View from the Boneyard: Southern Miss

After an entire pot of coffee at 6:30 in the morning, I knew that Saturday morning’s homecoming game against Southern Miss was going to be an interesting one.

The first challenge of the morning was to go to LaMar’s and ask for the “game day special” and get whatever they give you. But after one smart ass comment of “watch as it’s something like seven dozen donuts” from me, our friend decided that it might not be worth the risk. Instead, we all stuck with the tried-and-true red and white sprinkles.

We honestly weren’t expecting too many people to be at the gates for such an early start time, so we were shocked when we walked up around 8:20 to see a decent sized line already formed outside of east stadium.

All of the usual costumes made an appearance that morning, with the addition of @brus_almighty ‘s Westerstache drawn on his chest. Being the pun enthusiast that I am, I took it upon myself to name the long lost brother of the Westerstache: the Chesterstache.

chesterstache
Behold the glory of the Chesterstache.

Despite the turnout, we still got our usual seats. Partially from skill and experience, but mostly from the fact that most people were still half asleep and struggled to maintain anything more than a brisk walk to get to their seats.

Since this game was an 11 am game, there weren’t any games being played on the HuskerVision screen to pass the time. Luckily for me, the girls sitting in the row behind me brought in a deck of cards and invited me to play a game of Go Fish with them. In all of my years of going to Husker games, I still can’t believe that I had never thought of that. I also never thought that I would be as competitive at Go Fish at 8:30 am as I was, but you learn something new every day.

Time actually went by quickly waiting for the game to start, especially with additional things happening for homecoming. But to me, nothing says “home” quite like the collective off-beat clapping to Sirius during the Tunnel Walk.

Everyone seemed eager early on to let go of their red balloons, so when the crowd saw what appeared to be a touchdown, the sea of red balloons took flight. Despite protest from the rest of the fans that had realized that we were on the 4 yard line, balloons continued to be released throughout the next two snaps.

A fumble recovery by Kevin Williams on Southern Miss’s next possession helped wake up the crowd. During this time, I was challenged by my dear friend, the camera man from across the stadium. (If you’re new here, I urge you to read last game’s story.)

However, a star emerged early in the second quarter: Andy Janovich. After a gain of 25 yards, students could be heard chanting “Janovich” and “run the fullback.”

band
The superhero themed halftime show was great even if the Batman logo wasn’t visible from field level.

Everything seemed promising as the Huskers came out to start the second half with a score of 22-0. Then things got ugly.

The first three possessions by the Huskers resulted in an interception, a missed field goal, and a fumble recovered by Southern Miss’ D’Nerius Antoine.

game
The Blackshirts hunker down to keep Southern Miss out of the end zone.

Despite scoring another touchdown to make the score 29-7, an on-side kick successfully recovered by Southern Miss caused Husker fans to expect the worst, especially with how many of the games had been ending this season.

The east stadium student section saw some excitement as the Huskers had to punt for the first time. A large white banner that read “Foltz fer Hizemin” in Chick-Fil-A writing was brought out immediately after the punt. After working on the banner until 2 am just a few nights before, I was just happy that we got a chance to show it off.

The Huskers were soon looking at a 36-28 score against the Golden Eagles with just seconds left in the game. Surrounded by worried fans, my natural sports-optimism came our strong as I reminded everyone that Southern Miss would need to not only get a touchdown, but complete the two-point conversion just to tie, and how absolutely ridiculous that would be.

Then I remembered the Miami game just last weekend and joined everyone in their panic.

Thankfully, the game ended with a sack by Freedom Akinmoladun as time ran out. All I have to say is: let Freedom ring.

end
There would be no Hail Mary anxiety this time.

Hayley Archer is a senior Broadcasting major at UNL. Follow her on Twitter at @Harchinator.

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Sunday Morning Hot Takes: Southern Miss Edition

Pop quiz: What’s the best part of a Sunday?

There’s no chance of a Husker football game to stress you out.

The game should have been a cakewalk but Southern Miss just had to add itself to the ever-growing list of teams that have given Husker Nation heart attacks the season. The Huskers came out strong before devolving back to what was on the field for the first three quarters against Miami last week. Like the Millennium Falcon, the Big Red somehow found a way to hold together and get the win.

On with the hot takes.

Mike Riley’s Balloon Watch: A win is a win but the way Southern Miss kept it interesting until the last damn second means Mike’s balloon holds steady for another week at partially deflated.

MikeRiley Sad Balloon

Offense: It’s getting closer to having an identity even if that identity could best be described as make some spectacular plays to get to the red zone only to kick a field goal after stalling out. One of these days it will click more than it sputters and it will be a lot of fun to watch.

Defense: Hey…  the Bankshirts™ got the sack when it mattered the absolute most and spared us the drama of finding out if the Huskers figured out how to stop the Hail Mary. That secondary tho… lawn chairs randomly placed around the field could do a better job of defending the pass.

Andy JanovichCareer stats entering today’s game: 3 rushes for 6 yards, 3 receptions for 29 yards. Against Southern Miss: 5 rushes for 68 yards, 1 reception for 53. It’s a bummer that he’s already a senior but maybe it’s a good thing that Dirk’s days of being able to make analogies that even we think are bat shit crazy are already numbered.

Alex LewisThe officials called his number only once today. Good job, buddy!

The Big Red Cobcast: The only best part about sparsely attended 9am games is that they give you a chance to easily shoot the breeze with your fellow members of Husker Nation since there isn’t a packed room of fans shouting over each other. The vibe of a morning game is almost like a Husker Study Hall where the cool teacher lets you talk as long as you don’t get too rowdy. For Southern Miss, that meant 3 quarters of cracking jokes with Pat and Ryan from the Big Red Cobcast and 1 quarter yelling at the nearest TV. If you don’t already subscribe, the Cobcast is a must listen for any Husker fan.

