Sunday Morning Hot Takes: Troy

Does losing to Troy suck?

Yes.

Am I mad about losing to Troy?

Eh, not really. 

It feels weird to type that because any and every Husker loss is supposed to be an end of the world gut punch but this year feels different, even if it starts out with a big pair of scarlet L’s that should have been W’s. 

It’s 11:45pm and I’ve spent the last hour charting Husker wins and losses because that’s what you do when you’re old. You make spreadsheets on a Saturday night and you’re happy about it because it means you didn’t have to go anywhere. 

Going from today all the way back to the year 2000, the Huskers have lost 85 games under five different coaches. At this point what’s the big deal about chalking up another loss? Granted, 85 losses is such an unbelievably high number that I was convinced Excel’s auto sum feature was lying to me. I added up nearly 20 years of losses by hand twice only to discover that Excel was right on the money when it spat out the brutal truth.

To put this another way, this year’s freshman class at Dear Old Nebraska U has been alive to experience 85 losses. When I stepped on campus as a freshman, the Huskers had amassed all of 40 in my lifetime. When I stepped off campus five years later, that loss total had grown to 46 but they also picked up three National Championships during that stretch and changed head coaches for the first time in 25 years. 

What does all this mean?

It means that the latest crop of Huskers fans have never known a team to be good in the sense that us old-timers have.

During the game at our watch site, I had the slightly depressing epiphany that I’m officially old enough to be old. It hit me when the youngest Husker fan at our table replied with a Keanu level “Whoa” when he learned I attended college back in 90s. I felt like my grandpa spinning yarns about life before television as I explained to the kid there was indeed a time when the Huskers didn’t lose. “We didn’t have cell phones or email addresses but goddamnit the Huskers were good.”  

By the time I was finished, the kid was in such awe that his breakfast pizza with gluten-free crust was left dangling from his mouth. 

No matter how this season shakes out, I think the best thing us olds can do is keep an optimistic front for the youngins that the Huskers will eventually find a way to get better. They have to. We finally landed the one coach who knows our wild and weird culture better than anyone and if we turn on him before he has a chance to get rolling we might as well disband the football program. 

It’s ride or die time, homies. 

Random (and Potentially Unpopular) Opinion:

This week’s Tunnel Walk was set to Let Me Clear My Throat. If we want to exorcise this team of all its past demons, then we need to delete the definitive song from the Mike Riley era off the stadium playlist. Sorry, Dj Kool.

Troy Summed Up in one Tweet: 

Larry the Cable Guy: Voice of Reason 

ScoFroFroYo Watch:

Imma paint a little picture for this week’s ScoFroFroYo Watch.

Hours have passed since the final whistle against Troy. The roar of 90,000 Husker fans inside Memorial Stadium has long faded away. The only sound to break the ghostly silence is a big red bus idling outside the stadium. (For the purposes of this story, the bus is large enough to fit the entire team and Coach Frost is pulling double duty as the driver.) 

An unmarked stadium door opens and a dejected Husker team begins to file out and head towards the bus with their heads hanging low and eyes focused on the ground. Coach Frost is the last one to board and slides into the driver’s seat. He takes a quick glance at his team but he doesn’t make eye contact. He only looks at them out of his obligation to not leave anyone behind.

He slips the bus into gear and it jumps forward to begin the journey home.

After a few minutes, the dejected player’s faces begin to brighten as they see the glow of a TCBY sign off in the distance. The anticipation builds as the bus moves closer and reaches its crescendo when Coach Frost flips the turn signal to indicate a stop for yogurt is imminent. 

He begins to turn the wheel and the bus responds accordingly. Then, with the deftness that only an option QB who led his team to a National Championship could have, he jukes the bus out of the impending turn into the TCBY parking lot and continues on its original course. 

As the players look out the window and watch the TCBY fade off into the distance, Coach Frost clinically looks at his team via the rear view mirror and says, “TCBY is for winners.” 


Share

Sunday Night Hot Takes: Colorado

Welcome to the first installment of Sunday Night Hot Takes for the 2018 season.

