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Huskers vs Michigan State, Exhibit ‘A’ For Never Quitting

The clock on the DVR strikes 2am as Saturday night slips into Sunday morning.

On the TV, Nebraska and Michigan State are in the 4th quarter. The Spartans lead 27 – 3 in a contest that was decided hours earlier.

Tommy Armstrong is on the sideline as trainers and medical staff check to see if his internal organs are still in place after suffering a monster hit. Ryker Fyfe is on the field trying to lead the Huskers to double digit holy land. His gangly flailing brings back bad memories of the Huskers’ desperate attempts to score a single touchdown at USC back in 2006.

Meanwhile, I’m on the couch scooping out globs of kale and Greek yogurt dip with my bare hands. The chips were gone before halftime. I’m fully aware of the depressing nature of the situation but the need for an activity, no matter how sad, to help stay awake and see this game through to the bitter end outweighs any personal dignity.

If Husker Nation could suffer through this deflating, gut punch of a game in real-time, the least I can do experience their pain in a half asleep, zombie fog. Plus, it’s not that bad when you can fast forward through the commercials and Kirk Herbstreit monologues.

HAVE I MENTIONED YET THAT I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA HOW THIS GAME IS GOING TO END?

Thanks to the collision of my two favorite teams, Saturday was a day that started with nervous stress and would end in either anguish or joy. There would be no middle ground if either the Huskers or Dodgers lost.

In our 10th season of going to Dodger games together, my wife and I have our system dialed in.  Every little detail down to our seats being in the shade by exactly one row has been honed and refined to an Ocean’s 11 level of precision. It takes between 35 and 50 minutes to get from our driveway to our seats. With kickoff an hour and a half before the first pitch, my only chance to watch the Huskers in real-time was to make sure we arrived at Dodger Stadium extra early.

Throughout the day, I badgered her with every possible angle- watch BP, snag a seat over the bullpen to see Zack Greinke warm up, grab a slice of pizza at Tommy Lasorda’s.

Eventually, ( I think it was the combination of a Rain Man like insistence that we go directly to our seats and pulling out an iPad and a pair of giant headphones the moment we sat down) she caught on to my real motive and left me in peace to scream to my heart’s content in a nearly empty stadium.

Bo Pelini Dodger Stadium

By the time I looked up from the screen, it was halftime. The Huskers were down 17 – 0 in the most brutal way possible and Dodger Stadium was suddenly filled to capacity.

The surreal nature of not noticing 55,000 people chanting “Let’s go Dodgers!” made me realize just how deep I was buried in my mental Husker bunker. Without giving it a second thought, I ripped off the digital Band-Aid and put all the gadgets away and vowed to go off the grid until I watched the second half play out at home.

It was going to hurt but the only way to enjoy the Dodger game was to try and forget about the Huskers.

With Friday’s implosion still a gushing head wound, the game started off tense. The stadium breathed a sigh of relief when the Dodgers jumped out to an early 2 – 0 lead thanks to pitcher Zack Greinke helping his own cause and A.J. Ellis bumping his postseason batting average to .833.

During lulls in the action, I’d compulsively check my phone but pump the brakes before unlocking the screen. By the 5th inning, unread texts outnumbered the Spartans’ score at halftime. Never a good sign.

Things got so desperate at times I’d even look down towards Magic Johnson to see if I could pick up a clue from his body language.

magic johnson dodger stadium
If Magic cheered between innings, there would be no doubt the Huskers were doomed. He never did.

The Dodgers’ two run lead would stand until the 8th inning when Greinke relinquished the mound to the normally reliable J.P. Howell who promptly gave up a moonshot of a game tying home run.

If the St. Louis Cardinals were a college football team, they’d be a mix of a Oklahoma and Texas- an unholy blend of Sooner Magic and Longhorn arrogance. When they eventually sink in that dagger, they will have shanked you the Cardinal Way.

Thanks Matt Kemp’s heroic bomb in the bottom of the 8th, the Dodgers quickly regained the lead and closer Kenley Jansen slammed the door shut in the 9th.  For one night at least, the Cardinal Way could go kick rocks.

