Score by Quarters
History has a great way of allowing its participants to gain perspective.
In coverage of the 1941 Rose Bowl Game in the Los Angeles Times, the paper’s hearty stable of writers dispatched to the game led with Stanford’s comeback, the scene of the day and the fact that Stanford used a speed attack that prevailed over Nebraska’s power, etc.
None of them mentioned this odd “T” formation that Head Coach Clark Shaughnessy and his Stanford Indians used to come from behind and beat Nebraska, 21-13.
However, Rube Samuelson of the Pasadena Star-News started his chapter on the 1941 game in his book, The Rose Bowl Game, published 10 years later: “THE 1941 Rose Bowl Game revolutionized football….
“The 1941 Stanford-Nebraska holiday game in Pasadena made the entire country T-formation-conscious…. So deceiving was Stanford’s attack, (fans) were unable to tell where the ball was or who had it a good half of the time. It was that new, that different, and that mystifying. Within two years the single wing, the Notre Dame box, the double wing, and the short punt formation had been discarded as passé. Shaughnessy, the guiding genius of Stanford’s conference championship eleven, and George Halas, coach of the Chicago Bears, who also played in the 1919 Pasadena holiday game, were the men behind the acknowledged birth of the modern ‘T.’”
After winning just one game the year before, Stanford fired its coach, Tiny Thornhill, and hired Shaughnessy. Shaughnessy recognized the talent he had in his backfield: Frankie Albert at quarterback, Pete Kmetovic at left halfback, Norm “Chief” Standlee at fullback and Hugh Gallarneau at right halfback.
Spurred by this revelation and the regular use of this “T” formation – Shaughnessy had dabbled in it before, but never as a regular formation – the Indians had a worst-to-first turnaround in a single offseason – they went 9-0.
So, when the 1941 Rose Bowl Game came along, they were 8-to-5 favorites over a proud, pumped Nebraska team, a team on which 38 of its 39 players were Cornhuskers by birth and a team that, Samuelson described, “went mildly insane” when it learned of its bid.
Four minutes into the game, the insanity continued. Nebraska’s star fullback Vike Francis returned the opening kick 19 yards to the Cornhusker 47, then led his team 53 yards – including two 14-yard runs – in seven plays for the score. He even kicked the extra point. And just like that, the “T” was down, 7-0.
Stanford answered, with Kmetovic, who ran for 141 yards on 14 carries, returning a punt 13 yards to the Nebraska 47 and then ripping off 29 yards to the 18-yard line. He ran again to the 9-yard line, and Gallarneau finished it off from there.
Nebraska retorted in the second quarter. After Kmetovic fumbled a kick, the Cornhuskers got possession on Stanford’s 33-yard line. Herman Rohrig and Allen Zikmund connected on the next play for a 33-yard touchdown strike, again sitting down the Indian faithful.
But they soon stood back up, as their Indians answered back with an anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better sneer. Albert hit Gallarneau in perfect stride for a 41-yard strike to take a 14-13 halftime lead, a lead that would be safe to win. However, just for good measure, Kmetovic returned a punt 39 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.
“The T formation’s craze,” wrote Samuelson to close his chapter on the 1941 game, “ignited by Stanford’s Rose Bowl triumph, spread like a prairie fire to every nook and cranny of the land.”
Neb – Francis, 2-yard run (Francis kick good)
Stan – Gallarneau, 9-yard run (Albert kick good)
Neb – Zikmund, 33-yard pass from Rohrig (Kick failed)
Stan – Hugh, 41-yard pass from Albert (21-yard pass followed by a 20-yard run)
(Albert kick good)
Stan: Kmetovic, 39-yard run off a punt (Albert kick good)
Stanford: Clark Shaughnessy
Nebraska: Maj L. M. Jones
Clark Shaughnessy’s use of the “T” formation was so successful in the 1941 Rose Bowl Game that most other formations were discarded from then on and the birth of the modern “T” was acknowledged.
Stan: Kmetovic 14-141; Gallarneau 17-89; Standlee 6-12; Albert 9-3
Neb: Francis 9-59; Hopp 7-16; Rohrig 6-8