Purdue Or Do Not. There Is No Try.

For the second consecutive year, we’re going to be away from the comforting bosom of our neighborhood watch site on Purdue weekend.

In 2013, the Huskers traveled to West Lafayette and rolled an 1 – 11 Boilermaker team 44 – 7 in a game that was decided well before halftime. It was a great, stress free Saturday, especially the part where I was able to venture out of the tiny bubble of free hotel lobby WiFi and spend the rest of the afternoon lounging on the beach.

This year we’ll be in nestled in the mountains in the new age hippie paradise of Ojai (with a requisite side trip to the nearby premium outlet mall).

In a season where the Huskers have been rolling, the Boilermakers come to Lincoln with a semblance of momentum and the proverbial elephant in the proverbial room looming larger than ever.

That elephant would be the Huskers’ seemingly annual crapping of the bed against a lousy team. With that in mind, Purdue’s visit suddenly adds suspense and anxiety to the mix. It’s like Husker Nation is one big traumatized family on pins and needles when they realize it’s been far too long since dad has come home piss drunk. A Husker meltdown is imminent. It has to be.

Or does it?

Confidence: Like any woman who has ever thought she could change her man,  the Huskers are wearing their new look and attitude well but have the potential to regress back to their old losing habits in a heartbeat. (Then again, that could be the years of psychological damage talking.) If Nebraska can get through this one with a W, they just might have turned a corner for both the season and the program.

Scouting Report: Purdue, the Indiana university that is neither Indiana or Notre Dame, is located in Tippecanoe County. Tippecanoe, as we all know, translates to “place of the succor fish people.” In our hearts, the Boilermakers will always hold a special place for ensuring Kansas State’s dream season of ’98 had a nightmare ending.

KYLE ORTON PURDUEIn Unbeaten: The Life of Brook Berringer, distinguished Purdue alum Kyle Orton explained how he wore number 18 as a tribute to Brook. It’s amazing how one little anecdote can instantly make a guy unhateable.

More seriously though, Purdue is a 3 – 5 team the Huskers can’t treat lightly. A week after Nebraska manhandled Illinois, the Boilermakers bumped off the Illini 38 – 27. They followed that up by playing Michigan State to within a touchdown until Boilermaker QB Austin Appleby threw a game sealing pick six with 1:29 to go.

The pessimist could look at that and conclude that the Spartans aren’t that good and Purdue is better than Nebraska. We’ll go out on that fragile limb of optimism and say Michigan State played poorly because they were still rattled from their oh-so-near miss against the Huskers the week before.

Long story short, Purdue is finally starting to click. Check out Hail Varsity for all the stats to back up that statement. Then again, they’ve also lost to Central Michigan, Notre Dame, Iowa, and Minnesota.

Ideal Scenario: The Huskers cruise into their bye week ahead of their big showdown with Wisconsin. Ameer, Kenny, Tommy and Randy all do their Ameer, Kenny, Tommy and Randy things. I don’t resort to hiding from my wife by holing up in a premium outlet bathroom stall and faking the worst dump of my life just so I can watch a too-close-for-comfort game in relative peace and agony.

Over/Under on Angry Bo Close Ups: 5 — Don’t expect the ABC/ESPN/SEC Network faction to cut him any slack, especially with Ed Cunningham in the broadcast booth.

A Question That Needs an Answer: Will Imani Cross ever score again? He hasn’t notched a touchdown since the Illinois game a month ago.

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Halloween Huskers

With the Huskers busy trying to decide if tight end is a position that  needs to be part of the Red Storm, we took the liberty of coming up with Halloween costume ideas for players and coaches.

Bo Pelini as James Bond

Bo Pelini James Bond
Pelini. Bo Pelini. Maybe it’s their similar haircut and head shape but we’ve always thought Bo could make a good Danial Craig James Bond. We sincerely believe that. This is not an attempt to try and suck up to Bo. Nope. No way.

Kenny Bell as Irwin Maurice Fletcher

Kenny Bell Fletch
Fletch was listed at 6’9″ with his afro so Kenny gives up a little height but his speed would make him a terror around the perimeter. All we ask is that he doesn’t put his Halloween bar tab on the Underhill account. It’s way too late in the season and his career for an NCAA violation.
*Random sad but true story: When I first saw Fletch as a kid, I really thought he played on the Lakers.

