I started out with plenty of hope and was looking forward to a dozen chances to hang with friends, eat some snacks, and continue cheering on the first team I ever cheered for.
To say this season has been a bumpy ride is an understatement. My favorite highlight of the year so far has been last week’s bye week. It was a blissful Saturday, completely free of disappointment and pain.
Tonight though, we’re back onboard the suffer train.
When I checked the time for kickoff yesterday, I assumed the marquee matchup of the Huskers vs Boilermakers would get the 9am slot for us West Coast fans but the Big Ten had to go and schedule it against the World Series. It was shrewd move on their part to ensure as few people as possible put their eyes on a slap fight between a Western Division doormats.
Still, when the clock strikes 4:30, I’ll tune in like I always do. Because that’s what you do when you’re a Husker fan.
You show up during good times and bad.
At least until the World Series starts.
BOLD PREDICTION TIME
Mike Riley is spared the indignity of walking home from West Lafayette as the Huskers use their bye week to their advantage and overcome their underdog status to beat Purdue 28 – 14.
Moments before Clayton Kershaw took the mound in game one of the World Series, this commercial for YouTubeTV aired on Fox. Nothing like seeing the Huskers used as punching bag by Ohio State. Again.
Welp. It’s time for the Huskers’ annual showdown with the Badgers and the return of Cousin Ben, the biggest Wisconsin fan this Husker blog knows.
Ben was gracious enough to take time out of his busy senior year of high school to write up a little preview of what Husker Nation can expect when the Badgers take the field Saturday night. What follows is his preview along with my commentary in italics.
Take it away Cousin Ben…
Hello everyone- welcome to your least favorite article of the season. This year does feel a bit different, however. Night game. Lincoln Stadium. [I know you’re just trolling with this “Lincoln Stadium” business. Well played.]
I expect the atmosphere to be absolutely electric- which will make it much closer than it should be. Before my predictions, here is a breakdown of the best team in the Big Ten West. [You’re breaking down Nebraska? Nice!]
Wisconsin’s offense comes into the game following a fantastic second half against Northwestern. [You left out the part where the Badgers relied on Northwestern playing like idiots.] This is pretty much your prototypical Badger offense once again. Great line, three good backs, shaky QB play. The line is young, but expect them to get plenty of good pushes. Wisconsin needs to run the ball a lot to win this game, and that all starts with the massive boys up front.
Carrying the ball will be the best freshman RB in the country, Jonathan Taylor, along with Pitt transfer Chris James, and Bradrick Shaw (yes, that random dude who ran for a 21 yard TD last year is our 3rd running back). Taylor has been tremendous, showing a mix of speed, strength and balance that not many freshman show. James has been decent, but a lot of fans had high expectations before the season, so he has underwhelmed a bit. Shaw is a big, powerful dude with underrated speed and elusiveness who could easily be an every down back on a lot of teams.
Now, onto our quarterback Mr. Alex Hornibrook. His inconsistencies have shown way too often this year, even after spending the offseason working with great coaches (including Peyton Manning). [At the Manning Passing Academy? Even T-Magic and Tommy Armstrong got invites to that. Whatever.]
Overall, he’s a really sound quarterback, who makes good decisions but his lack of athleticism and a weak arm make it tough for him to control the game in ways that elite teams quarterbacks often do. [OK. This is good.]
The receiving core is much improved, with all of it centered around the nine fingered wonder Troy Fumagalli (who is questionable for Saturday as of now). [Whoa. He really does only have nine fingers.] The thing Wisconsin has really improved on in recruiting is getting some young guys who can go deep and come up with the ball. Sophomores AJ Taylor and Quintez Cephus, as well as freshman Danny Davis(beast) have been pleasant surprises early in the season, and the seasoned vet Jazz Peavy, [Please tell me his nickname is Autobot.] while under targeted, could go off at anytime and have a big game. This offense as a whole is young, but extremely talented.
Death, Taxes, and Wisconsin having a top 15 defense. [Thanks for being modest by saying top 15 instead of top 5.] This group is similar to recent defenses, but the defensive back play has really stood out. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering Wisconsin’s new DC is former NFL safety Jim Leonhard.
