Sept. 30, 1939
Inept on offense for the initial 55 minutes of play, underdog Nebraska sprang to life for an improbable game-tying drive, then fended off a frantic Indiana aerial attack to preserve a season-opening 7-7 deadlock in Bloomington.
In those first 55 minutes, the Huskers had mustered just 17 net yards of total offense and punted 13 times. But things were about to change.
With 4:55 left, a 26-yard punt return by Herm Rohrig gave Nebraska the ball at its own 46. There, Rohrigs passing suddenly started to click, beginning with Walter Butch Luthers leaping catch for 19 yards to the Indiana 35. Then came a 17-yarder, on third and 10, to Roy Cowboy Petsch to the Indiana 18.
Just like that, Nebraska was in business. Another leaping grab by Luther put the ball at the 10. But next came two incompletions, and the Huskers now faced fourth and two.
Rohrig launched another pass. Nebraskas hopes hung in the air as the pigskin bounced off a Husker receiver, then an Indiana player. Near the goal line was Nebraskas Petsch, who eyed the descending oval and by shooting along the ground managed to grab it an instant before it touched the sod, the Sunday Journal & Star reported. The shoestring catch gave Nebraska a fresh set of downs at the 1 yard line.
Two running plays lost yardage, however, and Nebraska was again in a bind: Third and goal at the Indiana 5. With the Hoosiers perhaps anticipating a pass, Nebraska called a reverse run by Luther. The play was beautifully timed and deceptive enough to pull Eddie Rucinski, Hoosier right end, completely out of position, said the Journal & Star. Before any of the Hoosiers could recover, Luther was able to cut for the corner and make a swan dive into the end zone.
Rohrigs PAT kick made it 7-7 with 1:35 left, but the Hoosiers were not finished. Two completions in four tries moved the ball from the Indiana 35 to the Nebraska 41. Then heartbreak seemed imminent for the Huskers as a pass-and-lateral play – Harold Hursh to Rucinski to Mike Bucchianeri – advanced the ball to the NU 10.
With the final seconds ticking away, Hursh hurled a pass toward the goal line. There stood one more Husker hero for the day, left guard Hubert Hub Monsky, who snared the ball for a game-ending interception.
NOTES: The oddsmakers listed Indiana as a six-point favorite. ... The Hoosiers touchdown came on a fourth-down plunge by fullback Joe Tofil, capping a 55-yard drive that opened the second half. ... Rohrig returned a punt 35 yards to the Indiana 33 in the third quarter but threw an interception two plays later. ... Early in the fourth quarter, Indiana missed badly on a field goal after driving from its own 20 to the Nebraska 17.
1 2 3 4 Final Nebraska 0 0 0 7 -- 7 Indiana 0 0 7 0 -- 7 Second quarter IND - Joe Tofil 1 run (Eddie Herbert kick) 9:45 Fourth quarter NEB - Butch Luther 5 run (Herm Rohrig kick) 1:35 NEB IND First downs 6 12 Rushing 3 3 Passing 3 8 Penalty 0 1 Rushing yards (net) 34 71 Passing yards (net) 37 149 Comp-Att-Int 6-13-1 10-21-3 Total offense 71 220 Punts-Average 13-42 11-43 Punt returns-Avg 9-9 5-7 Kickoff returns-Avg 1-16 2-44 Fumbles-Lost 3-0 0-0 Penalties-Yards 1-15 2-10