Sunday Morning Hot Takes: UCLA Edition

If the first thing you did when you woke up this morning was check the box score from the Foster Farms Bowl, don’t worry.

You weren’t the only one who did that.

It wasn’t a dream. Nebraska really did run wild against UCLA and came away with a 37-29 victory that was equal parts fun and gut-wrenching anguish.

Even when the Big Red was trailing 21-7 midway through the second quarter, Mike Riley and Danny Langsdorf stuck to their game plan* and continued to pound UCLA like Rocky slugging a side of beef. It was a glorious sight to behold as the Huskers chipped away at the Bruin defense a few yards at a time and rattled off 30 unanswered points.

UCLA finally replied early in the fourth quarter with a quick and methodical secondary shredding strike to pull within 8 points but that would be it. A missed field goal and absolutely clutch end zone interception by Chris Jones would seal the Bruins’ fate. The Huskers finally ran out of new and cruel ways to blow it at the end.

*Let’s Talk About That Game Plan: No doubt this next week will be full of think pieces and talk radio jibber jabber about how Riley and Langsdorf have finally found the light when it comes to Huskers’ offensive identity. Were these new look Huskers the result of a philosophical sea change or was it something as simple as Coach Riley checking his twitter mentions while enjoying a complimentary omelet at the Embassy Suites?  Could an endless stream of eggs imploring him to run the football actually have enough sway to make him throw UCLA a change up for four quarters? It would be amazing if that were the case. If there was one thing message board coaches got right this year it was the need to run the football.

Three Quick Wishes For 2016…

1) The Return of Tommy Legstrong: Tommy ran for 305 fewer yards in 2015 (400 vs 705). Splitting the difference in 2016 would be gravy.

2) A Lockdown Secondary (or at least one that isn’t consistently beaten): UCLA’s 60 yard bomb in the second quarter looked eerily similar to other times the Huskers were repeatedly scorched on the deep ball throughout the season. Then, when the Bruins started to rally in the fourth, they ran the exact same screen pass 4 or 5 times. The only variation was flipping the formation to the opposite side of the field one time.

3) A Nickname For Nate Gerry: Here are a few that come to mind… Jailhouse Rock, The Convict, Penalty Box,  Big Boss Man, Lock Up, Early Exit… (good thing there are still 9 months until the season starts)

Mike Riley’s Balloon Watch: A solid win over UCLA means Coach gets his balloon back for the off-season.

Mike Riley Happy Balloon

NUMBERS TO IMPRESS YOUR FRIENDS WITH

17:36: The Huskers’ time-of-possession advantage over UCLA.

62: The number of times the Huskers ran the ball against the Bruins for a total of 326 yards on the ground.

Now let’s compare that effort to the rest of season:

BYU – 37/126
S. Alabama – 37/258
Miami – 34/153
S. Miss – 39/242
Illinois – 34/187
Wisconsin – 37/196
Minnesota – 36/203
Northwestern – 38/82
Purdue – 33/77
Michigan State  – 36/179
Rutgers – 35/174
Iowa – 38/137

4: The number of times the 1995 Huskers, aka the greatest team in the history of college football, topped 62 rushes during their entire season. (70 vs Pacific, 63 vs Washington State, 68 vs Iowa State,  68 vs Florida)

And all this leads to Larry the Cable Guy winning the award for “Most Accurate Tweet of the Night.”

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Foster Farms Bowl Preview

Cue the triumphant clucking of humanely raised, steroid-free chickens.

The Foster Farms Bowl is finally here.

You’re excited, right?

Like more excited than this chicken, right?

If you’re finding it hard to nod in agreement like some kind of subservient chicken, it’s OK. It really is. In all honesty, I’ve kind of tuned out the lead up to the Foster Farms Bowl. It’s amazing how the return of Star Wars can make a guy instantly forget about the woes of the Huskers. Still, they have a game today and I’m back on the Big Red train in full force.

Here’s our preview…

If you can remember all the way back to September, UCLA went in to the season at #13 in the AP Poll. If I recall correctly, the Bruins were a pre-season top 10 on Sam McKewon’s ballot. Luckily, for the sake of its voters, the AP doesn’t keep an archive of week-by-week ballots so that can’t be confirmed.

