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.


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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?


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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.


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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.


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Sunday Hot Take: Burn It to the Ground 

Burn it to the ground.

All of it.

The only way to recover from two consecutive beat downs under the Memorial Stadium lights (not to mention 15 years of WTF) is to scrap the whole damn thing and rebuild the Husker football program from the ground up.

Last week’s Badger buggering should have been enough to make the current staff and team gather in a circle of trust and vow to do whatever it takes to ensure something like that never happens again.

Well, it continued to happen against Ohio State from the opening kickoff to the final whistle. The only merciful thing about last night’s pummeling is that the Buckeyes didn’t wait until the second half to take the Huskers to the woodshed. They were Mike Tyson in the ring against Michael Spinks. This game was over the moment it began and it was a welcome relief. With the Huskers getting their ass kicked from the get go, I was able to fully enjoy our evening at Dodger Stadium instead of having to obsessively check on the Huskers every 10 seconds like I did during the Wisconsin game.

And that really sucks because for as long as I can remember, every Husker loss has been a brutal gut punch that has left me sick to my stomach for days after.

Last night was the first time I’ve ever felt a sense of relief that the Huskers lost. That didn’t even happen in the dregs of the Bill Callahan era.

BREAKING UPDATE

Since I started writing this, the University of Nebraska announced that Washington State Athletic Director Bill Moos has been hired as the new AD. 

Well Bill, if you happen to read this while you’re getting up to speed on all things Huskers, here’s are five things you need to do. 

1. Reassign Mike Riley to Head Coach of Righteous Good Times and Other Fun Stuff. Riley’s body language sideline demeanor during this season’s blowouts clearly says he’s over it. While he still has some gas in the tank, Riley can be the cuddly grandpa that the players turn to when the coach you inevitably hire is being too much of a hard ass on their fragile psyches. He can spend his newfound free time organizing field trips and hooking the team up with Kendrick Lamar tickets and continuing to be the coolest old guy in football.

2. Ditch the social media department until the Huskers start winning. The goddamn easiest job in the athletic department without question belongs to whoever runs the Huskers’ Instagram account. With the team in the shitter they’ve all but stopped posting so what’s the point of having #OnBrand #Content when the team is so bad there’s nothing worth sharing?

2b. Whoever the next coach is has to go out there and find guys on each side of the ball who could care less about social media. The players who will be the foundation for turning the program around are the kind of psychos who have better things to do than spend their free time tweeting their recruiting offers and fishing for likes and retweets from thirsty adult fans. Oh, and find a QB who can run the ball and throw the ball.

3. Close the Ndamukong Suh Center For Enhanced Athletic Excellence (or whatever it’s called) until the players earn the right to workout on fancy and clean exercise equipment. Go steal a stack of hay bales from East Campus and poach some cinder blocks and rebar from a construction site and pile everything up behind the stadium and tell the players to bulk up prison style. If they really want to get bigger, faster, and stronger, they’ll find a way to make it happen without the Ivan Drago Signature Series line of weights.

4. Find coaches on both sides of the ball who understand simpler is better in the college game. No scheme should take years to implement. It’s football. You run the ball, you throw the ball,  you tackle whoever has the ball, and sometimes you kick the ball. The dynasty era Husker playbook was easy enough for anyone to understand and execute and it worked pretty good.

5. WIN.

MIKE RILEY’S BALLOON WATCH™


It’s going to be hard to get any worse than it is now. 


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Welcome to the Groundhog Day of Miserable Saturdays

This time last Saturday morning I was doing the exact same thing that I’m doing right now- sitting on the couch in our TV room, drinking coffee, watching a college football game I don’t care about, and writing a half assed blog about the misery I will be enduring in a few hours.

The Scheduling Gods hate me.  

The only indicator that this is indeed a new Saturday is the palm sweat that breaks out whenever I think about what’s in store for the evening. The stakes for my two favorite teams have been ratcheted up a little higher. The Dodgers are one step closer to the World Series and the Huskers have the potential to pull off an upset against Ohio State, or have their season get even worse.

