Dick Hanley: 1927-1934


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Program (vs. Iowa, Nov. 19, 1927)

Team photograph, 1930

"Reb" Russel, 1930

Dal Marvil, 1930

Team photograph, 1931

 

Dick Hanley, a protege of Pop Warner, began his Northwestern coaching career with a dozen lettermen from his predecessor's conference champion team, including team captain Vic Gustafson. His 1927 season started with a pair of "easy" victories (over South Dakota and Utah). The team's third game, however, was a 19-13 victory over Ohio -- the first time in history that Northwestern beat the Buckeyes. Walter Paulison detailed the game as follows:

This was a battle all the way, with Lewis playing the greatest game of his career to swing the tide in Northwestern's favor. Lewis scored the first touchdown, but Ohio came back to wrest the lead away on a tally by Grim and successful conversion. Holmer stormed 50 yards for a touchdown, but Ohio matched it, and then, with the clock showing only a minute remaining, Lewis climaxed a drive of 50 yards by plunging over. The kick for point made the final score 19 to 13.

Northwestern faltered over the next few games, though, losing to Illinois (who would go on to take the conference title), Missouri, Purdue, and Indiana. The season ended with a 12-0 win over Iowa.

The 1928 and '29 seasons were both wining ones (5-3 and 6-3 overall), but Hanley's real success began in 1930, when his team tied Michigan to become Big Ten Co-Champions. Again, from Paulison:

Few teams more richly deserve the accolade of gratness than Hanley's 1930 eleven, which swept through a five-game Conference schedule undefeated to tie Michigan for the championship. The measure of this greatness is found in the 168 points scored by the Wildcats to their opponents' 22. It was a team of experience, size, power, deception, and a sharp pass attack.

The 1930 team ended their season against Notre Dame, for a national title. From Paulison, once again:

The meeting was to go down in history as one of the most furiously contested fames in football annals, a game whose closeness and intensity is not recorded in the bare figures of the final score, which was 14 to 0 in favor of the Irish. For 53 minutes it was a tense scoreless struggle, with the tide surging first one way, then the other.

In the early moments, with [Laffayette "Reb"] Russel leading the assault with furious drives into the line, the Wildcats battered their way to the four-yard line. But as Russel tore his way into the line again, he fumbled, and Notre Dame recovered. Soon the Northwestern drive was in motion again, after Clark had interrupted a pass by Carideo and returned five yards into Notre Dame territory.Once more it was Russel who took up the cudgels, ripping the Irish line until the ball was within a yard or so of the goal. Then the Wildcats changed their strategy and gave the ball to Bruder. But Hank's luck still was bad, and the ball popped out of his grasp. Once again Notre Dame recovered.

The fire went out of Northwestern's offense then, but the defense remained stubborn until, with seven minutes ot play remaining, Marchy Schwartz broke loose over his right tackle for 27 yards and a touchdown. Later Carideo intercepted a desperate Northwestern pass and ran back to the NU 10-yard line. From there Dan Hanley pounded over. The victory was Notre Dame's, but the individual honors that day belonged to Russell, whose line-plunging against a foe of championship class was the talk of the nation.

Coach Hanley's fifth year team was captained by future All-American tackle Dal Marvil. Their team opened the season with a 19-7 victory over Nebraska (whom the Northwestern team had not faced since 1902.) The next game, against Notre Dame, was played at Soldier Field in front of 75,000 spectators -- it ended in a scoreless draw.

The team went on to beat U.C.L.A., Ohio State, and Illinois. It's next challenge was against Minnesota, who kicked off the game by scoring two quick touchdowns and establishing a 14-0 lead. The Wildcats scored a touchdown just before the end of the half, but their fans did not seem satisfied. Marvil later said:

We were booed by our rooting section when we left the field at half time. I can't recall that ever happening before or since.

In the second half, however, the Wildcats stormed back, sending the Gophers back to Minnesota with a 32-14 loss. This would normally have secured a title for the team -- season play had ended, and Northwestern was the only unbeated team in the Big Ten. The Conference, however, made an effort to help the countless citizens struck by the Depression by organizing a round of post-season charity games, the results of which would count in the final standings.

Northwestern was put against Purdue, who had a 4-1 conference record. Before the game, however, a strange accident put the team on edge. Paulison writes:

The game was scheduled for Soldiers' Field, and, consequently, the Wildcat squad spend the night before the game at a South Side hotel. In the early evening an elevator containing several regular players, including Capt. Marvil, fell. Luckily no one was badly hurt, although all were shaken up. The next afternoon the team lacked its usual dash. Even so, it had battled the Boilermakers on scoreless terms for 50 minutes. Then Fred Hecker intercepted a Wildcat pass and ran 40 yards to the Purple 30-yard line. Three plays netted 11 yards, then Jim Purvis broke loose for a touchdown that put a 7 to 0 blot on the previously spotless record of one of N.U.'s truly greatest teams.

That was the last great team Hanley was to produce for Northwestern, for, unhappily, the tide of misfortune began to run against the Purple, which won two games in '32, only one the following year, and then two again in '34.

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