|THE FIRST SPRING GAME
High-scoring 1950 team
struggled mightily in April
An ugly 13-13 tie against the alums is an early example
of how the spring game doesnt always tell us much
By J. Hudson, April 8, 2010
Of Nebraskas five dozen spring games, the very first one – 60 years ago today – surely ranks as one of the least accurate foreshadowers of the fall season.
The Varsity struggled to a 13-13 tie against a patchwork Alumni team that was expected to lose by several touchdowns. Who then could have predicted the offensive fireworks of six months later?
The same squad that could scarcely muster a first down in the opening half on this spring Saturday would make its mark in the autumn as the highest-scoring Husker team in a span of more than 40 years. It would finish No. 3 nationally in rushing and No. 9 in total offense. And a home-grown halfback named Bobby Reynolds would dazzle crowds while setting an NCAA scoring record that would stand for more than 35 years.
There was little hint of any of that on this day. As the Lincoln Journals Dick Becker wrote: A squad of alumni gridders, some paunchy, some aging rather rapidly, displayed to coach Bill Glassfords varsity that it has a long way to go yet.
On the Alumni roster were some players as recent as the 1949 teams seniors and others from further back, including 47-year-old Ed Weir, the two-time All-America tackle from the 1920s who was now employed as Nebraskas track coach. Weir didnt even suit up, but strangely enough, he would score and Reynolds would not.
The Varsity trailed 7-0 at intermission, unable to register a first down until midway through the second quarter. The Alums, meanwhile, moved the ball effectively much of the time, sometimes on plays invented in the huddle. Still, it took a fumble recovery at the Varsity 24 by tackle Ted Doyle – the 37-year-old operator of a Fairbury bowling alley – to set up the old-timers TD. Six plays after the turnover, Sam Vacanti passed to Cletus Fischer from the 5 for the score. Weir, wearing a letter jacket and slacks, kicked the extra point.
Shortly before halftime, coach Glassfords eleven appeared ready to even up the score, but the ball was fumbled away inside the 10. The Scarlets pregame slogan, Varsity by 40 points, wasnt panning out.
The Varsitys frustrations continued through most of the third quarter, with a fumble ruining another scoring chance. But lightning finally did strike – though it was courtesy of halfback Ron Clark, not the soon-to-be-famous Reynolds.
With the Varsity operating from its 36, Clark, a speedster from Ravenna, took advantage of good blocking around right end and raced down the west sideline 64 yards for a TD. The conversion attempt was muffed, but an offside penalty gave the Varsity a retry, and Fran Nagle kicked it through to make it 7-7.
The score wasnt knotted for long. The Alumni answered with a 13-play, 64-yard drive, capped by Vacantis 17-yard TD aerial to Ken Fischer, brother of Clete. Weirs extra-point kick was blocked, so the score stood at 13-7.
Reynolds fielded the ensuing kickoff at the 17 and returned it to the Varsity 42. A 15-yard run by Clark and some ground gains by Reynolds drove the Varsity to the 10, and Clark ran it in from there on another well-blocked play. A bobbled snap doomed the extra-point try, and the teams were tied at 13.
In the waning minutes, the Varsity got a chance to break the stalemate when Don Bloom grabbed a Ken Fischer fumble in midair and returned the ball to the Alumni 30. But the greybeards dug in on defense, and on the games final play, Fischer atoned for his miscue by intercepting Clarks desperation heave in the end zone.
NOTES: The Varsity had just six yards passing but in the fall would average 85.7 ... The Alumnis coach was Ray Prochaska, from the Rose Bowl team of 10 years earlier ... Several Alums were veterans of the gridiron and World War II. Jack Hazen, for example, lettered in 1941, 42, 46 and 48. ... Before he was an Omaha city councilman, Vacanti was a spring-game regular. In 1961, he was still at it, quarterbacking at age 39 in the final Varsity-Alumni game.
SPRING-GAME HISTORY | NU ROSTER | TEAM PHOTO | YEARBOOK
Mug shots courtesy of Huskers.com
VARSITY 13, ALUMNI 13
April 8, 1950, Lincoln, NE
1 2 3 4 F
Varsity 0 0 7 6 -- 13
Alumni 7 0 0 6 -- 13
ALUM - Cletus Fischer 5 pass from
Sam Vacanti (Ed Weir kick)
VARS - Ron Clark 64 run
(Fran Nagle kick)
ALUM - Ken Fischer, 17 pass from
Vacanti (kick blocked)
VARS - Clark 10 run (kick failed)
First downs 11 9
Total offense yards 241 184
Rushing yards (net) 235 74
Yds gained rushing 250 83
Yds lost rushing 15 9
Passing yards 6 110
Passes attempted 7 28
Passes completed 2 13
Passes intercepted by 0 1
Attendance: 5,000 (est.)
Won 6, Lost 2, Tied 1
Big 7: Won 4, Lost 2, Tied 0, 2nd
09/30 Indiana T 20-20
10/07 @ Minnesota W 32-26
10/14 @ Colorado L 19-28
10/21 Penn State W 19-0
10/28 @ Kansas W 33-26
11/04 Missouri W 40-34
11/11 Kansas State W 49-21
11/18 Iowa State W 20-13
11/25 @ Oklahoma L 35-49
17th AP, 20th-tie UPI
Reynolds averaged 17.4 points per
game (NCAA record, broken by Barry
Sanders, 1988) and 149.1 yards
rushing, No. 2 in nation
Team was 3rd in nation in rushing
offense (321.6) and 9th in total
Teams 29.7 points per game made
it the highest-scoring NU squad
between 1922 (34.5) and 1965 (32.1)
Coach Bill Glassford gave the Alumns several players, but few of them played. Players final varsity season, if known, in parentheses.
Ends: Jack Bryant (44), Jack Pesek (47), Bob Schneider (48), Ralph Damkroger (49), Jack Hazen (48), Jim Hornby (45), Jesse Bell, Mark Dittman
Tackles: Vic Schleich (42), Ted Doyle (37), John Sedlacek (48), Fred Golan (48), Ed Weir (25) Lowell Neilson, Jack Literas, Bruce Villars
Guards: Darwin Salestrom (49), Fred Lorenz (47), Gerald Jacupke (47), Bill Buchanan (45), Arden Means (49), Fred Hawkins (49), Gerald Dunn (varsity), Bill Kane
Centers: Bob Costello (48), Dick Short (45)
Quarterbacks: Sam Vacanti (46), Ken Fischer (49)
Halfbacks: Cletus Fischer (48), Bill Moomey (47), Alex Fink (45), Jack Carroll (varsity), Ken Brooker
Fullbacks: Frank Collopy (48), Randall Salisbury (43)
Note: There may be misspellings due to hard-to-read source material