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November, you were the worst sports month of my life

Prologue: A story in two photos.

January 3, 2002

One of these guys grew up to be a brain surgeon. The other thought dying his hair red was brilliant idea.

For 15 years, this photo of my brother and myself represented the happiest moment of my life as a sports fan.

Thanks to a ridiculous string of miracles and some computer magic, a Husker season that had been torpedoed by the Colorado Buffalos was salvaged from the depths of despair as the Big Red was chosen to head west and face off against the Miami Hurricanes for the BCS National Championship.

After a couple days showing my brother and his buddies who road tripped out from Lincoln all the best that my still newish city of Los Angeles had to offer (we feasted like kings at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles and got to see a dancer at Jumbo’s Clown Room beat the ever loving crap out of a disrespectful patron who dared to tip her by snapping a quarter at her head) it was time for the main event.

And there we were. In the second row, straddling the 50 on the Huskers’ side of the field. My  brother scored our tickets through his roommate who was a student trainer on the team. While we had hopes, we really didn’t believe our randomly assigned face value tickets were going to be the best seats in the house until we found ourselves sitting eye ball to eye ball with the prominently displayed Sears Trophy that would soon belong to the Huskers.

And then they had to play the damn game.

November 1, 2017

12 years after I tried talking her into stealing a tub of spicy mustard at our first game together we were at game 7 of the World Series. 

Cut to 15 years later. Somehow I’ve managed to become a semi-respectable adult who married a diehard Dodger fan. Since we first started dating in 2005, we’ve been to nearly 200 games together. The previous four seasons were spent in our seats in Section 2 watching Dodger playoff runs come to disappointing finishes.

But this season was different.

The Boys in Blue slugged it out to the end of the line and Dodger fans were treated to November baseball for the first time ever in the form of game 7 of the World Series.

The night before, we spent our Halloween at the ballpark watching the Dodgers deliver a game that was all trick and no treat to level the World Series at three games a piece. Contrary to the reputation of the average Dodger fan, Section 2 remained full an hour after the final pitch. There were hugs, high fives, and group photos. When you spend so many seasons sitting next to the same people, they become your summer family.

That energy carried over the next day to game 7. Imagine if the Huskers ever get the chance to play for a Natty in Lincoln and you have an idea what the scene was like in Dodger Stadium. Every playoff game up until this moment was just a warmup for what was going to be the grand finale to a dream season. The stadium and city were ready to celebrate.

And then they had to play the damn game.

November 4 – Northwestern

I snap out of my Dodger induced depression long enough to entertain some friends and a neighbor who’s a Northwestern alum, which causes my wife to break out the fancy snacks and put me on my best behavior. Up until that crushing game 7 loss, I’ve never experienced a Dodger defeat that felt anywhere close the pain of a Husker loss (back when losing was a rarity, of course). The fact that game 7 mirrored the Huskers’ loss in the Rose Bowl only added to the misery. Being down 5-0 in the second inning brought back a lot of memories of seeing the Huskers down 34-0 at halftime. Being there to see your favorite teams play for a championship is truly a special, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity but seeing them get shellacked will leave some very deep and painful memories.

In this game, Northwestern added to the pain by gashing the Blackshirts with a few option runs straight out of TO’s playbook. Still, the Huskers were in control until they weren’t. The shit really hit the fan in overtime as Wildcats started with the ball and proceeded to run it down Nebraska’s throat. 7 rushes. 25 yards. One game winning touchdown. And one stunned neighbor after I had to step outside and scream for a moment.

November 11 – Minnesota

Breakfast of Champions for the worst Husker game of my life.

There’s no way to sugarcoat this one. This was the worst Husker game that has ever been played in my lifetime. Sure, you can argue that Texas Tech or Kansas were worse but having a bad (by Minnesota’s own low standards) Gopher team hang half a hundred on the Huskers takes the cake. Or in this case it had me taking down enough donuts to fill a freshly dug grave that will be the final resting place of this dreadful season. Out of all 19 losses in Mike Riley’s three years at the helm, this one hurt the worst because the team flat out quit against a mediocre opponent. By the final whistle, I was laying on the floor in a semi-conscious sugar coma wondering what Husker Nation did to deserve this misery.

November 18 – Penn State 

This place used to be full of happy Husker fans.

To try and break out of the funk and get things back to the good ol’ days, some friends and I make a plan to meet up at the bar that has been Hollywood’s Husker headquarters since 2010. Including ourselves, the number of Husker fans in attendance peaked at 7 and our table was the only one that stuck around until the bitter end. That glimmer of hope in the first quarter was a welcome sight but this game was so ugly that even Ohio State’s meanest fan offered her sincere condolences.

November 24 – Iowa 

Seven fans the week before is no reason to open a bar early on Black Friday so the three of us who are suddenly without a place to take our lumps in public head over to Barney’s Beanery where we are outnumbered by a table of real-life Central Florida fans who, by the basis of arriving before us, got to control the sound on the TVs so we got to enjoy watching the Huskers get taken to the woodshed in silence.

But that’s OK because by the time you read this, we’ll have taken their coach.

Bring on a frosty December.


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Ah crap. You mean there’s a game tonight?

Confession time.

I’ve been a bad Husker fan this season.

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.

ICYMI

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.