NUMBERS TO IMPRESS YOUR FRIENDS WITH

45-7: Our overly bold score prediction. In our defense, we were on pace to be close until Southern Miss realized the Huskers have no pass defense.

65.7: Tommy Armstrong’s completion percentage (23/35). The drops that plagued Husker receivers last week against Miami were mostly gone but Cethan Carter seemed to be running the wrong way every time the ball was thrown to his ZIP code. (Even Brandon Cavanaugh agrees so we must be onto something.)

23: Our good buddy Brent called the over/under on attendees to our watch site at 22.5. At kickoff there were 29 die hard Husker fans who rallied for the 9am start time thanks to a group visiting from Columbus. (Kudos to them for packing Husker gear.) When they bolted at halftime, that left exactly 23 of us to sweat it out to the final second.

12: The Huskers had 12 penalties totaling 98 free yards but none were for having 12 men on the field which is a pleasant surprise. The season total for that bonehead move remains at three.

6: The number of miles Bo Pelini will be from the Nebraska border next Saturday when his Youngstown State Penguins travel to the land of great faces and great places to take on the University of South Dakota Coyotes, a team he faced in Lincoln just two years ago. Maybe you remember it the day Tommy Armstrong made his first career start in place of a hobbled T-Magic?

2-2 Along with the Huskers, these other brand name teams are also sitting at a double deuce: Oregon, Oregon State, Auburn, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, BYU, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington.

1: The number of times this season the Huskers have had a 100 yard rusher. Seriously. We even looked it up.  Terrell Newby’s  198 yard day against South Alabama is the only time this season a Husker has rushed for over 100 yards. That day seven different Huskers toted the rock for 258 yards. Against Southern Miss the Big Red racked up 242 yards split between eight different ball carriers with Newby leading the way with 76. It’s great that Langsdorf is spreading the wealth but one of these days a hoss running back needs to emerge from the pack.

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You Guys… The Huskers Won’t Lose To Southern Miss

It is 11:15pm out here on the Best Coast which means the Huskers will be kicking off against Southern Miss in a mere nine hours and forty five minutes.

(I think that’s right.)

Between going to four Dodger games, re-watching the Miami game right up until the ol’ DVR stopped recording after Brandon Reilly made his clutch, cage rattling catch on the Huskers’ final drive in regulation, and kicking back with a mini-marathon of three CHiPs episodes, it’s been a busy week for this guy.

Which means on a Friday night, I’m in full relax mode getting ready for tomorrow’s tussle with Southern Miss.

After all, it’s the first game of the season for real Husker fans. Think those fair weather Susies who spent their week complaining about the Huskers and the Husker who complained about them are looking forward to watching a game at the break of dawn? They sure don’t.

Tomorrow is when real Husker fans finally get the chance to spread their wings and get a little elbow room.

The Ice Man to my Maverick at our CAL4NE watch site has put the over/under at 22.5 in attendance which would be well under a quarter of the fans who came out of the woodwork for BYU.

It’s even going to be too early to get one of the costumed kooks of Hollywood Blvd to model our prediction so our mini Memorial Stadium is pinch hitting to display our bold prognostication of a 45 – 7 Husker victory.

Huskers Southern Miss Score Prediction

Here’s the deal: Even though the football gods have been treating the Huskers about as well as Jared from Subway on his first day in prison, the Huskers are still the Huskers and one of these weeks Mike Riley and his crew will figure it all out and the Big Red Machine will finally fire on all cylinders once again.

And it just so happens that Southern Miss will be playing the role of fresh meat for the new and suddenly improved Huskers. Like, for real, Mark Banker is going to figure out how to stop a deep crossing route.

It’s nothing personal, Southern Miss. It’s just time for the Huskers to get back to snapping necks and letting visiting teams cash the big checks.

#SMTTT = Southern Miss To The Top

I scrolled through several hours worth of Southern Miss related tweets and these two contained the most smack talk. Do their fans even know they have a game tomorrow? 

THREE RANDOM THINGS

1) If you haven’t read it yet, the new Tunnel Walk of Shame is a great trip down memory lane of the most magical era in Husker history.

2) Best outlook of the week award goes to Rex Salmon, one of the organizers of the San Diegans for Nebraska group.

Huskers’ Game 4 with Southern Miss could be, may be
almost be, or will be Nebraska’s 2nd WIN.

Depending upon your amount of faith, pick and stick with it.

If you ever get the chance, watch a game with the San Diegans for Nebraska down at the Black Angus. They are an impressive group both in size and spirit and every week you’ll get a great email from Big Rexx breaking down the next opponent on the Huskers’ hit list.

3) Who aside from our good buddy Dirk and Tiff the breakfast supervisor knew that Coach Riley was STILL living at the Embassy Suites?

It’s nice to see our speculation of Riley’s love of omelets was true but man, let’s hope he all moved in to his new pad since anyone who read that story (including those enraged Husker fans who somehow have the ability to read) suddenly know his schedule down to the minute.

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Mike Diary: Excerpts from Mike Riley’s Journal

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re not going to say how we pulled it off but we got our grubby little mitts on Mike Riley’s diary.

There’s no need for us to set it up any further. We know you just want to get to the good stuff, so below you’ll find excerpts from key moments since he slid into the captain’s chair at Memorial Stadium.

5 December 2015

Dear Diary-

I know it’s been a few days but I have an unbelievable excuse…

Greetings from Nebraska!

(I’ll wait while you find it on a map.)

I never thought I’d ever say that but, by golly, things sure took a strange (in a good way) turn of a events. It all started a few days ago when Shawn Eichorst, the Athletic Director at the University of Nebraska, asked if we could meet in his hotel room in San Francisco to discuss the head coaching job that had opened up.

Trust me, I was just as suspicious as you would have been about the whole deal. I mean, we always try our best but it’s not every day you wrap up a 5 and 7 season by having a dude invite you to a secret meeting.

In his hotel room.

In San Francisco.

But you know what? Turns out it was all on the level!

