Holiday Bowl Recap: The Pelini Era Goes Down To The Wire

It was only fitting that the seven years of the Bo Pelini era at Nebraska remained a thrill ride down to the last damn second.

In a Holiday Bowl match up against USC that very few pundits gave the Huskers any chance of winning, the Big Red showed up ready to play and ready to honor their departed and beloved coach.

There would be no Hail Mary magic this time around but the stage was set for amazing irony when Holiday Bowl officials put a final second back on the clock after a review proved Kenny Bell scrambled out of bounds with a tick to spare on the penultimate play.

While the record books will say the Huskers came up three points short, those guys played their hearts out and Pelini’s remaining staff proved their mettle on the sidelines. Every single one of them gave a reason for Husker Nation to stay proud.

Nebraska USC Stat Line
Nebraska handled USC except for where it mattered the most.

The result of their efforts was arguably the most Pelini like game of the past seven years and it was the only one that had Bo watching from parts unknown.

Explosive plays, mind boggling miscues, clutch defensive stops, a momentary sideline meltdown thanks to Coach Kaz, and a never say die attitude- all the signature elements of a Pelini lead team were present and accounted for.

Kenny Bell Touchdown
Kenny Bell added one more touchdown reception to his record-setting Husker career.

Three out of the Huskers’ four losses this season ended with Nebraska still in position to win at the very end. While the near-miss 19 point 4th quarter rally against Michigan State will be hard to ever top, Nebraska didn’t flinch when down 45 – 27 with 2:24 left to play in the 3rd quarter.

Instead, the Red Storm responded with a big score of their own, a 65 yard #TommyBomb to Jordan Westerkamp barely a minute later. Offensive Coordinator Tim Beck never strayed from his playbook or his quarterback.

Tommy Armstrong vs Cody KesslerThanks unwavering confidence and the stone hands of the USC secondary, Tommy Armstrong ended the night with a better stat line than Cody Kessler. As Mike Purrriley pointed out, the Blackshirts held a 70% career passer to under 60%.

As the game transitioned from shoot out to  heavyweight slug fest in the 4th quarter, we did our best to just sit back and enjoy the final twists and turns of the Pelini roller coaster. The Huskers had nothing and everything at stake in their final 15 minutes of their season and, for some, their careers at Nebraska. Playing for just for the sake of playing is when any sport is at its most pure.

While the 4th and 3 that came up short and effectively ended the Huskers’ chances at winning will go down as one final boneheaded move by Tim Beck in the eyes of many arm chair coordinators, we have to say the call was sound, if not for the logic but for the symbolism.

With USC no doubt keying in on Abdullah (save for that defender locked in on DPE like a heat seeking missile), giving the ball to anyone but Ameer wasn’t bad entirely bad thinking. Instead of being furious that Ameer was lead blocker on the play, think of it as a Husker legend paving the way for a future Husker legend.

And if it makes you feel any better, USC did the same thing in the 2006 BCS Championship against Texas. Facing a critical 4th and 2 with 1:49 remaining, temporary Heisman winner Reggie Bush stood on the sidelines as LenDale White (who fumbled on the previous play) was stuffed by the Longhorn defense.

The Huskers may have closed out the Pelini era with a loss but the future is bright.

Just wait ’til next year.

Go Big Red.

NOTES:

Like everyone else, we were pretty far off base with our prediction.

“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.

We are so dumb.

Apparently Mike Riley left after the third quarter with a tuckered out grandson on his shoulder. Even by flaky Dodger fan standards, that’s leaving awfully early.

Someone please tell him that in Nebraska it’s still socially acceptable to leave your grandchild locked in the car as long as you leave the radio on and crack the window.

If the 2 point conversion to Kenny Bell looked familiar, it’s because you saw Nebraska win at Michigan State in 2012 with the exact same play.

Finally, does anyone know this guy?

Drunk Nebraska Fan

Kudos to him for keeping it classy and making sure Nebraska stays relevant to Deadspin now that Pelini is gone.

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