Ron Brown as Morpheus

Ron Brown Morpheus
“I’m trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You’re the one who must walk though it and accept Jesus in your heart.

Jordan Westerkamp as Bo “Bandit” Darville

Jordan Westerkam Burt Reynolds
Jordan already has the ‘stache. He just needs a cowboy hat and a bad ass 1977 Pontiac Trans Am.

John Papuchis as Igor

John Papuchis vs IgorLike Frankenstein’s monster, this pick is a no-brainer and one that we’ve covered before.

Randy Gregory as Charles Jefferson

Randy Gregory Jefferson
We’re gonna go out on a limb and assume that Randy has never seen Fast Times at Ridgemont High. We’ll also go out on a limb and assume that he’d enjoy going trick-or-treating as the most badass football player in movie history. The game footage between the Ridgemont Wolves and Lincoln High may be horribly dated but we’re pleased to report that the PHOEBE CATES BIKINI SCENE looks as good as ever.

Barney Cotton as Major John D. “Mac” McGillis

Barney Cotton Major Dad
As the sire of three Huskers, it’s safe to say Coach Cotton is a major dad so it’s only fitting he dress as one. Maybe once in costume, he’d get into the character and yell at himself for a while. Or has being perpetually mad at Barney stopped being a thing?

Jake Cotton as Leatherface

Jake Cotton LeatherfaceHe’s got the same vacant expression and hair. All Jake needs is a chainsaw and he’s good to go as long as he remembers that Halloween is on the 31st. Because going trick-or-treating on the 30th would be a false start.

Ameer Abdullah as Carlton Banks

Ameer Abdullah Carlton
We know Ameer’s got all the right moves on the field but can they fly in stuffy Bel-Air? How meta would it be if Ameer did his own tribute to the Carlton  on Dancing With The Stars 10 – 15 years from now?

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Recap: Huskers roll, Dirk Chatelain trolls

Even in a lethargic, let’s-just-get-the-game-over-with-and-set-some-records-along-the-way 42 – 24 victory, Omaha World-Herald staff writer Dirk Chatelain found a way to stir up unnecessary drama.

Following Nebraska’s win over Rutgers, Bo Pelini rightfully called out his team for lack of execution. With a little more attention to detail, the Huskers could have easily doubled their 18 point margin of victory and given the backups some valuable playing time. Instead, they shot themselves in the foot enough times to still have the starters on the field at the final whistle.

While you expect the Huskers to show improvement from one week to the next, sometimes their progression stalls and the end result is a “blah win” which ultimately should never be anything to complain about.

Even our watch site had trouble getting motivated for the game. In our defense, 9am kickoffs on the West Coast are for the birds. Couple that with the game being on ESPN2 and a normally robust turnout plummeted to just a couple dozen who could barely bust out a Go Big Red. Games like this have all the fun of a Catholic mass at 6pm on a Sunday night. Everyone in attendance just wants to get communion and get the hell out.

Husker Watch Site
Rutgers scores a late touchdown and not single Husker fan throws things at the screen. This is how little anyone cared.

In a game where Ameer Abdullah ran for 225 yards on just 19 carries (11.84 YPC) and broke the Husker record for all-purpose yards with 341, Omaha World-Herald staff writer Dirk Chatelain’s biggest concern is why Tim Beck didn’t call more running plays. (It should be noted that the Huskers finished with 297 yards on the ground.)

From his column:

Omaha World-Herald staff writer Dirk Chatelain: “Do you understand the frustration when (Abdullah) rips off two for 50 and you throw it three straight times the next possession?”
Beck: “No, I don’t.”
Omaha World-Herald staff writer Dirk Chatelain: “Really?”
Beck: “No. You think every time we hand him the ball, he’s gonna run for 50? What if he runs for 2? Should they get frustrated, too, ’cause he didn’t run for 50? Is that the line’s fault then? Or is it his? Did he miss it? Or is it a bad play call because we should’ve ran the other way?”