Natrell Jamerson and D’cota Dixon have been fantastic at the safety spots, and corners Nick Nelson and Derrick Tindal have been manning the corner spots well. The linebacking core is absolutely unbelievable once again this year. TJ Edwards and Chris Orr are an elite package of MLB, and Garrett Dooley, Leon Jacobs, and Andrew VanGinkel off the edge give teams offensive lines some serious problems.
The defensive line, while mostly unknown, has been solid this year. The rotation is deep, and every guy does his job as he should. This is a defense who could force 3+ turnovers this weekend if Nebraska isn’t careful with the ball. Based on what I’ve seen in the games I’ve watched (Oregon and N.Illinois) Wisconsin’s defense could have a very good night on Saturday. [Well, you clearly missed what the offense did against Rutgers and Regular Illinois.]
We have a fat kicker who kicks bombs and dances after field goals. Enough said. [Don’t worry. We all remember this tub of love for ripping out our hearts two years ago.]
This is going to be a defensive game, which I believe is going to really help Wisconsin. Nebraska has been way too turnover prone (9 picks in 4 games by Tanner Lee) which will flip field position and give Wisconsin the advantage.
I see this one ending up 24-13 Wisconsin.
Jonathan Taylor runs for 115 yards and a touchdown, and Hornibrook throws for 200 yards and a TD. Tanner Lee throws 3 picks and Wisconsin forces 2 fumbles. I think Nebraska is a much improving team, but I think Wisconsin’s depth is too great. It’ll be very tight until the 4th quarter.
As you may remember, last year, I predicted Nebraska was going to lose 4 out of 5 to end the season… They ended up losing 3 out of 5. This year, I think Nebraska ends up going 3-4 to finish the season, with losses to Wisconsin, OSU, Penn State, and Minnesota. [Wait… so you’re saying the Huskers will finally beat Iowa?]
I think Wisconsin finishes the regular season undefeated, but loses to OSU in the Big Ten Championship. [Another heartbreaking year for the Badgers? This makes me so happy.]
Nebraska football is like an ex boyfriend, it makes me sad only because I think it can make me happy. I was ready to find alternate Saturday plans after the first three Husker games of the season. I was thinking about taking up roller derby, or volunteering, or just becoming an Alabama fan (Roll Tide), but after just one mediocre Husker win, I have been sucked back into the sink hole that is Nebraska football. I am now convinced there is at least a 3.8% chance they beat Wisconsin after this lay up of a game against Illinois.
And can we talk about how much Friday night games (or Friday games in general, get rid of the Black Friday game permanently, please) stink? I want to watch high school football on a Friday night, not football that reminds me of high school football. Also, I am a routine person and I have a very specific fall Saturday routine. How the hell am I just supposed to get in the groove on a Friday night? I use my Fridays to relax and hit the hay early before I wake up at 4am and panic until Gameday starts. It’s just not right.
Plus, Illinois is coming off a bye and the Huskers have a short week? What genius agreed to this? Oh, I think he was just canned, for good reason, because this is absolutely moronic. The only good thing is that if the Huskers lose, I already know what excuse I’m giving, it’s always nice to be prepared. Short rest everyone, that’s the excuse we will be going with. Have it prepared should you need it.
WE’RE OVER NORTHERN ILLINOIS (no I’m not) AND ONTO ACTUAL ILLINOIS
You would be hard pressed to come up with a list of positive things to say about the Huskers this season so I’m just going to say a bunch of negative things about the other team. When Illinois played before their well timed bye, Lovie Smith took his band of losers down to Tampa and got absolutely rocked by Charlie Strong and USF. Under no circumstances should B1G teams be getting knocked around by these little schools, but here we are (Hello, Northern Illinois). Anyway, Illinois had 3 turnovers during the game which is also something I can’t make fun of, this is turning out to be a list of negative things about Nebraska, how did that happen? I’m going to stop looking at Illinois stats now because they are just telling me that Nebraska is equally as bad.
