View From the Boneyard: Iowa

Between Iowa looking for their first 12-0 season in program history and the Huskers looking to become bowl eligible, this game meant a lot. On top of it all, it was Senior Day. Not just for the Huskers, but for me as well.

One thing you all have to know is that I am 100% one of those overly-sentimental people. You can send me to a Senior Day for a team I’ve never heard of in a sport I don’t care about, and I’ll start tearing up during the sappy tribute video they play. Needless to say, it took a lot of emotional preparation for this game.

First off, this game was absolutely freezing. Naturally, my stubborn Minnesotan attitude about the cold kicked in, giving me a fake idea that I was going to be just fine. Yeah, okay.

I walked to the game with my roommate about 20 minutes prior to the doors opening. With the game being over Thanksgiving break, there weren’t too many people in line.

Someone must have told the events staff that watching the sea of South Stadium students pour in was my favorite part of games, because Friday’s game was the first time this season that East Stadium got let in first. I live for the chaos. Mostly because I somehow managed to survive two years of it.

Students were greeted with a nice layer of thick ice covering every seat in the section. Thankfully, one brilliant student thought ahead and brought an ice scraper in and let everyone borrow it. The real MVP.

ICE SCRAPERMy roommate Allie (@a_mcmann) scrapes away the glacier that coated our seats.

It takes a lot more than sub-freezing temperatures and a layer of ice to stop students from going all out at games. One student sitting in the row behind me painted himself for the game. Seriously, that’s commitment.

Chest Painter
Commitment personified. The scarves really tie everything together.

Once the pregame festivities began, that’s when everything finally hit me. This was the last time I was going to experience any of this as a senior. And I’m going to miss every bit of it. Even the Power of Red banner that was sitting on the ground, causing it to rain cold, murky water on all of the students underneath it.

I remember seeing my first tunnel walk during my freshman year. The first thing I thought of was “Wow, I bet I’m going to get emotional during this my senior year.” Well, freshman-year-me, you did. Very much so.

T
The Senior Day Tunnel walk is about to begin.

If Senior Day wasn’t enough to make me cry, the actual game itself could have made me shed a tear. There’s something so frustrating about seeing your team lose repeatedly and not be able to do anything to help. Because they’d definitely want a 5’7” girl who hasn’t played a sport since seventh grade’s help out on the field. But, hey, I still have four years of eligibility if they change their mind.

Huskers on the field
Four. Years. Of. Eligibility. You know where to find me, Huskers.

One of the most frustrating things about this game for me was the number of penalties overall. Not necessarily that penalties were being committed, but mostly because I have this need to yell to everyone that “There’s a flag on the play!” after each one, and Nebraskans have never been shy about pointing out my painfully-Minnesotan accent every time I say the word “flag.”

One call that really got the stadium buzzing was the targeting call on Nate Gerry after a tackle on Tevaun Smith lead to his ejection. While the replay shows the helmet-to-helmet contact, the call was met with a chorus of boos by Husker fans, many of which were yelling at the officials to “just let them play football.”

The four turnovers were yet another frustrating part of watching this game. On the bright side, it did give me one last chance to make my it-wasn’t-funny-the-first-time-so-why-do-you-always-say-it joke of “We look like a bakery with all of these turnovers,” which I cracked one last time just to be greeted by a series of eye rolls. Seriously, don’t go to a game with me if you don’t like dorky humor.

On a less-frustrating note, one thing that Iowa fans did to start the fourth quarter was raising up their phones with their flashlights turned on, causing a sea of lights in their sections. While I hate to give credit to Iowa for anything, it looked pretty cool. I don’t know the significance, nor will I admit to ever having just said something nice about Iowa, but as an unbiased (haha) sports fan, I’m easily entertained by cool-looking things in the crowd.

As we reminisce on the Huskers’ third senior-day-loss in a row, remember that there’s still a chance that they’re headed to a bowl game. Also that Iowa is bound to be humbled next weekend in the B1G Championship game by Michigan State. Remember what happened when we played them?

Trophy
You can have this trophy, Iowa. We still have the $5 Bit of Broken Chair Trophy to keep us company until we get this one back next year.

Also, happy one year anniversary of Bo Pelini getting fired. Also the 22nd anniversary of my birth, but that’s less relevant. It’s always comforting to know that my birthday will forever be overshadowed by 9-4 jokes from here on out.

Just remember: dreams come true when you work hard and pray. Thanks for sticking with me and my dumb jokes for this long.

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

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Ranking All Seven Husker Losses

In a rather stunning turn of events, Mike Riley’s first season season as a Husker was one for the ages, in that he led Nebraska to their worst season since 1961.

Seven soul crushing and mind boggling losses. Each and every one a special and unique snowflake of misery.  Being the gluttons for punishment that we are, we took a whack at ranking the losses from least worst, all the way down to worst, worst.

It was far from an easy task, especially losses 5 through 3, but like a YOLO Bomb to the end zone, we took our best shot.

7) Miami 36 – Nebraska 33: We opened our recap of the game like this- “Holy schnikes. Who would have predicted that Mike Riley era would have spiraled into high drama just three games into his first season?”

Boy, did that ever become a prophetic question. If we only knew just how far down into the abyss the drama would spiral. Of the Huskers’ seven losses, this was the only one that didn’t leave fans feeling like they ate a turd filled Runza (and maybe even a little hopeful about the future). After three quarters of playing like choads on both sides of the ball, the Huskers rallied from being down 23 points in the 4th to send the game into overtime. Unfortunately, a Tommy Armstrong interception and an Alex Lewis personal foul on the Huskers’ very first play all but sealed the win for the Hurricanes.

While some of the luster was taken off this loss as Miami went on to play horrible enough to finally get Al Golden fired, the Hurricanes pulled it together to finish their regular season 8-4. Way to not stop believin’, Caneshades. Enjoy your earned bowl game.

