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Nebraska vs Notre Dame Rivalry

 

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The Nebraska Huskers vs Notre Dame is a rivalry that goes way back,with the biggest games occuring in the 1920's.

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The Notre Dame teams of the 1920's are considered one of the greatest era's for a successfull team of all time.

The Irish had all the the coach, the players, the record, and the imagination of a nation. Just the thought of playing one of Rockne's powerhouses put the fear of God in many a team.

The nucleus of the great Notre Dame teams was formed in 1918 when Knute Rockne took over the helm of the team, vowing to bring victory to South Bend. Rockne  inherited a war depleted Irish football program with an shortened 1918 football schedule. One team that was listed on that schedule as well as future schedules was the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Rivalry  begins in 1915...

Nebraska and Notre Dame started their rivalry in 1915 and quickly became fierce opponents.The two teams split victories in the first two contests ,Nebraska won in 1917and they played to a 0-0 tie in the 1918 season finale. 

Notre Dame was clearly the key game on the Cornhuskers' 1915 schedule. Both teams were considered to be the cream of the West crop in college football. The Catholics sported a 20-2 record over the previous three seasons (the team would not officially be known as the Irish for several more years). Nebraska, behind head coach "Jumbo" Steihm, were 22-1-1 over the same period. Nebraska had easily dispatched Drake, Kansas State and Washburn to open up the 1915 campaign and welcomed an undefeated Notre Dame to Lincoln on October 23, 1915.

After three straight seasons of seven wins or more, the 1916 campaign for Nebraska was called the "dark ages" by the student yearbook. The team still finished with six wins and just two losses while capturing the Missouri Valley Conference championship. So began the high standards of Cornhusker football at Nebraska.

After those contests Notre Dame took controll of the series.

Notre Dame takes controll of the series...

Beginning in 1919 the Irish were almost unbeatable. Between 1919 and 1921 the Irish posted a 28-1 record, ass kickin opponents along the way. Nebraska lost 14-9 in 1919, 16-7 in 1920 and 7-0 in a Homecoming game in Lincoln in 1921. The 1921 loss was the only loss of that Husker season and they vowed to get revenge.

In 1922 four Notre Dame backfield players were imortalized into college football history.Trivia question :who were they?dont peek.

Quarterback Harry Stuhldreher, left halfback Jim Crowley, right halfback Dan Miller and fullback Elmer Layden created one of the most storied backfields ever assembled. Later the quartet would be immortalized by sportswriter Grantland Rice as "The Four Horsemen." Stuhldreher was a steady passer and strong leader. Crowley was a quick back who was difficult to tackle. Miller had breakaway speed that made him a constant threat, while Layden, the tallest of the group at 6-0, handled duties on both sides of the ball.

The Four Horsemen......

Behind the unstoppable power of the foursome, Notre Dame cruised through most of their 1922 schedule with nary a challenge from opponents. Shutouts against Kalamazoo, St. Louis, and Purdue got things going. DePauw gave the Irish their strongest challenge by actually scoring a touchdown, but Notre Dame prevailed 34-7. Georgia Tech and Indiana fell next and only a scoreless tie against Army kept the Irish from being perfect, but they were still undefeated. Two more victories later and the Irish were set for a season ending matchup in Lincoln with rival Nebraska.

Husker coach Fred Dawson had prepared his team well going into the match boasting a 6-0 record of their own, including four shutouts. Nebraska had already assured their second straight Missouri Valley Championship. The Husker team was much larger than their counterparts, outweighing the Irish players by an average of 15 pounds per man.

The game was set for November 30th. It would be the last game ever played on Nebraska Field as preparations were already underway for the construction of a new Husker stadium. The Irish arrived in Lincoln four days and 1,200 miles away from their prior engagement in Pittsburgh. The crowd numbers varied from 12,000 to 16,000, all hoping to witness a Nebraska upset over Notre Dame and give their home field a fitting farewell. Nebraska, however, would find itself without the services of Glen Preston, their regular starting quarterback. Preston had broken his leg and was forced to watch the game from the sidelines.

The Cornhuskers took the opening kickoff and put together a strong drive. They marched down to the Notre Dame one yard line only to find themselves halted by the Irish defense. A fourth and goal attempt by the Huskers fell short and the Irish took over on downs.

On Notre Dame's first drive the Nebraska defense served notice that the game would be a defensive battle. Notre Dame was quickly forced to punt. The punt was a strong one and went out of bounds at the Husker 25 yard line.

The Cornhuskers threatened again later in the period only to fumble the ball within feet of the goal line. Notre Dame was able to keep things from getting out of hand too early.

In the second period Husker quarterback Chick Hartley and the Nebraska running game started to take control. Runs by Dave Noble, R. C. Russell , Verne Lewellen and Hartley took the ball down to the Irish 18 yard line. Right end Leo Scherer broke through the defense for six more yards and Nebraska was in business at the ND 2 yard line. Hartley did the honors on the next play as he plunged through for the game's first score. Hartley added a dropkick extra point and the upstart Cornhuskers were on top 7-0.