Josh Harvey from Scout has the audio of the whole conversation between Beck and Omaha World-Herald staff writer Dirk Chatelain posted on his site. It’s worth a listen if you want to hear a master troll at work. Omaha World-Herald staff writer Dirk Chatelain comes off so whiny with the “Really?” that he makes Luke Skywalker sound like Samuel L. Jackson.

Now let’s go back and examine Omaha World-Herald staff writer Dirk Chatelain’s big question from above.

Ameer’s first 50 yard (53 if you want to get technical) touchdown run was preceded by him rushing for 7, 2 and 5 yards. The entire drive was four Ameer rushes and took 1:31 off the clock.

The next time the Huskers got the ball, their first play from scrimmage was this 16 yard strike to Jordan Westerkamp.

Had the the Rutgers defender not sent Westerkamp’s spleen into his kidneys, he may have gone all the way for a score.

Then, on the very next play, Ameer runs 48 yards for his second touchdown in barely three minutes. You might say Tim Beck set up this run with the previous PASSING PLAY.

Over the span of two drives that milked all of 2:03 off the game clock, Ameer carried the ball 5 out of 6 plays and scored two touchdowns.

So, the next time Nebraska got the ball don’t you think that maybe, just maybe, the Rutgers defense will be on the lookout for #8?

Starting from their own 41 and up 21 – 7, here’s how those three passes that Omaha World-Herald staff writer Dirk Chatelain was all in a huff about went down.

1st Down- Chucked out of bounds about ZIP Code away from DPE.

2nd Down- Caught by Alonzo Moore at the sideline but Moore was out-of-bounds by a sliver of a heel. Had the game been in a tighter situation, the play could have been called for a review. If it were ruled to be a completed pass, the Huskers would have been looking at third and 2.

3rd Down- Kenny Bell gets tossed off the field by a Rutgers defender. Tommy Armstrong then proceeds to throw a perfect strike to said defender for an INT.

Hmm… Sounds like Tommy Armstrong could use some work on his passing. With the Huskers up by two touchdowns in the dregs of the second quarter, why not give him some throws? Or does that make too much sense for Omaha World-Herald staff writer Dirk Chatelain?

His readers seem to think it does-

Dirk Readers
However, one Top Commenter chimed in to give credence to Omaha World-Herald staff writer Dirk Chatelain’s claim that people are frustrated by the lack of running.

Ronald Scribner
Yes, Ronald. It is beyond frustrating that every day can’t be like 1994 where vaginas were still hairy and wide receivers were used more for their blocking ability than catching skills. Heaven forbid that Bo Pelini and company could recruit receivers who can block AND catch.

Note Westerkamp’s pancake and Sam Cotton being such a nuisance that the Rutgers defender resorts to grabbing a double handful of jersey in a futile attempt to catch Ameer during his first touchdown run.

Funny how both those guys caught touchdown passes later in the game.

 

 

 

 

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Blackshirts, and Rutgers, and Bo Pelini! Oh my!

Looks like Bo Pelini ran into some #kappa ladies tonight.

Go ahead and mock Pelini’s deer-in-the-headlights look all you want but if you were a married guy who was suddenly swarmed by half a dozen ready-to-party Kappa alums outside a hotel you’d be instantly terrified once the cameras came out.

The biggest news out of Lincoln this week was that Blackshirts were handed out. While Husker Nation seems to have accepted the fact that traditions can evolve over time (or they could have simply forgotten that Blackshirts are still an actual thing on the practice field), there was some confusion about whether or not they’d be worn on game day.
Blackshirts
Black Shirt Confusion

Joel, I was in your boat once. It was November 20, 1987. The day before Game of the Century II. In front of my entire sixth grade class, I asked our teacher if the Huskers would be wearing their Blackshirts because it was such a big game. I was laughed right out of the room.

Blackshirts Stupid

You know what else is stupid? Calling something stupid while not knowing difference between there and they’re. You were so close, David A Adams.

Last year, seven players were awarded Blackshirts before the start of the season. With an unproven defense heading into 2014, there was certainly nothing wrong with Pelini and Papuchis waiting to award the coveted jerseys.