Sad Alex Lewis
Alex Lewis stews on his first headline grabbing bad decision of the season.

6) BYU 33 – Nebraska 28: Hard to believe the Huskers’ most shocking loss of the season could be so far down the list but with the Huskers finding all kinds of insane ways to snatch last second defeat from the jaws of victory, losing on a Hail Mary thrown by a red shirt freshman QB playing in his first game becomes rather trite in the grand scheme of things.

It did help Husker morale that BYU pulled off the same miracle a week later against Boise State.  Plus, with it being Nebraska’s first game of the season with a new coaching staff and new playbooks, this last second loss could be chalked up as a total fluke, right?

BYU HAIL MARY
Hey coach, do you think we should get that Hail Mary defense installed before the season opener? Nah. What are the chances?

5) Northwestern 30 – Nebraska 28:  Fresh off the heels of the Huskers’ convincing win at Minnesota, this loss was just stupefying. The Bankshirts™ were repeatedly scorched on the ground by a QB who ran slower than T-Magic with cinder block shoes and the offense held the ball for nearly 19 minutes longer, yet Northwestern was able to chew the final four minutes off the clock and kneel their way to victory thanks to a last minute unsportsmanlike penalty from Maliek Collins. Of all the Husker losses this season, Northwestern was the most coldly anti-climactic.

Clayton ThorsonNorthwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson rushed 9 times for 126 yards. With one game remaining in his season, his average per game rushing yardage is a robust 33.36.

4) Illinois 14 – Nebraska 13: Up until yesterday’s attempted touchdown pass on 4th and 1, the decision to throw on 3rd and 7 from the Illinois 27 yard line while up 13-7 with under a minute to play was the dumbest play of the Huskers’ season. As many an armchair quarterback pointed out, Tommy could have literally ran out the clock had he taken the snap and started running the wrong way like a Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson and taken a safety. Instead, he threw a pass at Devine Ozigbo’s feet. On 4th down, the Huskers tried passing one more time for good measure instead of attempting a field goal that would have put them up by two scores. Then again, finally deciding not to put the ball up into a swirling wind was probably the first good decision of the day. If you haven’t blocked this game from your memory, you may recall Tommy going 10 – 31 from 105 yards through the air.

After getting the ball back, it took Illinois all of two plays to go 65 yards to the Nebraska 7. From there, they proceeded to get five tries to score thanks to a pair of pass interference penalties on the Huskers.

If there’s room in the budget to pay a useless special teams coach nearly half a million dollars, surely enough change can be shook out of the athletic department couches to afford a stat minded egg head to provide an outside-the-box perspective in crucial situations. Heck, you’d probably even find some know-it-all bloggers who’d pay to have such a position.

nebraska illinois 2015Give a team enough chances to score and they will eventually find a way, even Illinois.

3) Wisconsin 23 – Nebraska 21: From Andy Janovich’s career defining 55 yard touchdown run to the north end zone goal post being the best defender on the field, everything finally seemed to be going the Huskers’ way- until Wisconsin got the ball back on their own 30 with 1:03 left to play.

Even with no timeouts, that was plenty of time for Joel “I’ll Never Graduate” Stave to slice through the Bankshirts™ and get the Badgers into field goal range and give Robert “I’ve Never Met a Pizza I Didn’t Like” Gaglianone a shot at redemption.  The amount of game clock that elapsed between his missed field goal and his game winner was 1:22. In that span, the Huskers also ran the ball straight up the gut three times for a grand total of five yards. Getting just a single first down would have salted the game away for Nebraska.

Robert Gaglianone
Wisconsin Kicker Robert Gaglianone breaks the hearts of Husker Nation while day dreaming about sweet, delicious ham. 

2) Iowa 28 – Nebraska 20:  This was by far the Huskers’ most definitive loss of the season. All the elements that plagued the six previous defeats were present and accounted for: erratic quarterback play, a running game that couldn’t make up its mind, key players who seemingly fell off the roster, head scratching play calling, dumb penalties, a defense with a knack for getting lit up at the absolutely worst times, and, despite all that, the game was still perfectly winnable.

While Iowa and their dozen or so fans have every reason to gloat about being 12-0, the Hawkeyes are such an unimpressive undefeated team they make the 2012 Notre Dame squad (remember them getting demolished by Alabama in the BCS Championship game?) look like the second coming of the Four Horsemen. The Huskers will never have an easier opportunity to beat a “top 5” team and they blew it.

Iowa Nebraska 2015
That trophy (whatever it’s called) is going to look awfully nice in the team trailer. Congrats, Iowa.

1)  Purdue 55 – Nebraska 45: Can you believe the Huskers’ ONLY double digit loss of the season came at the hand of a Boilermaker squad that’s currently boasting a 2-9 record heading into their annual showdown against Indiana? Since 2013, Purdue has notched exactly one other win in the Big Ten.

This was one of just four games of the season where Tommy Armstrong didn’t throw a single interception thanks to being injured and watching back home in Lincoln. In his place, Ryker Fyfe honored  him by throwing four picks along with 400 yards passing and a quartet of TDs in his first career start. This was a game where a present day Matt Turman could have showed up at kickoff and led the Huskers to a win. Instead, the Big Red put up their most baffling loss since falling 9-7 against Iowa State in 2009.

nebraska-purdue
Ryker Fyfe is about to get his uniform dirty for the first time in his Husker career.

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Look Hawkeyes, You Ain’t Nebraska’s F#*king Rival

Back when Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011, did any of you get a weird sense of deja vu over the welcome we got from our neighbors just over the Missouri River?

I did. I felt like I was watching the Star Wars cantina scene, where Luke and Obi-Wan walk in and see all these weird alien faces staring back at them. And while Obi-Wan goes to take care of some business, Luke sidles up to the bar and tries to make himself comfortable. In doing so, he bumps elbows with a creature named Ponda Baba. For those of you not steeped in the geekdom of Star Wars minutia, Ponda Baba is the alien with a damn hairy camel toe for a mouth who gets his arm hacked off by Obi-Wan’s Lightsaber.

imgresPanda Baba, enjoying his final moments of having two arms.