Like we do most every Sunday, what will follow is an assortment of random thoughts both deep and not so deep, I guess you could call those shallow thoughts.

Anyway…

How the game began… 

With 100+ Los Angeles Husker fans packed into our new watch site and huddled around each other’s phones because ABC insisted on showing whatever stupid game that came before it all the way to the bitter end.

The game finally came on just in time to catch the Huskers looking pretty good until they fumbled the ball away near Colorado’s red zone.

No worries. It’s the first game. This stuff happens. And then it happened again on their next drive and just like that Colorado was out to a 14-0 lead.

But then something magical happened.

The Huskers responded by rattling off an eight play, 75 yard touchdown drive. And that was only the beginning.

Over the course of the next two hours or so, a lot of laughs were had, many high fives were slapped, and more than a few rounds of drinks were ordered as all of us watched in awe as the Huskers imposed their will on the Buffaloes.

It was shaping up to be a magnificent Saturday.

How the game ended… 

It’s hard to be encouraged by what would normally be a soul crushing last minute loss to a former bitter rival but when you factor in:

It was the first game of the season under a new-to-the-players coaching staff.

True freshman Adrian Martinez stepped onto the field for his first real game in two years. While he looked like a true freshman at moments, he also looked like a world beating 5th year senior. He’s going to be a lot of fun.

The Killa Bees had SEVEN SACKS. Not to beat a dead horse that was buried months ago but last year’s defense had 14 sacks all season.

Colorado received more gifts from the Huskers and the refs than a Kardashian on Christmas and they still had to dig deep into Ralphie’s ass to pull out a win.

The mistakes that were made should all be easily correctable. I have a feeling there won’t be too many more dropped touchdown passes.

Larry the Cable Guy: Voice of Reason 

What I’d like to see next week: 

Adrian Martinez back on the field.

Andrew Bunch, aka Bunch Money, have a chance for some playing time that’s not due to injury.

The running back situation begins to sort itself out. It felt a little like they were holding an in-game audition on Saturday.

The Killa Bees force their first turnovers of the year. A couple of pass breakups should have been caught.

New Feature: Did the Huskers Earn a Postgame Trip to TCBY? 

For the last three years, our signature gag to sum up the state of the Huskers was Mike Riley’s Balloon Watch.

We had a few glorious ones, like the day after Michigan State had their run at a perfect season derailed by a miraculous comeback.

But in the end, all that mattered is how Riley left the program he and his staff inherited.

Now that we have FHCMR’s last appearance out of the way, it’s time to unveil our new feature.

Say hello to the ScoFro FroYo Watch.

The ScoFro FroYo Watch can be explained like this: If you happened to be a frozen yogurt enthusiast who lived in Grand Island during the early 90s, you had a better than average chance of having a weekend Scott Frost sighting at the TCBY located next to the Grand Island Mall. The guy loved himself some TCBY and so did I. As someone who grew up in GI during the early 90s, a trip to TCBY was an event right up there with Taco Tuesday at Taco John’s.

I still get goosebumps just thinking about the heart stopping  suspense when my mom would call to ask what the daily flavors were.* You could live a thousand lifetimes in that moment of silence. If they told her White Chocolate Mousse was on the lineup, my brother and I would be in the car before she hung up the phone.

[*You see, kids, back in the early 90s, there wasn’t an “internet” to look things up on and yogurt places didn’t off a magical rainbow of made up flavors. You got to choose between vanilla or something else and you were happy.]

So the question is: Did the Huskers earn a trip to TCBY?

You’re damn right they did.

This team is a full 180 from last year’s squad and outplayed the shit out of Colorado. If the Akron game wasn’t canceled, there’s no way they would have lost. By the time this four game series wraps up in 2024, the final tally will be Colorado 1, Nebraska 3.

While the Huskers did earn a hard fought trip to TCBY, it’s not a celebratory trip. As the team enjoys their frozen treat, I imagine there would be a candid and productive discussion about how to use this loss as a lesson to learn from so that it never happens again.