At least there was a little breathing room between the Huskers and the Dodgers last Saturday night. Thanks to the magic of living in the future I was able to stream most of the first half of the Wisconsin game. For the first four plays the offense was rolling on a gravy train with biscuit wheels and all was right with the world.

Then Tanner Lee had to throw another opening drive pick six that was virtually identical to his first one against Northern Illinois.

Then I screamed “motherf*cker” in a half empty Dodger Stadium.

My reflexive yell scared the bejeesus out of the fella we’ve sat next to for the past four seasons. As a Dodger fan, I’ve been through thick and thin with Don but it always surprises him when Crazy Husker Fan Todd makes an appearance at the ballpark. Adding to my personal hell was the fact that his wife is as big an Iowa fan as he is a Dodger fan so she was having a mighty good time at the Huskers’ expense.

If you’re keeping score at home, the stress eating stopped when the baseball game started. The playoffs make me way too nervous to eat anything other than my rally towel. 

After Stanley Morgan Jr. took a terrific 80 yard reception to the end zone, it was time for Dodger baseball so I tucked my iPad under my seat and felt good about Huskers only being down 10-7 at halftime.

Somehow that halftime score became 17-10 but I was feeling really good when Aaron Williams tied it up with a pick six of his own. The Dodgers were on the board and the Huskers were setting the table for an upset.

Then the Badgers remembered their playbook was full of unstoppable running plays and spent the remainder of the game shoving the ball down the Blackshirts’ throat. Meanwhile, the Dodgers methodically hung up six runs over two innings with a lone double as the biggest hit. If there was a baseball equivalent of three yards and a cloud of dust, the Dodgers were doing it.

I learned last Saturday night that there’s no weirder purgatory of a feeling than screaming your head off for one team while feeling completely miserable about the other.

Will tonight be any different?

Who knows?

It will either be really good, really craptastic, or somewhere in the middle. Whatever I gain by not having to deal with the trash Ohio State fans who overtake our shared watch site, I lose by having to deal with obnoxious Cubs fans who always swarm Dodger Stadium.

At least the Dodgers added a new churro sundae served in a helmet to the menu for this weekend. If I shovel one of these down between kickoff and first pitch I’ll be ready for anything tonight.

I really hope those are pieces of a full size churro.

Go Huskers. Let’s go Dodgers.

One of these years they’ll both win on the same night.


 

 

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It’s going to be the best night ever or the worst night ever. Or somewhere in-between.

In what has been a semi-regular tradition since 2008, the Huskers will be playing at the exact same time the Los Angeles Dodgers are battling in the playoffs.

If you want a portal into what personal hell looks like, this is it. No sports fan should ever have to deal the the anguish and suspense of their two favorite teams playing simultaneously.

After a spending late night at Dodger Stadium, I woke up at the crack of noon today and have been pacing around the house until it’s time to make the four mile drive back to the ballpark.

By this point, my wife and I have the crossing of team streams down to a semi-exact science. We’ll be in our seats in time for kickoff and I’ll proceed to spend the next hour screaming into a rally towel as I watch the game unfold a few plays behind real-time on my iPad. Once the it’s time for Dodger baseball, I do my best to put the Husker game in the hands of the Football Gods but that never works and I devolve into stress eating garlic fries.

Out of all the times my two worlds have collided, neither the Huskers or the Dodgers have managed to both win. Tonight’s as good as a night as any for that to change.

The Dodgers will be going up against Dbacks pitcher Robbie Ray who is 3-0 against the Boys in Blue this season and has posted a 0.92 ERA in his three starts at Dodger Stadium in 2017.

Meanwhile, the Huskers are trying to avoid making it five losses in a row to those goddamn Badgers including back-to-back heartbreakers. Well, here’s the deal nobody is talking about.

Those goddamn Badgers aren’t that good. They had to rely on Northwestern’s screw ups to win last week and their signature victory was against a BYU team that is 1-5 and all kinds of shitty. As long as Tanner Lee doesn’t score more points for the Badgers than his own offense, the Huskers should win tonight.

Final score: Huskers: 27 –  Badgers: 17


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Breaking Badgers with Cousin Ben (Again)

Welp. It’s time for the Huskers’ annual showdown with the Badgers and the return of Cousin Ben, the biggest Wisconsin fan this Husker blog knows.