When Ponda initially protests Luke’s intrusion upon his space, a friend of his by the name of Dr. Cornelius Evanzan informs Luke that Ponda does not like him. Luke shrugs it off. Then Evanzan says that, in fact, he himself does not like Luke, either, and that Luke had better watch himself.

Does this all seem eerily familiar now?

You bet, because that was exactly the way Iowa approached its newfound conference relationship with Nebraska back in 2011. Nebraska was just trying to get the lay of the land in the Big Ten (and maybe order a drink) when Iowa came over and said, “Hey, we’re you’re rivals.”

Nebraska did a double-take and checked its surroundings, then looked back at Iowa and said, “Were you talking to me?”

And Iowa shot back, “I don’t like you. You just watch yourself. We’re wanted men. I have the death sentence on twelve systems.”

To which Nebraska then beat the Hawkeyes three times out of the next four seasons. A metaphorical equivalence of chopping off Ponda Baba’s arm.

Living in Omaha since Nebraska’s move to the Big Ten has given me a new perspective on a place that I never much pondered having grown up in Grand Island, gone to college in Lincoln and lived ten years in L.A. The metropolitan area of Omaha spills over into Iowa which produces encounters with actual Iowa fans — an event I’m not entirely sure ever happened to me prior to my move here.

As it turns out, Iowa fans are under the impression that their football team is somehow simpatico with Nebraska’s. What evidence do they put forth? Well, the fact that since 2000, Iowa and Nebraska have had a similar winning percentage. Both being in the 60% range. Actually Nebraska’s is 67% (the 17th best percentage since 2000). And Iowa’s is 60% (the 36th best winning percentage over the same time period).

Why is this significant to Iowa fans when comparing their program to Nebraska’s? Why discard the entire 20th and 19th Centuries? Because, if you include the entirety of college football history, Nebraska has the 7th best win percentage of all time. Iowa has the 60th. Nebraska also has five National Titles. But if you look at just the 21st Century, Nebraska is just 7% better than Iowa and has zero National Titles. Just like them.

So recently, a Hawkeye friend of mine was pondering out loud — Why does Iowa have so many rivals? He then went on to list them: Wisconsin, Iowa State, Minnesota, Illinois, Northwestern, Nebraska.

To which I said, “Hold up. Nebraska isn’t Iowa’s rival.”

He looked at me as though that were the dumbest thing he’d ever heard.

He said, “Yes, we are. We’re border rivals dude. You realize that patch of land on the other side of the river is a state called “Iowa” and in it, there is a football team that has nearly the same winning percentage as yours over the last 14 years and who has won a conference championship, twice, while you have not and has played in the Orange Bowl twice, while you have not and has finished in the Top 10 four times, while you have not.”

All right. Well, be that as it may — Nebraska has had its own little spate of things Iowa has not had over the last 14 seasons. Namely a Rose Bowl appearance. How did that happen when, as Hawkeye Hank pointed out, Iowa has won the Big Ten twice? Because, as he so painstakingly avoided mentioning, Iowa split its two Big Ten Championships. Once with Ohio State and once with Michigan — both of whom were sexier choices than Iowa for the Big Ten representative in Pasadena.

The last time Iowa won an outright conference title was in 1985. One of just three in the Hawkeyes’ illustrious history. When was Nebraska’s last outright conference title? 1999. The last of 37 such crowns.

What else has Nebraska done in the last 14 years that Iowa hasn’t? Played in a National Title game. When has Iowa done that? Never.

But don’t tell that to Iowa fans who will club you to death with their 1958 Football Writers Association of America National Title Award. A team that won 8 games for the season, tied Air Force and lost to Ohio State by ten points. And never mind that 10-0 LSU was given the AP and UPI National Titles. To Hawkeye fans, that 1958 “national title” is just as legit as any of Nebraska’s. The Huskers went a combined 62-0-1 to collect their five trophies, while Iowa bumbled through an 8-1-1 season to get theirs.

Yeah, sure, that’s the same thing.

Continuing my conversation with Hawkeye Hank, I pointed out that the pinnacle of Iowa football (the Kirk Ferentz era) is equivalent to Nebraska’s worst stretch since the 1950s. Their “highs” were essentially our “lows.”

My friend, naturally, misconstrued this statement to mean that I said Nebraska’s lows were just like Iowa’s 2015 season — which is essentially their dream season. His contempt was anything but vague when he responded, “Oh, Nebraska’s lows are 10-0 are they?”

At the time of the statement, Iowa hadn’t yet beaten Purdue. But this remark got me thinking. Nebraska’s lows aren’t 10-0. But that record is actually closer to Nebraska’s “norms” than Iowa’s “highs.”

With a win over Minnesota, Iowa became 10-0 for the first time in the history of their program. Nebraska, coincidentally, also had a first in 2015. The Huskers never had 6 losses before the month of November ever in the history of the program. Initially I thought both bits of trivia couldn’t be true. Nebraska sucked in the 1940s and 1950s. Surely, at some point back then NU suffered six losses before November. And Iowa never going 10-0 before? I know they suck, but who hasn’t done that?

But nope. The research bears it out. 2015 is the first and only year for each stat for both teams.

Out of curiosity, I wanted to see how common these firsts were for each of the other programs. And here is what I found.

Nebraska has started 12 different seasons at 10-0. Iowa has had 8 seasons in which they’ve lost 6 or more games before November. (Sometimes 7 and 8.)

In fact, Iowa has only ever had 7 seasons with 10 or more wins in total. Nebraska has had 7 10-win seasons since 1999. The Huskers have had 28 10-win seasons in total. More than a quarter century if strung together. Iowa’s record of 10-win campaigns can’t even fill a single decade.