Driving home, post game elation started to give way to inevitable dread somewhere around Korea Town. The feeling was like savoring the last bites of a lobster knowing your next stop is the electric chair.

I was a dead man walking as I went straight from our back door to our living room. My last words to my wife were “I’ll be to bed in a while. Need to watch the Nebraska game.”

“Jill and Holly both texted about that,” was her solemn reply. Jill and Holly are her die-hard LSU fan BFFs. If they were checking me, things did not end well.

I settled in on the couch and started from the very beginning. Watching the first half a second time didn’t hurt any less and opened the door for so much second guessing. Punting from Michigan State’s 30 yard line? Why not give Imani Cross a couple carries just to give the Spartans a different sized body to tackle? Will Jake Cotton ever live down being toppled by a ghost? Doesn’t Tim Beck realize plays out of the wildcat often end in disaster?

As Bo Pelini’s teams have shown, being down 17 points isn’t much of a deficit so maybe the second half would be all Nebraska.

That optimism lasted until the Spartans went up 20 – 0. The game still wasn’t technically out of reach but fumbles and stalled drives started to really hurt. The Blackshirts do a good job of keeping Michigan State out of the end zone, for the most part, further delaying the surely inevitable outcome.

The clock ticks under 5 minutes. The scoreboard has long been frozen at 27 – 9 and Spartan Stadium begins to empty out. The temptation to turn off the TV has never been greater but the Huskers are knocking the door of their second TD of the night. A defensive holding penalty and two rushes by Abdullah later, the score is now 27 – 16.

When Michigan State got the ball back, it took a minute for Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit to realize the Huskers were still in it to win it. They’d punched out on paying attention to the game long before the 4th quarter even started so it came as a shock to see Pelini on the sidelines calling timeouts with teeth gnashing fire.

By the time they finished their calculations and realized there was still chance, no matter how remote, that Huskers could come back, Faux Pelini’s new best friend had already punted the ball away to De’Mornay Pierson-El who promptly took it to the house, bringing Nebraska within five points. If barehanded dip eating was the lowest part of the game, screaming into a throw pillow was the absolute zenith.

The Huskers were suddenly looking down the barrel of their greatest comeback ever. A 36 yard MSU field goal attempt getting blocked by the goalpost confirmed this to be true. It was going to happen. It had to.

Four plays later, the game was over. A Michigan State interception sealed their victory after dodging sure death the play before.

Alonzo Moore
Alonzo Moore gave it everything he could to haul in what could have been the game winner for the Huskers.

After the final whistle, I immediately re-watched the last five minutes just to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. What I saw the second time around was a Husker team that refused to quit. There would have been no shame if Tommy Armstrong chose to call it a night but he was out there with his team fighting until the very end, throwing lasers when it mattered  the most. Seldom used reserves were stepping up in place of injured teammates and a true freshman added to his quickly growing lore with the most exciting play of the night.

While Bo Pelini will tell you he doesn’t believe in moral victories, the fact his team never stopped believing is a huge testament to their drive and character. For 55 minutes they were getting knocked down and pushed around by both luck and the Spartans but they finally found a way to put themselves in a position to win at the every end. And that’s all you can ask for.

There is no reason to be ashamed of this loss.

* When I woke up the next afternoon, (the finish left me so wired I had to read about the game until the sun came up back in Nebraska) I found out I wasn’t the only one who went cold turkey at halftime.

 

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Game Day Preview: Nebraska Cornhuskers vs Michigan State Spartans

It’s gameday!

Or is it?
Cornhusker Game Day
Time zones is confusing to Wanda.

Just so we’re all on the same page,  the official start time for the Cornhuskers is 8pm Eastern Time. That means 7pm back in the land of Runza.

And for this blog, it means one stressful night because the Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles will be squaring off against the St. Louis Cardinals at the same time.

Johnny Stanton demonstrates how Dodger Blue and Husker Red can be a winning combo.

I’ll be at the Dodger game armed with an AM radio to get the sweet, sweet sounds of Vin Scully in one ear, a hopefully functional Huskers app to get the sounds of Greg Sharpe and Matt Davison in the other plus an iPad to watch the game.