The Blackshirts have been looking better, the only problem is the offense is looking as bad as the defense looks good. Nebraska can win this game IF Tanner Lee isn’t a turnover machine and to be honest, I don’t know that I see that happening. I think we should all agree that if Tanner throws 2 picks, he is out and POB is in. Why not try it? It can’t get worse. Another great excuse to have ready is that basically the entire team is injured. The O-line is a disaster. Stanley Morgan Jr. is traveling but who knows how much he will play. Tre Bryant, out. Kalu, out. Marcus Newby, out. The positive news of the week is that Chris Jones seems to be on the mend faster than people expected, he told us he would be, and I appreciate a man that keeps his promise. Now when will you actually be back in a game, Chris? I’m hoping the offense comes out a little bit calmer and ready to go without relying on the defense to clean up their mess.
I guess I’m going with Nebraska 24, Illinois 14.
P.S. There is a very slim chance that you will even see this considering the last few of my blogs have been deleted because Word Press is the devil but if you happen to see this, thanks for reading and I just want you to know that my blog about the Oregon game was the best blog of all time and just because you didn’t see it doesn’t mean you can’t refer to it as such. Whatever, Go Big Red. Also, Go Dodgers.
P.P.S. That goddamn Kirk Herbstreit. I knew the second he picked Nebraska to win vs Northern Illinois that the Huskers were toast. I think he picked Nebraska every time they lost last season. He probably has a little voodoo doll at home that he puts pins in and then goes and says the Huskers are going to win and laughs to himself. Cut it out, man.
For real-time hot takes from Leslie, follow her on Twitter – @lesmicek
It seems like the season was just getting started and now the Maryland game is here.
By late afternoon, Memorial Stadium will fall silent. The Sea of Red won’t roar again in Lincoln until 2017.
The final home game of the season marks the very first time the Huskers will be squaring off against the mighty Terrapins. If the Big Red can somehow manage to beat a team that was also edged out by Ohio State 62-3, they will notch their ninth win of the season and finish with a perfect home record for the first time since 2012.
Will it be Tommy Armstrong Jr. who gets to lead the Huskers to victory one last time in front of the home crowd, or will it be Ryker Fyfe who gets to lead the Huskers to victory for the first time?
Since that question probably won’t be answered until kickoff, let’s focus on the week’s important drama for a moment.
What the hell happened to the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy?
It’s a total bummer to see the best trophy game in the Big Ten go away so unceremoniously. The biggest sign of all that it’s donezo is that there has been nary a peep from the Huskers’ Twitter account, which never passes up an opportunity for some sweet meme action. The ignore-it-and-hope-goes-away silence is deafening.
If the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy really is retired, why not at least auction it off and have the proceeds go to charity? That would make Nebraska’s budding rivalry with Minnesota really worth something. (Assuming the trophy hasn’t already been chucked in a dumpster in the dead of night.)
Alright, let’s get back to Maryland.
Look, the Terrapins don’t boast a 5-5 record due to an overabundance of skill. Their players can’t even go on a BB gun rampage without getting arrested. You think those geniuses will be able to contain DPE? Heck no. If the Blackshirts can contain the turtles’ running game, they should be in good shape to get the win even with Larry the Cable Guy taking the snaps.
The Huskers’ game plan on offense should be to let the running backs take care of business and only throw the ball to seniors standing wide open in the end zone. Do you realize Brandon Reilly hasn’t caught a touchdown pass since hauling in the game winner against Michigan State last year? Let’s get him another one at home before he leaves us.
BONUS CONTENT: If you end up sitting next to a Maryland fan, here are some things to know about The Old Line State:
Crab Cakes are basically Maryland’s corn and Runza rolled into one. Do not speak ill of Crab Cakes unless you’re itching to start a fight.
Six Marylands could fit comfortably within Nebraska’s borders. Its wacky shape helps hide the fact that it ranks #42 in land area, coming in just ahead of Hawaii.
On the flip side, Maryland’s population density is nearly 25 times higher than Nebraska’s. To put that into perspective, Nebraska’s population would have to swell to 46 million people to achieve the same density. That might help explain why everyone in The Wire was so angry all the time. There’s no breathing room.