I wasn’t the victim of a prank…. or worse. Shawn really wanted me to become the next coach of the Nebraska Cornbuckers, (I think that’s what they call themselves. I’m still figuring all of this out.)

It took a few years but someone finally realized what kind of coach you have to be to get kids to not only play for a team named the Beavers but to do so with flipplin’ Oregon just a few miles up the road.

It’s funny how life works out. Just a few days ago, I honestly thought I might be fired and boom(!) I’m suddenly somewhere in Nebraska and the head coach of a football powerhouse, with a big raise to boot!

I think I might treat myself to a new bicycle.

MIKE RILEY OUT


9 FEBRUARY 2015

Dear Diary-

Hotel life is the best! It’s like living on vacation. Every morning I get to make make own omelet and drink as much orange juice as I want and the pool is open until 11pm  but I signed a football for the night custodian and he lets me swim till midnight! There are so many cable channels to choose from that I can find The Rock playing any time of the day. Don’t tell the Mrs… but I think for Valentine’s Day, I’m going to sneak down extra early so I can surprise her with an omelet in bed.

MIKE RILEY OUT


11 APRIL 2015

Dear Diary-

Longtime no chat, I know. After three months of R&R and going to basketball games, it was finally time to do some real work.

We had our spring practices and this team I inherited is something else. The quarterback runs better than he throws and there’s a kid on defense who killed a raccoon with his bare hands. Don’t tell Boss Eichorst but I was so rusty I almost forgot which side of my whistle was which. (Hahahaha. Try saying that one five times fast.)

Today we had the big Red and White game and the way the fans came out you’d think they all had free tickets to the Super Bowl. I’ve never seen anything like it. Anyway, It was the only time of the year where we’ll win and lose the same game.

Not to sound cocky but I’m thinking if I can do just half as bad as that basketball coach, I wouldn’t be surprised if they named a street after me. The fans LOVE that guy and he loses all time.

MIKE RILEY OUT


17 JUNE 2015

Dear Diary-

Apparently our grass grew an eighth of a inch since Monday (so says the second guy who stopped by this morning asking if he could cut it). He says he’s been keeping track from across the street and thinks it’s getting out of control but I invited him to come back on Friday so that way the Mrs. and I can be assured of a nice, quiet weekend.

I felt bad for him though because as he was leaving he got into a little scuffle with yet another guy who showed up with his mower.

Between, you me, and the fence post, diary, I would say Nebraska people are weird but they are just so gosh darn helpful.

Even after this new adventure is all over, we may never leave, especially when Veronica, our neighbor from across the way, brings us fresh baked goodies every single morning.

MIKE RILEY OUT


25 JULY 2015

Dear Diary-

Apologies if I don’t write to much today. It is just so gosh dang hot I don’t know if I have the strength. Lucky for me and the Mrs, the neighborhood kids are taking turns on watch to make sure we stay properly refreshed. Pardon the pun be we ARE living the life of Riley complete with our own personal lemonade stand!

MIKE RILEY OUT


5 SEPTEMBER 2015

Dear Diary-

As you know, today was the big day. It was my first game as coach of the Nebraska Cornhutchers and for 59 minutes and 59 seconds it was football heaven. The most unbelievably wonderful dream had come true and I was living it… right up until Bigham Young’s freshman quarterback threw Hail Mary to pull the glorious rug of victory right out from under us.

As I write this hours later I’m still kicking myself. Of all the things we practiced during fall camp the defending the Hail Mary was not one of them and why should it be? Everyone knows that all you have to do is whatever it takes not to let the other team score. Pardon my French but those little s-h-i=t-s spent years learning from a “defensive mastermind” and after the game they tell me they didn’t know what what to do in that situation? You’ve got to be flipping kidding me.

I’m still so mad I could kick a rock.

MIKE RILEY OUT


12 SEPTEMBER 2015

Dear Diary-

Hip, hip, HOORAY!!!

That is all.

MIKE RILEY OUT


20 SEPTEMBER 2015

Dear Diary-

Well, we went down to Miami (no, we did go to scout timeshares) and played one heck of a barn burner against those Hurricanes. We were getting our tails kicked 33 – 10 in the fourth quarter but I worked a few “fishlips” and “shoeshines” (if you know what I’m sayin’) into my speech during a timeout and I think that did the trick. Who knew these kids actually liked being yelled at? All of a sudden, that quarterback who runs started zipping the ball to receivers who stopped dropping it. Even though it didn’t work out in the end, it was incredible that we almost had ’em on their home field.

I’m not quite sure the fans are feeling he same way though. Every time I’ve returned from a recruiting trip, fans have been lined up clamoring to give me a ride home and have a chance to talk football one-on-one. Tonight the airport was emptier than a ghost town and I had to call the Mrs for a lift. It was pretty late when we landed though, so maybe that’s it.

And if things needed to get any weirder, get a load of this: this morning we were woken up by the sound of our neighbor Veronica throwing eggs at our house!

And that wasn’t all she did! When we went outside to see what all the fuss was about I saw she also dumped an entire bag of flour on the good ol’ Prius.

She must have been running really late to church if she didn’t have time to bake our Sunday Bundt cake!

MIKE RILEY OUT

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Monday Rage: Who Woke Up Angry About Miami?

Welcome to the first installment of Monday Rage for 2015.

We wish we didn’t have to pull this feature out at all this season but as we did more than a few times last year, every Monday we’ll provide a snapshot into the mood and ever so fragile psyche of Husker Nation on the off chance they lose a game.  (Note: BYU was such an aberration, it did not deserve the Monday Rage treatment.)

Thanks to Twitter, conducting this research is all too easy. Our only ground rule is only the freshest tweets will be highlighted, there’s no dipping back into Sunday when the wounds of a Husker loss were still fresh. Nope, we want fans to have time for things to cool off and scab over.

Good times.

Before we dive in, we’d like to introduce a new feature we’re calling Mike Riley’s Balloon Watch.

This is Mike Riley and his balloon at the start of the season.

