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That time Concordia beat Nebraska in football

That time Concordia beat Nebraska in football
Photo Courtesy-Concordia Athletics

Full disclosure, it was a team of University of Nebraska reserves that was handed a 26-6 loss by the Concordia University Football team in 1951. Thus, you won’t find this result in the official archives for the Cornhusker varsity football program. However, it remains noteworthy to this day that a team of Nebraska players traveled to Seward’s city park field for a battle that occurred on Nov. 10, 1951.

At the time, Nebraska had yet to establish itself as a national power. The famed Bob Devaney would become head coach 11 years later. But in the early 1950s, Bill Glassford roamed the sideline for the Cornhuskers, whose official overall record in 1951 ended at 2-8. On that same date as football took place in Seward, the Nebraska regulars were in Ames, Iowa, and squeaked by Iowa State University, 34-27, for one of their two victories that season.

A Central Church College Conference championship team guided by influential head coach Herb Meyer, the ’51 Bulldogs had the Nebraska ‘B’ team physically outmatched. In its recap of the game, The Courier, a student-run campus newspaper, went with the headline “Bulldogs Down Huskers” and referred to the game as a “drubbing.” A star of the time, Gene Oetting may have been capable of playing for the Husker ‘A’ teams of the 1950s. Oetting and the Concordia defensive line held Nebraska to a grand total of one rushing yard. The Bulldogs outgained the Huskers on the day, 280-200.

The contest was the final college football game in the careers of seniors Sid Seevers, Marlin Zobel, Harry Brockberg and Dan Firnhaber. They made it count by polishing off a nearly perfect 8-1 record. Concordia touchdown scoring plays came via a 41-yard pass from Seevers to Dick Walther (set up by a Jack Thomas blocked punt), rushes of eight and 10 yards by Larry Keiser and a 20-yard pass from Omar Dittmer to Zobel. Meanwhile, the only Nebraska touchdown was scored on defense thanks to a botched handoff.

One newspaper article described Concordia as displaying an “aerial circus.” With Seevers typically under center, Concordia dialed up more than 1,000 passing yards in a season for the first time ever. Junior fullback Larry Keiser ran for 359 yards and Zobel caught 23 passes for 369 yards for a squad that outscored its opponents, 288-74, for the year. Zobel was named by the Concordia “C” Club as the school’s top senior athlete in 1952. Seevers, Dittmar and Wally Bostelmann each tossed at least one touchdown pass during the ’51 season.

Though it did not count on Nebraska’s official record, the 1951 meeting may have resulted in it placing greater emphasis on its game with Concordia a year later. The Husker ‘B’ squad defeated the Bulldogs, 25-0, in 1952 in what capped a 6-3 season for Concordia. The two institutions have not played each other ever since then. In the 1951-52 Concordia yearbook, the words “best in the state” were typed under the team photo from that season.

Games against NCAA opponents have been rare since the Bulldogs began playing intercollegiate football in 1925. In recent years, Concordia has gone up against programs such as Buena Vista University (NCAA Division III) and William Jewell College (NCAA Division II). Concordia managed to defeat Drake University in back-to-back seasons (1986 and 1987). Some alums in the area, such as John Suhr, still remember the rough 56-0 loss to NCAA Division I Arkansas State University in 1956.

On the other hand, Nebraska does list several official games in its record book with non-Division I opponents. The Huskers have battled the likes of Doane, Hastings, Morningside, Nebraska Wesleyan and Peru State.

All of those matchups took place long, long ago. In today’s world, a Bulldog-Husker meeting is much more likely to happen as an exhibition in sports like basketball.

1951 Concordia football schedule/results
8-1, Central Church College Conference champions

Sterling – W, 41-0
McPherson – L, 6-47
York – W, 25-13
Nebraska Central – W, 39-0
Tarkio – W, 66-8
Norfolk JC – W, 59-0
Dana – W, 25-0
Luther JC – W, Forfeit
Nebraska ‘B’ – W, 26-6

Note: From 1949-54, Herb Meyer guided his Bulldog teams to a combined record of 41-8-4 with conference championships in 1951, 1952 and 1954.

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