Finally, the state motto of Maryland is “Fatti Maschii, Parole Femine” which literally translates from archaic Italian to mean “Manly Deeds, Womanly Words.” Extra bonus points for you if you can work that into a heckle.
As you may know, the undefeated Huskers are ranked number 7 while the Badgers are 5-2 and clinging to relevance in the 11th spot. A win for Nebraska means their lofty but “unearned” ranking has been justified. Another loss to the Badgers and it’s rambling think pieces and rambling blowhards on your TV reminding you that Nebraska still isn’t back. And then there’s a game at Ohio State to start worrying about.
Since Nebraska joined the Big Ten, this has always been longest week of the season for me since the bulk of my family hails from that magical land where you’re not charged with a felony until your FIFTH DUI. You can find it on the map listed as Wisconsin.
My brother and I are our family’s lone Nebraska natives and Husker fans. Our representation is growing somewhat thanks to he and his wife’s rapidly expanding family but we are still hopelessly outnumbered.
Out of the Badger bunch you see above, my 16-year-old cousin Ben (front and center in the bucket hat) is the biggest fan of them all and he’s way more knowledgeable than your above average professional sports hack. He lives in Green Bay and is on his high school’s cross-country and basketball teams. He’s a sniper from beyond the arc so if you have an extra basketball scholarship to give away, check out his Hudl highlights.
Ben was nice enough to give a breakdown of what to expect when the Huskers roll in to Madison this weekend.
Here’s our interview.
First off, my condolences to you and the Badgers for falling out of the Top 10 after squeaking by Iowa. How’s life in the not-Top 10 been treating you?
I was extremely surprised that the Badgers weren’t in the top 10 again this week, but coming from unranked to start the season, 11 is pretty nice. I still have hope that we will be Big Ten West Division Champions, and hopefully get to the Rose Bowl.
The Badgers lost by a touchdown against Michigan and in overtime to Ohio State on consecutive weekends. How were you able to handle such demoralizing defeats? Did you need to take any time off from school?
The Michigan game was rough. I worked for the first quarter and part of the second and got to listen to Michigan’s kickers keep Wisconsin in the game. Then I had to go to my girlfriend’s dance in the fourth quarter and watched in agony as our DB got burnt and ultimately lost the game. My girlfriend made a comment that I didn’t look happy in any of the pictures. If only she understood.
I was lucky enough to be in the crowd for the Ohio State game (in a section of mostly Ohio State fans) and that one was soul crushing. Watching the defense play so well for most of the game and our offense move the ball efficiently just to lose was horrible. My thoughts of the OT: Ohio State’s receiver fully pushed off on the TD and should have been called for PI. Also, I don’t know why we didn’t have receivers in on 1st and goal, 2nd and goal, OR 3rd and goal from the 3 yard line. But needless to say, the Ohio State game was encouraging, yet, sad.
On a better note, you were at Lambeau for the Badgers’ win over LSU. How much fun was that game and how confusing was it to see the Badgers at Lambeau? Were LSU fans weird or what?
The Wisconsin vs LSU game was the second most fun college football game I’ve ever been able to attend, right behind Melvin Gordon’s 408 game (don’t think I have to explain that one any further). Lambeau was extremely hyped up and the game couldn’t have went better for the Badgers. I thought Green Bay was a perfect place to host the game and I’d be shocked if that’s the last college game at Lambeau. The LSU fans were very bummed and all said they were going drinking after the game. Oh, they also loved to complain about their QB, who I didn’t think was horrible other than his last mistake. But overall, very fun game.
The Badgers started the season with Bart Houston as their QB before switching to Alex Hornibrook. Then they both played against Iowa. What’s up with these guys?
Honestly, I have no clue. I’m not a huge fan of Houston, and I don’t know what Hornibrook did to get his playing time split. Hornibrook doesn’t have the strongest arm, but he makes good decisions and knows how to run the team. I don’t like seeing Houston in there.
How much is running back Corey Clement like Melvin Gordon? BTW, Melvin is on my fantasy team solely because of the way he ran wild on the Huskers.
