Illinois 9
Nebraska 6

Oct. 4, 1924

Green Line Stops Grange in Tracks



Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb. — A fighting, ripping, tearing Cornhusker team of the type which has turned back Notre Dame for two consecutive season, tore into the Big Ten championship Illini team Saturday and again set the football world back on its heels by holding the Zuppke eleven to a 9 to 6 victory.

As green as the sod beneath their cleats, the Cornhuskers, outseasoned and outweighed, made up for their lack of experience by plenty of fight and caused the crowd of 30 thousand onlookers to gasp for breath and then howl itself hoarse when the Huskers marched up the field for the first touchdown of the game.

A brilliant forward passing machine displayed during the second quarter was all that saved the Illini. Had Nebraska had that same ability to hurl the ball into arms of waiting teammates, the score might have been a different story.

Nebraska had no aerial attack but Cornhusker supporters are shouting the praises of Coach Fred T. Dawson and his men whom in their baptism held the powerful Illini team on even terms.

The Cornhuskers did more than cause the Illini team to falter. They kept the widely known and respected “Red” Grange from entering the score column. Big Ten and outside elevens who faced Illinois last season were unable to turn this little trick. In fact, the Saturday contest was the first game in his Illini career in which he failed to score in some way or another.

While he did not literally write his name in the score book, Grange factored to a great extent in the success of the Illinois team. He was on the hurling end of the forward pass attack which swept Nebraska off its feet during the second period. He flipped the prolate spheroid to Kassel which counted the Illini touchdown. He held the ball while Fullback Britton booted the winning place kick.

Grange, while he found the Cornhusker tacklers as pestiferous and familiar as a busy house fly, did break away for an electrifying jaunt of thirty-seven yards down the sidelines in returning a punt, and swept around the Nebraska end for twenty-three yards in the third quarter.

He was more than that. He was the threat which made it possible for Leonard and Gallivan to strut their stuff. Cold statistics of the game tell of the brilliant fight put up by the Cornhuskers. At straight football the Nebrakans battled the Illini on the little better than even terms. Nebraska gained 158 yards from scrimmage, while the Illini total was 156 yards. And this total was made against a line which outweighed Nebraska almost ten pounds to the man.

In aerial work, offensively and defensively, Nebraska was woefully weak. The Zuppke eleven tried twelve passes, completing six for a total of ninety-nine yards. Nebraska made two attempts to gain by the air. One fell into the arms of an Illinois athlete, while the other went wide of the mark and was grounded.

It was a well-earned victory and Coach Bob Zuppke and his team won the praise of the 30 thousand spectators who swarmed the stadium.

The Illini combination, a well-balanced machine had everything a great football team should possess, but would do well to prime itself for an aerial battle next fall, when these same Cornhusker warriors, with the additional strength of some good-looking Frosh, invade Urbana.

The first period of the Nebraska-Illini contest was much of a repetition of the Notre Dame classic of last year. The crowd, fearful of the outcome, was rather restless as it filed into the stadium, and awaited the arrival of the two teams.

When the veteran Illini squad trotted on the field, a mighty cheer broke loose. It was much the same as that oration accorded a champion boxer as he enters the ring to fight the home town hero.

The Scarlet Jerseyed Huskers, with only four regulars on the list, emerged from the corner of the stadium arena.

The cheers swelled in volume, but still the crowd was restless.

Next the game.

Captain Rokusek won the toss and elected to kick. A dull thud as fullback Britton’s toe met the ball. End over end it hurtled into the arms of Captain Ed Weir — Big Ed who fought his way to the Nebraska 31-yard line. The crowd waited. Myers crashed through for three yards, Rhodes plunged for four yards more. Rhodes added two more and Bloodgood squirmed the remaining distance to a first down.

Could it be possible? Here was Nebraska fighting as teams of old, doing a little David against the Goliath Illini and actually battering through a reported stonewall for a first down. It was and the crowd settled down to witness the battle that was certain to follow.

During this period, Nebraska outplayed Illinois by a substantial margin. Dawson’s Huskers carried the ball in scrimmage one hundred yards for first downs while Illinois made but twelve yards and failed once to make yardage.

Nebraska’s touchdown came toward the close of the first period. An exchange of punts gave Nebraska possession of the ball in the middle of the field. It was the first time the Huskers had been in a position to launch an offensive and the Nebraska team ripped into the Illini with full steam and force for a first down and a neatly executed cross buck with Avard Mandery lugging the pigskin brought the ball to the Illinois 33-yard line.