Ben was gracious enough to  take time out of his busy senior year of high school to write up a little preview of what Husker Nation can expect when the Badgers take the field Saturday night. What follows is his preview along with my commentary in  italics.

Take it away Cousin Ben…

Cousin Ben… ready for business or basketball.

Hello everyone- welcome to your least favorite article of the season. This year does feel a bit different, however. Night game. Lincoln Stadium. [I know you’re just trolling with this “Lincoln Stadium” business. Well played.]

I expect the atmosphere to be absolutely electric- which will make it much closer than it should be. Before my predictions, here is a breakdown of the best team in the Big Ten West. [You’re breaking down Nebraska? Nice!]

OFFENSE 

Wisconsin’s offense comes into the game following a fantastic second half against Northwestern. [You left out the part where the Badgers relied on Northwestern playing like idiots.]  This is pretty much your prototypical Badger offense once again. Great line, three good backs, shaky QB play. The line is young, but expect them to get plenty of good pushes. Wisconsin needs to run the ball a lot to win this game, and that all starts with the massive boys up front.

Carrying the ball will be the best freshman RB in the country, Jonathan Taylor, along with Pitt transfer Chris James, and Bradrick Shaw (yes, that random dude who ran for a 21 yard TD last year is our 3rd running back). Taylor has been tremendous, showing a mix of speed, strength and balance that not many freshman show. James has been decent, but a lot of fans had high expectations before the season, so he has underwhelmed a bit. Shaw is a big, powerful dude with underrated speed and elusiveness who could easily be an every down back on a lot of teams.

Now, onto our quarterback Mr. Alex Hornibrook. His inconsistencies have shown way too often this year, even after spending the offseason working with great coaches (including Peyton Manning). [At the Manning Passing Academy? Even T-Magic and Tommy Armstrong got invites to that. Whatever.]

Overall, he’s a really sound quarterback, who makes good decisions but his lack of athleticism and a weak arm make it tough for him to control the game in ways that elite teams quarterbacks often do. [OK. This is good.]

The receiving core is much improved, with all of it centered around the nine fingered wonder Troy Fumagalli (who is questionable for Saturday as of now). [Whoa. He really does only have nine fingers.] The thing Wisconsin has really improved on in recruiting is getting some young guys who can go deep and come up with the ball. Sophomores AJ Taylor and Quintez Cephus, as well as freshman Danny Davis (beast) have been pleasant surprises early in the season, and the seasoned vet Jazz Peavy, [Please tell me his nickname is Autobot.] while under targeted, could go off at anytime and have a big game. This offense as a whole is young, but extremely talented.

DEFENSE

Death, Taxes, and Wisconsin having a top 15 defense. [Thanks for being modest by saying top 15 instead of top 5.] This group is similar to recent defenses, but the defensive back play has really stood out. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering Wisconsin’s new DC is former NFL safety Jim Leonhard.

Natrell Jamerson and D’cota Dixon have been fantastic at the safety spots, and corners Nick Nelson and Derrick Tindal have been manning the corner spots well. The linebacking core is absolutely unbelievable once again this year. TJ Edwards and Chris Orr are an elite package of MLB, and Garrett Dooley, Leon Jacobs, and Andrew VanGinkel off the edge give teams offensive lines some serious problems.

The defensive line, while mostly unknown, has been solid this year. The rotation is deep, and every guy does his job as he should. This is a defense who could force 3+ turnovers this weekend if Nebraska isn’t careful with the ball. Based on what I’ve seen in the games I’ve watched (Oregon and N.Illinois)  Wisconsin’s defense could have a very good night on Saturday. [Well, you clearly missed what the offense did against Rutgers and Regular Illinois.]

SPECIAL TEAMS

We have a fat kicker who kicks bombs and dances after field goals. Enough said. [Don’t worry. We all remember this tub of love for ripping out our hearts two years ago.]

FINAL JUDGEMENT

This is going to be a defensive game, which I believe is going to really help Wisconsin. Nebraska has been way too turnover prone (9 picks in 4 games by Tanner Lee) which will flip field position and give Wisconsin the advantage.