The only concern is that handing out Blackshirts ahead of the Rutgers game really sets the stage for the Scarlet Knights to come in and take a big ol’ dump on the season. The moment news of the jerseys appearing hit the interwebs, a bad feeling started to sink in.

The last time the Huskers played at 11am, McNeese State was the opponent and we all know how that went.

If Pelini can keep the Blackshirts from letting their new Blackshirts go to their heads, things should be OK. But keep in mind that if this streak of four losses a season is to continue, the Huskers need to start losing some games.

So on that optimistic note, here’s our preview-

Confidence: See the above paragraph but take it with a grain of salt. Just because we have a bad feeling doesn’t mean you have to. Don’t forget that Rutgers did open their season by beating Washington State, the most perplexing 2 – 5 team of 2014, on the road.

Scouting Report: Between a bout of food poisoning and other extra curricular activities, this week has been a wash so we’ll turn things over to Brian Christopherson and Steven M. Sipple.

Sip’s I-slept-in-my-car-but-have-a-hell-of-a-story camera presence makes us want to have a beer or five with the guy sometime.

Ideal Scenario: Ameer breaks a buck fifty on the ground with a couple of long TD’s. The early start time will give extra chances for air time during highlight packages throughout the day. The offensive line doesn’t do anything too offensive. Kenny Bell breaks a long standing record but doesn’t celebrate by robbing a gas station. The Blackshirts live up to their own name. By the final whistle, it’s a good quick game over before lunchtime sets in here on the West Coast.

Over/Under on Angry Bo Close Ups: 5 — The game is on ESPN2 and it wouldn’t be surprising if the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” wanted a little get-back after Pelini’s SEC comments this week.

A Question That Needs an Answer: Will Johnny Stanton see the field again this season?

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Recap: Huskers Make Wildcats Grumpy, Husker Fans Stay Grumpy

After a frustrating first half filled with near misses, the Huskers fired on cylinders for the final 30 minutes, scoring 24 unanswered points and neutering the Northwestern Wildcats to the tune of a 38 – 17 final score.

Defibrillators were pulled off standby (for at least one year anyway) as the Huskers romped through the 4th quarter. While last second Hail Mary drama is always exciting, an almost relaxing and cathartic win is welcome anytime.

Following the game, the Husker Athletic Department pointed out that the Big Red had clinched a bowl berth for the seventh consecutive year under Bo Pelini.

However, Joshua Brixius was far from sold on the idea that the Husker Athletic Department would actually know where the team stood with regards to bowl eligibility. He was so confident with calling out their lies that he didn’t even have to do any research for confirmation.
Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 7.54.13 AM

Boom. Posted on Facebook and in your face, no nothing Athletic Department.

At least Joshua was gracious in being clarified.

The other big story in the game was the Huskers second half adjustments (or lack of) depending who you believe.

Huskers Adjustments

In his post game comments, Coach Pelini said his team didn’t need to make too many adjustments for the second half. They just needed to play better.

Playing better is technically an “adjustment.”

The other angle that Loren doesn’t grasp is why would any coach in his right mind use his post game press conference to diagram exactly what his team changed in the second half? You gotta keep those details close to the vest, my friend.

The biggest adjustment of all came late in the first half when the Huskers suddenly found themselves down 14 – 7 with under two minutes to play.

Two plays, 56 yards, and 30 seconds later Tim Beck called a new play called Texas.

Faced with a quarterback lacking touch on passes under 40 yards and his most reliable receiver riding a four dropped ball streak, Coach Beck called the play any sane and rational offensive coordinator would dial up at 1st and 10 on your opponent’s 16 yard line.

His touch lacking QB handed the ball of to the Heisman contending running back who then flipped it to a speedy but otherwise unproven Freshman wide receiver who then threw a perfect strike to his quarterback who was heading towards the end zone all alone.

So to recap, when your quarterback can’t throw, and your receiver can’t catch, you have your receiver throw to your quarterback.

Makes perfect sense.

And it makes us think that Texas was just a codename for a play called “The Ultimate Fuck You Adjustment.”

We can’t wait to see what Coach Beck draws up next.