And while they earned the yogurt, they did not earn sprinkles. We’ll save those for when they return from the Big House with a win in a couple weeks.


Share

Know Your Opponent: Colorado

A few years from now when we look back on this game, we’re not going to remember the start of the Scott Frost era being rained out.

We’re going to remember the Scott Frost era beginning with a vintage Big 8 style ass whoopin’ of the Colorado Buffaloes.

Here’s everything you need to know about Colorado in handy listicle form…

Remember them? Apparently Colorado still has a football team. They play in the PAC 12 these days which makes sense considering Boulder is 1,000 miles from the Pacific Ocean.

Coach: Ditch digging must not pay like it use to because they found someone to take this job.

Offense: They scored more points than Colorado State last week and their fans have been bragging about it so they can’t be that good.

Quarterback: No idea but I did spend the last 45 minutes watching Ndamukong Suh truck Cody Hawkins over and over and over again and it’s still hilarious.

Defense: Colorado State hung 13 points on them so they should pretty be a sieve against the Huskers. (And looking up that score is the most research I’m doing for this preview.)

Famous Alumni: That kick return bro who was a better skier than a football player and Kordell Stewart, the greatest Colorado QB to go 0-3 in his career against the Huskers and lose his job as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ starting QB to Tommy Maddox.

Tommy Maddox is one of three people on Earth to have won an XFL Championship and the Super Bowl. His football skills are so sought after, he now coaches high school baseball.

Celebrity Score Prediction: Comedian Nick Allen says…

Nebraska 62, Colorado 36. Revenge. This one is for Frank.

Catch Nick Saturday night at the Comedy Loft in Lincoln’s Haymarket.


Share

An Open Letter to the Football Gods

Dear Football Gods, 

I gotta hand it to you. I didn’t see this one coming.

After having a front row seat to witness all the crap you’ve been putting the Huskers through since November 23, 2001, it should have been as obvious as a pass to a wide open tight end that you’d have a trick up your collective sleeve. But never did I think you’d flip all the way back to the earliest pages of the Playbook of the Gods and channel Zeus almighty and dial up some good old fashioned lightning during the biggest moment in Husker football in a generation. 

There will never be a more Nebraskan photo than this one from the Omaha World-Herald. Game halted due to lightning? Let’s all gather ’round the metal flag poles.

It is with no small amount of admiration when I humbly say that saving your latest spiteful act until the absolute last second was a baller move befitting of deities of your stature. It was the glistening cherry placed atop a towering turd sundae of disappointment that’s been growing taller and taller year by agonizing year.

Saturday night was supposed to be a transcendent event in Husker history. One that brought together friends and family from near and far for a monumental changing of the guard. After so many brutal years with a string of coaches who turned out to be nincompoops in their own special way, we finally landed the true chosen one who is destined to right the ship. 

Instead Football Gods, you Charlie Brown’d Husker Nation when you so cruelly yanked the football away and left us all sitting on our collective asses in the rain and at watch parties around the country wondering what the hell happened.

The gathering we hosted at our place here in Los Angeles was setting up to be a legendary evening. Some of LA’s finest GI natives were in attendance, the beer brats were grilled to perfection, and all that was missing was a can of Cornhusker whoop ass that never had a chance to be opened.

Oh, but you made sure we saw that can when you dangled it in front of our faces during that glorious Tunnel Walk.

The LA Chapter of the Wasmer Wildcats Alumni Group trying to make the most out of a bummer of a night.

Seriously, Santa Claus could go to an orphanage on Christmas Eve with a sleigh full of presents and force the orphans watch a three hour show and tell of all the gifts he was bringing to kids with real homes and it wouldn’t have been as big a dick move as canceling a Husker game. 

I’m onto your game, Football Gods. I know this was just one last crucible for Husker Nation to bear before closing the books on the nearly two decade long penance you’ve forced us to suffer through to atone for whatever it was that we did to incur your wrath. 

And trust me, the irony is not lost that you’ve seen fit to finally lift this dark cloud in time for next opponent to be the one that started this wretched curse in the first place. 