I see this one ending up 24-13 Wisconsin.

Jonathan Taylor runs for 115 yards and a touchdown, and Hornibrook throws for 200 yards and a TD. Tanner Lee throws 3 picks and Wisconsin forces 2 fumbles. I think Nebraska is a much improving team, but I think Wisconsin’s depth is too great. It’ll be very tight until the 4th quarter.

As you may remember, last year, I predicted Nebraska was going to lose 4 out of 5 to end the season… They ended up losing 3 out of 5. This year, I think Nebraska ends up going 3-4 to finish the season, with losses to Wisconsin, OSU, Penn State, and Minnesota. [Wait… so you’re saying the Huskers will finally beat Iowa?]

 I think Wisconsin finishes the regular season undefeated, but loses to OSU in the Big Ten Championship. [Another heartbreaking year for the Badgers? This makes me so happy.]


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If you start out depressed, everything’s kind of a pleasant surprise.

STATE OF THE SEASON:

Nebraska football is like an ex boyfriend, it makes me sad only because I think it can make me happy. I was ready to find alternate Saturday plans after the first three Husker games of the season. I was thinking about taking up roller derby, or volunteering, or just becoming an Alabama fan (Roll Tide), but after just one mediocre Husker win, I have been sucked back into the sink hole that is Nebraska football. I am now convinced there is at least a 3.8% chance they beat Wisconsin after this lay up of a game against Illinois.

And can we talk about how much Friday night games (or Friday games in general, get rid of the Black Friday game permanently, please) stink? I want to watch high school football on a Friday night, not football that reminds me of high school football. Also, I am a routine person and I have a very specific fall Saturday routine. How the hell am I just supposed to get in the groove on a Friday night? I use my Fridays to relax and hit the hay early before I wake up at 4am and panic until Gameday starts. It’s just not right.

Can Mike Riley win back the hearts of Husker Nation?

Plus, Illinois is coming off a bye and the Huskers have a short week? What genius agreed to this? Oh, I think he was just canned, for good reason, because this is absolutely moronic. The only good thing is that if the Huskers lose, I already know what excuse I’m giving, it’s always nice to be prepared. Short rest everyone, that’s the excuse we will be going with. Have it prepared should you need it.

WE’RE OVER NORTHERN ILLINOIS (no I’m not) AND ONTO ACTUAL ILLINOIS

You would be hard pressed to come up with a list of positive things to say about the Huskers this season so I’m just going to say a bunch of negative things about the other team. When Illinois played before their well timed bye, Lovie Smith took his band of losers down to Tampa and got absolutely rocked by Charlie Strong and USF. Under no circumstances should B1G teams be getting knocked around by these little schools, but here we are (Hello, Northern Illinois). Anyway, Illinois had 3 turnovers during the game which is also something I can’t make fun of, this is turning out to be a list of negative things about Nebraska, how did that happen? I’m going to stop looking at Illinois stats now because they are just telling me that Nebraska is equally as bad.

The Blackshirts have been looking better, the only problem is the offense is looking as bad as the defense looks good. Nebraska can win this game IF Tanner Lee isn’t a turnover machine and to be honest, I don’t know that I see that happening. I think we should all agree that if Tanner throws 2 picks, he is out and POB is in. Why not try it? It can’t get worse. Another great excuse to have ready is that basically the entire team is injured. The O-line is a disaster. Stanley Morgan Jr.  is traveling but who knows how much he will play. Tre Bryant, out. Kalu, out. Marcus Newby, out. The positive news of the week is that Chris Jones seems to be on the mend faster than people expected, he told us he would be, and I appreciate a man that keeps his promise. Now when will you actually be back in a game, Chris? I’m hoping the offense comes out a little bit calmer and ready to go without relying on the defense to clean up their mess.

I guess I’m going with Nebraska 24, Illinois 14.

P.S. There is a very slim chance that you will even see this considering the last few of my blogs have been deleted because Word Press is the devil but if you happen to see this, thanks for reading and I just want you to know that my blog about the Oregon game was the best blog of all time and just because you didn’t see it doesn’t mean you can’t refer to it as such.  Whatever, Go Big Red. Also, Go Dodgers.