Mike Riley Happy Balloon

This is Mike Riley and his balloon following the Miami game.

MikeRiley Sad Balloon

Will Mike’s balloon be back to full strength following the Southern Miss game? Let’s hope so. Our Photoshop skills are extremely marginal at best.

ON WITH THE TWEETS!

Look at that positivity. Way to kick things off on the right note, @DellthDude.

*be

Amazing.

Brilliant use of the rage emoji to spell Bo. WHY HAVEN’T WE SEEN THIS UNTIL NOW?

Apparently it doesn’t count as a “red zone trip” if you catch the ball outside of the red zone and truck on through it for a touchdown.

Why turn to your therapist for life’s important questions when you can tweet a couple dudes with a sports talk show?

We like Kevin’s style.

Nailed it. And thank you dear reader(s) for clicking on this story.

Overall, we’d that that the psyche of Husker Nation is holding strong at the moment. We’ll see how it does as the season progresses or (heaven forbid) regresses.

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Sunday Morning Hot Takes: Miami Edition

Welcome to another edition of Sunday Morning Hot Takes!

Holy schnikes. Who would have predicted that Mike Riley era would have spiraled into high drama just three games into his first season?

We’ve got a lot of ground to cover so let’s get to the hot takes.

ALEX LEWIS: Went on a Facebook/Twitter rampage this morning.

Um… dude… just put on your hater blockers and don’t worry about what the eggs are saying. And really people, just save yourself the drama and temptation to be a jackass and don’t follow players on social media.

POP QUIZ: What’s worse than watching your favorite team lose?

Watching your two favorite teams lose in one day.

I still have mixed feeling about what I did  (and feel free to question the status of my Nebraskan citizenship) but with the Huskers trailing 33 – 10 in the fourth quarter, I decided to jump ship and head to the Dodger game. Clayton Kershaw was pitching and the prospect of snagging a seat above the bullpen to watch him warm up was a lot more appealing than continuing to watch what was spiraling down the drain in Miami.

(For the record, I did listen to the game the rest of the way and suffered the embarrassment of getting busted screaming in public when the Huskers tied it up.)

Clayton Kershaw
Clayton Kershaw gets ready to go to work.

All in I spent a total of 7 hours watching my two favorite teams lose. Still, it was not a bad way to spend a Saturday.

If anyone needs to be blamed for the Huskers’ loss let’s blame the Captain America of Hollywood Blvd. With our Californians for Nebraska watch site a mere three blocks from the Hollywood Blvd freak show, I thought it’d be fun recurring gag to have characters model our score prediction every week.

Hollywood Blvd Captain America

The only rule I set for doing this is I have to go with the first character with whom I cross paths. Yesterday, it was a dead heat between Cap and Chewbacca. I rolled the dice on Cap thinking he’d be the lesser of the two crazies.

Boy was I wrong.

Before we got started, I explained to Cap what he needed to do (stand there, wear a hat) and handed him five bucks (a nice bump from the standard buck a photo). Cap then proceeded to art direct our photo shoot and when we wrapped, he asked me for another five because his charges ten a photo. FYI: It is illegal for the characters to name a price. Besides, the dude made five bucks in 30 seconds so F-him in the pie hole.

EXCUSES: Let’s stop making them. Even if Bo did his grocery shopping at the 99 Cent Store, Division I athletes are Division I athletes. Yes, it can take time to learn new plays and schemes but it isn’t like these guys are suddenly playing a whole new sport.

Congrats to Caneshades. There’s nothing we can do but tip our cap and stand by the road and cheer as the winners go by.

Dirk Chatelain threw pretty some serious shade in the Huskers’ general direction in his post game story:

Truth is, Nebraska is lacking talent and/or depth in key areas. Defensive end. Linebacker. Cornerback. Offensive line. Wide receiver. Running back. Tight end. OK, lots of key areas.

Pelini didn’t recruit well the past few years. And Riley’s staff hasn’t maximized what they have, especially on defense. Bad combination.

And Dirk even dropped a “my goodness” in there so you know he means business.

THE BEST FANS IN ALL OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Are sad Alabama fans.

Make yourself feel less worse by relishing in the glorious misery of others. And if you need moar, here’s a great gallery from SB Nation (h/t @joejanecek)

TOP HUSKER TWEETS FROM PEOPLE YOU AREN’T ALREADY FOLLOWING:  C’mon, Hail Varsity. Let’s try to branch out a little next time. There’s some gold to be found on twitter from people who aren’t Gabrielle Union.

FINALLY: Still haven’t checked in with the buddy in question but if I don’t hear from him by this afternoon I will send out a search party.

 

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Your Nebraska vs Miami Pep Talk

This year’s edition of the Nebraska vs Miami really seems to have lost its luster, hasn’t it?

There’s been nary a bit of smack talk out of Florida, unless you want to count CaneShades‘ meltdown as smack talk.

Heck, not even Miami’s players have done anything to warrant bulletin board material. Remember last year when they stooped to harassing Jordan Westerkamp over Instagram?

I’ll be the first to admit this year’s match up of two historic rivals has as much hype as a 38 Special and REO Speedwagon double bill on a Thursday night at the Hall County Fair.

But you know what?

I woke up this morning and realized that IT’S FLIPPING GAME DAY AGAINST MIAMI!!!

Who cares if one team is rebuilding and the other is treading water in the deep end of the ACC?

IT’S NEBRASKA VS MIAMI!!!

As soon as the game kicks off, nobody watching is going to care that it’s being played at mid-day instead of under the prime time lights.

This is Miami’s chance for some Husker get back and it’s the Huskers chance to show they’re heading back in the right direction where they belong in the top 25.

Look, the BYU game was an aberration. At this point just consider it a glorified dress rehearsal where, despite all the hiccups, the Huskers came up one second short.

South Alabama gave a us a glimpse of what Mike Riley’s Huskers just might be capable of.