Thank you in advance for allowing the first game in the Scott Frost era to be one where he sends the Colorado Buffalos running off a cliff. 

Your pal, 

Todd

Share

Why I Became a Fan of Scott Frost the Coach

This is a story about my buddy Seamus.

He’s the kid standing next to me in the photo below. It was snapped while we were tailgating before the game against UCLA at the Rose Bowl back in 2012.

I took him and his dad and a couple other buddies to the game so they could experience Husker football in person. It was the least I could do after years of droning on about the Big Red during our Sunday morning bike rides. For one friend, I promised him that if he went to the game, I’d never mention the Huskers again. That deal is still (mostly) intact to this day.

But let’s get back to Seamus.

Seamus was born and raised in West Hollywood. The most experience he’s ever had with Nebraska was finding it on map in school but it was no accident that he was wearing a number 7 jersey for his first Husker game.

I custom ordered it for him so that he could surprise his friend Scott Frost the next time he saw him.

Yep. My buddy Seamus is friends with Scott.

When that photo was taken, they’d already been tight for years. Seamus’ uncle was a longtime defensive coach for the Oregon Ducks.  A couple times every season, Seamus and his dad would make the trip up to Eugene to catch a game.

In 2009, as you may remember, the Ducks hired an up and coming coach named Scott Frost and put him in charge of the wide receivers. That season, Seamus happened to be a receiver on his Pop Warner team.

When Scott found out about this after a practice Seamus attended, he pushed back whatever was next on his schedule and stayed on the field to give him some one-on-one coaching.  For the next half hour, he ran Seamus through the same the drills that he watched the Ducks perform during their practice. Footwork, blocking, catching, it was a real practice and Scott treated him just like one his players.

When I read the email from Seamus’ dad that recapped meeting Scott, I about fell out of my chair.

Seamus made friends with the new receivers coach when we were up in Eugene. I guess he’s a Nebraska guy. Have you ever heard of Scott Frost? 

If I recall correctly, I believe my reply included every 1997 Husker highlight I could find on YouTube.

A short while later, Seamus’ dad came down with a full blown case of Scott Frost Fever.

You never told me about him. He took down Peyton Manning! Dude played in the NFL for years. Bill Walsh and Tom Osborne were his coaches! 

The best part about  Seamus’ coaching session with Scott was that it was far from a one time deal. Every time Seamus was up in Eugene or the Ducks would be down in LA prepping for the Rose Bowl, Scott would stay after practice and run him through drills. It got to the point where Seamus basically had a private coach.

Here in LA, kids have private coaches for every activity they do and the fact that Seamus had Scott working him out is the kind of thing that starts a coaching arms race among parents.

Coaching Seamus was not something Scott had to. It was something he wanted to do simply because he loves coaching. Every time I’d get an update on their latest practice session, it made me like Scott even more.

Seamus and Scott before the 2012 Rose Bowl.

If he can have that much enthusiasm for coaching a random kid who showed up to watch practice, I can’t help but imagine how he’s molding the Huskers into a completely different team than the one we’ve seen the past few years. Husker Nation is going to be in for a treat on Saturday.

Seamus has never given me a straight answer if he ever wore his Husker jersey to an Oregon practice and he certainly didn’t text me a photo of Scott marveling at how good he looked in scarlet and cream. Whenever I’d ask him about it, he’d quickly change the subject to Star Wars and our conversation would be off in a new direction.

I have a hunch that moment can still happen though.

Seamus hung up his shoulder pads after his freshman year to focus on music. He’s grown up to become an incredible drummer and will be graduating high school in June. His band is already playing gigs in and out of town and  record labels are starting to get curious about them.

In a few years, if you see a hot new band playing Pinnacle Bank Arena and the drummer happens to be wearing a number 7 Husker jersey, that’s probably my buddy Seamus behind the kit.

Grab a picture for me, will you?


Share

November, you were the worst sports month of my life

Prologue: A story in two photos.

January 3, 2002

One of these guys grew up to be a brain surgeon. The other thought dying his hair red was brilliant idea.

