Huskers vs Notre Dame is a rivalry that goes way back,with
the biggest games occuring in the 1920's.
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.
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
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
It was Notre Dame's only loss of the 1922 season but it
angered some of the South Benders for reasons other than
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
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 two defenses kept things as they were through the
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
The wins earned the Huskers the honor of being the only
team to have defeated a Four Horsemen led Notre Dame team
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