If you’re keeping score at home, the last time a Dodger playoff game went up directly against the Cornhuskers was on this very day six years ago.

It was much simpler back in the pre-Twitter era of 2008. Putting yourself in a cone of silence wasn’t impossible, it was downright easy. With the Husker game on the DVR back at home, all I had to do was not check the college football scoreboard on my trusty T-Mobile flip phone. If I remember correctly, I may have even turned my phone off for the entire game.

It wasn’t until we were bouncing back to the car after the Dodgers had swept the Cubs under the rug that I noticed I had a voice mail from a college friend living in Chicago. Thought she was calling to talk smack about the Dodgers slaying her Cubs but nope. She called to vent about the Huskers getting curb stomped by Missouri and ruined an otherwise brilliant plan. If I remember correctly, that game was erased without watching a single play.

And with that one quick message, all the the joy was sucked out of that Dodger victory.

No matter the outcome of the Dodgers’ postseason run, its emotional roller coaster is but a mere bunny slope compared the K12 that is the Huskers’ season. That is the power of Husker fandom.

So, on to tonight’s big showdown –

Confidence: The Cornhuskers  enter the Big Ten’s marquee match up as a solid underdog but the Big Red needn’t fear Michigan State. If the Huskers can execute, there’s no reason they shouldn’t win. (That being said, I won’t be wearing red tonight so as not to be mistaken for a Cardinal fan.)

Scouting Report: Outside of their loss at Oregon, the reigning Big Ten champions have yet to play a team of note with Jacksonville State, Eastern Michigan, and Wyoming rounding out their non-conference schedule. Michigan State has a hoss receiver in the 6’3″ Tony Lippett but the Huskers’ secondary has already gone down that road with Miami’s Phillip Dorsett. If they can keep him and his size at bay, look for it to be a long night for the Michigan State passing game. Michigan State’s defense could give the Huskers fits early on but look for Tim Beck to make continue his hot streak of making good decisions and find a way for the Huskers to move the ball.

Ideal Scenario: The Cornhuskers take the mental toughness that was forged against Miami on the road and stay meltdown-free. Ameer Abdullah gains traction on a possibly wet field and leads the Husker charge in prime time. A strong showing edges him to within striking distance of Marcus Mariota in the Heisman discussion.

Tommy Armstrong breaks off a couple of key runs and takes care of the ball through the air, burning Michigan State deep at least once.

On the Blackshirt side of the ball, Randy Gregory has his coming out party. If the defensive line and secondary can keep things locked down look for Gregory to be turned loose leaving Husker fans to ask, Ndamukong Who?

Over/Under on Angry Bo Close Ups: Four. Look for ABC/ESPN to try to create sideline drama anytime they can.

A Question That Needs an Answer: Which Husker receiver will have a big catch on this trip to RoboCop’s home state?


This Brook Berringer strike to Reggie Baul back in 1995 against the Nick Saban coached Spartans made the pain of a very severe hangover instantly go away.


How huge was Jamal Turner’s game winning catch? My brother was so pumped he called me. A month earlier when his first child was born, he sent me a text.

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Jupiter Was Aligned With Pluto: Proof Nebraska Can Beat Michigan State

This is what things have looked like at Big Red Fury HQ the last few days…

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We stopped taking our crazy pills and went deep down into the college football rabbit hole to find the connection, any connection that would prove the Huskers have the power to take down Michigan State.

Heading into week 6 of the season, teams are becoming intertwined with common opponents. We looked at Nebraska and Michigan State’s opponents. We looked at their opponent’s opponents. We looked at their opponent’s opponent’s opponents. No stone or conference went unturned. Never before have the  South Dakota Coyotes received so much scrutiny.

THESE ARE OUR FINDINGS:

NEBRASKA VS MICHIGAN STATELast night’s Duck Hunt, only helped solidify our theory that was sketched out underneath the patently obvious (in red).

Michigan State’s signature loss of the season (so far) came at the hand of Oregon which is not coincidentally the only real competition the Spartans have faced. These are the same Ducks that struggled to put away a Washington State team that opened their season by losing at home Rutgers. Rutgers in turn lost to Penn State who we all know went on to be mauled by the Northwestern Wildcats back home in State College, PA.

