The 1918 season was one of severe upheaval not just at Nebraska, but all over the United States, in every way. World War I was reaching full swing, calling away many thousands of men to fight for their country, including of course many college football players. The United States government limited cross country travel during this time, which limited the number of teams that could be met for games, and as a result only six games would be completed this year. Amidst these unsteady times, the 1918 flu pandemic was gripping the world and taking many times more lives than the casualties of the great war in progress in Europe. It was against this backdrop that a new head coach arrived, to try to guide the Cornhuskers through the storm. The role of the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association was rolled back for 1918, and no designated conference games were held, no standings recorded, and no champion crowned. Only three starters from the previous year were back, since many others (including Nebraska's Captain-elect) were training for battle or already overseas at war.
During preparations for this game, on September 30, the MVIAA announced that for the first time ever, freshmen athletes would be permitted to participate in football games, at least in the interim time period while so many of the experienced players were called away due to the war effort or unavailable because of the influenza epidemic. Both teams implemented personnel changes to plug in the freshmen, and thus both teams were untested machines when they finally met. Nebraska looked alive when they reached the Iowa 2-yard line in the first quarter, but the Hawkeyes held strong and sent Nebraska away with no points. It was the last time the Cornhuskers posed a serious threat to Iowa, who scraped together 18 points later in the game to open Nebraska's season with a shutout loss, though the Cornhuskers still controlled the series with a 12-5-3 edge.
Due to wartime travel restrictions and the influenza outbreak of 1918, the scheduled games with Syracuse, Missouri and West Virginia were canceled. The Syracuse series would be renewed briefly in 1919, while Missouri would again be picked up in normal regional play next year as well. However, the cancellation of the West Virginia game would put off the first meeting between the Mountaineers and the Cornhuskers for 75 years, when they would finally meet in their 1994 season openers.
About two weeks before this game was played, word reached the University that Cornhusker Captain-elect Roscoe Rhodes, who had joined the war effort overseas before the start of the season, had been killed in action on October 25. It was a sobering reminder to the entire University of the costs of the war and important contribution of its service members.
The Omaha Ballon School was a training facility for Army personnel involved in the operation of dirigibles to be used during the war. As the Cornhuskers sat idle for an entire month, due to cancellations wrought by wartime travel restrictions and the ongoing influenza outbreak, a football squad from the Balloon School was assembled and traveled to Lincoln to face the University. As Nebraska was itself seriously hobbled by a lack of personnel, the Cornhuskers managed only one touchdown in each of the first three quarters, but held the Ballon School boys to no points. This was the only game between Nebraska and the Ballon School trainees.
In a muddy game, both teams put on a fight with their limited resources, a feat that was complicated because all of the players quickly become covered in so much mud as to look alike and also blend in with the field. Somehow Nebraska found ways to score while Kansas did not, and Nebraska improved to 16-9 all time against the Jayhawks.
Nebraska hosted another team of men preparing for battle by welcoming a squad from Iowa's Camp Dodge to Lincoln. Unlike the Ballon School boys, however, the Camp Dodge squad showed the Cornhuskers a much more challenging front in this icy contest. Fumbles, errors, and missed opportunities hampered Nebraska, and ultimately the "Dodgers" handed the Cornhuskers a 7-23 loss in the only meeting between these teams.
With the signing of the Armistice ending World War I on November 11, football teams were soon once again allowed to travel, and the Notre Dame game originally scheduled for early November but canceled by the restriction, was hurriedly put back on the slate at the end of the season. Both teams fielded inexperienced squads that had played rushed games against unplanned opponents with ever-changing rosters, and these elements made for a very different Nebraska-Notre Dame game than seen before. Coach Kline played a prevent-first game, keeping Knute Rockne's first Notre Dame team from ever scoring, waiting to take advantage of miscues to obtain points. However, Notre Dame also played it safe, and both teams ultimately settled for a scoreless tie. Nebraska still held a slim edge on the series at 2-1-1.
The season had already been slightly extended with the late return of Notre Dame to the schedule, but Nebraska placed one more team on the 1918 slate when they scheduled the Washington University team as a postseason charity game. The Washington Pikers, led by former 1913 Cornhusker star HB Richard Rutherford, allowed Nebraska the first points, but then held off the Cornhuskers for the rest of the game while racking up 20 points in response. This was the first meeting of these squads despite having shared conference affiliations for many years.
Perhaps it was due to the ever-shifting rosters and loose approach to allowing personnel to play who were not normally permitted to do so, as caused by the war and flu epidemic, but a glance at the official roster for the 1918 season lists two players by last name only: "Kline" and "Schissler". A review of the season's coaching staff perhaps reveals who these semi-anonymous players were.
Coach Kline finished the abbreviated season 2-3-1 (.417), but under the difficult circumstances of the time this was as good an outcome as might have otherwise been expected. With the end of the war, a return to normalcy for 1919 was anticipated. The program's overall record slipped with the losses to 166-54-12 (.741).