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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.


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.



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.


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…


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.


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.