When beating the Gophers was huge: Underdog Huskers get first win against Big Ten
After three times rising up to stop Minnesota deep in Nebraska territory late in the first half, the Cornhuskers dominated the second half and finally pushed through for a touchdown in the closing minutes to upset the Gophers in Minneapolis, 6-0.
It was the first win in four tries against the Big Ten for a Cornhusker program that had aspirations of joining the league, known then as the Western Conference.
Halfback John Bender's touchdown and quarterback Maurice Benedict's conversion kick provided the winning points, but the day's biggest star might have been right tackle John Westover. The Nebraska captain's sure and determined tackling thwarted the Gophers time and again, both on rushing and kick plays.
IN THE EARLY GOING, Nebraska could not capitalize on two golden opportunities. Minnesota fumbled the opening kickoff, and NU recovered at the Gophers' 30 but surrendered ball on downs at the 25. Nebraska again got the ball at the Minnesota 30 after a partially blocked punt but failed once more to cash in.
Walter Bummy Booth, NU coach
The teams traded punt after punt as the game, typical of the era, became largely a battle for field position. That battle took an abrubt turn later in the half when Nebraska, on offense, suffered what today would be an unheard-of penalty: 15 yards and loss of the ball. Minnesota got the pigskin at the Nebraska 20, but the Cornhuskers stiffened and forced a Gopher punt, which hemmed in the visitors at their own 3. After an NU punt, the Gophers again had prime position, at the Nebraska 28, but could advance only to the 17 and missed a field goal. Yet another Minnesota assault ended with NU halting the Gophers on downs at the 14. The gritty Cornhuskers had dodged a bullet and went into halftime still tied 0-0 despite having been badly outyarded.
IN THE SECOND HALF, yardage started to come more easily for the Cornhuskers as the Gophers struggled to halt NU's tandem plays -- a stacked formation designed to overpower a particular side of the enemy line. But Nebraska could not mount a serious scoring threat until a 21-yard run by Charlie Shedd finally swung the field-position advantage squarely to the visitors. Maurice Benedict's subsequent field-goal try from the 40 came up short but created trouble for the Gophers by pinning them at their own 3. Ensuing exchanges led to two more Benedict place kicks — and two more misses — but Minnesota was in peril, unable to muster enough offense or punting power to force the Cornhuskers back into their own territory.
After Benedict's third miss, NU halfback Johnny Bell returned a kick 20 yards to the Gophers' 30, and the winning assault was at hand. Cornhusker runs advanced the ball to the 22, to the 10, to the 3. The Gophers rose up one last time for a big stop at the 2. But then Nebraska lined up for another tandem play, and Minnesota had no answer. Bender was pushed over the goal line by his NU teammates, and the Cornhuskers had their victory.
NOTES: Nebraska finished the season 9-0, with every win coming by shutout. Walter C. "Bummy" Booth was in the third of his six seasons as coach of the Cornhuskers, and in the midst of a 24-game winning streak. A 1900 Princeton graduate, he left coaching after the 1905 season to pursue other interests. ... This report is part of J. Hudson's History Papers collection. See more here.
12FinalNebraska 0 6 - 6
Minnesota 0 0 - 0
NEB - John Bender 2 run (Maurice Benedict kick)
1st hlf 2nd hlf Total
Yardage* NEB-MIN NEB-MIN NEB-MIN
By rushing ...... 16-105 137- 39 153-144
By kicks ....... 227-152 185-251 412-403
*As determined by the Minnesota Daily
LINEUPSNebraska Pos. Minnesota
Charlie Shedd ........ LE ...... Edward Rogers
Cyrus Mason .......... LT ............. Warren
John Ringer .......... LG ..... John Flynn (C)
Charles Borg .......... C ..... George Webster
Charles Cotton ....... RG .... Moses Strathern
John Westover (C) .... RT ....... Fred Schacht
Spencer Cortelyou .... RE ......... Roger Gray
Maurice Benedict ...... Q ..... Sigmund Harris
Johnny Bell .......... LH ...... Egil Boeckman
John Bender .......... RH ....... John Bidlake
Oliver Mickel ........ FB .... Warren Knowlton
Touchdown, Bender; goal from touchdown,Benedict;
referee, P. Allen, Chicago; umpire, G. Clark, Omaha;
timekeepers, Graham and Jones.
Substitutes: Nebraska - Eugene Follmar, LE;
William Englehart, FB; Minnesota - Freeman, RE;
H.J. Van Valkenburg, LH; Robert Liggett, LH;
Note: Touchdowns were worth five points
THE ODDS. Before the game, the St. Paul Globe reported: Among the local followers of the game the general feeling is that Minnesota will win out with a good margin. Some of the enthusiasts even go so far as to predict a score ranging from fifteen to twenty-five points for the Gophers, and on the other hand, refuse to concede a score for the visitors.
At the stadium, Minnesota men were waving large bales of green paper in the faces of the few from Nebraska and offering to give odds that the Cornhuskers would not score, and the little party wearing the Nebraska colors backed away from the money.
THE CELEBRATION. In Lincoln, 1,000 to 1,500 revelers paraded boisterously along downtown streets Saturday night, marching through shops along the way. A huge bonfire was built, and a cannon borrowed from the Capitol grounds boomed repeatedly. A mule car was stolen from 11th and P streets and placed on nearby streetcar tracks, backing up traffic until police intervened.
THE FALLOUT. At least two Minnesota newspapers called for the firing of third-year coach Henry L. Williams. One writer, Billy Mac, went so far as to fault Williams for refusing to let reporters watch practices and give the coach their sage advice on how to better run things. Williams survived the storm, compiled a 136-33-11 record at Minnesota and is enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. (There is no record of a Billy Mac having won a Pulitzer Prize.)