For 15 years, this photo of my brother and myself represented the happiest moment of my life as a sports fan.

Thanks to a ridiculous string of miracles and some computer magic, a Husker season that had been torpedoed by the Colorado Buffalos was salvaged from the depths of despair as the Big Red was chosen to head west and face off against the Miami Hurricanes for the BCS National Championship.

After a couple days showing my brother and his buddies who road tripped out from Lincoln all the best that my still newish city of Los Angeles had to offer (we feasted like kings at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles and got to see a dancer at Jumbo’s Clown Room beat the ever loving crap out of a disrespectful patron who dared to tip her by snapping a quarter at her head) it was time for the main event.

And there we were. In the second row, straddling the 50 on the Huskers’ side of the field. My  brother scored our tickets through his roommate who was a student trainer on the team. While we had hopes, we really didn’t believe our randomly assigned face value tickets were going to be the best seats in the house until we found ourselves sitting eye ball to eye ball with the prominently displayed Sears Trophy that would soon belong to the Huskers.

And then they had to play the damn game.

November 1, 2017

12 years after I tried talking her into stealing a tub of spicy mustard at our first game together we were at game 7 of the World Series. 

Cut to 15 years later. Somehow I’ve managed to become a semi-respectable adult who married a diehard Dodger fan. Since we first started dating in 2005, we’ve been to nearly 200 games together. The previous four seasons were spent in our seats in Section 2 watching Dodger playoff runs come to disappointing finishes.

But this season was different.

The Boys in Blue slugged it out to the end of the line and Dodger fans were treated to November baseball for the first time ever in the form of game 7 of the World Series.

The night before, we spent our Halloween at the ballpark watching the Dodgers deliver a game that was all trick and no treat to level the World Series at three games a piece. Contrary to the reputation of the average Dodger fan, Section 2 remained full an hour after the final pitch. There were hugs, high fives, and group photos. When you spend so many seasons sitting next to the same people, they become your summer family.

That energy carried over the next day to game 7. Imagine if the Huskers ever get the chance to play for a Natty in Lincoln and you have an idea what the scene was like in Dodger Stadium. Every playoff game up until this moment was just a warmup for what was going to be the grand finale to a dream season. The stadium and city were ready to celebrate.

And then they had to play the damn game.

November 4 – Northwestern

I snap out of my Dodger induced depression long enough to entertain some friends and a neighbor who’s a Northwestern alum, which causes my wife to break out the fancy snacks and put me on my best behavior. Up until that crushing game 7 loss, I’ve never experienced a Dodger defeat that felt anywhere close the pain of a Husker loss (back when losing was a rarity, of course). The fact that game 7 mirrored the Huskers’ loss in the Rose Bowl only added to the misery. Being down 5-0 in the second inning brought back a lot of memories of seeing the Huskers down 34-0 at halftime. Being there to see your favorite teams play for a championship is truly a special, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity but seeing them get shellacked will leave some very deep and painful memories.

In this game, Northwestern added to the pain by gashing the Blackshirts with a few option runs straight out of TO’s playbook. Still, the Huskers were in control until they weren’t. The shit really hit the fan in overtime as Wildcats started with the ball and proceeded to run it down Nebraska’s throat. 7 rushes. 25 yards. One game winning touchdown. And one stunned neighbor after I had to step outside and scream for a moment.

November 11 – Minnesota

Breakfast of Champions for the worst Husker game of my life.

There’s no way to sugarcoat this one. This was the worst Husker game that has ever been played in my lifetime. Sure, you can argue that Texas Tech or Kansas were worse but having a bad (by Minnesota’s own low standards) Gopher team hang half a hundred on the Huskers takes the cake. Or in this case it had me taking down enough donuts to fill a freshly dug grave that will be the final resting place of this dreadful season. Out of all 19 losses in Mike Riley’s three years at the helm, this one hurt the worst because the team flat out quit against a mediocre opponent. By the final whistle, I was laying on the floor in a semi-conscious sugar coma wondering what Husker Nation did to deserve this misery.