UCLA had a hot 4-0 start, including a one point squeaker against BYU thanks to Tanner Mangum’s last second magic finally running out. From there, the Bruins hit the skids hard against Arizona State and at Stanford where Christian McCaffrey had a record setting day en route to the Cardinal winning by three touchdowns. Still, the Bruins won the yardage battle by a healthy margin.

That sort of statistical anomaly has been a hallmark of UCLA’s season. Against Colorado they were out gained 554-400 and had the ball for only 19 minutes, yet they won 35-31.

After crunching all of UCLA’s games, the key to beating the Bruins looks to be the ability for a team to one thing well. Go through the air like Washington State or do a ground and pound like USC, the Bruins can be shredded by a team that sticks to its guns.

And could very well be the Huskers’ problem.

Have Mike Riley and Danny Langsdorf used the bowl practices to finally forge an identity into their offense? Or is it going to be another case of another game, a whole new look?

Here’s hoping they took a page or two from USC’s methodical pummeling and feed the Bruins a steady diet of seniors Imani Cross and Andy Janovich, assuming they remember they are still on the roster. Add in a dash of Jordan Westerkamp and some non-horrible decisions by Tommy Armstrong and the Huskers could leave Levi’s Stadium with the win.

No matter how it shakes out for the Huskers, the Foster Farms Bowl is going to be one odd duck of the game.

If the Huskers lose, they’ll notch their eighth loss in a season for the first time since the 1951 squad went 2-8. At least the 1-9 record of the 1957 Huskers will be “safe” for at least one more year.

If the Huskers win tonight, especially if it’s by a convincing margin, they’ll head into the off-season with a nice boost for 2016 but there will still be that unshakable aftertaste of a team that clearly didn’t live up to its potential.

Even still, sleeping through class and acing the final exam is a much better way to go out.

Let’s turn this D minus of a season into a D+. GBR.

UCLA BRUIN
Mark it, Donnie. The Huskers will win 31-17.

BONUS CONTENT

A stat to impress your friends with: Tommy Armstrong is no longer the FBS interception leader. That honor currently belongs to Virginia’s Matt Johns who has 17 to Tommy’s paltry 16.

UCLA field trip: In case you missed it, I took a field trip to UCLA to see if anyone would notice a Husker fan roaming the campus.

I’m glad to say I didn’t get beat up, except for a few self-inflicted bumps and bruises and I even made some new friends.

UCLA BRUIN BEAR
Claws out Bruins!

BRUIN BEAR EATS A CHILD
While my new little buddy pretended to get eaten by the Bruin Bear, his dad and I had a good chat about Mike Riley. His take is that the guy is a great coach but just flat out cursed with bad luck dating back to his days with Chargers. My new little buddy and his dad were up from San Diego to visit Mattel Children’s Hospital and celebrate the 7th anniversary of the heart transplant he had at age 2. If you haven’t already, become an organ donor and help make a difference.

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Last Minute Christmas Gifts For Husker Fans

If you’re anything like us, there’s a good chance you may have awoken with a fright this morning and finally realized that Christmas is happening on Friday. As in THIS Friday.

Whether you’re shopping for your favorite Husker fan or just someone who happens to be a Husker fan that you’re obligated to purchase a gift for, any of the following ideas would most certainly be welcome additions to their haul of Christmas booty.

Herbie Husker Star Wars T-Shirt from Nebraska Red Zone

Herbie Husker Star Wars

Whew! Good thing a few peopled turned out to see The Force Awakens  so we don’t have to worry about these t-shirts being trucked off to Nicaragua like Patriots 19-0 t-shirts. Two of the greatest things ever on one t-shirt. Don’t even try to get cynical about the Disney Empire’s ever reaching tentacles about this bad boy. This shirt is  rad. For much mayhem that Chewbacca could wreak as a Blackshirt, the Stormtroopers are oh so perfect. Why? Because they’re just like Tommy. They can’t hit their targets. Hiyo! Click here to purchase the shirt and support a local Nebraska business. AND Nebraska Red Zone is offering FREE 3-day shipping on orders of $20!