P.P.S. That goddamn Kirk Herbstreit. I knew the second he picked Nebraska to win vs Northern Illinois that the Huskers were toast. I think he picked Nebraska every time they lost last season. He probably has a little voodoo doll at home that he puts pins in and then goes and says the Huskers are going to win and laughs to himself. Cut it out, man.


For real-time hot takes from Leslie, follow her on Twitter – @lesmicek


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Welcome to Your First Weekend as a Free Man, Shawn Eichorst

Hey Shawn,

Congrats on your first day of funemployment!

How is it treating you so far? Did you muster up the courage to get out of bed? Don’t feel ashamed if you didn’t. There is nothing wrong with isolating yourself in the darkness during moments of despair. Judge Judy and Steve Harvey can make great company. Plus, daytime TV is a great reminder that no matter how bad things can be, they can always be worse. At least you weren’t on the wrong end of a paternity test, right?

I imagine making national news for being unexpectedly fired has to sting a little. As much as you feel the urge to do something drastic, you need to fight it with all your strength. Keeping a low profile and maintaining your cool will work wonders for you in the long term.

Trust me, the last thing you want to do is get arrested for egging Memorial Stadium in the early hours of gameday, or end up on someone’s Snapchat face down in a toilet at O’Rourke’s Tavern.

Your first weekend as a free man should be all about staying invisible. (From the accounts I’ve read about your firing, this should be easy for you.) Even before you proved it with last week’s blunder of giving up the Black Friday game, Nebraskans have always considered you an outsider to the point that there were rumblings in the deep, dark corners of Huskermax that you were really a sleeper cell agent secretly working for Wisconsin.

And that leads to an important detail about Nebraskans that you may have overlooked. If the number one sport in Nebraska is Husker football, coming in at a very close second is the sport of gossip. Behind that pleasant exterior of the average Nebraskan lurks a devious desire to know all the dirt about about anyone and everyone.

When I said stay invisible two paragraphs ago, that means don’t leave your house. Even a just a couple hours out in the yard is long enough to spawn half a dozen “Sad Shawn Eichorst Doing Yard Work” Twitter accounts. If there’s a home improvement project you need to tackle, buy whatever you need online. While your local Home Depot will be a ghost town on Saturday afternoon, all it takes is one set of eyes for the world to know that Shawn was in buying some spackle.

Instead, I’d suggest these first days in isolation be spent watching Netflix. Go on a bender. You could be the first person in the world to watch Daredevil season 1, Jessica Jones, Daredevil season 2, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and The Defenders in one sitting. That would be legendary stuff, man.

Or, you can start organizing all the Nebraska swag you’ve acquired over the years. I can’t imagine you want to hang onto all of it and dumping off a giant pile at one Goodwill would be sure to grab some dubious headlines. Instead, spread around a bunch of smaller donations like an ax murderer disposing of body parts. Maybe you can even make some late night drop offs at parking lot donation bins.

If you’re thinking about getting away from it all for while, that’s not a bad idea either. Just be sure to fly out of KCI. The schlep will be worth not getting snickered at by an Eppley Airfield TSA agent. Plus, if anyone spots you in KC, people will assume you’re already making moves if you’re down in the big city.

But don’t be gone to long. You don’t want to have a $1.7 million dollar settlement check collecting dust in your mailbox.

And that leads to my final bit of advice for now. $1.7 million is like $17 million in Lincoln, NE. As much as you probably want to move away as fast as you can, you can live a very comfortable life in the Star City with a nest egg like that, especially if you take advantage of all the cheap booze and beer nights around town.

But if you really do want to move away, take your time in listing your house. It would throw the media who spent the last 24 hours raking you over the coals for a total loop if your pad didn’t show up on Zillow for at least year.

Or, you could really really troll everyone by turning Casa de Eichorst into an Airbnb. There’s no doubt Dirk and Lee would book a sleepover and imagine their horror if you are hiding in the walls to haunt them. Oh, this could be genius prank. Just be sure to wait until November 1 to buy all your fake blood and other props when they go on sale post Halloween. You don’t have a job anymore so you need to pinch some pennies when you can.


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