Now they’re in Miami with a mostly full squad (can’t wait to see you back DPE and Beastmasterit’s time for Mike Riley to show the world that he and his Huskers mean business.

It’s time for Tommy to be turned loose like Tommie.

It’s time for the Fullback Trap to make a comeback.

In other words, IT’S TIME TO KICK SOME HURRICANE ASS.


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Diminishing Returns: The state of Nebraska’s National Prestige.

You may have noticed something curious with the latest AP poll in regard to Nebraska.

Since dropping a heartbreaker to BYU two weeks ago and looking quite polished against South Alabama (in a week in which many schools up and down the AP Top 25 struggled mightily against lesser competition) Nebraska has failed to collect a single vote from any AP voter. In the meantime, the Comeback Cougars have climbed steadily up the AP ladder with dramatic wins over both Nebraska and Boise State.

BYU currently sits at #19. And, as well they should. Both victories were hard-fought and gutsy.

But when you add up the number of teams ranked below BYU along with those unranked schools receiving votes, you find a whopping 26 football teams.

Zoinks!

Like, where's NebraskaGranted, it’s merely Week 2. There are plenty of undefeated teams out there for voters to consider before factoring in the 1-loss teams. But when a team has another team dead to rights for the win and only gives up the victory on a last second miracle, shouldn’t that losing team at least get a look from the voters as being in the same general ball park as the winner?

Instead of wedging 26 friggin’ teams between them? Maybe it’s just me… Call me crazy.

It’s a disheartening lack of respect in general for a program that, from 1969 to 2002 was ranked in 397 out of 400 consecutive AP polls. (And never, over that time, did the Huskers fail to at least receive votes.)

It was such an amazing run of national relevance and esteem for Nebraska that, when the Huskers’ remarkable high-level consistency came crashing down with the 7-7 season of 2002, the Los Angeles Times sports page ran an article with the following gist: There was no surprise that Nebraska suffered a slump that year. The surprise was — why did it take so long?

The article went on to detail the amazing level of performance sustained by Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne and then, briefly, by Frank Solich. It was a nice bit of Chicken-Soup-For-the-Soul for a Nebraska kid living in LA and suffering through what I’d hoped would only be a temporary downturn for the Huskers.

[Editor’s note: The article in question is seemingly impossible to find but this one from October of 2002 will give you a nice flashback to just how dire things were for the Big Red.]

Twelve seasons later, we’re all still waiting for a full recovery. While only two subsequent seasons have been worse than 2002, Nebraska has failed to reach the 11-win mark even once since then. By comparison, Nebraska racked up twelve such 11-win seasons in the 31-year span from 1970 to 2001. And those were mostly done in years in which Nebraska played just 12 games in total. Not up to 14 like they do now.

Nebraska’s string of success during the Devaney/Osborne/Solich years was a remarkable feat contributed to by an array of ingredients — great coaching; high-level recruiting; low coaching staff turnover; a pioneering strength and conditioning program; and a passion-fueled walk-on program like no school has seen before or since.

But one has to wonder how much of “getting the benefit of the doubt” by the national sports media also contributed to Nebraska’s success.

Looking back over Nebraska’s rankings compared to teams with similar records reveals just how far Nebraska has dropped in national prestige over the last 13 years.

Entering the 1970s with back-to-back National Titles, Nebraska saw teams with equal-or-worse records ranked ahead of them eight times in the final AP polls. On the flip side, the Huskers themselves were ranked higher than 51 other teams with the same or better records over the course of that decade.

In the 1980s, that trend continued with Nebraska finishing the seasons of 1980 through 1987 behind only seven teams with identical or worse records, while finishing ahead of 28 with identical or better records.

Then the late-1980s/early-1990s hit the Tom Osborne era. This was that brief tumultuous period in Osborne’s career when the Huskers suffered a string of seven consecutive bowl losses and were regularly torched by the speed demons at Florida State and Miami and saw Colorado leap ahead as the Big 8’s heavy just as Oklahoma had started to slip.

The national perception of Nebraska football from around 1988 through 1992 was that it had become a paper tiger under Osborne. That his teams would always be good for nine to ten wins thanks to a conference slate that wasn’t exactly a murderer’s row of competition.

From 1988 to 1992, Nebraska saw its final AP ranking higher than teams with equal or better records ten times. Not too shabby, right? Fairly respectable, sure. Until you realize that 27 teams over that same five-season span with the same or worse records finished ranked above Nebraska.

The Huskers were no longer getting the benefit of the doubt.

To encapsulate all this data, the eighteen seasons from 1970 through 1987 saw the national media rank the Huskers ahead of all teams with equal or as good of resumes 84% of the time. During Osborne’s “dark period,” that percentage dropped to just 27%.

Let me tell you, an 84% benefit of the doubt ratio is as good as what the SEC Conference enjoys in the same category even today. And, as we all know, that ratio is pretty ridiculous.

The success of the Huskers from 1993 to 2001 catapulted Nebraska’s prestige ratio back up for a good decade run. But, since then, it’s gotten pretty grim.

If you thought 27% was bad…

So far this decade, Nebraska has finished in the AP poll higher than a team with an equal or better record just once. Meanwhile, 17 teams with equal or worse records have landed higher on the final tally than Nebraska. That’s about a 5% benefit of the doubt ratio.

Over Bo Pelini’s entire run in Lincoln, his teams have finished better than five teams with equal or better records while landing lower than 25 teams with equal or worse resumes. A 17% ratio, that bump up from 5% is entirely attributable to Ndamukong Suh.

Now, one might argue, “So what?” You win, people give you the benefit of the doubt. You lose, people don’t. So winning takes care of the problem, right?

The short answer is, yes. But there’s more to it than just that. Let’s take a look at the SEC’s string of seven consecutive BCS Titles.

Before Florida State and Ohio State came along to put a cork in it, SEC Conference honks were wondering out loud — and in all seriousness — whether or not a non-SEC team would ever win a National Title ever again. Outside of a return by Pete Carroll to USC, these blowhards could not imagine a scenario in which the SEC’s BCS Championship streak ended.