When I presented this information to Hawkeye Hank, he gave me a cold, dead stare and said, “Wow, man. That’s really condescending.”

imgres-2Iowa Hawkeyes fan by day. Stryper groupie by night. No costume change required.

Condescending? No, you know what’s condescending? Pointing this nugget out: Nebraska’s first 10-0 start to a season was in 1902 and NU was just the sixth school in the history of the sport to accomplish such a feat — following Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Penn and Michigan.

Iowa’s accomplishment came only after these school’s managed to pull the same trick:

Air Force
Alabama
Arizona State
Arkansas
Arkansas State
Auburn
Ball State
Boise State
Boston College
BYU
Colorado
Clemson
Florida State
Georgia
Georgia Tech
Harvard
Hawaii
Kansas
Kansas State
LSU
Marshall
Maryland
Memphis
Miami (FL)
Miami (OH)
Michigan
Michigan State
Minnesota
Missouri
Nebraska
New Mexico State
Northern Illinois
Notre Dame
Ohio State
Oklahoma
Oklahoma State
Ole Miss
Penn
Penn State
Pittsburgh
Princeton
San Diego State
San Jose State
Stanford
Syracuse
TCU
Tennessee
Texas
Texas A&M
Texas Tech
Toledo
Tulane
Tulsa
UCLA
USC
Utah
Virginia Tech
Washington
West Virginia
Wyoming
Yale

That’s 61 other teams who have enjoyed the equivalent of Iowa’s “dream season” before the Hawkeyes ever fully realized it.

And that, my friend, is condescension.

To that, Hawkeye Hank got a little contemplative. He said, “You know, it’s hard being a fan of a team that stays in contention every single week. Seriously, the stress winning brings to every game can’t be good for the heart. It’s way less stressful if you already expect 3 to 4 losses. If you’re expecting to win them all, or at least, feel you’re good enough to win every game, it’s just devastating when that loss finally happens.”

To which I smiled and nodded. I said, “You see, that’s why Iowa and Nebraska are not rivals. You have a wait-until-the-other-shoe-drops mentality. I simply can’t relate to that. I went to college at Nebraska from 1993 to 1999. Watching my team practically never lose felt like a perpetual blow job, really.”

And that’s it. Nebraska and Iowa football are fundamentally different. The history, the expectations, the head-to-head record. Is it possible that Iowa and Nebraska eventually do become rivals? I suppose. Iowa will need to have more seasons like this one. And they’ll need to have Nebraska climb back up to the elite, too. Rivals are born out of mutual respect. What we have here is a middling program with stars in its eyes amidst the best season in its history. And a one-time Titan looking to get back to its dominating ways.

When the series history becomes a clash of titans, that’s when we can roll out the rivalry talk.

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Bye Week Field Trip: A Visit to the USS Iowa

“So, what brings you to the USS Iowa today?”

It was an innocent question but it was as loaded as one of the battleship’s massive 16 inch guns back in the day.

I smiled at the lady on the other side of the glass while I bought my brain a little time to think of a good reason. She had a level of cheery pep not seen since Jan Hooks played Tina the Alamo tour guide. Between her enthusiasm and the layout of the ticket booth giving me a flashback to that one time I went to confession, I couldn’t lie. I had to spill my guts.

“Uh… I came here to poke fun at Iowa.”

Before her brow could even furrow, I stammered on.

“Not the ship or the museum but the state of Iowa and the Iowa Hawkeyes and their fans. My college team is playing Iowa next Friday and it’s their biggest game of the season so I thought this would be something fun for my football site. Don’t worry. It will all be very tasteful and in mostly good spirits.”

“So… you’re saying you’re visiting today because of a football game?”

“Yep. Pretty much.”

“That’ll be $19.95. Would you like to sign up for our email list?”

After 11 straight weeks of Husker football Saturdays, this late season bye week threw a wrench in my usual game day routine. Luckily, I woke up with the brilliant idea to roll down to San Pedro pay a visit to the USS Iowa, which is permanently docked in the Port of Los Angeles as a floating museum, and let The Big Stick know that the Big Red plans to break some Hawkeye hearts the day after Thanksgiving.

USS IOWA 16 INCH GUN
The 16 inch guns of the USS Iowa can launch a 2,700lb projectile 23 miles. They also make a nice platform to display the grim truth that the Huskers will be notching their 6th win of the season.

Before I hit the road for the 25 mile drive down to the home of Mike Watt, I did suffer a bit of an existential crisis when it came to my personal Husker fandom.

I didn’t own a Husker flag.

Good thing a Tunnel Walk of Shame YOLO f#*kwads t-shirt from BBB Printing makes a damn fine substitute.

Tunnel Walk of ShameSomewhere, not too far off in the distance beyond YOLO f#*kwads, Taylor Martinez very well could have been showing an open house.

Along with the life preserver, the USS Iowa boasts many more fascinating details, such as a bathtub specifically installed for FDR to use during his trans Atlantic journey to the historic Tehran Conference and this amazing sign found in the galley.

IMPORTANT NOTE IN THE KITCHEN
Pretty sure this sign is directed at you, people of Iowa.

The most amazing part of the tour happened below deck in near the stern of the ship. I was looking at a model of a Tomahawk missile, or maybe it was a Harpoon, either way, a woman noticed my shirt and pointed me out to her husband who gently shook his head in anticipation of what was about to follow.

“Are you a Husker fan? From Nebraska?”

“Yeah. I’m from Grand Island but I live out here now.”

“Cozad. Live in Seattle. Chris Dishman is my brother.”

“No way! He would have played there when I was in school.”

Thus began our quick bro-down in the bowels of the USS Iowa. We went from being strangers to speaking our own language and sharing a few laughs in a matter of seconds. It was a wonderful reminder that no matter where you go in the world there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to run into a fellow Husker.

We sure as heck didn’t run into any Iowa fans.

USS IOWA GIFT SHOP
The USS Iowa gift shop is stocked with all kinds of good stuff.

