It’s fitting that the epilogue to the crashed and burned Bo Pelini era at Nebraska will be written on the same field as his career’s finest moment- the 2009 Holiday Bowl.
What followed that 33 – 0 victory over the Arizona Wildcats was the most hopeful time of Pelini’s seven seasons at Nebraska. It was the perfect salve to the one more second debacle against Texas and had Husker fans licking their chops at a run for a National Championship in 2010.
That season began with the Huskers ranked #8 in the polls and unknown redshirt freshman Taylor Martinez lined up in the shotgun at quarterback. His jaw dropping speed lead the Huskers to a 5 and 0 start and a national coming out party for Martinez in a Thursday night match up against Kansas State on ESPN.
Nine days later, the wheels would fall off the Big Red Express when the unranked and hated Texas Longhorns came to Lincoln and left with a 20 – 13 victory. In that game, the Huskers’ offense was absolutely stuffed with the lone touchdown coming off a 95 yard return of a pooch punt late in the game by Eric Haag. Martinez was benched as senior and 2009 starter Zac Lee entered the game for a rare appearance.
In retrospect, all the the negative aspects that would be a hallmark of Pelini’s tenure bloomed on that day.
(Screengrab via Huskermax.)
A month later, Pelini’s temper would take the national stage as he gave Martinez the ass-reaming of his life against Texas A&M. By Sunday night Martinez was already enrolled at UCLA (if message boards were to be believed).
A month after that, Martinez and the Huskers limped through a 19 – 7 loss against Washington in the Holiday Bowl- the same Huskies team that Nebraska destroyed 56 – 21 back in September.
Fast forward four years. Taylor Martinez is a mobile game developer and budding real estate agent (thanks for the hook up, Uncle Warren) and Bo Pelini has packed up for the gloomy pastures of his native Youngstown, Ohio.
At the helm for the Huskers in Saturday’s Holiday Bowl is the much maligned Barney Cotton. After the game, he’ll leave the Huskers (for a second time) for his new gig as UNLV’s Offensive Coordinator. With the exception of John Garrison and Charlton Warren, the futures for the rest of Pelini’s staff are up in air. The seniors have one final game together and the underclassmen will likely finish their careers as Mike Riley’s players.
About the only thing left for the Huskers to play for is pride. Pride for their team. Pride for their teammates. Pride for their coaches who deemed them worthy of playing for Nebraska.
Pride can be a dangerous weapon, especially with a healthy Husker squad and an offensive coordinator off his leash.
Scouting Report: USC started the 2014 season with a 52 – 13 win over Fresno State. Two weeks later, the Huskers muzzled the Bulldogs 55 – 19 while USC lost on the road to Boston College 37 – 31. The Trojans’ three other losses came at the hand of Arizona State, Utah, and UCLA. Their crosstown showdown was the only game the Trojans lost by more than a touchdown, falling to the Bruins 38 – 20, a game in which the USC defense got flustered and all but gave up in the second half.
The Trojans’ most notable wins of the season came against Stanford, Arizona on the road, and a 49 – 14 punch out of the Fighting Irish at home. In case you’re wondering, they did beat Mike Riley’s Beavers 35 – 10 in LA. Like the Huskers, the Trojans have the potential to run with anyone- if they can harness it.
The Trojan offense is lead by junior Quarterback Cody Kessler. He can sling the ball but he isn’t exactly fleet of foot having “rushed” 52 times for -149 yards. On the season, he’s been sacked 30 times.
An immobile quarterback has to have Defensive Coordinator John Papuchis licking his chops, right?
Confidence is high for Papuchis.
USC may have the better team on paper but the reality is there is truly only one edge the Trojans have on the Huskers heading into the Holiday Bowl.
Sorry, Scarletts. All the glitter in the world is no match for the simple white sweaters that are a trademark of the USC Song Girls.
And that’s about all the “serious” preview you’ll get from us.
In our defense, we did reach out to our friend Mick, an LAPD Sergeant and quite possibly the Trojans biggest fan. Seriously, he’s “The Dude” of USC football right down to his tattoo of Tommy Trojan holding the severed head of Notre Dame’s mascot whilst standing on the beaten pulp of UCLA’s Bruin.
This is the entire transcript of our chat.
What is your prediction for the Holiday Bowl and who are the USC players the Huskers need to watch out for?
Let me know and I’ll quote you in my preview for my site www.bigredfury.com
Mick- We ARE.. SC! Beat the Huskers!
Before we even had a chance to even think of being offended by such an epic brush off, we realized Mick had to already be in San Diego making his tailgate preparations and had no such time for silly questions. We’ve been his guest at USC games a few times over the years and aren’t kidding when we say he’ll show up at 6am to stake out his tailgate spot for a game that doesn’t start until 7pm.
Mick and your humble author at the 2006 edition of USC vs Nebraska.
Ideal Scenario: The Huskers close out the Bo Pelini era with a bold exclamation point with a fun and dominating performances on both sides of the ball reminiscent of the 2000 Alamo Bowl- arguably the Big Red’s most fun bowl game of the 21st century. A Kenny Bell to Ameer Abdullah touchdown pass would be absolute gravy.
Look for Tim Beck to empty his playbook with enough #TommyBombs to reenact Operation Linebacker I and II. That is of course when Ameer isn’t running wild on the Trojan defense.
On the other side of the ball, Randy Gregory and Jack “The Beastmaster” Gangwish will pin their ears back and give Cody Kessler a late Christmas gift of a world of pain. USC may get a couple of deep balls early but don’t be surprised when Papuchis stays calm under pressure and readjusts once he realizes no one is going to scream at him on the sideline.
Honestly, this game could go either way with a blowout for either team being the most likely outcome. It’s hard to imagine the Holiday Bowl going down to the wire so we’re gonna stick with our way early prediction of a 38 – 17 Husker victory.
Over/Under on Angry Bo Close Ups: 3 — ESPN will surely start the game with a montage of Bo’s “finest” moments.
Question That Needs an Answer: Will Barney Cotton finish his Cornhusker head coaching career undefeated?