In their season opener, Northwestern was taken down by Cal 31 – 24. Last weekend, the Golden Bears took Arizona to the brink on the road, losing 49 – 45 on a last second Hail Mary that made the Westercatch look like a routine play.

So back to last night, the Oregon Ducks could only hang 24 points on Arizona. (Yes, we know Oregon’s O-line is depleted and the D has suffered some key injuries, but still.) While Oregon showed some brief flashes of what had previously qualified them as the number 2 team in the country, Arizona had a harder time with UTSA (a team in its 4th season) and the Nevada Wolfpack.

Nevada, in case you haven’t been paying close attention, took down Washington State 24 – 13 — a bigger margin of victory than Oregon. The week before, the Wolfpack opened their 2014 season with a 28 – 19 win over the Southern Utah Thunderbirds.

Two weeks ago, Fresno State finally notched their first victory of the year when they defeated Southern Utah 56 -16.

Finally, Michigan State and Oregon did a about the same against their common foe Wyoming, winning 56 – 14 and 48 – 14 respectively. Between losses, the Cowboys edged Nebraska’s first foe, Florida Atlantic, 20 – 19. Of FAU’s two wins this season, their most recent was against UTSA, a team that snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against Arizona.

Pee Wee Herman

But what we do know is that college football is a weird and wacky sport and Nebraska should have no reason to be afraid of Michigan State Saturday night.

If the Huskers take care of the ball and turn Ameer Abdullah and Randy Gregory loose, they should have no problem leaving East Lansing 6 and 0.

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Tim Beck Mentioned for KU Job. Husker Fans Offer to Help Move.

Tim Beck‘s name was one of many that college football prognosticators plucked out of their magic hats as a candidate to replace Charlie Weis at Kansas.

Coincidentally, the last time Beck was involved with a squad that was undefeated so deep into a season was the 2007 Kansas squad that torched Nebraska 76 – 39.

The only positives from that game were finally getting to see what Joe Ganz could do and vicariously getting a taste of what’s like to be a Kansas fan. This guy was the lone invited Husker to a KU alumni meet up for that game. Many Jayhawk tears of joy were spilled on the day the mighty Big Red was finally vanquished.

But back to Tim Beck. You’d think a guy who’s helped get his team off to a 6 and 0 start and has his offense running like a top (thanks, Ameer) would get a little more respect.

From the Husker Extra Facebook page:
Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 8.10.18 AM
Tim Beck Can Go To Kansas
Well, at least if Beck does get job get the job for some bizarre reason, at least he’ll know who he can call to get some help moving south of the border.

A pair of comments that deserve a special mention –  Husker Fans
TedandJulie- people who share Facebook pages aren’t simply weird, they’re flat out creepy. Despite the urban legends, you know Facebook accounts are free, right? How do the logistics of such an arrangement even work? Do you confer upon an opinion before posting it or just go rogue as you please? Or is this all part of a bigger plan to keep the ladies away from Ted? Seriously, being part of a conjoined twin would be easier and less stressful to pull off than sharing a Facebook account.

And Matthew, really? Tim Beck looked like “a deer looking at headlights“? You mean that time his friend and boss was carted away in an ambulance to the ER in a situation where death wasn’t a hard outcome to imagine. Is that the time you’re talking about?

Way to keep it classy, Husker fans.

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Game Day Preview: Nebraska Cornhuskers vs Illinois Fighting Illini

Three things we learned in compiling this Nebraska – Illinois preview:

1. The Illinois Fighting Illini must have had one roll of film in their camera during the 1980’s. Case in point, a Google Image Search for Jeff George. There is not a single photo of him and his sweet mustache in an Illinois uniform to be found on the internet which really throws our plans for a sweet stache bash between George and Jordan Westerkamp for a loop.

Jeff George Mustache

2. If photos the most famous/notorious player to ever wear blue and orange barely exist, good luck finding a photo of Jordan Westerkamp’s dad Bob in action for the Fighting Illini.

