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Fifth in a series marking the 100th season of Nebraska football in Memorial Stadium.

Pictured above are All-American Lloyd Cardwell and Hall-of-Famers Lawrence “Biff” Jones, Sam Francis and George Sauer.

The Great Depression was no downer when it came to the on-field fortunes of Nebraska football. Fans saw mostly winning football and a steady stream of All-America performers during the bulk of the Huskers’ second decade in Memorial Stadium, 1933 to 1942.

Halfback Lloyd Cardwell was a fan favorite with his unbridled running style — he used the ball to stiff-arm opponents a time or two. Fullback Sam Francis delivered in so many ways: running, passing, punting, blocking, tackling. For those focusing on the trenches, the rugged line play of Fred Shirey, Charley Brock, Warren Alfson and Forrest Behm was top-notch. 

Those lucky enough to be there on Oct. 2, 1937, saw one of the biggest wins in stadium history as the Minnesota dynasty took an unexpected hit in the chops. The fans of 1940 witnessed the Huskers’ march to a coveted Rose Bowl berth.

There were oddities along the way: A Nebraska quarterback who doubled as a society columnist. A winning touchdown by a helmetless Husker. A game that was 7-0 after just 17 seconds and remained 7-0 to the end.

World War II did to Husker football what the Depression could not. The talent pool dried up at Nebraska while certain other schools could tap a healthy supply of football-playing military cadets. Coaches came and went. Thus began a Husker tailspin.

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In 1942, the final season of this 10-year span, Nebraska stumbled to 1-4 at home. If there was a bright spot that year, it might have been the debut of the legendary Lyell Bremser as KFAB radio’s play-by-play man.

Scroll past the fact box for a taste of some noteworthy games from Memorial Stadium’s second decade. 

Just the facts: 1933-42

• Home record: 34-16-3 (.700)

• Overall record: 58-29-5 (.658)

• Conference titles: 1933, ’35, ’36, ’37, ’40

• All-Americans: George Sauer, 1933; Sam Francis, 1936; Fred Shirey, 1937; Charles Brock, 1938; Warren Alfson, 1940; Forrest Behm, 1940

• Coaches: Dana X. Bible, 1929-36; Lawrence "Biff" Jones, 1937-41; Glenn Presnell, 1942


For openers, Horns down

1933 Nebraska-Texas football LJS cover cropped

No hat? Bad snap? No problem

Masterson TD vs Iowa 1933

Big finish, high ranking

George Sauer and 1933 ratings page

The kids are alright

Sam Francis and Lloyd Cardwell football Nebraska

Upstaging Mr. Heisman

Jay Berwanger vs Nebraska football 1935

A comeback and a poll position

Sam Francis 1936 vs. Indiana and AP poll page

Down goes Goliath

Bill Callihan winning TD 1937 Nebraska vs Minnesota football

17 seconds and done


A rally for the Roses

Butch Luther and 1940 Nebraska football

A heartbreak finish

1941 Nebraska-Pittsburgh sports cover

Trending downward

1942 Nebaska-Kansas State sports cover
Glenn Presnell and Cy Sherman crop

Postscript: Present at birth

Heisman Trophy

Irrelevance was not an issue for the Huskers of this era. Three football mainstays began during this time, and Nebraska figured prominently in the early stages of all three.

  • The first NFL draft (1937). Three Huskers were picked in the first round, including Sam Francis at No. 1.
  • The first Associated Press polls (1936). Nebraska was ranked in every week's AP poll in ’36, peaking at No. 6 and finishing ninth.
  • The second Heisman Trophy (1936). Francis was the runner-up to Yale’s Larry Kelly.