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Game Day Preview: Nebraska Cornhuskers at Northwestern Wildcats

When the Wildcats left Lincoln with a win after their first match up with Nebraska as Big Ten rivals, the table was set for Northwestern to become the thorn in the Huskers’ side- like some unholy combination of the worst attributes of Kansas State and Colorado.

Confidence: One T-Magic led comeback and ridiculous Hail Mary you’ve watched a thousand times later, the Huskers now lead the series 2 – 1. With Nebraska quickly running out of ways to cruelly disembowel the Wildcats, look for the Huskers to return to good old fashioned ass whuppin’.

Scouting Report: Bucking convention, but not surprising for the Harvard of the Midwest, the Wildcats feature a spunky, first year head coach in Molly McGrath from the hailed McGrath coaching family.

Coach McGrath
If you think Bo Pelini has a fiery sideline demeanor, you haven’t seen Molly McGrath in action.

Coach McGrath didn’t start with much in the cupboard but after winning the respect of her players, the Wildcats rebounded from a frustrating 0 – 2 start to go 3 – 1 in their last four games. For the math adverse among us, that means the Wildcats are now 3 – 3 with their most impressive win being against #17 (at the time) Wisconsin.

The Maverick and Goose of the Wildcats is a thunder and lightning duo known only as Krushinski and Trumaine.

Krushinski Trumaine
As impressive as they are on the field, Krushinski and Trumaine’s true calling may be on the basketball court.

Ideal Scenario: With Husker Nation expected to turn whatever Northwestern calls their stadium into the Chicago adjacent branch of Memorial Stadium, the crowd shouldn’t be a factor. If defenses can’t stop Ameer Abdullah, don’t except Northwestern’s natural grass surface to put up much of a fight. Here’s hoping Tim Beck used the bye week to brush up on his roster and remember he has Imani Cross. It’s been far too long since Cross was a factor. And with that in mind, Tommy Armstrong used his week off to work on finding all the receivers on the field and shows improvement with his reads.

On the defensive side, look for Randy Gregory add to his legacy with a soul crushing sack or three as the Blackshirts (Wait, is the defense still called that?) keep the Wildcats in check.

MACHO MAN RANDY GREGORY 4

Over/Under on Angry Bo Close Ups: 2 – With the game on the Big Ten Network, don’t look for the broadcast to go out of its way to try and make Bo look bad.

A Question That Needs an Answer: Will @FauxPelini get outed by a nosy fan looking over his shoulder?

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Tim Beck Speaks, Husker Fans Light Their Torches

Last night Offensive Coordinator Tim Beck broke his vow of silence that had been self-imposed since the McNeese State game.

Naturally, Husker fans (aka the classiest fans in all of college football) came out of the woodwork and were all too eager to welcome him back into their comforting bosom.

From the Husker Extra Facebook page
TIM BECK

Out of 51 comments (so far) about 10% call for Tim Beck to go kick rocks- aka go back to Kansas.
Mad Husker Fans

And you wonder why the guy doesn’t feel like speaking to the media. Imagine the venom if his Red Storm offense fell outside of a top 10 national ranking.

If mainstream internet rage existed back during the 1991 – 92 seasons, there’s no way Tom Osborne would have made it to 1994. If you think Tim Beck runs the same unimaginative plays, you clearly don’t remember the dark ages of the early 90’s.  I-formations, short side options, 10 passes a game. It was the sort of bland offense that makes a scoop of plain ol’ vanilla look like bubble gum.

And not coincidentally, it was the same offense that was in place during the Husker’s hallowed 60 – 3 run that immediately followed that dark time.

Finally, sticking out in that sea of move-to-Kansas-venom like a golden turd in a silver punchbowl, was this comment.

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 11.38.13 PM

While we won’t bother to shed light on the fact that Ameer and Rex are still alive and well, we are curious about this Criss character who needs ‘so touches.’

A quick scan of the Huskers’ roster doesn’t show a Criss but there is a Cross who happens to be running back and would potentially touch the ball from time to time, if Tim Beck ever bothered to call his number.

Could Vincent’s errant suggestion to play Criss just be a simple mix up?

Most likely.

Criss… Cross… what’s really the difference?
Peter Criss Imani Cross
Now get out there and block somebody.