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3. Jordan Westerkamp’s older brother Matt has an amazing mullet.

matt-westerkamp
Between Jordan’s stache and Matt’s mullet, the Westerkamp bros could give the Franco bros a run for their money.

Now that your mind is blown, here’s what you need to know about tonight’s match up.

Confidence: The Illini travel to Nebraska for the second year in a row (nice scheduling, Big Ten) and the outcome won’t be any different.

Scouting Report: According to Steven M. Sipple, the Illini run Tim Beck’s favorite offense – that multiple one. They come in to Lincoln with a 3-1 record- their lone loss a drubbing at the hands of a rebuilding Washington team. It’s also worth noting that the Illini’s first victory was at the expense of Youngstown State so it will be interesting to see if Bo Pelini goes for a little get back in honor of his hometown. Illinois might burn Nebraska a couple of times but look for the Blackshirts to have things on lock down by halftime.

Ideal Scenario: First and foremost the 8pm(!) kickoff should be late enough to scare away the blue hairs who would otherwise sit on their keisters and complain about the Huskers’ alternate uniforms.

nebraksa alternate uniform
The helmet is killer. The actual uniform is still a little off. The reflective numbers and accents are going to wreak havoc for photographers.

Continue to see Ameer Abdullah go HAM. With Oregon off this week, ESPN will be Marcus Mariotta free so tonight is a great chance for Ameer to be in the spotlight and build his Heisman case, except that dang 8pm kick off (the blue hairs may have a valid point) means the game won’t end unit close to 1am on the East Coast. So here’s to Ameer going off in the first half.

The other storyline to consider is if Jordan Westerkamp will show any mercy to his home state team and his dad’s alma mater. Illinois and every other school recruited Jordan before he ultimately chose Nebraska. Here’s hoping his roommate slings a few big passes his way.

Look for the Husker starters to turn things over to the back ups by the early 4th quarter and start resting up for next week’s showdown at Michigan State. The Husker faithful stay in the stands until the very end unless making it to last call with time to spare becomes an issue.

Over/Under on Angry Bo Close Ups: 3 with the game on the Big Ten Network and a soft opponent, don’t look for Bo’s rage to be an issue tonight.

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Marching Band to Honor Ameer Abdullah. Husker Fans Outraged.

Tomorrow night, while Ameer Abdullah is taking a breather in the locker room, the Husker marching band will pay tribute to his so far amazing season with a ‘Fear Ameer’ homage of their own.

Naturally, this gesture has been met with resistance.

From the Lincoln Journal Star’s Facebook page-

Ammer Abdullah Journal Star
While the very premise of this site is to focus on the inane comments from the “most knowledgeable fans in college football,” we’ll be the first to admit we’re happy to be scraping the bottom of the comment barrel this far into the Huskers’ season.

With the team 4 and 0 and firing on most cylinders most of the time, Bo Pelini keeping his rage in check, and Tim Beck having lost the pages of his playbook that don’t involve getting the ball to Abdullah, this season has been drama free.

UNTIL THE DAMN MARCHING BAND ANNOUNCED THEIR PLANS TO GET CUTE.

We agree, Christy Sueverkruepp, you shouldn’t dare spell Fear Ameer without also spelling out Alexis Lewis, Jake Cotton, Mark Pelini, Mike Moudy, and Zach Sterup.

But why stop there? You gotta dream big just like those guys lower on the depth chart who are working just as hard as the starters. They deserve credit too. It just isn’t fair and we gotta say, seeing Chongo Kondolo spelled across Tom Osborne Field would look pretty bad ass.

However, Suzanne Brown, we do need to pump the brakes on your suggestion to honor the “smart students.” By your definition, what qualifies as “smart?” The several thousand student’s who make the Dean’s List each semester, or would you require someone with a 4.0 or even higher achievements? But then again, even though an ACT score of only 18 was required for this author to get into UNL, you do have to be pretty smart to even be in college.

And to borrow Christy’s logic, what about the professors who made the students so smart in the first place? If being a Heisman Trophy contender is grounds for getting your catchphrase spelled by the marching band, then Roger W. Mandigo deserves no less than John Philip Sousa‘s entire catalog for inventing the motherf’ing McRib.