As they saw it, every year the SEC Champion was a defacto place-holder for at least one spot in the BCS Championship Game. And, whomever landed in the other spot simply could never be good enough to defeat the SEC Champion (unless that team is another SEC team, ala the 2011 season). Therefore, the string of BCS Champions from the SEC would continue again and again in the same way, forever. Ad infinitum.

Jameis Winston and Florida State became the St. George who slew that dragon. But even then, the SEC supremacists rationalized that it took a program which essentially exits in the heart of SEC territory and amid the fertile SEC recruiting ground to do it. In other words, only a defacto SEC team like Florida State was capable of stealing a title from the SEC trophy corral.

But how did the SEC’s streak happen?

From 2006 to 2012, four different SEC schools produced seven consecutive National Titles. To do that, those schools had to win all seven of the final match-ups, which they did. And the rest of the world should salute that feat.

But the question is, should every single one of those BCS championship games even have had an SEC team playing in them?

In some cases, the answer is yes. In 2010, 2011* and 2012, no non-SEC school had equal or better records than the SEC schools who made the cut. The one caveat for 2011, is that there were two SEC schools in the BCS Championship. 13-0 LSU was the only undefeated team in the country and the only obvious participant that year. But the other SEC team, 11-1 Alabama, had an equal record to three other teams from outside the SEC — Oklahoma State, Stanford and Boise State.

Was Alabama the best team of 2011? Probably. The Crimson Tide soundly defeated LSU in a rematch. The question is, was it fair to block from the BCS Title game three other teams with identical records to Alabama based solely on assumptions? After all, Alabama already had their shot at LSU during the regular season and they lost. Rematches between two evenly matched opponents rarely go well for the team that won the first round. The BCS committee essentially handed Alabama a trophy, despite the Tide’s lack of even a divisional conference crown.

But there’s no guarantee that one of the other 11-1 teams couldn’t have also defeated LSU. Alabama got the benefit of the doubt, much to the distaste of most every fan outside the SEC. And so did most of the other SEC representatives in BCS Title of the last eight years.

Consider the pool from which those teams were selected.

Adding in the 2013 season — when Auburn played in the BCS title game, but lost — a total of 35 football teams had resumes worthy of consideration for a championship berth going back to 2006. Only nine SEC schools were in the mix. But, when it came time for selection, all nine SEC schools were taken along with only seven non-SEC schools, leaving 19 non-SEC football teams on the outside looking in.

That’s nine SEC teams in eight BCS Title games compared to just two for the Big 10, two for the Big 12, one for the Pac 12, one for the ACC and one independent.

Enter the College Football Playoff and the Ohio State Buckeyes.

The new playoff system had SEC honks salivating. How many all-SEC championship games would they get to see in the coming years? Could the SEC land three teams in the four-team playoff, instead of what would surely be their usual two? What about all four spots? Could that also be on the menu?

If you think I’m exaggerating, go into the archives of any national college football message board from about two years ago and you will see these scenarios suggested and debated. And without any reticence.

But the launching of the 4-team playoff produced, without question, a national champion that would not have existed were it not for the change in the system. Had the BCS Series method still been in play in 2014, we would have seen a match between 12-1 Alabama and 13-0 Florida State. Based on the results shown in the actual 4-team Playoff, the most likely outcome is that Alabama would have beaten the Seminoles — and re-tracked the SEC National Title-winning locomotive by defeating the very team that derailed it the year before.

Meanwhile, Ohio State, which tore through its three post-season matches like the Mongol Horde ransacking Anatolia, would’ve shown up in some unmemorable BCS Bowl consolation game. Probably against Oregon in the Rose Bowl. Which, if I’m not mistaken, would’ve been something like a 42-20 win for the Buckeyes. Good enough for maybe a third place finish in the final polls.

The Playoffs clearly now make it harder for teams to win Championships with the aid of mere assumptions. That aspect will still come in to play when figuring out who should fill the four playoff spots each year. Without Ohio State’s 59-0 demolition of Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship game, the eventual 2014 National Champions would’ve been left out of the tournament in favor of either Baylor or TCU.

Seeing ten SEC schools land in the AP Top 25 for the second poll of the 2015 season clearly illustrates that the Southeastern Conference remains the darlings of the media. Gray area still exits. And that’s why Mike Riley needs to repair Nebraska’s national reputation as soon as possible. A 12-1 season might not be good enough to land Nebraska a playoff spot in this day in age. We’ve seen two dozen teams over the last decade who can attest to what that feels like.

But, beyond worrying about the pinnacle (which Nebraska is in no current contention for), rankings matter. Having a number next to your school’s name determines how much national press the football team gets. How much exposure to potential recruits your program receives. ESPN’s pumping up of SEC schools (never mind the conflict of interest with its TV contract) inflates the value of those teams, who are then ranked higher by the national media, who then receive more attention, who then reel in better recruits, who then win more games, who then get more and more benefit of the doubt.

It must be nice, huh?

Well, once upon a time, that was Nebraska’s luxury, too.

Quick trivia question: Name the only two college football teams to win National Titles in the AP era with two losses on their records.

If you said 1960 Minnesota and 2007 LSU, give yourself a cigar.

But did you know there was almost a third such team?

Indeed. On January 1, 1982, #1 and undefeated Clemson arrived at the Orange Bowl to take on the Big 8 Champion — 9-2 Nebraska, who held a #4 AP ranking. Between them sat #2 Georgia and #3 Alabama. Soon after the Huskers and Tigers kicked off, Bama and the Bulldogs took turns losing in the Cotton and Sugar Bowls, setting the stage for an outright National Title match in Miami.

Clemson jumped out to a 22-7 lead by the end of the third quarter, thanks to a pair of costly Husker fumbles. But, on the legs of Husker legend, Roger Craig, Nebraska mounted a comeback, picking up a 26-yard touchdown run midway through the final period. A two-point conversion put the Huskers within seven with almost eight minutes left on the clock.