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The Magnolia State unleashes an invasive species upon the world of college football.

There they were. One week ago Mississippi State and Ole Miss were the toast of every college football fan outside Tuscaloosa and College Station.countryfied

But now, with this pair of kissing cousin SEC schools sitting atop the national polls — each taking out yet another establishment program in double hoedown throwdowns — college football fandom is now wondering, “How do we get rid of these guys?”

A look at schedules does not bode well for those hoping the Bulldogs and Rebs get tripped up somewhere in the regular season before a showdown between the two of them inevitably ends the undefeated hopes for one.

Ole Miss has Auburn and (maybe) a road trip to LSU to worry about before hosting the Bulldogs.

Mississippi State has Alabama. And that’s it.

Sure, Auburn and Alabama are as good as anybody to pin your hopes on ending this Magnolia State scourge. But Auburn just got hammered by the Bulldogs. They probably won’t fare any better against the Rebs. Alabama, fresh off its loss to Ole Miss, looked like crap against an Arkansas team still in the process of rebuilding.

With just 227 total yards and 14 points against the Razorbacks, Bama fans may be discovering why Lane Kiffin keeps getting fired everywhere he goes.

Could one of the Mississippi schools become the fifth team to bring a national title to the SEC so far this century?

God let’s hope not.

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What games to watch on a Husker-free weekend

The Huskers will be enjoying a weekend off (aka Nebraska’s fall wedding weekend) so that means there’s an absolutely golden opportunity to revel in the misery of others without the risk of having to join all the other losers in to the cesspool of defeat.

Before you spend an entire Saturday on the couch watching strange teams easily making all the plays the Huskers can never seem to make, we can’t stress enough the need to make an appearance with wife and kids (if applicable) and make a noticeable dent (no matter how small) in household duties that have gone neglected since August 30th.

Pick a game or two and enjoy a stress free-weekend.

Georgia at Missouri
11am (all times listed at Runza Time)
CBS

more-missouri-butthurt-9-8-12

After their Heisman hopeful Todd Gurley was suspended due to being ratted out by a jilted autograph dealer, the Bulldogs turn to true freshman Nick Chubb (best name for an unproven backup ever) to lead the ground attack. And Missouri has… wait… who really cares about anything Missouri does? Root for Georgia in this one.

Texas vs Oklahoma
11am
ABC/ESPN3

Beat-Texas

The Sooners travel to Dallas for their annual Red River Rivalry showdown with Texas. The game has always been a little off-putting in the sense that it’s like your favorite cousin going to a big invite only blow out party with the half of his family you’re not related to. Once you get over the FOMO, sit back, relax and watch that favorite cousin do the Lord’s work by kicking the crap out of the Longhorns.

Oregon at UCLA
2:30pm
FOX

A61EMDhCYAAd-Pc

OK. This one hurts. It’s like being back in time eight weeks before the events in Sixteen Candles take place. You’re Samantha sitting at the geek table in the cafeteria watching a hunky blond version of Jake Ryan having a sweet and playful tickle fight with his longtime girlfriend Caroline (bet you didn’t know that was her name). For some sects of Husker Nation, the day Oregon goes Ice Princess on Scott Frost can’t come soon enough for Nebraska would welcome him back with open and loving arms. Then again, that’s what was promised for Bo Pelini. And if we remember correctly, Husker Nation didn’t react to kindly to a guy who originally chose Stanford over Nebraska’s finest land grant institution. Even without factoring in what UCLA did to Nebraska the last two seasons, you want Oregon to win this game just to keep Michigan State’s strength of schedule up. All the better if they can do it with Marcus Mariota having a sub par day. And on a final note, any college that plays 25 miles (a two hour drive in LA) off-campus can suck it.

Alabama at Arkansas
5:00pm
ESPN

Alabama-Fan-Tattoo

The only attractive part of this game is Bret Bielema’s wife and she’s bat shit crazy. Cheer for neither team but hope Alabama loses in a gruesome manner so that everyone is happy and little angels get their wings.