USS IOWA 2
Look! Off the port side bow, it’s the mythical island of Missing Iowan Teeth.

USS IOWA PLAQUEIn all seriousness, if you have any shred of historical curiosity, the Battleship Iowa Museum is a great place to visit. As soon as I walked aboard, I kicked myself for not going sooner.  Not to play tour guide but if you’re ever out in LA, it’d be quite easy to double up and visit the ship and the space shuttle Endeavor which is just 15 miles up the 110, aka a quick 20 minute or grueling hour and a half drive away depending on traffic. 

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Sunday Afternoon Hot Takes: Rutgers Edition

When the Huskers jumped out to a 21 – 0 lead over Rutgers, all was finally feeling right in Husker Nation. Our watch site that had been so tense for so many weeks finally felt like a nice, relaxing place to spend a Saturday afternoon. It was a very welcome change of pace and many laughs and assorted good times were being had.

Then Tommy Armstrong had to go and chuck up enough YOLO BOMBS to make the game a momentary nail biter.

And somewhere out there, Taylor Martinez had to smile knowing that he had taught his young Padawan so well.

All in, it was refreshing to see the Huskers mostly cruise to their first stress-free win in since playing at Minnesota nearly a month ago. Now all that’s left is to wreck to Iowa’s dream season unless the Hawkeyes don’t wreck it themselves first.

On with the hot takes…

Ex-Bo Friend Update

Bo Pelini went on a little rampage yesterday as his Youngstown State Penguins couldn’t hold a 17 point lead against North Dakota State. It was a loss that effectively ended the Penguin’s chance at the postseason. Naturally, the Omaha World-Herald couldn’t contain its glee and nearly forgot there was a Husker game to cover.

Nice of the World-Herald to use a photo from Youngstown State’s game at South Dakota as click bait for their home game against North Dakota State.

Not to even going to try to defend or justify Bo’s actions but Youngstown State did get jobbed on the pass interference call. One can only hope his latest sideline detonation is all part of his master plan to become the next pitchman for Xanax.

Some gifs just because…

Bo-and-Carl
One can only assume Carl has had counseling since the last time he stalked a sideline with his brother. He walked away like a champ.

Anrgy-Bo-1
This is exactly where Pelini reached peak rage.

Angry-Bo2
And Bo couldn’t say no to coming back for a second helping.

Our Score Prediction

Chewbacca Predicts Rutgers Score
We said Huskers 38, Rutgers 10. Totally would have nailed the 38 if it weren’t for Josh Kalu’s fumble return that was wiped off the board.

Mike Riley’s Balloon Watch

   Mike Riley Balloon Watch Rutgers
While there were few hiccups, Riley was not hungover from Michigan State.

NUMBERS TO IMPRESS YOUR FRIENDS WITH

2: The Huskers are now riding their first win streak of the season.

12: With his trio of INTs against Rutgers, Tommy Armstrong has already tied his total from last season with 12.  It will be interesting to see how his final stats shake up. Aside from a huge drop in rushing yardage, he’s nearly identical to 2014.

30:01/29:59: The Huskers ended the game with a two second time of possession advantage over Rutgers. Kooky.

98/90: Imani Cross followed up the signature performance of his Husker career against Michigan State by tacking on another 90 yards at Rutgers. While Cross has broken the century mark once in each of his previous three seasons, he’s never had back-to-back games with as many rushing yards.

Check this out…

2014: 109 yards against Illinois. Did not play the following week against Michigan State. In his next two games after than, he ran for 14 yards against Northwestern and 28 against Rutgers.

2013: 105 yards to open the season against Wyoming. That performance was followed up with 14 against Southern Miss and 19 against UCLA.

2012: Cross had his first 100 yard game at the expense of Idaho State but did not play the following week in the Huskers’ comeback against Wisconsin. Then at Ohio State, he rushed for 13 and followed that up with 3 and 4 against Northwestern and Michigan.

Here’s hoping Imani gets his yearly 100 yard game when Iowa comes to Lincoln.

167: How many more yards Jordan Westerkamp needs to become the Huskers’ first 1,000 yard receiver. Might be a good time for him go through the hassle of being able to order Domino’s via pizza emoji so he can start buttering up his roommate Tommy Armstrong.

If you’ve never heard, those dudes live together.

And if you’re a regular reader, there’s a good chance we used that as a closer before.

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Stuck in a Rutgers. Six Sad Facts About the Scarlet Knights.

Before the Huskers head to Piscataway, New Jersey for their first ever-game at Rutgers, here are few nuggets to give you a better idea of who the Scarlet Knights are and why they are the absolute dregs of the Big Ten Conference.

1869: The year Rutgers hosted the very first intercollegiate football ever. The Queensmen, as they were called back then, bested Princeton 6 – 4. Their only other game of that inaugural season was a rematch against Princeton a week later that resulted in them getting blanked 8 – 0. Somehow with a 1 – 1 record, Rutgers had the audacity to claim a national title– their only one in 146 seasons of playing football.

Basically, Rutgers is  the Anvil of college football. While they may have helped “invent” the sport much like the greatest band you’ve probably never heard of helped influence the speed metal genre, the Scarlet Knights football program has been all but left in the dust by their peers. Luckily for both Rutgers and Anvil, their fortunes have been mostly on the upswing since 2008.

6: The number of current (at the time) Rutgers players who were arrested and dismissed from the team after being charged with a string of home invasion robberies this spring.

3: How many times Rutgers has finished a season undefeated (1876, 1961, and 1976). Curiously, they did not try claiming a national title after either of their clean sweeps during the 20th Century. In fact, the Scarlet Knights were so butt hurt about not being invited to a “prestigious” bowl in 1976 that they took their ball and went home in lieu of playing McNeese State in the first-ever Independence Bowl.