November 18 – Penn State 

This place used to be full of happy Husker fans.

To try and break out of the funk and get things back to the good ol’ days, some friends and I make a plan to meet up at the bar that has been Hollywood’s Husker headquarters since 2010. Including ourselves, the number of Husker fans in attendance peaked at 7 and our table was the only one that stuck around until the bitter end. That glimmer of hope in the first quarter was a welcome sight but this game was so ugly that even Ohio State’s meanest fan offered her sincere condolences.

November 24 – Iowa 

Seven fans the week before is no reason to open a bar early on Black Friday so the three of us who are suddenly without a place to take our lumps in public head over to Barney’s Beanery where we are outnumbered by a table of real-life Central Florida fans who, by the basis of arriving before us, got to control the sound on the TVs so we got to enjoy watching the Huskers get taken to the woodshed in silence.

But that’s OK because by the time you read this, we’ll have taken their coach.

Bring on a frosty December.


Share

Halloween Huskers 2017

Happy Halloween Husker fans!

Even in this nightmare of a season we can take a time out from the misery of mediocrity to suggest some last minute Halloween costumes for Husker luminaries and the not so luminous.

Here we go.

Larry the Cable Guy as Don Corlene

You need an athletic director whacked before the season even reaches the halfway point? Just have this fella send a tweet.

Shawn Eichorst as the Out-of-Work Shermanator 

We’ve made the Eichorst/Shermanator comparison before but this year we’re taking it to the next level of obscurity now that Shawn is out of a job. You probably don’t remember this but a few years ago a Redditor experienced the harsh realities of Hollywood when the actor who will be forever known as American Pie’s Shermanator played the role of her waiter at a Santa Monica sushi restaurant.

Bob Diaco as Mr. Blonde

Bob got an early jump on Halloween when he stepped off the bus at Purdue already wearing his Reservoir Dogs costume. If only he threatened to cut off a few Blackshirt ears at halftime, the Huskers might have won by more than a single point.

Mike Riley as a Retiree Moonlighting as an Uber Driver

For new retirees who aren’t quite ready to settle down, becoming an Uber driver is quickly becoming a favored option. You can be your own boss and set your own schedule so you’ll never miss out on your grandkids’ events and it’s a great way to get out in the community and interact with a wide variety of folks. Plus, Mike probably has the Riley family Prius paid off so there would be very low overhead to go into business for himself.

Scott Frost as Tom Osborne 

We can dream, right?


Share

Ah crap. You mean there’s a game tonight?

Confession time.

I’ve been a bad Husker fan this season.

I started out with plenty of hope and was looking forward to a dozen chances to hang with friends, eat some snacks, and continue cheering on the first team I ever cheered for.

To say this season has been a bumpy ride is an understatement. My favorite highlight of the year so far has been last week’s bye week. It was a blissful Saturday, completely free of disappointment and pain.

Tonight though, we’re back onboard the suffer train.

When I checked the time for kickoff yesterday, I assumed the marquee matchup of the Huskers vs Boilermakers would get the 9am slot for us West Coast fans but the Big Ten had to go and schedule it against the World Series. It was shrewd move on their part to ensure as few people as possible put their eyes on a slap fight between a Western Division doormats.

Still, when the clock strikes 4:30, I’ll tune in like I always do. Because that’s what you do when you’re a Husker fan.

You show up during good times and bad.

At least until the World Series starts.

BOLD PREDICTION TIME

Mike Riley is spared the indignity of walking home from West Lafayette  as the Huskers use their bye week to their advantage and overcome their underdog status to beat Purdue 28 – 14.

ICYMI

Moments before Clayton Kershaw took the mound in game one of the World Series, this commercial for YouTubeTV aired on Fox. Nothing like seeing the Huskers used as punching bag by Ohio State. Again.

CAN THE HUSKERS’ INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT PLEASE GET A NEW CATCHPHRASE? 

Lock in was clever the first few times but now it’s as played out at one of Dirk’s hot takes. Let’s change it up. Please.


Share

Ten Questions with UCF Fan @AustinHeff

Welcome to the greatest weekend of the season, Husker fans.