Mississippi at Texas A&M
8pm
ESPN

FLAG

You want Ole’ Miss to lose to ensure playoff chaos and I want them to lose because I’m still bitter about wasting two hours of my life watching The Blindside. Note to aspiring actresses: If you ever want to win an Oscar, simply do your best Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich impression. It worked for Sandy. Just don’t invite your cheating-with-a-white-supremacist-stripper biker husband to the ceremony. And seriously, fuck any team that can make Texas A&M’s militarized fraternity scene look almost sane and rational.

USC at Arizona
9pm
ESPN2

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 11.12.47 AM

The Wildcats are enjoying their best season since 1994 when they were named Sports Illustrated’s preseason number one and a U of A sweater warmed the terrified shoulders of Sandra Bullock in Speed. Cheer for Arizona in this one. For another Wildcats win will add to the suffering of Michigan fans and add to the dysfunctional chaos that is USC’s football program. And not to worry, Zona will have plenty more chances to derail their so far perfect run.

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Huskers vs Michigan State, Exhibit ‘A’ For Never Quitting

The clock on the DVR strikes 2am as Saturday night slips into Sunday morning.

On the TV, Nebraska and Michigan State are in the 4th quarter. The Spartans lead 27 – 3 in a contest that was decided hours earlier.

Tommy Armstrong is on the sideline as trainers and medical staff check to see if his internal organs are still in place after suffering a monster hit. Ryker Fyfe is on the field trying to lead the Huskers to double digit holy land. His gangly flailing brings back bad memories of the Huskers’ desperate attempts to score a single touchdown at USC back in 2006.

Meanwhile, I’m on the couch scooping out globs of kale and Greek yogurt dip with my bare hands. The chips were gone before halftime. I’m fully aware of the depressing nature of the situation but the need for an activity, no matter how sad, to help stay awake and see this game through to the bitter end outweighs any personal dignity.

If Husker Nation could suffer through this deflating, gut punch of a game in real-time, the least I can do experience their pain in a half asleep, zombie fog. Plus, it’s not that bad when you can fast forward through the commercials and Kirk Herbstreit monologues.

HAVE I MENTIONED YET THAT I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA HOW THIS GAME IS GOING TO END?

Thanks to the collision of my two favorite teams, Saturday was a day that started with nervous stress and would end in either anguish or joy. There would be no middle ground if either the Huskers or Dodgers lost.

In our 10th season of going to Dodger games together, my wife and I have our system dialed in.  Every little detail down to our seats being in the shade by exactly one row has been honed and refined to an Ocean’s 11 level of precision. It takes between 35 and 50 minutes to get from our driveway to our seats. With kickoff an hour and a half before the first pitch, my only chance to watch the Huskers in real-time was to make sure we arrived at Dodger Stadium extra early.

Throughout the day, I badgered her with every possible angle- watch BP, snag a seat over the bullpen to see Zack Greinke warm up, grab a slice of pizza at Tommy Lasorda’s.

Eventually, ( I think it was the combination of a Rain Man like insistence that we go directly to our seats and pulling out an iPad and a pair of giant headphones the moment we sat down) she caught on to my real motive and left me in peace to scream to my heart’s content in a nearly empty stadium.

Bo Pelini Dodger Stadium

By the time I looked up from the screen, it was halftime. The Huskers were down 17 – 0 in the most brutal way possible and Dodger Stadium was suddenly filled to capacity.

The surreal nature of not noticing 55,000 people chanting “Let’s go Dodgers!” made me realize just how deep I was buried in my mental Husker bunker. Without giving it a second thought, I ripped off the digital Band-Aid and put all the gadgets away and vowed to go off the grid until I watched the second half play out at home.

It was going to hurt but the only way to enjoy the Dodger game was to try and forget about the Huskers.

With Friday’s implosion still a gushing head wound, the game started off tense. The stadium breathed a sigh of relief when the Dodgers jumped out to an early 2 – 0 lead thanks to pitcher Zack Greinke helping his own cause and A.J. Ellis bumping his postseason batting average to .833.

During lulls in the action, I’d compulsively check my phone but pump the brakes before unlocking the screen. By the 5th inning, unread texts outnumbered the Spartans’ score at halftime. Never a good sign.

