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Seventy years ago today — yes, 70 — Husker Al Zikmund scored a touchdown in the Rose Bowl, and he remembers it like yesterday.

“The body may be deteriorating, but the mind is still working. … I can see things in my mind absolutely clearly — where we stayed, where we worked out,” said Zikmund, the former Kearney State College football coach and athletics director, now 88.

 He remembers the touchdown, too, a 33-yard pass from Herm Rohrig, that was thrown a little high and behind him, so he had to make a leaping, twisting catch.

He told Rohrig, “If you would have thrown that one out, I wouldn’t have had to lean back.” To which Rohrig replied, “Al, I saw a red shirt out there and threw it as hard as I could.”

It’s one of the legendary touchdowns in Nebraska football history, even though the Huskers lost to Stanford, 21-13, on New Years Day, 1941.

The game was played before 91,900 fans — “a good-sized crowd for a kid green behind the years. … It was a real thrill,” Zikmund said.

The Huskers made the trip to Pasadena by train, stopping for four days in Phoenix where they stayed at the legendary Camelback Inn. They worked out at Wilcox Union High School, and Zikmund got sunburned lounging in front of his cottage at the inn on Christmas day.

Each player received 50 cents to buy a present for a team gift exchange, and while Zikmund doesn’t remember what present he gave, he does remember that he received a comb, not something he could use today.

“I did have hair then. I needed it then, and I used it. But the Navy kind of took care of the hair,” Zikmund said.

Nebraska-born actor Robert Taylor hosted the Huskers when they got to Pasadena, and he arranged to pack the seats behind the Nebraska bench with movie stars and starlets.

“I have to admit I was one who turned around instead of watching the game,” said Zikmund, who was an 18-year-old sophomore from Ord, who had never been out of Nebraska until the Huskers took the train to play the season opener against the national champion Minnesota Golden Gophers.

He was practicing punts and punt returns before that game when the Gophers’ first group of players trotted onto the field, all dressed in gold from head to foot. Sizing them up, he decided they didn’t look so big or so tough.

By the time the eighth team came out, however, “the ground was shaking and I said to myself, ‘If I could be back in Nebraska, I’d be happy,’” Zikmund said.

Nebraska lost that game, 13-7, and had a 66-yard touchdown run called back. It was Nebraska’s only loss in the regular season. The game was played before 70,000 fans, plenty more than the 39,000 Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium could seat in 1940.

“We filled it about every time. We were winning and playing good competition. … We played tough people all the way,” he said.

Competition that now looks like a natural fit — Minnesota, Iowa and Indiana, as well as Big Six foes Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State. The Huskers also played at Pittsburgh that year.

Zikmund played defensive halfback and wingback in Nebraska’s single-wing offense. He was on the second team, which meant plenty of playing time in the days of restricted substitution. Then, players who started a quarter could return if they were subbed for, whereas players who came off the bench couldn’t return until the next quarter if they left the game.

Nebraska coach Biff Jones used two teams — the bigger, stronger players played the first 7½ minutes, then the quicker faster players came on for the next 7½ minutes of the quarter. The second unit relied more on passing, misdirection, reverses and wide plays.

The fastest player on the team, Zikmund fit in well with the second unit.

When Nebraska played at Oklahoma, the Sooners coaches had forgotten to take down their scouting report on the Huskers. The blackboard included pictures and notes about each Nebraska player. Under Zikmund’s picture, it said, “Do not throw in this man’s area — speed.” The word “speed” was underlined.

When the Huskers battled Stanford, they ran into college football’s future. Stanford ran the T-formation, the first set where the quarterback took the snap from under center.

Nebraska hadn’t seen it before. Their only exposure was one tape Jones had rounded up from Washington. Now, after decades of football experience, Zikmund said the Huskers probably didn’t do everything right against the new, innovative offense.

“They used a lot of man in motion and we covered them with a guard. George Abel pulled out of the line and went with the man in motion,” Zikmund said.

Still, Nebraska scored on its first possession and Zikmund’s touchdown put the Huskers ahead 13-7. Stanford scored again before halftime, and that’s when Zikmund’s good memories turn a little bit sour.

On the ensuing kickoff, he returned the ball 59 yards, at the time, the longest kickoff in Rose Bowl history that wasn’t a touchdown. But on the play, he suffered a broken leg.

After the game, Jones said, “Zik, if you hadn’t gotten that leg broken, we could have beaten those guys because you can get behind them,” Zikmund said. “I don’t know if that would have happened, but it was a nice feeling.”

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