It’s bye week!

There’s not even a chance the Huskers are going to lose another game.

And because we all need a second favorite team to root for so we can have a reason to avoid mowing the lawn for another week, I interviewed Austin Heffernan, a die hard UCF fan to get the scoop on the Knights football program and their currently undefeated season thanks in no small part to their upstart coach Scott Frost. (You may have heard of him.)

Speaking of Scott, I met Austin on Twitter the day he was hired away from Oregon. Somehow, we found each other’s tweets and traded some thoughts about Scott. (There’s a good chance I told him to make sure UCF takes good care of Nebraska’s next head coach. )

Anyway, Austin is a huge UCF fan and cheers for his other local teams in Florida. He’s the kind of ride or die sports fan any team would be proud to have. He was nice enough to answer all my dumb questions with some valuable insight about the Knights so you’ll enjoy watching UCF (and Scott Frost) take on Navy Saturday afternoon.

1. Along with being a UCF fan long before the Knights cracked the top 25, you’re a fan of your local teams across the sports spectrum which is something of a rarity these days as sports fans aren’t as tied to geography as they were before. As background, how would you describe your fandom and what it’s like to be such a dedicated fan of Florida teams? (For the record, I was pulling for the Marlins when they went on their late summer run.)

Austin: Growing up in Miami was really fun. In my younger elementary school days, I was blessed with nationally dominant Miami Hurricanes teams that set the city on fire.  [Ed note: Husker fans remember the that 2001 team. Too bad you’re too young to have missed those 80s teams.] Rumor has it that those Hurricanes players from the early 2000s were skipping Dolphins players in the club. We then had the Marlins make their run in 2003 and the Heat in 2006 and also again in 2012/2013. Miami definitely has the most diverse sports fan base in terms of ethnic backgrounds. The best picture I can paint of Miami sports fandom is pots and pans in musical rhythmic unison while celebrating.

Since I moved to Orlando, I’ve been a part of the soccer movement and have attended a handful of Orlando City Soccer games. We have the 2nd highest attendance in the MLS despite not having made the playoffs in the 3 years we’ve been in the MLS. That has been a fun experience and celebrating a scored goal is unlike anything I’ve been a part of as a sports fan.

2. Florida certainly has its share of college football teams. What was it that made you pick UCF, or did the Knights pick you?

Austin: I decided to not attend an American school and I got into a school in Rome, Italy at the last minute. UCF still had open rolling applications and decided to roll with them instead. I was still rooting for the Canes up until the 3rd home game of my freshman year, where we beat Boston College by 40+ points. We ended up winning the C-USA championship that year and that season cemented my passion for the University and all of their sports teams.

3. In 2013, UCF went 12-1 and ended their season by beating Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl and finishing in the AP Top 10. Then in 2014 they when 9-4 and followed that up with an 0-12 season in 2015. Last year Scott Frost got things turned around and the Knights posted a 6-7 record. Now, they’re 5-0 and ranking in the top 20. What’s this roller coaster ride been like for you and how does it to have been on it the whole time?

Austin: The 12-1 year, or as we call it, “the dream season,” was my senior year at UCF. That year was so incredible and the campus was electric all the time. If you would’ve told me before I went to UCF that we would win a BCS game while I was there, I would’ve recommended you take me to the local mental hospital called Lakeside. The following year we won the AAC again but it took some miraculous plays, including the miracle we needed to clinch a share of the conference championship.

And then we hit rock bottom. Our head football coach at the time, George O’Leary, was acting as the school athletic director at the time. His attention wasn’t fully set on the team, and the team suffered mightily. Following that year, the Lincoln Legend himself, Scott Frost, made his way to UCF. Since we hired Frost, the football team’s confidence appeared to have instantly jumped to the ceiling. Since then, I’ve had no complaints and have been following along for this fantastic ride that I never want to end.