Tickets to the Rimington Trophy Presentation

Rimington Trophy

It’s a gift AND a tax deduction (the ticket cost benefits the Boomer Esiason Foundation for cystic fibrosis research).  Happening January 16th, at the Rococo Theatre in downtown Lincoln, Husker legend/Burning Man enthusiast Dave Rimington will be presenting Alabama’s Ryan Kelly with the 2015 award. Lee Corso is the featured guest speaker for the evening and you can expect many more surprise guests. Get tickets here.

Tickets to Big Red of the Rockies’ 20th Anniversary Banquet

Jesse Kosch

Jesse Kosch, the greatest meteorology major/punter in Husker football history is having a bash to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his store Big Red of the Rockies, located in gorgeous Estes Park, Colorado. The shindig is happening May 7, 2016 in Estes Park and  teammates from Jesse’s 1995 squad will be in attendance. Specific details are still TBA but bookmark this page, and whip up a little certificate for your lucky recipient.

Entry into the Nebraska Classic Golf Tournament

Nebraksa Classic Golf Tournament

Even if the dreaded El Niño strikes, the soggy desert of Palm Springs has to be a more desirable location than the frozen desert that is Nebraska in February. The tournament is on Presidents’ Day 2016, aka February 15, 2016, aka the day after Valentine’s Day, meaning you could have a nice romantic Palm Springs weekend before playing golf with the people you argue with on HuskerMax. Entry info can be found here.

YOLO f#*wads T-shirt from BBB Printing

YOLO T-Shirt

So what if the Huskers went 0-3 on game days when I wore this t-shirt this season? T-Magic shined like a light that never goes out and his legend lives on in this shirt thanks to BBB Printing and Tunnel Walk of Shame.

The Art of Smart Football by Chris B. Brown

ART OF SMART FOOTBALL

In his follow up to The Essential Smart Football, author Chris B. Brown takes a deeper dive into the x’s and o’s of football as we see them today and turns gridiron calculus into a delightful and informative read that will give you a new appreciation for the game and possibly leave Husker fans a little worried. (Let’s just say he lays out very convincing arguments against quarters defense and the
West Coast Offense.)

A Membership to Huskermax
Despite the sometimes overwhelming paranoia and doom and gloom of the message board, the granddaddy of all Husker sites is still the definitive one stop shop for everything Huskers. Best part is you can “gift” a membership by signing up your buddy and if he’s the sort who’ll never change a password, you can sign-in as him months later and wreck all sorts of internet rumor havoc.

A Subscription to Hail Varsity Magazine

Johnny Stanton

Glossy, gorgeous, and great writing guaranteed to get you pumped for the Huskers’ next quarterback of the future. Subscribe here.

Husker PajamasHusker Pajamas

Help your special Husker fan lady fan dream of better days for the Big Red with these super cozy PJs from Fantatics.com. Get FREE two day shipping (aka Christmas Eve) on orders over $60 placed by 3pm ET on 12/22 with the code NUTCRACKER.  (Why no, I did not just order my brother an ugly Husker holiday sweater.)

And finally, for the Husker fan who has everything…

Margaritaville Tahiti Frozen Concoction Maker

Margaritaville Blender

Yes. It’s a blender the size of Tahiti that would require a big ass generator to be tailgate compatible but who cares? This bad mama jama can make 72 ounces of “non-alcoholic” drinks simultaneously. Hit the link above or click here to order the Starkiller Base of frozen beverage makers.

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The Big Red Fury Guide to Tipping

Welcome to the silly season of Husker football, where any news is news and the tipping habits (or lack thereof) of players can become the scandal of the week.

Husker wide receiver Brandon Reilly did the ol’ tweet n’ delete where he shared some words of wisdom for a server named Trey who apparently a little too vocal about his opinions on the current state of the Big Red for Reilly’s liking.

Brandon Reilly Tweet

Who knows? Maybe Reilly was inspired to tweet his experience based on all those click bait stories about servers getting revenge on those who leave notes on their bills like “Why should I give you 20 percent when I only give Jesus 10?”

(Plug Alert: That’s a classic line from my comic buddy Shawn Halpin. Do yourself a favor and subscribe to his YouTube channel. You’ll be glad you did.)