I was a big Corey guy early in his career, but I think he started to get too injury prone, and didn’t work to get much better. I do think he’s stepped it up big time the last couple of games, and I hope he can continue his hot streak. I think he’s going to be a third or fourth rounder and hopefully can make some noise in the league.
How much of a beast is J.J. Watt’s 243 pound little brother, T.J.? He’s a fantastic player. I think he handled his big stage poorly against OSU, so if you’ve only watched that game, you’ll be extremely surprised this weekend.
Do the Badgers have any other monsters Husker fans should be worried about?
Jack Cichy is now out for the season otherwise, he would have been my first pick. But our whole defense is extremely solid: Vince Biegelis a beast. The offense will hopefully do enough. I’m a big Jazz Peavyguy (receiver) just because of his speed and agility.
Now that your sister is a freshman at Madison has she turned into a Badger super fan?
She goes to all the games, but I don’t think she could name more than one player on the football team. She’s more interested in the tailgating parties and Jump Around than the actual games.
If you had to choose between the Packers winning the Super Bowl or the Badger basketball team winning the NCAA Tournament, what would you pick? (I didn’t include the Badger football team since getting selected to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl isn’t exactly the stuff dreams are made of.)
Ummmm… The million dollar question. I think I’d have to pick the Badger basketball team because I follow them so closely and go to so many games. I mean, I named my dog after one of the players for gosh sakes. But the Packers winning the Super Bowl wouldn’t upset me at all.
What are your expectations for Bronson this season?
I think he’s going to be a beast. First team all B10, 17 PPG and lead the Badgers to the Final Four. (You have to make the tournament to make it there, so Nebraska fans may not know much about that.) Just kidding. But I have extremely high expectations for the Badger basketball team this year. Much higher than I had for the football team coming in. (I told myself as long as we made a bowl, I’d be happy.)
Finally, what’s your prediction for Saturday?
The question I’ve been most waiting to answer. Camp Randall’s going to be rocking, and Tommy Armstrong n Co. won’t be able to handle a tough road test against a great defense. Hornibrook does just enough to keep us ahead, Clement and Ogunbowale (yes, that actually is someone’s name) each score one and Andrew Endicott nails 3 field goals. [Note:Rafeal Gaglianone is out for the season.] Wisconsin wins 23-10 and Nebraska ends up losing 4 out of 5, giving Wisconsin the right to play in the Big Ten championship.
[Note: Gee Ben, tell us how you really feel.]
Oh, and I heard my mom is watching you guys this week. Please tell me you’ve been tormenting her. She sent me some trolling texts during the Dodger/Cubs series so she needs some payback.
She’s threatening to throw a “Husker party” on Saturday, so I’m plotting ways to get back at her if that were to happen.
[Note: OK. This proves my mom is officially the worst when it comes to sports. She’s never once rooted for Nebraska when they’ve played Wisconsin.]
With the Indiana Hoosiers lurking in the shadows, the Huskers’ fall break is over with a vengeance.
DUN… DUN… DUN.
Hey there… remember this site? The one that seemingly fell off the earth faster than Barb after the Huskers rolled Illinois?
Well, there’s a good story behind that if only I could remember what happened. To keep it brief, I went to see a concert the Tuesday evening of bye week and somehow had a random blackout episode (for the record I was still on my first beer) that sent me to the ER with a rather gnarly concussion. Now that I’ve regained enough brain power to form mostly coherent thoughts, it’s time to get back to what’s really important.
The Huskers rolling into Indiana and snapping some Hoosier necks like they have the power of telekinesis.
Since we last checked in, the Huskers slid into the Top 10 thanks to other teams losing which has raised the question if the Big Red is really a contender, especially with their signature win coming against an Oregon team that’s now experiencing its worst season since their days of getting blown out at home 70-21 was a regular thing.
Look, it’s not the Huskers fault that they pummeled the Ducks so hard they ended up more mentally roasted than Eleven’s mom. That’s just a potential side effect from having Mike Riley’s team on your schedule. Get used to it.
