Long before either Penn State or Nebraska joined the Big 10 to make it a de facto Big 12, the independent Nittany Lions met the Big 6 Cornhuskers 11 times, going back to the days of train travel, leather helmets and exclusively male cheerleaders.
At their first meeting in 1920, the Cornhuskers were playing their second game in the East within five days, with the first one being a most unusual game against Rutgers that was played on Tuesday, November 2nd, the day of Warren Harding’s election to the presidency. After the Nebraskans easily disposed of the Scarlet Knights in a game that was played in the New York Giants’ Polo Grounds, they trundled up into the hills of western Pennsylvania to try to extend their luck against the unbeaten and increasingly powerful Nittany Lions, who’d steamrollered their first six opponents by a combined score of 232-28.
Although the “fast and heavy” Cornhuskers brought their full strength and speed to Happy Valley, they had no answer for the Nittany Lions’ diminutive ball of energy who went by the name of Charlie Way. Standing but 5-feet-8 and tipping the scales at a mere 144 pounds, the All-American halfback was held out by coach Hugo Bezdek until the fourth quarter, either to preserve his energy or to produce a timely element of surprise. But once he entered the fray, he showed the Cornhuskers the reason for his credentials.
On his first carry, Way weaved his way off tackle to a 55-yard touchdown gallop. When Penn State’s defense forced a Nebraska punt, Way slipped through the Cornhuskers’ right tackle, and kept on going 57 yards for the score that put the game on ice. The Nittany Lions went on to the first of two consecutive unbeaten seasons, and upon graduation, Charlie Way went on to a career with the Canton Bulldogs and Frankford Yellow Jackets in the newly-formed National Football League, and then with the champion Philadelphia Quakers of the rival American Football League.
Not bad for a man who would scarcely seem big enough for an intramural team of today.
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