4. Two things Nebraska fans take a lot of pride in are a sellout streak that’s been going since 1962 and having a reputation as being the “greatest fans in college football.” How would you describe the UCF fanbase? Are there a lot of dedicated, hardcore fans like you, or is the bulk of the fanbase more casual?  And how has the the momentum and energy been this season? Is the bandwagon running out of room?

Austin: The fan base is really young. The school opened up in 1963 so our alumni base isn’t as strong as most other schools. Orlando is mostly a Gator town, which makes it tough to get local non-students and non-alumni into the stadium. Last year, following a winless season, I was surprised at how many people were in the stands at all the home games. It made me proud to be a Knight fan to see everyone screaming at the top of their lungs despite the product the team produced the year prior. [Ed note: Just like Nebraska!]

5. 
The UCF program started out as a Division III team in 1979 and steadily worked its way up to Division !. What are some traditions, both for the program and during games, that the rest of the world should know about? 

Austin: My favorite tradition is Spirit Splash. Every Friday of homecoming week, students gather around the fountain called the Reflecting Pond in the middle of campus and there’s a pep rally of sorts. Then a countdown starts, and all the students gathered around the Reflecting Pond run into it. A video will explain it better than I can.

6. What’s a game day like at Spectrum Stadium? How would you describe the atmosphere? And I gotta know, how did Zombie Nation’s song Kernkraft 400 become an anthem?

Austin: Tailgating at UCF is my favorite hobby. The whole campus is wet and you can bring an open container anywhere, so it makes for a great atmosphere.  I actually have no idea how Kernkraft 400  became our pre-kickoff anthem but I just found myself joining in my freshman year back in 2010.

 7. A lot of Nebraska fans will probably be spending their Husker free Saturday watching UCF take on Navy. What should they know about the Knights’ offense and defense in terms of attitude and identity and who are some of the key playmakers they should keep an eye on? 


Austin:
McKenzie Milton, our quarterback, has progressed in a way that I didn’t think was possible. He has brought life to the passing game, so I would definitely keep an eye on him. Tre’Quan Smith is probably our best wide receiver. I would also pay attention to our defense. A couple of players I would pay attention to are Mike Hughes, a cornerback, and Shaquem Griffin, a linebacker. Those two are both playmakers and will be huge factors in stopping Navy’s triple option.

8. Nebraska fans have prior experience with UCF when Dante Culpepper came to Lincoln in 1997 and roasted the Nebraska defense (we call them the Blackshirts) for 318 passing yards in what turned out to be a very close (by Nebraska standards) 24 – 38 loss. (Btw, Scott Frost put up 120 passing yards and ran for another 50.) Who are some of UCF’s other legends that Nebraska fans should be aware of? 

Austin: Blake Bortles led us to a Fiesta Bowl win so he’s probably going to have a statue on campus at some point. [Ed note: OMG.] Coach George O’Leary put us in the national spotlight by winning 4 conference championships during his tenure. Kevin Smith finished the highest in the school’s history in Heisman voting at 8th place. He had insane rushing numbers and is our best running back in school history. Brandon Marshall, the wide receiver who now plays for the New York Giants, is probably the best professional player to come out of UCF. Another great NFL pro was Asante Samuel.


9.
What would you like to say to Nebraska fans (or Florida or Tennessee fans) who have their eye on Scott Frost? Do you think he’ll be temped to jump to a new program or will he stay put and keep building what he started?

Austin: This is a conversation UCF fans have been having frequently lately. It’s impossible to know at this point what the man is thinking. All that I know is that I will be OK with whatever decision he makes. He’s done more for this program than I ever expected him to do. I will always admire Frost, whether it is here or at another institution.

10. Finally, what’s your prediction for Saturday? Do you think the Knights will be able to handle Navy’s option attack and a hostile road environment? Oh, and what did you think of Scott Frost playing QB on the scout team?

Austin: I think we have the personnel to stop the triple option and the offensive weapons to put up enough points to win. However, playing on the road is its own animal but Frost has our kids focused. Also, Navy’s Coach Ken Niumatalolo has his team playing as probably the most disciplined team in the country.

I’m predicting a 24-17 win for UCF.


Share

Come for the snark. Stay for the analysis.