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March to No. 1: Husker Air Force Captures Army
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MARCH TO NO. 1

March to No. 1: Husker Air Force Captures Army

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2020 marks 50 years since Nebraska football entered the history books with its first national championship season. The 1970 Huskers, coached by the legendary Bob Devaney, broke through on a grand night that capped a grand season, giving momentum to a fan base whose fervor has barely waned to this day. Each week, through the beginning of January, The World-Herald will revisit the 1970 season, allowing readers to relive the first Husker national title and get to know — again — the players and coaches who made it happen.

This article originally ran in The World-Herald on Sept. 27, 1970.

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MEMORIAL STADIUM, LINCOLN — A pressure defense — a typical Blackshirt performance — and an effective passing attack led Nebraska to a 28-0 football victory over Army Saturday.

With 66,928 looking on (the sixth largest crowd in Nebraska history), the Huskers scored three times on passes and set up a fourth score on Johnny Rodgers’ fancy, 38-yard punt return.

March to No. 1 logo

But the Huskers were far from the precision-like offensive team that tied Southern California a week ago.

Eddie Periard, the feisty middle guard, and other Blackshirt tormentors, made life miserable for the Cadets, however.

Army had just 18 yards rushing, with the Huskers firing through for 17 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

Periard, a bantam of a bruiser in the middle, came through with 11 tackles, four totaling 22 yards in losses. Jerry Murtaugh was little Eddie’s chief helper with nine tackles.

Impressive

If Nebraska’s offense was a little off its game, especially the first half, it was understandable, said George “Butch” Nash, the Minnesota assistant who scouted the game.

“I was plenty impressed,” said Nash, who was taking notes in preparation of Nebraska’s visit to Gopherland next Saturday.

Johnny Rodgers

Johnny Rodgers catches a pass against Army in 1970.

Jerry Tagge connected on 13 of 18 passes, two to the stop-and-go Rodgers for touchdowns. Then he turned the quarterbacking over to Van Brownson, who made his first appearance of the year.

Brownson completed the scoring by pitching a 31-yard touchdown pass to Woody Cox early in the fourth period.

With Tagge’s aerials gaining 174 and Brownson’s 4-5 tacking on an additional 55, the Husker passing attack looked more effective than the ground game.

Yet the Husker runners managed 222 yards.

Nebraska owned a 7-0 halftime advantage while wasting many of the 250 yards accumulated in fussing to overcome three lost fumbles and four penalties.

The Huskers broke the scoreless game with only 4:48 left in the half.

Speed Helps

Obviously aroused by an Army bid to get on the scoreboard first via a field goal, the N.U. offense reeled off 80 yards in 10 plays.

Tagge didn’t fiddle around much on the ground, firing six of seven passes into friendly hands to eat up 69 yards.

Rodgers sped behind Lane Morehead to gather in a 43-yarder for the score and Paul Rogers kicked the point.

Rodgers, who finished with six catches for 106 yards, had the crowd buzzing the first time he had the ball in the third quarter.

He grabbed a bounding punt at mid-field and left Army defenders groping for him like a sleep-walker looking for a light switch.

Johnny R sped 38 yards to the 12.

Joe Orduna, who collected 89 yards in 20 carries, raced to the two and scored on the next play. Rogers made it 14-0.

The Huskers, mostly a lackluster group the first half, forced a punt three plays later.

Although set back by penalties of five and 15 yards, the determined Huskers sailed in to score in seven plays from the Army 41.

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Tagge nestled a pass into Rodgers’ arms as Charles Blakely and Jack Greenlee watched helplessly. The payoff came on a 26-yard play.

Army couldn’t get untracked the first half with Bob Mohn at quarterback, so the Cadets gave the job to Bernie Wall in the third period.

Wall completed six passes despite the hounding of Nebraska forwards. The Cadets made four first downs in a row. They reached the Nebraska 15 before a holding penalty dulled the march.

The penalty, coupled with a Jim Anderson tackle that set the Cadets back five more yards, necessitated an Army punt.

Brownson, who fumbled away the ball in his first appearance in the second quarter, took over for Tagge with 1:04 left in the third quarter.

He ushered the Huskers 80 yards in seven plays. The last one covered the final 31 as he expertly arched a pass to Cox for the score to give indication his ailing right elbow is healed.

When Rogers’ kick sailed through to complete scoring with 12:33 to go, it marked the 12th straight conversion for the placekicking expert from Rock Rapids, Ia. Eleven have come this year.

Another highlight of the fourth quarter came when the second unit defense thwarted an Army touchdown bid after the Cadets had a first down at the two.

Wall had two completions, and an 18-yard run by Ray Ritacco put the ball at the Nebraska 11. An interference call made it first down on the two.

Four plays later the Junior Blackshirts turned the ball over to the offensive second stringer at the seven.

Van Scrambles

The final minutes didn’t prove much except that Brownson’s back in his best scrambling form. He carried five times and gained 25 yards, despite a five-yard loss on a pass-play.

With Nebraska’s double dose of quarterbacking effectiveness to go with Orduna and Jeff Kinney at tailback, scout Nash said there’s plenty of practice overtime ahead for Minnesota defenders this week.

Nash overlooked a batch of N.U. errors that might have served only to build up a score over an outmanned Cadet team.


March to No. 1 series

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