Nebraska got two more shots after stuffing Clemson’s subsequent drives, only to see its comeback fall short with a final desperation heave toward the end zone in the waning seconds.

Orange_030_largeBut, had Nebraska completed the comeback, the Huskers would have collected their third National Title with a 10-2 record. A claim Nebraska would’ve had while sitting above a whopping nine teams with equal or better records. Including a would-be 11-1 Clemson.

Yep, getting the benefit of the doubt in college football is no easy task. Especially in today’s SEC-loving world. But, if Riley and crew can build some sustained success over the last half of this decade, well — it’s clearly a benefit worth pursuing.

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I Was the Cheese in a Peter Brothers Sandwich

With a tale as improbable as one that finds yourself trapped between nearly 600 pounds of caged fury known as the Peter Brothers, you just can’t start with “That one time…”

It needs some proper backstory. So let’s set the table.

Twenty years ago today, the Huskers played their home opener against Arizona State. 77,418 fans packed in to Memorial Stadium to witness the carnage as the Huskers piled up 686 yards of total offense en route to a 77-28 victory that was nowhere near as close as the final score indicated. Nebraska went to the locker room at halftime up 63-21.

After starting their season on the road against Oklahoma State and a Nick Saban coached Michigan State, it was a much needed welcome home for the Big Red. Following their 50 – 10 blowout in East Lansing, running back Lawrence Phillips was arrested for assaulting his former girlfriend which turned out to be his first major step on a long and winding road that would end in prison. Nebraska didn’t miss Phillips’ absence in the backfield as Clinton Childs and true freshman Ahman Green each racked up over 100 yards rushing and combined for three touchdowns.

While they didn’t make much of a ripple at the time, players of note that day for the Sun Devils were quarterback Jake Plummer, wide receiver Isaiah Mustafa (you might know him best as the Old Spice Guy), and linebacker Pat Tillman.

Also in attendance that day was this guy. I was working my very first game as a Sports Director for 90.3 KRNU.

If you’ve never caught the signal around Lincoln or listened online (hello, future!), KRNU is the official radio station of UNL that’s run by broadcasting students under the very patient guidance of legendary professor Rick Alloway.

To give students the experience of working at a “real” radio station, KRNU’s programming back then was a little bit of everything and on fall Saturdays it wasn’t uncommon for the station to segue from playing the likes of Mercy Rule and Throwing Muses to becoming the Mighty Sports 90 for a few hours.

Being a Sports Director was one of two prestigious positions at the station. While the Music Directors were plied with free CDs and concert tickets, our perks were rectangles of card stock and an elastic string known as the press pass.

To this day, it boggles me how much access the Athletic Department and Journalism School gives to its students. Even with the Huskers in the midst of the greatest run college football has ever known, us dopey kids were treated the same as the rest of the working media all the way down to having our own booth atop the press box, which back then wasn’t the sleek, shining jewel that you see today.

Our little cube of Memorial Stadium real estate wasn’t much more than a tree house built from plywood and corrugated metal that would be right at home in the Diepsloot area of Johannesburg. Couple the lack of structural integrity with a lack of windows and we’d either swelter or shiver our way through broadcasts.

But we never complained. We got to talk Husker football and watch the best team in history from an incredible vantage point just barely to the right of the 50-yard-line. Lunch (plus dessert at halftime) was a catered affair and if you weren’t on the mic for a game broadcast, you’d watch the finish from the sidelines so you could get a head start on getting set up for recording the post-game press conference as part of our duties for the Huskers Sports Service.

Husker Sports Service… sounds impressive doesn’t it?

To help media from around the country gain access to sound bites, the “Husker Sports Service” would make selected clips available, not for downloading but recording, as in with a tape player. Don’t forget, the internet was still a novelty back then.

After recording a press conference, we’d use state-of-the-art Audio Wizard software to chop up a few choice soundbites from coaches and players that we’d then transfer onto Fidelipacs which would then be plugged into a refrigerator sized machine that was connected to the Husker Hotline, a series of telephone numbers that media could dial-in to and record sound bites to use for their own radio shows.

Basically, it was a lot of work to do what could be handled with an iPhone and a Twitter account today.

A few minutes after the Huskers and Sun Devils left the field, Coach Osborne opened the press conference with a story about Kenny Cheatham blaming his muffed punt return on a nasty case of pink eye that was affecting his vision. He got a lot of laughs and was off and running. One thing TO never gets enough credit for is just how funny he is.

Since we were just there to record the thing, we’d usually hang in the back and let the big dogs in the “real media” like Tom Shatel, Lee Barfknecht, and a young gun named Steve Sipple ask the questions. We knew it was a privilege to be in the same room so we always did our best to not draw unnecessary attention to ourselves.

I found a spot on a couch in the back and soaked up the excitement of being at my first press conference. I guess that’s why I didn’t notice the eclipse until it was too late.

If you’ve ever watched a shark attack survivor tell their tale during Shark Week, many of them will say the only warning was how the  water around them suddenly shifted a split second before a shark clamped down.

So there I was, on that couch minding my own business when my field of vision suddenly went dark. I looked up and saw the silhouette of something massive blocking out a stand up light. It pointed towards me and promptly plopped down on the open space to my right.

Holy shit.

It was Jason Peter. Before I could even process what was happening, his big brother Christian claimed the seat to my left.

They were both still wearing their uniform pants and were completely drenched in sweat and blood in varying states of dryness. Base layers didn’t exist back then so they both wore chopped up grey cotton t-shirts that had soaked to a few shades darker.

They were two of the biggest humans I had ever seen. They didn’t say word. They just snarled, rumbled, and shook as if they were getting ready to play a fifth quarter.

Meanwhile, I just hoped they didn’t notice the wet spot forming in the crotchal region of my brand new Eddie Bauer khakis. My first day on my job was going to be my last because two of the baddest dudes to ever wear Blackshirts were going to eat me.