Finally, in semi-related news, an Omaha World Herald employee has take to his employer’s Facebook Page to complain about the oppressively late start times of Husker games.
World Herald 1
World Herald 2

Oh Joshua, we wish we could be in the same room as you when you find out tomorrow night’s kickoff is at the ungodly late hour of 8pm.

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Nebraska vs Miami: Breaking Down the Play of the Game

Before we turn our focus to Nebraska’s Big Ten opener with Illinois, let’s take one final look at the Miami game – specifically the play that was the final nail in Hurricanes’ coffin.

It was a thing of Blackshirt beauty and was no accident.

The Huskers settled for a field goal to go up by 10 with nine minutes remaining in the 4th quarter. Miami got the ball back starting from their own 25. Four plays and barely two minutes later, they were at the Nebraska 35 but had stalled out.

Looking down the barrel an absolutely crucial 4th and 4, Nebraska called time out and Coach Papuchis “saw something” and called for true freshman Josh Kalu to drop into zone coverage.

What Igor signaled was a classic example of pattern matching.

(Quick plug time: If you really want to learn about what makes a defense tick, Chris Brown‘s Essential Smart Football is the best $7.49 you will ever spend.)

Now back to the play at hand. It’s 4th and 4 at the Nebraska 35. The Huskers had finally found an answer for Hurricanes’ screen passes and had all but shut down running back Duke Johnson. The most appealing option left for Miami would be a pass along the sideline to one of their hoss receivers. This is a well they dipped into throughout the night with much success.

As Nebraska lines up for the snap, notice how deep Nate Gerry is playing.

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This is all just  a ruse. As Miami’s Brad Kaaya begins his snap count, Gerry creeps towards the line of scrimmage but he’s not blitzing.

Nebraska-Interception-1
Notice how Gerry comes set at the exact moment Kaaya receives the snap.

The play begins and Kalu starts shuffling back to cover Miami’s slot receiver until he breaks to the inside. Instantly, Kalu hands him off to Gerry who is positioned perfectly to continue covering the receiver.

Nebraska-Interception-2
Seamlessly “turning over” a receiver to another defender is a key element of pattern matching.

Kaaya releases the ball under the assumption that he’s throwing into one-on-one coverage, a situation where Miami’s receiving corps dominated the entire game- until Josh Kalu seemingly appears out of nowhere and intercepts the ball so effortlessly you’d think it was thrown to him on purpose.

Nebraksa-Interception-3
This pass had 1st down written all over it until Josh Kalu said otherwise.

Among all the big time plays Nebraska made Saturday night, this one was the biggest. A perfect, designed outcome in a clutch situation. Kalu’s grand entrance on the Blackshirt stage was reminiscent of an unknown kid by the name of Eric Hagg being turned loose at the end of the 2009 Gator Bowl and coming up huge with a pass break up and a sack when Clemson was looking at a 1st and ballgame from the Nebraska 10 yard line.

While the Husker peanut gallery would love a big play every time the Blackshirts are on the field, the years have shown Pelini doesn’t reach for the ace in the hole until his team is right on the edge of falling into one.

Think of it as the Blackshirt  version of Hulking up.

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It’s Time Coach Papuchis Got a Nickname

Unlike the half dozen or so fans at our Husker watch site afflicted with a Tourette’s like compulsion to yell some variation of Papuchis any time there’s a Blackshirt miscue, I will proudly go on record and say that I love the guy.

While this love for John Papuchis isn’t quite at the level of a serious man crush, there is solid admiration for a dude of decidedly modest stature who can lead and motivate a legion bad asses and doesn’t melt when Bo Pelini’s rage goes thermonuclear.

Papuchis 1
Papuchis may not melt under the glare of Pelini but a little personal security is never a bad idea.

In fact, as the match up with Miami showed, it appears his third season as Defensive Coordinator is a charm for Papuchis. Watch as he harnesses Pelini’s rage into his own after the interception that was nullified due to a bogus roughing the passer call.

