Washington Battles Powerful Nebraska to a Draw

That image of the '25 Huskies seized hold of my imagination. The scenic Edmonds waterfront is situated two blocks from my apartment, and I enjoy taking evening strolls around the ferry terminal and train depot.

As often occurs at all times of day, giant trains from Burlington Northern Santa Fe go barreling noisily through town and along the coastline, until hugging a curve in the distance and disappearing around a bend.

Recently, I was reveling in the cool, evening offshore breeze after a scorching hot afternoon, and found myself over by the railroad depot. It was closed for the day and dimly lit, with a lone exterior light shining upon a sign that stated: Vancouver BC/Chicago.

Suddenly that familiar rumble began emanating from the asphalt under my feet and foreshadowed the arrival of an approaching train. Within ninety seconds it came into sight and the amorphous white headlight bore down upon me (no, I was not standing there mesmerized on the tracks).

But at that moment my imagination did commandeer my brain. I momentarily envisioned a semi-rickety, steam-powered locomotive approaching from 1925, carrying the weary Huskies home from a long trip to Lincoln, Nebraska.

On all of their excursions back east, the Huskies would have traversed along that very stretch of Edmonds track. They would have worked their way north toward Everett, before heading due east, chugging up and over Stevens Pass and into the beyond.

The 1925 Washington Huskies did make such a trip to Lincoln, Nebraska to face the mighty and mythical Cornhuskers. It was historic in the sense that it marked the first time that a Washington football team had journeyed east of the Rockies.

In those days there was no Fox Sports Network for Husky fans to watch the game on, so the Sunday edition of the newspaper was eagerly awaited for.

Here is fascinating dispatch filed from Seattle P-I Sports Editor George Scherck:

"SOMEWHERE in South Dakota, en route from Lincoln, Nebraska, with Washington University football team, Oct. 18, (1925). If Nebraska's Crimson grid eleven can be taken as an example of Middle Western football, then the game as played in the Mississippi region does not reach the heights it does on the Pacific Coast. There are many elevens in the Pacific Coast conference that could have licked the Cornhuskers yesterday at Lincoln.

Seattle PI headline from 1925

"The Nebraska men did not tackle as men tackle who love the gridiron game. They played listless football. Their hearts did not seem to be in the game, but when they cared to they showed they could play ball.

"Many times they complained that the Washington players were too rough. Can you imagine that from members of an eleven that had dreamed of championships?"

"…The Huskers looked smart and were fast, and toward the last of the game they held onto the ball on every opportunity, which undoubtedly prevented the Huskies from scoring another touchdown. But the Crimson eleven was in poor shape. Time after time they called for time out and had to use numerous substitutions as the result of injuries.

"Washington came out of the game without a serious injury. Wright, who was taken from the game due to a blow to the neck, is himself again. A few other men are bruised, but George Wilson, Captain Tesreau and the others are ready to battle again tomorrow if it were necessary."

It was indicated from Scherck's dispatch that Husky head coach Enoch Bagshaw was "slightly disappointed" that they didn't win the game, but was very pleased with having played powerful Nebraska to a tie on their home field. He also indicated that he learned a lot from that game that could be applied in battling against Washington State College in two weeks time.

Both teams had failed to play consistent football the whole game. There were fumbles, blocked kicks and "wild heaves into the air that (kept) spectators at a fever heat, for no one knew when a play or omission would swing victory to the other side."

Washington legend George Wilson was responsible for the Huskies' lone touchdown. First he took the football and threw a pass to teammate Jud Cutting for a long gain. Following that, Wilson took a handoff and plowed into the line, making direct impact with Cornhusker All-American Ed Weir. Wilson drove him backwards two full yards as he broke the plain of the goal line and scored the touchdown.

Wilson had also carried the ball to the Husker 1-yard line in the second quarter, "only to be stopped with a touchdown in sight by the timekeeper's gun". It was implied in two of the newspaper articles that this caused great consternation on the Husky sideline, and one article headline stated that the timer "robbed Purple of their opportunity".

Husky Captain Elmer Tesreau played stellar defense. From the linebacker position he stonewalled several Nebraska attempts to run smash mouth up the middle. It was noted that after the game, a handful of Cornhusker players praised Tesreau for his toughness and athletic abilities.

Washington was in the midst of a fantastic season, which saw them go 10-0-1 before losing to Alabama 20-19 in the 1926 Rose Bowl.

It is certainly interesting to note, how the nation's ever expanding and always improving railroads enticed universities to reach out, and take on football programs from other regions of the country.

It would be 66 years later that the Washington Huskies would fly to Lincoln, and play on that very same field at Memorial Stadium. It was there that they beat the Cornhuskers 36-21, on the way to the National Championship.

Of note, the Nebraska fans gave the '91 Washington team a standing ovation as they left the field of play.
Derek Johnson can be reached at uwsundodger@msn.com

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