for 1926 Huskers in Seattle
NU marches 77 yards to threshold of victory
only to be turned back on games final play
By J. Hudson, June 1, 2010
It was midway through the fourth quarter, and Nebraska trailed by four. Standing between the Cornhuskers and the goal were a tough band of Washington Huskies and a daunting 80 yards of muddy Seattle turf.
What followed was a last-chance drive of epic resolve and drama: Twenty-four plays. Five do-or-die fourth downs. And, sadly, 77 yards, not 80. NU halfback Ed "Blue" Howell was stuffed at the line on fourth-and-goal from the three as time expired, and Washington escaped with a 10-6 win.
A drive that might have gone down as one of the greatest in Nebraska lore instead was relegated to the list of almosts and what-ifs.
All the scoring in the Thanksgiving Day contest came in the first half. Washington struck first with a 72-yard drive late in the first quarter. More than half the yardage came on a pair of aerials: 25 yards from Louis Tesreau to William Charleston, and 22 yards on third-and-nine for the touchdown, Tesreau to George Guttormsen. Bob Shaw kicked the extra point.
In the second quarter, Bob Stephens returned a punt 19 yards to set up NU at the UW 48. Passes from Stephens to Arnold Oehlrich for 15 and 9 yards were the biggest gainers as Nebraska moved to the 21. From there, Howell was the hammer: The Omaha sophomore carried on seven consecutive plays, with the final blast covering four yards for the TD. Stephens missed the extra point. NU was on the board but trailing, 7-6.
After the ensuing kickoff, Washington used back-to-back 16-yard runs and a 15-yard piling penalty to swiftly advance from its own 36 to the NU 13. A few plays later, with the ball at the eight, UW's Gene Cook entered the game to try a field goal but drew a 15-yard penalty for talking to a teammate (see notes below). Unshaken, he split the uprights from the 30, and Washington held a 10-6 halftime lead.
A scoreless third quarter set the stage for the climactic fourth, which consisted of one possession by each team. First, Washington drove from its own 33 to the Nebraska 30, but Shaw's field-goal try failed.
Taking over at its own 20, Nebraska found itself in trouble after just three plays: It was fourth-and-one at the NU 29. Howell plowed for two yards, and the Huskers were still alive.
There were several more moments of truth. On third-and-three at the NU 38, Howell ran for seven. On fourth-and-one at the UW 47, quarterback Willard Bill Bronson ran for two. On fourth-and-one at the UW 35, Bronson again ran for two. On fourth-and-four at the UW 28, Bronson passed to Glenn Presnell for six yards.
After Howell connected with halfback Frank Mielenz on a 13-yard pass for a first down on the Washington seven, the Cornhuskers seemed destined for victory. But three Nebraska runs netted just four yards, and then it all boiled down to that final play. Howell was sent into the left side of the Washington line, but the Huskies turned him back cold. The final gun sounded, and the Huskers faced a glum train ride home.
NOTES: The field was described as "slimy" by the Lincoln Star and "slightly coated with mud" and "slippery but firm" by the Associated Press
NU opened the game by driving 50 yards to the UW 20, but Stephens field-goal try from the 30 was wide. A promising second-quarter NU drive ended with a Presnell fumble inside UW's 30
Several times in the final minutes, NU coach Ernest Bearg substituted players, a tactic that stopped the clock while the sub reported to the umpire. The sub was forbidden to communicate with anyone else until the ensuing snap, a rule intended to prevent coaches from sending in plays.
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