The sudden offensive strength of the Cornhuskers seemed to stun the Illini eleven and the backs drew close to the line, evidently intent on stopping this relentless attack of the Nebraska backs.

A criss cross which sent “Choppy” Rhodes off tackle had the Illinois team guessing. The Ansley boy darted through the opening and once through the line started a side stepping jaunt in which he slipped pas Leonard and Britton in his touchdown scoring journey. It was a great play and furnished the spectators the same thrill experience as when Noble scored the opening counter against Notre Dame last fall.

Bloodgood’s drop kick for the extra point went wide of the uprights.

Failing to gain through the Husker forwards, Zuppke opened up his aerial offensive early in the second quarter.

A weak punt by Bloodgood gave Illinois possession of the ball on the Nebraska forty-eight-yard line. Grange and Leonard made five yards through the line, and then the Illini backs started hurling the passes.

Grange shot one to Britton for a twenty-three yard gain, and Illinois was eighteen yards from the Nebraska goal. Grange’s second pass to Gallivan made eight yards, and Leonard plunged for a first down. Grange tried the Nebraska left end for no gain, and on the next play shot a perfect pass to Kassell. The Illinois end caught the ball on the Nebraska goal line and fell across for the counter. Britton missed the extra point.

Twice again during the second quarter forward passes put Illini in a position to score. The first scare was abated when an Illini passes was grounded in the end zone. The second danger was passed when Britton’s place kick went wide of the posts.

Nebraska was in a position to break the tie during the third quarter, when again line plunging by Myers and Rhodes brought the ball well into Illini territory.

After the backs had carried the ball to the Illini eighteen-yard line, the Zuppke forwards braced and hurled back three plays.

Bloodgood dropped back to the Illini twenty-five-yards line for a drop kick. His effort had height and distance, but was several yards wide of the posts.

This was near the close of the third quarter, and with the change of periods Illinois received the wind advantage and was not slow in grasping the advantage.

An exchange of punts suddenly found the Illini in a position to score. When Bloodgood’s punt rolled out of bounds on the Nebraska 33 yard line, Leonard head a line smashing attack which Nebraska stopped thirty yards shy of the mark.

When three trys at straight football had failed, Britton dropped back to the 25-yard line. It was the same chance Nebraska had in the third quarter and the Illini veteran made good. With Grange holding the ball, Britton sent the oval through the goal posts for a perfect placement and the three points needed to win the game.

Cornhusker fans are celebrating what they term a moral victory. A hairbreadth defeat in the fact of overwhelming odds produces much the same feeling as discovery of a top heavy bank balance, when the checking account is low.

Husker fans are now anxiously awaiting the lapse of a fortnight when Nebraska will battle Colgate in the same stadium.

The game, however, may prove a costly one for Nebraska. Harold Hutchinson, one of the best centers in the Missouri Valley received a broken shoulder during the first half of the Illini game.

He gamely finished the second period without so much as asking time out. Wostoupal, who replaced him during the second half, played a whale of a game and twice broke through to down “Red” Grange in his tracks.

In fact the entire forward wall Weir and “Little Joe,” his brother, covered themselves with glory, while Hubka, Molzen, Collins and Robertson were the tough nuts which the Illinois backfield, rated as the prize winning combination of Big Ten football could not crack.

In the backfield, “Choppy” Rhodes and Doug Myers were the main driving wedges which battered the Illinois wall. Both more than lived up to expectations.

On the defense Myers and Weir were the big bears. Time after time Myers smashed through the interference and nailed the man with the ball.

Captain Rokusek, former Omaha boy, was one of the main factors of the Illini defense until he was removed in the final half because of injuries. Rokusek proved himself to be a dauntless leader of the fighting type that gets results.

In addition to Grange half back Leonard and Quarter Gallivan were potent performers. Leonard was the only Illini man that was able to gain through the line. Fullback Britton’s kick too, not only scored the winning points, but kept the Huskers out of dangerous territory.

More coverage

World-Herald post-game coverage (PDF)


Series history

Nebraska is 13-3 all-time against Illinois.

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1924 season (5-3)

Illinois Oct. 4
Oklahoma Oct. 11
Colgate Oct. 18
Kansas Oct. 25
Missouri Nov. 1
Notre Dame Nov. 15
Kansas State Nov. 22
Oregon State Nov. 27

This day in history

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