Even still, pundits are worried Indiana is going to be a trap game. This is the same Indiana that is currently 3-2 with a loss to Wake Forest and is coming off a 38-17 beat down by Ohio State. Granted, the Hoosiers’ most impressive win of the season came against Michigan State in overtime but let’s not overlook the fact that Indiana won thanks to the fact that the Spartans suck this year and T-Magic’s brother Drake got called for a game changing leaping penalty (WTF?) during a field goal attempt.
Big deal if Indiana doesn’t huddle. That just means there’s going to be less time for Michael Rose-Ivey and Nate Gerry wait before they get to tackle someone again. The only worry for the Blackshirts is if Chris Jones gets a blister from making so many interceptions. Hoosier QB Richard Lagow has thrown seven in five games. Meanwhile, our boy Tommy is holding steady at two. (He had six through five games last season.)
Illinois clearly did not get the memo that this game was supposed to be a cake walk into the Huskers’ bye week.
After surrendering an opening touchdown on a 13 play, 75 yard drive, the Fighting Illini (along with some timely contributions from the Huskers and Bad Tommy) proceeded to send Husker Nation spiraling down into that deep, dark hole where last season’s bad memories are buried.
For three anguishing quarters, the 15th ranked Huskers looked a lot like the team that spent 2015 finding new and painful ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Then the 4th quarter started and the Big Red hitched their wagon to Terrell Newby. The senior running back answered the call and put together a career-defining game. He scored two of the final period’s three Husker touchdowns and sealed the game with a 63 yard blast that had him pulling away from Illinois defenders like he had little NOS tanksin his non-Yeezy Adidas.
By the final whistle, the Big Red faithful breathed a sigh of relief at what turned out to be a very tense false alarm as the new and improved “find a way to win” Huskers cracked the code on Illinois.
The upcoming bye week will hopefully give the slew of injured Huskers (Jordan Westerkamp, Cethan Carter, and Devine Ozigbo were Saturday’s casualties) a chance to heal. Westerkamp’s non-disclosed injury (likely a shot to a kidney) sent him to the hospital to get checked out but he was soon released. If he’s back on the field in time for Indiana it will be interesting to see if he’s wear some additional padding. Those hot pants he likes to rock really don’t offer much in terms of protection.
Let’s get to the fun stuff.
Mike Riley’s Balloon Watch
Going for it TWICE on 4th down at a time when merely getting a field goal would have been a perfectly acceptable call gets Mike the AC/DC treatment the week. This new look salty and vicious Mike Riley is turning out to be a lot of fun.
A note about Fanny Pack Spider-Man’s performance: He was paid $6 for approximately 30 seconds of work. (Keep in mind the going rate on Hollywood Blvd is a buck or two a photo but we’re a big time operation.) The first thing he did was complain that he wasn’t being paid enough for his efforts. He then proceeded to completely brick it. Oh well, at least everyone was wrong on the one.
Seriously, why hasn’t 311 ever done a collab with the Huskers (aside from the part where they’re 311)? Someone needs to get P-Nut on the horn about this out of respect to the band that gave the world Omaha Stylee.
Randy’s Legendary Block One More Time Just Because
42: Did you know that Tommy Armstrong Jr. and Jordan Westerkamp have a secret roommate who can also catch touchdown passes? Senior Tre Foster seemingly came out of nowhere (or at least Illinois’ defense completely forgot about him) and hauled in a six yard touchdown pass to give the Huskers a little breathing room. Since his redshirt freshman year, Foster has caught exactly one pass per season. His career stats after today- a pair of six and nine yard receptions and two touchdown catches, his first coming against BYU last season.
69.5: As wild as he was today, Tommy completed nearly 70% of his passes going 16/23 with one mind numbing interception. He threw for 220 yards while the Huskers gained 219 on the ground on 49 attempts. Hope Throw the Ball Guy and Run the Ball Guy are happy with those numbers.
10: How many different Huskers caught at least one heater from Tommy.
16:01: The Huskers’ time-of-possession advantage. For lack of a better word, that is bonkers.
