The lost spring games: 1922-29

Category: Football

We now know the first Nebraska football spring game probably occurred in 1922. But what about the subsequent years leading up to 1950, when the university’s official recognition of spring games begins?

Depending on one’s criteria, there were spring games in as many as 22 of the 28 seasons from 1922 to 1949.

Our year-by-year rundown started with the 1940s and ’30s and wraps up with the 1920s below. All games were played at Memorial Stadium unless noted otherwise.

Abbrev. key: LS = Lincoln Star  •  LJ = Lincoln Journal/Nebraska State Journal  •  DN = Daily Nebraskan

1920s

YES

1922.04.28 (FRI): The Reds’ Herb Dewitz returned the opening second-half kickoff 95 yards to the 1-yard line, setting up the only score in the Reds’ 6-0 win over the Blues. The game started at 3 p.m. and was played on old Nebraska Field.


NO

1923: No playing field was available because of the Memorial Stadium construction project. One item of note: Assistant coach Owen Frank broke a cheek bone in a collision with a player during an April practice.


YES

1924.05.01 (THU): The Reds beat the Whites, 6-0, on a second-half touchdown run by Paul Kamm that was set up by a pair of long passes. The game was played on the Lincoln High field. A new practice field at the south end of Memorial Stadium wasn’t ready in time for the start of spring drills in early April.  •  LS  •  DN


??

1925.03.28 (SAT): About 200 fans showed up in the rain to watch the Reds vs. Whites on the practice field at the south end of Memorial Stadium. They could also observe the track tryouts going on in the stadium at the same time. No score was kept, so it’s debatable whether this should be considered a true spring game.


YES

1926.04.17 (SAT): Edward “Blue” Howell scored two touchdowns as the Reds beat the Blues, 19-7. (That doesn’t count the 20 points the underdog Blues were given to start the game.) Sportswriter Gregg McBride said the teams “put up a brand of game which far surpassed the exhibition at the close of the 1925 season.”  •  LJ  •  LS  •  DN: 1, 2


NO

1927: There would have been an intra-squad game on Saturday, March 26, but mounting injuries and a forecast for poor weather prompted coach Ernest E. Bearg to cancel it.


YES

1928.04.19 (THU): The Reds shut out the Whites, 13-0, with Blue Howell running 30 yards for one touchdown and passing for another. Just one day earlier, coach Bearg had said this would be a normal practice, but he changed his mind. Given the short notice, it’s unlikely many fans witnessed this one.  •  LS  •  LJ


YES

1929.05.01 (WED): In coach Dana X. Bible’s first season, the Reds defeated the Orange, 7-6. At least that’s the score given by the Omaha World-Herald, the Lincoln Star and the State Journal. The Daily Nebraskan said the Reds won 13-12, and its game story provides second-half scoring details that the other reports lack.


Earlier
Spring drills were introduced at Nebraska in 1901, but they apparently didn’t amount to much during their first decade. Aside from an April 1906 exhibition game against Doane to test football’s sweeping new rules, no evidence of actual scrimmaging in the spring can be found before 1915. That’s the year coach Jumbo Stiehm made plans for a spring game that didn’t pan out.