10: The number of times Rutgers has appeared in a bowl game in their previous 145 seasons. While the Scarlet Knights are on the bowl bubble this year, they’ve been on a hot streak with nine bowl bids since 2005. In fact, they played in TWO bowl games in 2008 (the International Bowl against Ball State on January 5 and the PapaJohns.com Bowl against NC State on December 29). Rutgers’ overall bowl record is 6 – 4.

52,454: The seating capacity at Rutgers’ home field, High Point Solutions Stadium. 53,774 fans squirmed inside the gates for the Scarlet Knights’ first game as a member of the Big Ten last season, which led to the Rutgers administration issuing an official apology to Penn State for the rude behavior of their fans.

rutgers-stadium-1
High Point Solutions Stadium is like a smaller, sadder version of Memorial Stadium.

rutgers-fan
A Rutgers fan celebrates his team’s entry into the Big Ten by demonstrating that sunscreen makes perfectly good body paint (as long as you have the time to hit the tanning salon).

Rutgers Fan
One can only speculate that this Rutgers fan’s nickname is R-U Going to Eat That?

Rutgers Mascot
Even the Scarlet Knight is a guido.

61,221: The number of people who have the courage to admit to being fans of the Scarlet Knights on Facebook. (For reference, the Huskers boast 597,889 fans.) This shockingly low number says two things: 1) Not as many people care about Rutgers as the Big Ten would like people to believe. 2) Maybe New Jersey residents are still all up in that MySpace.

What Rutgers fans lack in online presence they make up for it with pessimism that puts Husker Nation’s biggest negative nellies to shame.

Rutgers Facebook Fans

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View from the Boneyard: Michigan State

I mentioned a few weeks ago in my Wisconsin game recap that I had only ever cried in Memorial Stadium twice. After this weekend, that tally has gone up to three.

If it had been any other season, the line to get in to the Michigan State game would have been absolutely insane. Instead, East Stadium boasted roughly 30 people waiting for doors to open.

Most people in the student section had the same laid-back mentality going in to this game. No one was expecting a win after how everything has gone down lately, so everyone just wanted to find a way to have some fun.

The Boneyard quickly found their source of entertainment: heckling Connor Cook during warm ups. Excessively.

Everything from taunts about hair gel to asking him to transfer here for this game was being yelled to Cook as he warmed up by throwing the ball. He even humored us by going along with our requests to try throwing with his left arm instead.

The problem? It wasn’t Connor Cook. The Boneyard had been yelling at Michigan State’s long snapper, Taybor Pepper.

Students quickly caught on to Faux Cook’s true identity and began chanting Pepper’s name. I’m sure the long snapper had to be at least a little excited to hear his name echoing through the stadium for once. Or even that that many football fans even knew his name.

Michigan State Long Snapper Tabor Pepper
Michigan State long snapper and proud fanny pack wearer. Taybor Pepper, everyone.

A while later, the sun set and the starting lineups were being announced. Sadly, Pepper’s name wasn’t called, so we improvised a chant during Connor Cook’s intro instead. Close enough.

tunnelwalk
Game on for the Huskers.

The Huskers started out strong with a 10-0 lead early in the first quarter. It was hard not to like how the Huskers looked early on in the game. Right outta the gate the Huskers were showing that they were ready to play an entire 60 minute game against an undefeated Michigan State.

The Spartans made the field goal towards the end of the first quarter, bringing the score to 10-3. All the students cared about was that our new favorite was out on the field. The entire Boneyard chanted Taybor Pepper’s name as latecomers looked around confused as to what was going on.

Now, I could sit here and bore you with the rest of what happened in the middle. Yeah, it was fun, but… come on. Yeah, the Spartans scored some touchdowns, but so did we. The second half started with Michigan State leading 17-13.

touchdown
Imani Cross‘ touchdown run gave the Huskers a 20-13 lead early in the third quarter.

I know the real reason why you’re here. Either you want to hear about the end of the game or you’re one of the (many) people I shamelessly promoted this column to while I was downtown on Saturday night. Or you’re my mom. Hi mom.

So with that being said—fast forward to the fourth quarter.

The Huskers were down 38-26 after the Spartans capitalized on a nearly nine minute possession. With 4:16 left on the clock, the Huskers had to be quick.

This started the first wave of fair weather fans exiting the stadium. To them, this was just going to be another disappointing heartbreak of a loss. To the rest of us, we knew that stranger things have happened with the Huskers.

With a touchdown from Tommy Armstrong Jr., the Huskers cut Michigan State’s lead to 38-33 with 1:47 left. Force the punt and the Huskers would have enough time to get a touchdown.

And they did.

The Huskers had the ball with just :55 left to do something with it. Two passes from Armstrong to Jordan Westerkamp put Nebraska just 30 yards away from an upset.

Then it happened.

Ask a Husker fan and a Spartan fan about the rules regarding a wide receiver stepping out of bounds and you’re going to get two completely different answers after Saturday’s game. A completed pass from Armstrong to Brandon Reilly lead to a touchdown for Nebraska, yet some people were still unsure as to how he wasn’t ruled out of bounds.

Basically, if Reilly had gone out of bounds on his own, he would’ve been out. But there was clear evidence that the Spartan cornerback had made contact with Reilly.

At this point, I was screaming, hugging everyone within a 20 foot radius of me, and being carried all around the student section. The realization that we were up 39-38 with :17 left in my second to last game as a student hit me hard as I started crying in the middle of the chaos. A tight game was finally going to go our way.

The last seconds ticked down as the Spartans were unable to get in to field goal range in time.

The Huskers won. They finally won. An upset in the final moments of the game and the Huskers were finally on the winning side of it.

postgame
Football can be so much fun.

Let Me Clear My Throat blasted through Memorial Stadium as everyone both on and off the field cheered, danced, and hugged everyone else. I was there for the 2013 Hail Mary pass against Northwestern and I can honestly say that this victory celebration was so much better.

Dreams come true when you work hard and pray. Go Big Red.

