I mentioned a few weeks ago in my Wisconsin game recap that I had only ever cried in Memorial Stadium twice. After this weekend, that tally has gone up to three.
If it had been any other season, the line to get in to the Michigan State game would have been absolutely insane. Instead, East Stadium boasted roughly 30 people waiting for doors to open.
Most people in the student section had the same laid-back mentality going in to this game. No one was expecting a win after how everything has gone down lately, so everyone just wanted to find a way to have some fun.
The Boneyard quickly found their source of entertainment: heckling Connor Cook during warm ups. Excessively.
Everything from taunts about hair gel to asking him to transfer here for this game was being yelled to Cook as he warmed up by throwing the ball. He even humored us by going along with our requests to try throwing with his left arm instead.
The problem? It wasn’t Connor Cook. The Boneyard had been yelling at Michigan State’s long snapper, Taybor Pepper.
Students quickly caught on to Faux Cook’s true identity and began chanting Pepper’s name. I’m sure the long snapper had to be at least a little excited to hear his name echoing through the stadium for once. Or even that that many football fans even knew his name.
Michigan State long snapper and proud fanny pack wearer. Taybor Pepper, everyone.
A while later, the sun set and the starting lineups were being announced. Sadly, Pepper’s name wasn’t called, so we improvised a chant during Connor Cook’s intro instead. Close enough.
The Huskers started out strong with a 10-0 lead early in the first quarter. It was hard not to like how the Huskers looked early on in the game. Right outta the gate the Huskers were showing that they were ready to play an entire 60 minute game against an undefeated Michigan State.
The Spartans made the field goal towards the end of the first quarter, bringing the score to 10-3. All the students cared about was that our new favorite was out on the field. The entire Boneyard chanted Taybor Pepper’s name as latecomers looked around confused as to what was going on.
Now, I could sit here and bore you with the rest of what happened in the middle. Yeah, it was fun, but… come on. Yeah, the Spartans scored some touchdowns, but so did we. The second half started with Michigan State leading 17-13.
Imani Cross‘ touchdown run gave the Huskers a 20-13 lead early in the third quarter.
I know the real reason why you’re here. Either you want to hear about the end of the game or you’re one of the (many) people I shamelessly promoted this column to while I was downtown on Saturday night. Or you’re my mom. Hi mom.
So with that being said—fast forward to the fourth quarter.
The Huskers were down 38-26 after the Spartans capitalized on a nearly nine minute possession. With 4:16 left on the clock, the Huskers had to be quick.
This started the first wave of fair weather fans exiting the stadium. To them, this was just going to be another disappointing heartbreak of a loss. To the rest of us, we knew that stranger things have happened with the Huskers.
With a touchdown from Tommy Armstrong Jr., the Huskers cut Michigan State’s lead to 38-33 with 1:47 left. Force the punt and the Huskers would have enough time to get a touchdown.
And they did.
The Huskers had the ball with just :55 left to do something with it. Two passes from Armstrong to Jordan Westerkamp put Nebraska just 30 yards away from an upset.
Then it happened.
Ask a Husker fan and a Spartan fan about the rules regarding a wide receiver stepping out of bounds and you’re going to get two completely different answers after Saturday’s game. A completed pass from Armstrong to Brandon Reilly lead to a touchdown for Nebraska, yet some people were still unsure as to how he wasn’t ruled out of bounds.
Basically, if Reilly had gone out of bounds on his own, he would’ve been out. But there was clear evidence that the Spartan cornerback had made contact with Reilly.
At this point, I was screaming, hugging everyone within a 20 foot radius of me, and being carried all around the student section. The realization that we were up 39-38 with :17 left in my second to last game as a student hit me hard as I started crying in the middle of the chaos. A tight game was finally going to go our way.
The last seconds ticked down as the Spartans were unable to get in to field goal range in time.
The Huskers won. They finally won. An upset in the final moments of the game and the Huskers were finally on the winning side of it.
Let Me Clear My Throat blasted through Memorial Stadium as everyone both on and off the field cheered, danced, and hugged everyone else. I was there for the 2013 Hail Mary pass against Northwestern and I can honestly say that this victory celebration was so much better.
Dreams come true when you work hard and pray. Go Big Red.
Hayley Archer is a senior Broadcasting major at UNL. Follow her on Twitter at @Harchinator.