Things got so desperate at times I’d even look down towards Magic Johnson to see if I could pick up a clue from his body language.

magic johnson dodger stadium
If Magic cheered between innings, there would be no doubt the Huskers were doomed. He never did.

The Dodgers’ two run lead would stand until the 8th inning when Greinke relinquished the mound to the normally reliable J.P. Howell who promptly gave up a moonshot of a game tying home run.

If the St. Louis Cardinals were a college football team, they’d be a mix of a Oklahoma and Texas- an unholy blend of Sooner Magic and Longhorn arrogance. When they eventually sink in that dagger, they will have shanked you the Cardinal Way.

Thanks Matt Kemp’s heroic bomb in the bottom of the 8th, the Dodgers quickly regained the lead and closer Kenley Jansen slammed the door shut in the 9th.  For one night at least, the Cardinal Way could go kick rocks.

Driving home, post game elation started to give way to inevitable dread somewhere around Korea Town. The feeling was like savoring the last bites of a lobster knowing your next stop is the electric chair.

I was a dead man walking as I went straight from our back door to our living room. My last words to my wife were “I’ll be to bed in a while. Need to watch the Nebraska game.”

“Jill and Holly both texted about that,” was her solemn reply. Jill and Holly are her die-hard LSU fan BFFs. If they were checking me, things did not end well.

I settled in on the couch and started from the very beginning. Watching the first half a second time didn’t hurt any less and opened the door for so much second guessing. Punting from Michigan State’s 30 yard line? Why not give Imani Cross a couple carries just to give the Spartans a different sized body to tackle? Will Jake Cotton ever live down being toppled by a ghost? Doesn’t Tim Beck realize plays out of the wildcat often end in disaster?

As Bo Pelini’s teams have shown, being down 17 points isn’t much of a deficit so maybe the second half would be all Nebraska.

That optimism lasted until the Spartans went up 20 – 0. The game still wasn’t technically out of reach but fumbles and stalled drives started to really hurt. The Blackshirts do a good job of keeping Michigan State out of the end zone, for the most part, further delaying the surely inevitable outcome.

The clock ticks under 5 minutes. The scoreboard has long been frozen at 27 – 9 and Spartan Stadium begins to empty out. The temptation to turn off the TV has never been greater but the Huskers are knocking the door of their second TD of the night. A defensive holding penalty and two rushes by Abdullah later, the score is now 27 – 16.

When Michigan State got the ball back, it took a minute for Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit to realize the Huskers were still in it to win it. They’d punched out on paying attention to the game long before the 4th quarter even started so it came as a shock to see Pelini on the sidelines calling timeouts with teeth gnashing fire.

By the time they finished their calculations and realized there was still chance, no matter how remote, that Huskers could come back, Faux Pelini’s new best friend had already punted the ball away to De’Mornay Pierson-El who promptly took it to the house, bringing Nebraska within five points. If barehanded dip eating was the lowest part of the game, screaming into a throw pillow was the absolute zenith.

The Huskers were suddenly looking down the barrel of their greatest comeback ever. A 36 yard MSU field goal attempt getting blocked by the goalpost confirmed this to be true. It was going to happen. It had to.

Four plays later, the game was over. A Michigan State interception sealed their victory after dodging sure death the play before.

Alonzo Moore
Alonzo Moore gave it everything he could to haul in what could have been the game winner for the Huskers.

After the final whistle, I immediately re-watched the last five minutes just to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. What I saw the second time around was a Husker team that refused to quit. There would have been no shame if Tommy Armstrong chose to call it a night but he was out there with his team fighting until the very end, throwing lasers when it mattered  the most. Seldom used reserves were stepping up in place of injured teammates and a true freshman added to his quickly growing lore with the most exciting play of the night.

While Bo Pelini will tell you he doesn’t believe in moral victories, the fact his team never stopped believing is a huge testament to their drive and character. For 55 minutes they were getting knocked down and pushed around by both luck and the Spartans but they finally found a way to put themselves in a position to win at the every end. And that’s all you can ask for.

There is no reason to be ashamed of this loss.

* When I woke up the next afternoon, (the finish left me so wired I had to read about the game until the sun came up back in Nebraska) I found out I wasn’t the only one who went cold turkey at halftime.

 

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