Anyway, Reilly does bring up a fair point (after all, Trey could have gone so far as to be reading the rantings he posted to HuskerMax aloud to the cheers of the entire restaurant)  but there are a couple things to consider:

1) When you play on the WORST Husker team since 1961, taking some lumps in public goes with the territory. If this kind of season happened on Tom Osborne’s watch, Husker players would need to drive to all the way to Kansas to ensure a spit-free dining experience at Chipotle.

2) Even if Reilly strolled in from practice still wearing his #87 jersey, would he really look all that different from any other Husker fan? Dude’s wearing a helmet every time he appears on TV so it’s not like he’d be the easiest person for Trey to pick out of a line up. And if he actually was decked out in Husker gear, and Trey saw that as green light to start talking about the Huskers, why didn’t Reilly spill the beans that he’s a key part of the offense when Tommy isn’t too busy chucking up interceptions? He could have made a fan for life and maybe even scored some free bread sticks or a complimentary dessert.

In the hopes of avoiding another Tipgate scandal in the future,  here’s a handy guide to tipping based on years of real world experience as a mildly cultured man about town.

Restaurants: ALWAYS TIP. NO MATTER WHAT. 15% should be the bare minimum but try to stretch it to 20. If the service is truly horrible, drop it down to 10.  The last time I was a member of a party that tipped less than 10%, the server proceeded to challenge all 12 of us to a fight in the parking lot and that was the least surprising part of his truly woeful service. Luckily, his manager intercepted, comped our meal, and berated his tweaker employee telling him that no matter how hard he tried, he was not going to get fired so he could stay at home and collect unemployment. Good times.

Bars: A buck a drink is the universal standard. If there’s “mixology” involved, bump it up based on the length of the bartender’s artisanal mustache. If the place is slammed, tip heavy early to speed things up for future rounds but don’t be an ass about it. If you kill an afternoon at a sports bar, toss in a few extra bucks as a small bonus to the server who spent part of their weekend babysitting you. If you happen to be at a Hooters, Twin Peaks, or Tilted Kilt, don’t encourage bad life decisions by tipping any more than usual.

Barber Shops: If you’re a dude, count your blessings that life is so easy for you when it comes to hair care. A $10 tip on simple haircut may sound excessive but consider it a small penance for not being a chick. 

Uber: Did you know Uber drivers rate their passengers the same way their passengers rate them? You don’t have to tip every ride but slide a couple bucks to your driver every few rides to keep your rating up and you’ll never have a problem getting ride at last call on a Saturday night.

Self-Serve Yogurt Shops That Charge By The Ounce: Tip the kid behind the counter a buck. Then go load up on more gummy bears and mochi as you walk out the door.

Your Millennial Friend Who Hooks You Up With Adderall And Assorted Medications That Normally Require A Prescription: Pay whatever he charges but do the hand off at a restaurant and pick up the tab.

Your Masseuse At The Thai Day Spa: $10 for an hour or under. $15 if you go for 90 minutes.  And please note that this is for a legitimate place of business, not a den of hand jobs. However, if on the very off chance you happen to blast out a week’s worth of farts while being contorted in ways you never thought possible, step it up to $20 and never make eye contact with her again.

The Homeless Guy Who Looks Like An Extra From The Walking Dead Who Offers To Watch Your Car While You Go To Some Hip Underground Club In A Sketchy Neighborhood: A couple bucks will keep him from vandalizing your car himself during an acid flashback but a crisp $5 bill will have him ready to fight to the death if another tweaker so much as looks at your car.

Dry Cleaners: Russians know how to remove suspicious blood stains better than anyone so pay accordingly.

Strip Clubs: Make it rain if you have to, get a lap dance or five if you must but try to spend as little extra money as possible. Once you cut through whatever issues that led to them being on pole patrol, you’ll find that at the heart of every dancer is a shrewd, shrewd business woman who will find a way to take all your money.

The Tow Truck Driver About To Tow Your Car Because You Foolishly Thought It Was OK To  Park At A Restaurant While You Go Spend The Next Few Hours At The Ratt Concert Across The Street: Start with $100 and work your way up to $200 if he plays hardball.

If All Else Fails And You Feel Compelled Not To Leave A Tip: At least try to be clever about it.

Brandon Reilly Tip - Fixed

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