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

 

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Sunday Evening Hot Take: Michigan State Edition

While the Huskers’ dramatic, come-from-behind win over Michigan State was one for the ages, its best highlight was that it reinforced the power and importance of maintaining a positive attitude and never quitting.

Earlier this week I found out a buddy from high school who also lives out here in Los Angeles had been in a severely life threatening motorcycle accident.

Nestled in my Facebook feed among the cat pics and the usual daily outrage from both ends of the political spectrum was a post from him letting everyone know what had happened but that he was going to be OK. Accompanying his post were some gut wrenching photos from the hospital that would make Evel Knievel cringe.

About a month ago, he left his studio and hopped on his motorcycle to run home and walk his dog over the noon hour.

He never made it.

He was struck by a Ford F-150 whose driver was on a suspended license and apparently considered stop signs to be optional. He did what he could to lessen the damage but when you’re getting creamed by a 4,000lb truck, there’s not going to be much you can do.

His bike literally exploded on impact. He broke both legs, his pelvis, his right arm, and jaw despite wearing a full face helmet. He spent two weeks in a coma and needed eight units of blood which is pretty much a full oil change. And if that wasn’t enough, he contracted pneumonia while comatose and required a tracheotomy.

But you know what?

Even though his bones are now infused with as much titanium as Wolverine has adamantium, he’s far from being down for the count.

In fact, he’s already weeks ahead of schedule with his physical therapy and I have a solid hunch that this will only be a minor detour on his path towards becoming the heir apparent to the title of Most Interesting Man in the World.

I’m not kidding either. This is just a brief rundown of the stuff he’s done: served in the Army, owned a bar on O Street, took up metal fabrication and moved to California to build bikes at West Coast Choppers before striking out on his own. In his free time, he travels around the world and recently began installing some rad guerrilla street art around LA. That’s a pretty good start, wouldn’t you say?

Not long after the news of what happened started flying around the Facebook, a plan for a visit down at the Long Beach VA Hospital was made. Thanks to some good timing (and a hall pass from the hospital staff) we ended up having mini high school reunion down in Huntington Beach. Some fellow classmates had coincidentally picked the perfect weekend to come out from Arizona and rent a beach house.

Even though some of us hadn’t seen each other in nearly 20 years, it took all of five minutes to pick up where we left off. The next few hours were spent laughing our asses off and getting mildly day drunk without of fear of getting busted by our parents. If it weren’t for the wheelchair in the room, you’d never know that anyone recently had a very near miss with death. The mood was that bright.

As it got closer to kickoff, the Huskers began to dominate the conversation. Even though we all went on our own adventures after high school, it was amazing to see how our fandom for the Big Red has never waned.

Not long after the game was underway, it was time for my road trip partner and I to return to LA so that he could celebrate his wife’s birthday.

On the drive back, I put my phone up on the dashboard and we listened to the game on the Huskers App. We hung on every word with suspense and hunched forward with our heads cocked like we were trying to hear the ocean in a conch shell. It had to be one of the more ridiculous sights on the 405 that afternoon.

I made it to our local Husker spot in the middle of the third quarter. I couldn’t miss the chance to celebrate a Husker win with the people I’ve been suffering with every Saturday.

I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t any swearing or dread (or Ohio State fan friends who moseyed over to our side of the bar just to bask in our misery) but when the Huskers got the ball back and Tommy threw that first frozen rope laser to Westerkamp, it became clear that this game was finally going to have a different ending.

And boy, did it ever.

The Huskers never quit and my friend sure won’t either.

After yesterday, they’ve both gone a long way towards getting back to their old selves.

A Couple of the Usual Sunday Things… 

Our Score Prediction: Granted things got more than a little hairy at the end but we’ve been saying for weeks that the Huskers would beat Michigan State.

Mike Riley’s Balloon Watch: Somebody got his balloon back.

Mike Riley Balloon Michigan State

Now let’s get that bowl game and wreck Iowa’s season.

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Nuvi Don’t Lie. The Huskers’ Season is a Disaster.

Nearly every week this season, my Mondays have started with finding an email with the subject line “Sorry, man” lurking in my in-box.

Those emails come from my buddy Austen Jorgensen. You might remember his interview where we chatted about his days as a BYU linebacker and he all but predicted Cougars’ shocking win over the Huskers. (Still can’t believe he called that one.)

These days Austen works for a company called Nuvi which is a high powered social media monitoring platform used by a wide range of companies to track how their brand, new product, or movie, for example, is performing in the “social space.”

If you think it’s time to bust out the tinfoil hat, don’t sweat it. This is not NSA level stuff we’re talking about here. Nobody cares about your militia having a bake sale this weekend. However, if you recently tweeted about how much you love a new TV show or are mad at Chipotle for that pesky E. coli outbreak, someone out there knows about it.

So this leads to this Monday’s email when Austen suggested that I check to see how the Huskers’ season is looking through the eyes of Nuvi. He might have just been trolling me in an attempt to get me to wallow in the slop of quantifiable misery but it was good idea either way so I pulled some data from Nuvi and here are some of the highlights.

Or should I say depressing lowlights?

To keep things simple and to keep this site from turning into the social media version of Baseball Prospectus we’ll be comparing week one to last week’s debacle at Purdue. (Note: Click any chart to view full-size.)

HUSKERS PRESEAON MAP

Things look good for Husker Nation leading up to the season opener against BYU. Positive (green) and negative (red) sentiment is calculated based on a series of keywords. Chatter that can’t be classified is considered neutral (blue). Based on what we’re looking at, Nuvi indicates optimism is high for the 2015 season.

Here’s a slightly broader look.

HUSKER PRESEASON WEEK BEFORE

Then just a couple days later…

MIKE RILEY SUED

No, Global Thermonuclear War did not break out. This is what the it looks like when your team’s new head coach is sued for allegedly fostering an environment in which a sexual assault was allowed to happen. As you’ll see, the negative sentiment shot way up. Just as a gauge, you’d pretty much have to be the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department to run all the way in the red.