0: Guess there’s no reason to punt when your coach has the stones to go for it on 4th down.
22: Illinois converted 22% of their third downs. Meanwhile, the Huskers moved the chains at a 71% clip.
17: The number of 4th quarter carries for Terrell Newby when he pulled a Greg Jennings and put the team on his back. His gutsy performance against Illinois will be one that Husker fans never forget.
Last weekend in Chicago was a blast and I feel sorry for everyone who missed out on the fishbowls at Kirkwood. Then there was the actual game, which I have hardly heard about because before the game, they played the National Anthem. (I fully support our players kneeling for their beliefs and am glad they have people talking, even the stupid ones, because those idiots prove why they are needing to take a stand). But yes, there was an actual game played and it hasn’t really been talked about. The Huskers won. They are 4-0. You read that correctly, 4-0!!!!! I haven’t been this happy since the day Bo got fired (November 30 will always be a personal holiday).
Side note: There was a Northwestern player that really stood out to our group. #46 SB Eric Lutzen. Kid had energy for days and was the only Wildcat that I saw never give up. He cheered his team on more than anybody in that stadium. I need this kid to get some playing time. He’s got the most important intangible of all: heart. Get him out there, Fitz.
A LOOK AT ILLINOIS
Lovie Smith was hired at Illinois so people would know the name of one person associated with the program. The last time Illinois won in Lincoln, Calvin Coolidge was president. The year was 1924. The 2016 Illinois squad is coming off two losses from Western Michigan and North Carolina. If I were a betting woman, I would guess that ESPN will remind us of their big win in the first week against the powerhouse that is Murray State. 52-3. A win like that will take it out of you for the next two games so the losses just make sense.
They are probably coming off their bye week and rolling into Lincoln HOT and ready for a piece of the Blackshirts. Just kidding. I might not even go into the game this weekend because it’s going to be so sad to watch. I can tell you the coach’s name, but I can’t name one player on this Illinois squad besides their QB Wes Lunt.
Nobody in the country has watched an Illinois game this season. Probably not even the players because their play would suggest they are not watching film. Looking at their depth chart:
Anyway, the biggest Nebraska concern is a situation with the offensive line. The situation being that both starting guards are now out. RG Tanner Farmer was injured against Northwestern and is out against Illinois.LG Corey Whitaker, who replaced Farmer during the game last Saturday, will again be in for Farmer against Illinois. It looks like Cole Conrad, a sophomore walk-on, will be the backup tackle, center, and guard. Don’t read that last sentence again because it is scary. WR Alonzo Moore will also be out against Illinois. The good news is that this is Illinois which should be like a bye week, followed by an actual bye week, so there should be time for some of these guys to recover.
While there were a few butt-clenching moments and flashbacks to Northwestern games of yore, the 2016 installment of this young rivalry will probably go down as one of the least memorable games of the season.
And that’s not because the Husker fans who made the trip did their best drink Chicago out of beer.
This Husker team is going on to bigger and better things this season and Ryan Field was just another stop on the way to the next one. While the 24-13 final score wasn’t the flashiest, the Huskers did achieve something quite remarkable en route to the W.
They finally found a way to get out of their own way.
Let’s count the miscues that normally would have spelled certain doom.
Two end zone fumbles that took 14 points off the board.
A 42 yard touchdown run by Wildcat QB Clayton Thorson. Last year he gashed the Huskers with runs of 68 and 49 yards.
A pick six thrown by Tommy. Oh wait. That would-be interception was dropped. Thank you, Wildcat defender.
It was so refreshing to see this team be able to put their mistakes behind them and not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. With Illinois coming to Lincoln next week, we’ll find out if these guys really have turned a corner should they find themselves back in an ominous 3rd and 7 situation.
Thanks to a “borrowed” BTN2GO password I was able to take the game with me and watch from my summer home at Dodger Stadium. With Vin Scully in his final weekend at Chavez Ravine and Clayton Kershaw pitching, the streams of my two favorite teams had to be crossed.