There was no way I was going to survive this.

I was more terrified than Ripley was when she met the alien in Aliens 3 except I had two beasts breathing down my neck. I just tried my best not to twitch and wondered where I went so wrong in my soon-be-over 19 year-old life that I found myself sitting in the Daisy Duke seat sandwiched between a pair of future NFL players.

The closest thing to social media back in 1995 was the phone book. All you knew about a Husker player was what you saw on the field or after the game. In the case of the Peter Brothers, they murdered the opposition and then they talked about how they carried out those murders. That’s all that the world knew about those guys. There were no Instagram or Twitter accounts to show off their fun loving, “just like us” side off the field. What you saw was all you got.

And I was going to be disemboweled if I didn’t take decisive action. Getting locked in the pen with the bulls after the rodeo was no place to be for a 175 pounder who lettered in tennis.

I summoned all the courage I could and somehow the words fell out of my mouth with a semblance of order and as little fear as possible.

“You guys played a really good game out there. Really kicked some ass.”

I looked at Christian. He didn’t say a word but nodded his approval at my statement. Before I could even glance over at Jason, I heard a growl that sounded a lot like “Thanks, man.”

And that was my window of daylight to make an escape.

I gotta go check my tapes,” I announced to no one as I stood from the couch. Realizing my pants were miraculously still dry, I looked back towards my new friends and said, “You guys can spread out if you want. I don’t think I’ll be coming back.

The didn’t need my permission. The sliver of space I once occupied was already long gone.

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View from the Boneyard: South Alabama

Between a 7pm kickoff time, the end of the BYU game, and the fact that we were playing South Alabama, none of us were too concerned about arriving at Memorial Stadium that early to secure our seats.

Lo and behold, there were a whopping 15 people in line at East stadium when our group arrived just a half an hour before doors opened. Even the line to South stadium seemed to be slacking attendance-wise.

Our usual group had grown even larger than before, making it even more crucial for us to save two rows of seats. I met a new Minnesotan friend that had the same phone and phone case as me, though, which was pretty cool but also kind of eerie.

In typical fashion, doors opened for South stadium minutes before East stadium got let in, leaving the older students to sit and watch as the freshmen and sophomores try to blur the line between the definitions of walking and running.

The Boneyard Challenge was brought back during this game, which takes students from both sections and has them compete in a game out on the field. This time, it involved the bubbles.

bubbles
The first big hits of the day at Memorial Stadium.

There’s something oddly satisfying about watching people in giant bubbles run full speed into each other to try to knock each other down. Right out of the gate, my roommate completely annihilated the other girl. I’ve never been more proud.

One of my favorite additions for this season are other games being played on the HuskerVision screens before the game starts. Watching Notre Dame v. Virginia helped passed the time, especially watching my die-hard Notre Dame fan friend react to the end of the game.

Once our game started, it didn’t take long for the Huskers to show that they meant business. An interception by Nate Gerry on the Jaguars’ first possession sent the student section from nonchalant to exploding, which was exactly the momentum that we needed after a heartbreaking loss the week before.

touchdown
Terrell Newby gets the Huskers on the board and balloons in the air.

Soon after, I was challenged by some of our newcomers to the group to see if I could get us on the big screen. This is the one challenge that I never take lightly, so I told them to just sit back and watch.

Between being a theatre kid and a broadcasting major, being in front of a camera and an audience is pretty comforting to me, so getting the attention of a camera guy seems almost second nature. Focused in on a camera in West stadium, I had acquired my target.

I spent the entire first quarter directing all of my singing, dancing, and random posing at the one camera in hopes that they would notice me. When I say entire first quarter, I mean it. Soon after, HuskerVision had made it clear that this was war as nothing but my face graced each screen in Memorial Stadium.

Zooming out, the screen was soon filled with embarrassing shots of me and my friends pulling out our stupidest dance moves and cheering. Honestly, if you’re trying to look cool on the big screen at a sporting event, you’re doing it wrong.

Once halftime hit, I immediately look for two of my roommates next to me. Our fourth roommate is on the flag line, and the day before we had made it clear to her that we were going to embarrass her while she performed.

As everyone else sat down watching the show, we were standing up against the gate dancing and cheering for our roommate, Hannah. With the way that I was acting, you would think that I was a mom on Toddlers and Tiaras and Hannah was competing for Ultimate Grand Supreme.

Not long into the 3rd quarter, a touchdown from Imani Cross put the Huskers up 31-0. At this point, I had scream-sang the words to Hail Varsity so many times that I’m still surprised that I haven’t learned the middle part yet. But considering that I hadn’t even known that there were words to Hail Varsity until my junior year, I’d say I’m doing pretty well.

A 36-yard field goal for South Alabama almost seemed like the end of the world after keeping the Jaguars scoreless for nearly three quarters. Had you looked at their fans’ section afterwards, you’d think that they were right back in the game at that point.

It wasn’t long after that when suddenly I found myself completely unable to dance to the music being played. Other than Jump Around (thanks, Wisconsin), there’s only one song that I refuse to celebrate to: Chelsea Dagger. Being Minnesotan and a die-hard hockey fan, I just can’t bring myself to dance and cheer during the Blackhawks’ goal song.

The camera guy that I had been harassing the entire night had taken notice to my sudden lack of dancing, as he put my entire group of dancing friends on the big screen with me just out of the shot. Touché, camera man.

With nearly half of Memorial Stadium cleared out at this point, South Alabama had finally scored their first touchdown of the night with just under five minutes left. A failed 2 point conversion attempt left the Huskers with a 48-9 victory and left us contemplating whether it’s too late to plan a road trip down to Miami for next weekend.

Huskers Get The Win
A welcome site to see after last week’s heartbreaking finish.

Hayley Archer is a senior Broadcasting major at UNL. Follow her on Twitter at @Harchinator.

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