That giant red circle that wiped away most of the East Coast?  That was a tweet from Sports Illustrated that came from their NYC headquarters. The bigger the circle, the bigger the reach and impact.

MIKE RILEY SUED SI TWEET

Then, here’s what happened when the wait was finally over and the Huskers got the season started against BYU. The image below covers about an hour and a half of chatter. See if you can pinpoint when the Hail Mary occurred.

BYU HAIL MARY

And here’s a map of the post game reaction. The fire Mike Riley tweet from Lost Letterman was quite popular.

BYU POST GAME

Below is a list of the day’s big winners as far as Twitter goes. Considering how many Husker fans hung on every moment of Gabrielle Union’s visit, it’s not a shock that her twitter account received nearly twice as much attention as Sports Illustrated. I do say that it warms the cockles of my little heart to see Tunnel Walk of Shame was the most viral.

BYU POST GAME 2

Now, let’s skip ahead  a couple months and five frustrating losses later to examine the current landscape for Husker Nation.

This is what it looked as the Huskers lost to Purdue. 55% negativity is this season’s all-time peak of despair. (So far.) Compared to the season opener, the reach of the chatter is over 10 times higher. Why? Because the big outlets had plenty of time to tweet throughout the game as the Boilermaker beat down reached its inevitable conclusion. Lucky for the Husker brand, not may people shared this news as the “spread” was more than 3 times lower than the jaw dropping ending to the BYU game.

HUSKERS LOSE TO PURDUE

At least the mood quickly dissipated as Husker fans suddenly became too drunk to tweet.

ESPN TWEET AFTER PURDUE

Here’s the day as a whole.

PURDUE OVERVIEW

And here’s the build up and fallout of the Huskers’ worst loss since that time they were beaten by Hawaii before Hawaii was even a state.

Darren Rovell
Darren Rovell dropped some major shade even by his standards. The only thing that kept him from a clean sweep were the thumbs of God.

PURDUE POST GAME TWEETS

What’s most telling about this list is how the volume of chatter about the Huskers has dwindled and what remains shows this latest loss has become a national story.

Or dare I say national laughing stock?

Here’s hoping things turn around tomorrow and beating Michigan State makes Nebraska run green with joy.

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Shawn Eichorst’s Letter to Fans Annotated

Early today Shawn Eichorst sent out a letter to Husker Nation, thanking the Big Red faithful for their unwavering support during a season which is shaping up to be the worst since the Eishenhower administration.

While Eichorst’s letter is certainly welcome and noble in spirit, it does fly in the face of his previously established policy of not commenting on a coach’s performance during the season.

Or does that policy fly out the door when his job is suddenly on the line too?

Below is Eichorst’s letter in-full. Our notes are in parenthesis.

Dear Husker Family,

Good morning. (What a relief to arrive at work and still have a job.) 


I want to express my sincere appreciation to every Husker fan who has come to Memorial Stadium this season to cheer on the Big Red; who has traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to proudly wear the red and white (Dude! SCARLET AND CREAM) in visiting stadiums; (What? No mention of the hundreds or thousands of dollars fans have spent?) and who has passionately supported our student-athletes, our head coach, our assistant coaches and staff. Your support and patience (Thank you for not egging our homes or slashing our tires.)  as Mike Riley rebuilds our storied program one brick at a time mean (Typo alert!) the world to our young men, our staff and our university.

While many are understandably disappointed in the current record of the football team and the heartbreakingly close losses we have suffered (UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR), I am confident the future is bright (Bright enough to have to wear shades?) because I see it in the eyes of our players, coaches and staff and I am impressed by what I know is going on behind the scenes. (Maybe you could fill us in on the details?) Our coaches are developing our student-athletes and, though the consistent victories are not there yet, I am confident they will come. I have witnessed how our young men battle every day in practice and fight to the finish on game days in the face of great adversity. Football can be a humbling game of inches (That goal post can’t block every field goal against Wisconsin.) and seconds (It doesn’t help that poor play calling is giving the opposition as many seconds as possible.) and our players have laid everything on the line while making no excuses. (Pretty sure there have been at least a couple.) The prospective student-athletes looking to make Nebraska home possess athletic talent, academic potential, and high character making for a bright future. (OK, now you’re getting repetitive.) Coach Riley has a vision and a plan and is committed to providing the Husker faithful with a sustained winner which will compete (That’s an awfully broad word, bro. I can technically say I competed against the Ethiopian Armada that time I ran the LA Marathon.) annually for championships. (As much fun as it is, the $5 Bits o’ Broken Chair Trophy doesn’t really count.)

As I have said many times, it is an honor and privilege to represent Nebraska, (Keep talking, Wisconsin native.) and I am humbled and care deeply about the men and women I have a chance to work with every day here. The incredible amount of hours they put in and the sacrifices they all make to represent Nebraska are truly remarkable. (Tell me about it. I wake up early on Saturdays to watch this train wreck.) In two decades as a student-athlete and athletics administrator, I have had the opportunity to learn and work alongside some incredible people at five different institutions. (What a GREAT tidbit to add the next time you update your LinkedIn.) What the best administrators and coaches have in common is a consistent commitment to teaching young minds to do things the right way and to instill a values system that emphasizes hard work, discipline, loyalty, teamwork, compassion and excellence. (You forgot the part about buying motivational books in airports.) Those principles coupled with a positive attitude generally (Picked a good time to throw in a qualifier.) result in championships.

Your continued support (Money.) is what makes Nebraska special and together, we will do great things. (And I won’t have to look for a new job.) Thank you again for your incredible passion and support. (You people really have no other hobbies, do you?) We look forward to another home sellout and an electric environment on Saturday as we come together to cheer on our team against Michigan State.

Have a great week and Go Big Red!

Shawn Eichorst
(Way to try and sneak under the radar by not reminding us of your title.)

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