard, and Tucker recovered on the Michigan 33.
Although McCloughan got over from a foot out four plays later, Nebraska was penalized for illegal procedure. Claridge then darted through the right side for a touchdown from the five.
With the count now 19-6, Claridge tried for two points with a pass to McCloughan in the end zone. The flip was low as heavy rushing-pressure took its toll.
Michigan, starting from its 35 after the next kick-off, growled and pawed the turf. It looked as though that comeback tradition would be upheld as the Big Tenners riddled Nebraska.
The home boys sprinted from each huddle. The crowd screamed encouragement. Nebraska was backed to its four from where Halfback Dick Rindfuss barreled through the middle to score.
Timberlake’s extra-point kick landed in about the thirtieth row of the grandstand. Now it was 19-13 and approximately 12 and a half minutes remaining.
Thornton returned the kick-off and was hit with frightening impact by Guard Dick Syzmanski on the N.U. 25. Brown recovered for the Huskers.
An 18-yard pass, Claridge to End Larry Donovan, who outfought Strobel for possession, was worth a first down on
the host 48.
An offside ruined a good run by Claridge but Thornton got the Huskers rolling again and a 17-yard toss from Claridge to Huge soon had N.U. on the enemy 26, first and 10.
The Huskers faltered briefly before Claridge pegged to Callahan for a first down on the 16. Donovan gave a big assist to Thornton, who piled into the middle, cut to his left and sped all the way.
Junior Fullback Roger Schmitt fumbled on the kick-off return and Comstock recovered for Nebraska on the Michigan 28. The killing punch was poised.
But on first down, sub Quarterback John Faiman attempted to pass, was hit by End Bob Brown and fumbled.
Tackle Joe O-Donnell recovered on the Michigan 33 to spare the home club further embarrassment.
The Huskers rushed Michgan’s passers and tied up the receivers well during the final minutes of frenzied, futile play.
Then Coach Devaney marched to the dressing room with a 2-0 record in his first Cornhusker season.
|Yards per carry||4.0||4.5|
Nebraska is 4-5 all-time against Michigan.
|South Dakota||Sept. 22|
|Iowa State||Oct. 6|
|North Carolina State||Oct. 13|
|Kansas State||Oct. 20|
|Oklahoma State||Nov. 17|
|Miami (FL)||Dec. 15|
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