Later in the second period the Cornhuskers struck again with a big play. With the ball at the ND 38 yard line, Hartley connected on the left side with the 200 pound Noble. "Big Moose" as he was known, rumbled through Notre Dame defenders all the way to the end zone for a two touchdown Husker lead at the half.

Notre Dame was finally able to score late in the game to tighten things up at 14-6, but it was still up to the defense to decide the game.

Nebraska fullback Rufus Dewitz got the Nebraska Field crowd on their feet again in the fourth quarter when he plunged through the left side of the Notre Dame line for 40 yards down to the Irish 10 yard line. Only a lucky tackle by Stuhldreher saved a touchdown. The Husker were unable to capitalize on the field position, though.

Notre Dame had put together another fourth quarter threat, bringing the ball all the way down to the NU two yard line. The Irish tried to push the ball in, only to have Husker defender Andy Schoeppel break through and sack Notre Dame for a 10 yard loss securing the victory for the Big Red.

It was Notre Dame's only loss of the 1922 season but it angered some of the South Benders for reasons other than that.

Bitter rivalry unfolds...

Several of the players and coaches who complained of "strong anti-Catholic" taunts and jeers from the Husker fans. In his book "Shake Down the Thunder" Murray Sperber wrote "Every year the anti-Catholic mob in Lincoln became more antagonistic towards the Notre Dame players and fans. However, Rockne uncharacteristically played the peacemaker and wanted to continue the series, possibly because of the excellent paydays for the athletic department. The feelings among the Notre Dame faithful would fester for another year before the Irish and the Four Horsemen would get another chance at revenge.

The Nebraska/ Notre Dame game of 1923 had some of the same principle elements as the previous year. Notre Dame was cruising through their schedule, not allowing an opponent to score more than one touchdown in any of their first six games. Nebraska, however, was not enjoying their 1923 record. A season opening loss to Illinois and back to back ties with Kansas and Missouri left NU with a 1-1-2 record as they prepared to host the Irish on November 10th.

Playing only their third game in Memorial Stadium, the Huskers looked even more out manned than usual. Quarterbacks Glen Preston and Chick Hartley were gone, but Dave Noble returned. Also sparking the Husker roster was a converted fullback from Superior, Nebraska named Ed Weir. Weir moved to tackle due in part to the Huskers' depth at fullback. His play there would be enough to earn him All-American honors later in his career. The question was, would it be enough in 1923 to claim victory again over the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame.

The Huskers faced the challenge and shut down the Irish offense. Big Moose Noble scored the game's first points early in the second period. Noble burst through the left side of the Irish line and charged through the secondary on a twisting 24 yard run for a touchdown. Just as the year before Nebraska headed to the locker rooms at halftime with the lead.

The two defenses kept things as they were through the third period.

Early in the fourth period Nebraska lit up the scoreboard again. Fullback Rufus Dewitz threw a 15 yard pass to Noble who pulled it in at the Irish five yard line. Carrying a Notre Dame would-be tackler on his back, Noble powered in for the second Nebraska touchdown.

Notre Dame found the end zone only once, that coming late in the fourth period. Substituting for Layden, Bill Cerney crossed the goal line on a 20 yard pass from Stuhldreher. It was too little too late for the Irish as Nebraska took the 14-7 victory.

The wins earned the Huskers the honor of being the only team to have defeated a Four Horsemen led Notre Dame team twice.

The loss had lasting effect on Notre Dame and its players. Quarterback Stuhldreher said after the game. "That defeat was probably the best thing. It made us promise each other we would beat Nebraska in 1924, even if we lost every game of the season."

The Notre Dame squad of 1924 did defeat Nebraska but did not loose any other game. The Irish went undefeated and claimed the first of several National Championships. But the change of fortunes did not do enough to smooth the ill feelings between the teams. Notre Dame administrators continued their complaints of severe anti-Catholic hostilities they endured while in Lincoln. Despite the efforts of coach Rockne to continue the Nebraska/ Notre Dame series for the sake of a strong payday, the rivalry was ended following the 1925 season. Since that time the two teams have only met on three occasions, during the 1947 and 1948 regular seasons and in the 1973 Orange Bowl.

Notre Dame's visit to Nebraska in 1925 was a landmark game for the Huskers for several reasons. The Nebraska win evened up the eleven game series between the two schools, and it also marked the end to the rivalry for many years due in part to hostilities between the schools.Nebraska won 14-0.

Series Renews After The War Years

The 1947 game provided a one game representation of what the entire season would hold for both teams as the Irish dismantled Nebraska 31-0. Notre Dame went on to vanquish the rest of their foes including a number 9 ranked Army team and a third ranked USC squad. Leahy's boys were honored with the 1947 National Championship. As for Nebraska, they won at Kansas State the following week, then fell to their final four opponents and ended the year with another disappointing 2-7 record.

* 2001 Nebraska vs Notre Dame game will be played at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln Nebraska.Kickoff is scheduled for 7:10pm.


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...The Rivalry...

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Sea of Red

Husker fans turned South Bend into a Sea of Red in 2000.
Game Re-Cap

2000 NU vs ND

1948 NU vs ND

1973 NU vs ND