Huskers Plunge In Against Notre Dame
1922: Four Horsemen Fall Victim To Huskers' Might
Nebraska Defeats Legends-To-Be 7-0
by Mark Fricke
August 08, 2000
History would look back on Quarterback Harry Stuhldreher, left halfback Jim Crowley, right halfback Don Miller and fullback Elmer Layden as one of the greatest quartets ever to grace the college football field. In 1924 sportswriter Grantland Rice would dub the Notre Dame group "The Four Horsemen" and their legend would be enough to create a large part of what Notre Dame football would be all about. In 1922, however, the Nebraska Cornhuskers were less than fearful of the squad and the Cornhuskers were able to use their power to elicit a 7-0 victory.
Although their best days were still to come, 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.
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. Among the observers was World War II hero General Pershing.
Nebraska 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.
As was the practice then, Notre Dame elected to quickly punt out of danger. Ed Degree succeeded by booting the ball 75 yards from behind his own goal line, and out of bounds at the Nebraska 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 Notre Dame two 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, grabbed the ball by his fingertips and rumbled through the Notre Dame defenders all the way to the end zone for a two touchdown Husker lead at the half.
Notre Dame turned to a brilliant passing game in the second half. The Catholics were able to score when Layden connected with Miller who sprinted 38 yards for the score. A missed point after kick kept the score at14-6, 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 broke 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. The two teams saw other fourth quarter drives end with ill-timed fumbles.
As the game came to a close, the Husker faithful shook the rafters of old Nebraska field. The win was Nebraska's first over Notre Dame in five tries. The win provided a fitting tribute for the Nebraska playing field and showed the Cornhuskers were deserving of their Missouri Valley Championship.
It was Notre Dame's only loss of the 1922 season but it angered some of the South Benders for reasons other than that.
Several of the Notre Dame players and coaches 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, (head coach Knute)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.