The Huskers (mostly) had this one in the bag by first pitch so I didn’t bother those sitting around us too much. However, I did have one nice Tourette’s moment when Newby fumbled into the end zone while I was standing in line for Dodger Dogs.
It was a little embarrassing but at least it made the line a lot shorter.
Mike Riley’s Balloon Watch
Mike went to Chicago, handled his business, and made some new friends.
A little off on this one but at least Northwestern’s kicking woes made the 19 points we predicted for the Wildcats a distinct possibility. (Our scores are averaged from our pre-season predictions.)Had the Kitties scored another touchdown, there’s a good chance their holder who was upgraded to kicker after the starting kicker (who’s really a baseball player) missed a chip shot and a hit the upright on a PAT.
Wildcats, starring Goldie Hawn and a very young Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes turned 30 this year.
NUMBERS TO IMPRESS YOUR FRIENDS WITH
8,927: The number of potholes/divots/holes dug to China on the field. This is a true fact. I counted all of them.
.230: Northwestern kicker Jack Mitchell’s career batting average before he hung up the spikes to focus on kicking his senior year. He’s currently batting .333 when it comes to making field goals.
9: The number of different Huskers who caught passes. (This might be a season high but I’m too lazy to look it up.) Stanley Morgan Jr. led the way with four receptions and Alonzo Moore had the biggest of the night when he hauled in a 59 yarder.
6.6: The Huskers’ average yards per carry was their highest of the season. (I looked it up.) Their lowest average was 3.2 against Wyoming.
132: Tommy broke his career single game rushing record and averaged a brisk 10.2 yards per carry. His previous record was 131 yards against McNeese State in 2014.
10: The number of batters Clayton Kershaw has walked in 142 innings pitched this season. His strikeout to walk ratio is 16.8 to 1.
Fine, Northwestern. You want to be known as the NU of the Big Ten, you can have it.
Even if you Wildcats haven’t been consistently average since the Pappy Waldorf era, those two little letters are all yours. From this day forward, the NU of the Big Ten that is able to boast five National Championships, three Heisman Trophy winners, and a sellout streak running 350 games strong will be henceforth be referred to around these parts as the NU-Tang Clan.
It’s long overdue that the squad that holds the distinction of being the most bad ass team in college football history does a Vulcan mind meld with the most bad ass group in hip hop history.
So now that we’ve successfully rechristened the Huskers, let’s take a special look at all the ways Northwestern is doomed on Saturday. Long story short, there will be no better tomorrow for the Wildcats. The NU-Tang killer Dis gonna swarm and if Northwestern has any luck at all, the won’t experience all 36 chambers of death.
Look for Nate “Ghostface Killah” Gerry to tee off on Wildcat QB Clayton Thorson if he gets cute and tries busting out his Taylor Martinez impression from last year. But it probably won’t even come to that because Thorson will first have to make past Ross “Inspectah Deck” Dzuris” and Michael “Masta Killa” Rose-Ivey.
On the other side of the ball, Tommy “RZA” Armstrong Jr. will be leading the NU-Tang Clan to the promised land again and again. In his previous game at Ryan Field (a dump so bad it makes Staten Island‘s Fresh Kills Landfill look like paradise), he caught a touchdown pass from De’Mornay “U-God” Pierson-El out of sheer boredom.
Then there’s the fact that Jordan “Method Man” Westerkamp will have more friends and family in the stands than the combined total of the Huskers’ travel squad and the actual Wu-Tang Clan. The last time Westy played in the Land of Lincoln, the Huskers fell to Illinois and he had a hard time hauling in any of Tommy’s wind ravaged passes that fell out of the sky so expect him to have a big day in his final go around back home. Since he can’t catch all the passes Cethan “Cappadonna” Carter and Stanley “GZA” Morgan Jr. will be there to spell him.
After starting the season with three tight-ass performances, you can expect Devine “Raekwon” Ozigbo to anchor the rushing attack.
Finally, saving the best for last, Mike “Ol’Dirty Bastard” Riley seems to have found a new ruthless killer instinct during last week’s win over Oregon. If he still believes fortune favors the bold, look for the iced out uniform wearing Huskers to have this game on ice before halftime.