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Just look at that laser focus. Papuchis is like a lion cub stalking his very first prey. He ignores Kenny Bell’s plea to get out of the scrum and tentatively joins the polite conversation. Notice how he licks his lips and goes for the kill. You can clearly tell he’s saying ‘after his pass’ to hammer home Pelini’s argument. While his head veins might not have the same bulge as his boss’, it’s clear Papuchis has forgotten what it’s like to know fear- like a guy who has spent a lot of time being exposed to Heart of Darkness kind of stuff.

Seriously, just look at the way he bares his fangs. Papuchis might have a baby face but that is the look of a man ready to tear out his first throat.

Pelini Papuchis

But where have we seen this expression before?

John Papuchis vs Igor

Oh hello, Igor.

Before you say bestowing the nickname Igor upon Papuchis is rude, consider for a moment the monsters he and his master have created. These are but only two of their masterpieces.

Randy Gregory-2

Ndamukong Suh

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Recap: Husker Red Storm Sends Hurricanes Packing

As Saturday night’s slug fest entered the 4th round, this is what the Miami Hurricanes had to say on Facebook.

Miami Facebook 1

While Husker Nation would probably chose different, non-misspelled F-word to describe the antics of the Hurricanes, Bo Pelini scoured his defensive playbook for that one play where the biggest bad ass on the field destroys the opposing quarterback.

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Oh Brad Kaaya, you’re so lucky Randy Gregory will be playing on Sundays next year.

After running back Duke Johnson got stuffed on the following play, Miami responded with the force of a Category 5 hurricane.

Miami Facebook 2

14:35 later, the Canes would have to settle being the first team to ever to be booed out of Memorial Stadium and went back to Miami with their collective tail between their legs. There would be no strippers or blow waiting for them upon landing at MIA.

But at least they had well wishes of Kenny Bell to keep them company on the long ride home.

Of all the “big” wins in the Bo Pelini era, taking down Miami was by far the most satisfying. Provided they don’t slip up next week against Illinois, this could very well go down as the game that solidifies the Huskers for the season and perhaps years to come.

Miami took the field with all their swagger from the days of yore. After drawing first blood on the first drive of the game, the table was set for another Husker meltdown.

Instead, this generation’s Hurricanes were given a clinic in what Husker Power is all about. Tommy Armstrong responded by leading a touchdown drive of his of his own (capped by a 40 yard strike to Kenny Bell) and it was game on.

Every time there was a miscue (fumble, interception, dumb penalty) or fight that could have blown the wheels off the Husker Wagon, the team rebounded and stayed focused. This was by far the most mentally strong Bo Pelini’s Huskers have ever been.

For 60 minutes they went toe-to-toe, mano-a-mano, and didn’t take any shit from those shit talkers from the the 305.

Late in the game when the Canes stole a page from the Cobra Kai playbook and tried to rip Ameer Abdullah’s head clean off, the Huskers responded with the kind of play that got the blood of the East Stadium Blue Hairs pumping for the first time since the mid 90’s.

Ameer Abdullah's Neck
The look of a ref who’s afraid he’ll have to tell his boss that a player was decapitated on his watch.

While Nebraska’s final score wasn’t a full back trap up the gut, it was a thing of vintage Husker power football beauty.

Let’s break it down-

AMEER TOUCHDOWN 1
Hats on hats. By the looks of things, Ameer is in a one-on-one situation with a Miami player who’s already locked in on him.

AMEER TOUCHDOWN 2Ameer starts to get low and crash the hole. That poor Hurricane has no idea what’s about to hit him.

AMEER TOUCHDOWN 3Didn’t Miami watch the McNeese State film? An Arm tackle will not bring down Ameer Abdullah. And look what happened to our poor sap all set to engage. Mike Moudy uses the guy’s own teammate to absolutely truck him. It was a total 2 Hurricanes 1 Husker kind of situation.

AMEER TOUCHDOWN 4
Ameer busts through and into the open like the Millennium Falcon flying out of the Death Star at the end of Jedi. Look at all that space.

AMEER TOUCHDOWN 5
Ameer cuts to the right of Mark Pelini to shove one last TD down the gullet of Sebastian the Ibis.

