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They found a fertile field ready for shuckin’

October 25th, 2012 by Katie


Michigan has played a total of seven games against Nebraska, the first of which was in 1905. For history’s sake we’ll just pass by last year’s first meeting in the Big Ten, and so as not to stir up bad blood, I’m also banishing into the corner that 2005 Alamo Bowl. Here’s a look at the game scores of the Wolverines’ other five encounters with the Cornhuskers.

Michigan beat Nebraska in the 1986 Fiesta Bowl

1905- Michigan 31 Nebraska 0

1911- Michigan 6 Nebraska 6

1917- Michigan 20 Nebraska 0

1962- Michigan 13 Nebraska 25

1985- Michigan 27 Nebraska 23 (Fiesta Bowl)

Michigan leads the all-time series 4-2-1.

The 1905 Huskers were undefeated in their first four games prior to heading into Ann Arbor. The Wolverines, however, had a different idea of how the day would end and wished to be rid of the controversy that arose three years earlier when Michigan was crowned Western Champion despite Nebraska posting an unblemished schedule, all of which were shutouts. Not to mention the fact that the point-a-minute head coach for Michigan, Fielding H. Yost, had been calling the plays in Lincoln only a short time before. It was not to be for the away team as the Wolverines scored 31 points in the second half, and a most disappointed Cornhuskers went back to Antelope Field to crush poor Creighton the next week 102-0.

For the 1911 tie, MVictors.com provided a synopsis from the original Michigan Daily. “Michigan’s captain Conklin ‘saved the day’ for the Wolverines, scoring U-M’s only touchdown by converting a blocked punt in the third quarter. After an exchange of punts, Nebraska tied the score and the game ended in a 6-6 deadlock. The Daily added its maize-and-blue spin on the event reporting, ‘Outweighed, outlucked, and often outplayed, the Wolverines gave an exhibition of gameness and hard fighting that has never been seen in the west and won even the plaudits of the most loyal Cornhusker.’” It’s a shame that a rivalry didn’t bloom between the two schools as they would only play once more until the 1960s. The 1917 matchup in the Big House turned into a soup bowl as unbeaten Nebraska faced the Wolverines in the driving rain and struggled in a shutout loss.

Michigan was treated like royalty after its 6-6 tie in Lincoln in 1911

And what a shame it was considering the fine journalistic prose after the first Nebraska win over Michigan in 1962. Lyall Smith from the Detroit Free Press gave the summation: “An itinerant band of Cornhuskers paid their first visit to Michigan in 45 years Saturday, looking for work. They found a fertile field ready for shuckin’. And, man, how they shucked it.” As a side note I have to admit, though the word would be often used against the Wolverines, that the term ‘shucked’ being used to describe any part of a gridiron matchup is well worth the back and forth trips to Lincoln. Now back to ’62 for a quick recap.  The score was 19-13 in the fourth quarter, but the Cornhuskers went for it on fourth down and converted. They punched it in for a touchdown the very next play and took home the victory. A fun stat: the teams lost a combined five fumbles that day, three coming from Michigan.

The 1962 game was the first of Nebraska's two wins over Michigan

Thankfully, for the Maize and Blue faithful the next meeting resulted in a victory. Though truth be told it was hand-wrapped and delivered by Nebraska in a series of third quarter mistakes that resulted in 24 Michigan points. A fumble on their own 21 turned into a quick touchdown for the Wolverines, but that was just the start. On the kickoff the Nebraska returner fumbled the ball and Michigan recovered on the 38. Jim Harbaugh took it in for the score. But the downward spiral continued as the Huskers’ next punt was blocked and retrieved by the Wolverines at the 6-yard line.  Michigan kicked a field goal, and would seal the game in the later stages of the quarter with two pass interference calls that helped them score their final touchdown of the game. Nebraska would fail to convert a fourth down half way through the fourth quarter, but stormed back to put up seven before claiming a safety off of a play in which Michigan’s punter came out of the endzone. However, the Cornhuskers couldn’t come back with the clock starting at a little over one minute and no time outs remaining. So the Wolverines pulled it out in what seemed to be a second Christmas, and a coveted bowl win for Michigan’s most beloved coach.

This year, both teams head into the game locked at 5-2, with Michigan 3-0 and Nebraska 2-1 in Big Ten play. It is the first Legends division night game for either team, and the first time Michigan will play in Lincoln since the 1911 6-6 tie. As both teams have their eye on a place in this year’s Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis, a victory here is key.