Lynn Waldorf: 1935-1946

Click on any of the images below for an enlargement...

Chicago World and Examiner, 1936 -- after Minnesota win

Program from 1936 Annual Football Dinner

6-3 win over Minnesota, 1938

20-0 win over Notre Dame, 1940

Northwestern students celebrate after shutout of Notre Dame, 1940

Crowd during one-point loss to Notre Dame, 1941

Bob Voigts during his undergraduate days

Dick Hanley's resignation brought Lynn "Pappy" Waldorf to the head of Northwestern's football program, where he would stay for 12 years. Waldorf had been an All-American tackle at Syracuse, and was fresh from taking Kansas State to a Big Six championship when he arrived at N.U.

Waldorf's first conference game was also the first night game in Big Ten history -- the Wildcats lost 7-0 to Purdue. The team then lost to Minnesota (on its way to a second-straight undefeated season) and won their first conference game against Illinois, 10-3. After that, however, came the real surprise of Waldorf's first year at Northwestern -- a victory against an undefeated Notre Dame squad.

The Irish were on their way toward a national championship going into the game. They ended up struggling against the Wildcats, going into the fourth quarter with a 7-7 tie. In the closing minutes, All-American guard Paul Tangora recovered a Notre Dame fumble on the Irish 35-yard line; sophomore Don Heap carried it in from the 12 to win.

Once again, the Evanston campus proved its enthusiasm for football victories. Paulison wrote:

The victory set off a spontaneous student celebration. The team received a riotous reception on its arrival at the 12th Street Station, students snake-danced through the Loop and held a fanfare in Fountain Square. Classes were canceled on Monday, and the celebration was climaxed by a dance that evening.

Waldorf's 1936 team was starless but solid, anchored by three sophomores: future coach Bob Voigts, Bernie Jefferson, and Cleo Diehl. The team began a streak of conference wins, beginning with an 18-7 victory over Iowa. Ohio State, the previous year's co-champions, fell to the Wildcats at Dyche Stadium; Illinois lost 14-2. An undefeated Northwestern went up against an undefeated Minnesota in a decisive game.

The game was a scoreless draw heading into the second half, but a Minnesota fumble and an unneccesary roughness penalty put the Wildcats on the goal line -- a single touchdown put an end to the Gophers' 28-game winning streak. Journalist Harry MacNamara wrote this in the Chicago Herald and Examiner:

Northwestern beat Minnesota yesterday! And as long as you live history will be dated from that rainy, murky last day of October, 1936, whenever and wherever football lore is discussed.

Northwestern won, 6 to 0, but the score didn't matter much to the capacity gathering of 48,307 spectators, all that could be jammed into the limited confines of Dyche Stadium, Evanston.

They came harboring faint suspicions that this Wildcat team, coached by Lynn Waldorf, might achieve the impossible -- beat the mighty Golden Gophers. However, their suspicions were fathered purely by the hope that is supposed to spring eternal in the human breast.

Northwestern went on to beat Wisconsin and Michigan, but their chances for a national title were killed by a 26-6 loss to Notre Dame. The Wildcats went home with a single, non-conference loss and a Big Ten Championship.

The 1937 team, despite the graduation of a good deal of the previous years main players, struggled to an even 4-4 record; the following season ended 4-2-2. 1939's team looked more hopeful for Northwestern, filled as it was with lettermen and veteran seniors. The year also marked the debut of football star Bill DeCorrevont, one of several new players from Chicago's Austin High School national championship team. A season plagued by bad luck and turnovers, however, ended with a 3-4-1 overall record.

It was the 1940 team that came through on some of the previous year's expectations, winning four of six conference games and ending the year with an upset over Notre Dame. DeCorrevont and "Red" Hahenstein scored at will throughout the season, which opened with a 40-0 rout of Syracuse; Wisconsin was beaten by 20 points, Illinois by 18. Minnesota squeaked past 13 to 12, mainly due to a missed point-after on the Wildcats' part -- Michigan put in a more solid 20-13 win.

The game against Notre Dame had little meaning in terms of title hopes for Northwestern, but the rivalry of the past few years made the game important in the eyes of both schools. All-American Alf Bauman, a tackle who played with DeCorrevont at Austin High, rose to the occasion defensively; DeCorrevont kicked off the game with a completion to Don Clawson, who ran 45 yards for a touchdown. At the second half's opening, DeCorrevont made a fifty-yard run to Notre Dame's 5-yard line, then ran in for a touchdown. The final score: a twenty-point shutout of the Irish.

1941 saw the addition of Otto Graham, one of Northwestern's football greats, but the team ended with a fourth place conference standing due to close losses to Michigan and Minnesota. Graham put together plenty of touchdowns throughout the season, though -- two in his conference debut against Kansas State, one against Michigan (during a 14-7 loss), two more against Ohio State ... and so on for the rest of the season. The team's one-point loss to Minnesota was made more bitter by a few controversial calls by the officials. Don Clawson played what Walter Paulison refers to as "one of the best games of his career" during a 20-14 win over Indiana, but it was followed by another one-point loss -- this time to Notre Dame. The Wildcats finished off the season with a 27-0 win over Illinois, and a 4-2 conference record.

During the 1942 wartime schedule of 10 games, the Wildcats won only one -- a 3-0 triumph over Texas. Alan Pick, a senior "who had done little but gather bench splinters," entered the game, kicked a 22-yard field goal, then returned to the sidelines. The season ended without a single conference victory. The next year's team, however, went through the conference with only one loss to Michigan (who ended the season undefeated.) Otto Graham took fire as a quarterback, putting the Wildcat offense in high gear during 13-0 wins over Great Lakes and Ohio State, a 42-6 blowout of Minnesota, and a 41-point shutout of Wisconsin, during which Graham put in three touchdowns and three extra points in the first 12 minutes alone. The team lost to Notre Dame, but ended the seaon with a 53-6 trouncing of Illinois. After that, his final game, Graham rushed onto the field in plain clothes and ran off with the game ball.

The 1944 season was quite a reversal, since many of Northwestern's key players had been lost to graduation and active service in the war. Once again, the team couldn't muster a single conference win. Their first game -- a 62-0 win over DePauw which must have raised hopes for the team -- was their only win for the season. The following years found the Wildcats hovering near the bottom of the conference rankings, ending both seasons 4-4-1 overall.

The 1946 season -- the first post-war season for Big Ten football -- was "Pappy" Waldorf's last: he moved on to the position of head coach at the University of California. His position was taken by one of his former players, Bob Voigts -- who, two years later, would take Northwestern to a Rose Bowl battle against his former coach.

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