We’ll see you next year, Miami.

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A Bloody Odd Couple

Growing up in the 1980s, kids had a pretty standard set of villains haunting their nightmares. Freddy Kruger, Michael Meyers and Jason Voorhees formed the unholy triumvirate that spooked most Gen-Xers in their formative years.

But the two monsters that kept me cold-sweating into the wee hours of the morning were Cujo:

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And fucking Sebastian the Ibis:

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Children of the Cornhusker State may have written Sebastian off as no more than the malignant alter ego of Donald Duck.  But I didn’t.  Beyond the cartoonish “tough-guy” sneer, this was a bird capable of (and ever willing to) rip the still-beating heart right out of your chest.

bloody ibis

Starting with the 1984 Orange Bowl and continuing on to the 2002 Rose Bowl, Sebastian and his Hurricane Horde frequently left Nebraska teams in physical and/or emotional devastation.  And, by extension, their wide-eyed fans.

I don’t need to recap the path of destruction Miami laid upon Husker history these past 30 years.  We all know it.

But as the Hurricanes get ready to storm Lincoln on Saturday, I’ve developed a strange sensation.  A bittersweet nostalgia. Which is not what I expected. I am , in many respects, still reeling from my one and only experience seeing these two teams clash in person — the Nightmare in Pasadena.

As rivalries go, Nebraska and Miami are an odd coupling. Nebraska’s quiet and reserved Felix Unger to Miami’s brash Oscar Madison.

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It’s hard to think of two locations in the country that have less in common.  And, yet, thanks to college football, Lincoln has often been on Miami’s mind and vice versa.

In the summer of 1994, as a second-year freshman at UNL, I flew out to LA to participate in a week-long media workshop.  The event was attended by two to three hundred Hollywood-aspiring college kids from all over North America.  The organizers of the event made a concerted effort to assure that students from varied backgrounds intermingled. For example, we were all housed in suites at UCLA’s Olympic village and, in my four-man dorm, I was joined by a guy from Montreal, another from Maryland and Heath, from Miami.

We all wore badges with our names and Universities on them. When Heath saw mine, he immediately bore a huge grin and said, “Cornhuskers.” Surprised by this greeting, I read his name tag and stammered, “Hurricanes.” We then became best buddies the rest of the week. Which weirded-out the dude from Maryland who saw Heath as a potential clubbing partner. Someone he could be wing-man to, because Heath — sure as shit — wasn’t going to be his.

Despite the organizer’s best efforts to scatter the participants based on backgrounds, students from the same colleges did end up grouping. Heath found a buddy from Miami. And I formed a mini-wolfpack with another UNL student and a guy from UNO. These two groups then became a college-football gabfest — reliving the rise of the Hurricanes and the folly of the Huskers. We were still six months away from Nebraska exacting its revenge in the 1995 Orange Bowl.

Now, beyond this (albeit) intense bit of mutual interest, Heath and I didn’t have all that much in common. He was attending the workshop as part of his dream to enter sports broadcasting. I, on the other hand, was an aspiring Francois Truffaut. As odd a couple as the Hurricanes and Huskers themselves. But there was something magical about this bonding. Kind of like a cool kid in high school taking a shine to one of the students who dwells in the periphery.

Sort of like the movie, “Lucas,” I guess.

So, the Ibis isn’t quite as scary as he used to be coming into Lincoln this Saturday. Much like his last appearance at Memorial Stadium. This will be the first meeting since then that the outcome won’t determine a National Title. An astonishing 5 such matches have been played in the interim (with Miami winning 4 of those).

Part of me is excited at the prospect of Miami’s offensive line being grossly outmatched by the Blackshirts on the other side of the trench. Seeing the Huskers walk all over da U would do a lot to wash away the bitter taste left by the 2002 Rose Bowl.

On the other hand, another part of me wishes it was the same swaggering Miami. The gnarly old bird gnashing its beak through the tunnel smoke. The dirty albatross around Nebraska’s neck.

A win against the mystique, after all, is the kind that forms bonds across the varied American patchwork.

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