CAN THE HUSKERS’ INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT PLEASE GET A NEW CATCHPHRASE? 

Lock in was clever the first few times but now it’s as played out at one of Dirk’s hot takes. Let’s change it up. Please.


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Sunday Hot Take: Burn It to the Ground 

Burn it to the ground.

All of it.

The only way to recover from two consecutive beat downs under the Memorial Stadium lights (not to mention 15 years of WTF) is to scrap the whole damn thing and rebuild the Husker football program from the ground up.

Last week’s Badger buggering should have been enough to make the current staff and team gather in a circle of trust and vow to do whatever it takes to ensure something like that never happens again.

Well, it continued to happen against Ohio State from the opening kickoff to the final whistle. The only merciful thing about last night’s pummeling is that the Buckeyes didn’t wait until the second half to take the Huskers to the woodshed. They were Mike Tyson in the ring against Michael Spinks. This game was over the moment it began and it was a welcome relief. With the Huskers getting their ass kicked from the get go, I was able to fully enjoy our evening at Dodger Stadium instead of having to obsessively check on the Huskers every 10 seconds like I did during the Wisconsin game.

And that really sucks because for as long as I can remember, every Husker loss has been a brutal gut punch that has left me sick to my stomach for days after.

Last night was the first time I’ve ever felt a sense of relief that the Huskers lost. That didn’t even happen in the dregs of the Bill Callahan era.

BREAKING UPDATE

Since I started writing this, the University of Nebraska announced that Washington State Athletic Director Bill Moos has been hired as the new AD. 

Well Bill, if you happen to read this while you’re getting up to speed on all things Huskers, here’s are five things you need to do. 

1. Reassign Mike Riley to Head Coach of Righteous Good Times and Other Fun Stuff. Riley’s body language sideline demeanor during this season’s blowouts clearly says he’s over it. While he still has some gas in the tank, Riley can be the cuddly grandpa that the players turn to when the coach you inevitably hire is being too much of a hard ass on their fragile psyches. He can spend his newfound free time organizing field trips and hooking the team up with Kendrick Lamar tickets and continuing to be the coolest old guy in football.

2. Ditch the social media department until the Huskers start winning. The goddamn easiest job in the athletic department without question belongs to whoever runs the Huskers’ Instagram account. With the team in the shitter they’ve all but stopped posting so what’s the point of having #OnBrand #Content when the team is so bad there’s nothing worth sharing?

2b. Whoever the next coach is has to go out there and find guys on each side of the ball who could care less about social media. The players who will be the foundation for turning the program around are the kind of psychos who have better things to do than spend their free time tweeting their recruiting offers and fishing for likes and retweets from thirsty adult fans. Oh, and find a QB who can run the ball and throw the ball.

3. Close the Ndamukong Suh Center For Enhanced Athletic Excellence (or whatever it’s called) until the players earn the right to workout on fancy and clean exercise equipment. Go steal a stack of hay bales from East Campus and poach some cinder blocks and rebar from a construction site and pile everything up behind the stadium and tell the players to bulk up prison style. If they really want to get bigger, faster, and stronger, they’ll find a way to make it happen without the Ivan Drago Signature Series line of weights.

4. Find coaches on both sides of the ball who understand simpler is better in the college game. No scheme should take years to implement. It’s football. You run the ball, you throw the ball,  you tackle whoever has the ball, and sometimes you kick the ball. The dynasty era Husker playbook was easy enough for anyone to understand and execute and it worked pretty good.

5. WIN.

MIKE RILEY’S BALLOON WATCH™


It’s going to be hard to get any worse than it is now. 


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Welcome to the Groundhog Day of Miserable Saturdays

This time last Saturday morning I was doing the exact same thing that I’m doing right now- sitting on the couch in our TV room, drinking coffee, watching a college football game I don’t care about, and writing a half assed blog about the misery I will be enduring in a few hours.

The Scheduling Gods hate me.  

The only indicator that this is indeed a new Saturday is the palm sweat that breaks out whenever I think about what’s in store for the evening. The stakes for my two favorite teams have been ratcheted up a little higher. The Dodgers are one step closer to the World Series and the Huskers have the potential to pull off an upset against Ohio State, or have their season get even worse.

At least there was a little breathing room between the Huskers and the Dodgers last Saturday night. Thanks to the magic of living in the future I was able to stream most of the first half of the Wisconsin game. For the first four plays the offense was rolling on a gravy train with biscuit wheels and all was right with the world.

Then Tanner Lee had to throw another opening drive pick six that was virtually identical to his first one against Northern Illinois.

Then I screamed “motherf*cker” in a half empty Dodger Stadium.

My reflexive yell scared the bejeesus out of the fella we’ve sat next to for the past four seasons. As a Dodger fan, I’ve been through thick and thin with Don but it always surprises him when Crazy Husker Fan Todd makes an appearance at the ballpark. Adding to my personal hell was the fact that his wife is as big an Iowa fan as he is a Dodger fan so she was having a mighty good time at the Huskers’ expense.

If you’re keeping score at home, the stress eating stopped when the baseball game started. The playoffs make me way too nervous to eat anything other than my rally towel. 

After Stanley Morgan Jr. took a terrific 80 yard reception to the end zone, it was time for Dodger baseball so I tucked my iPad under my seat and felt good about Huskers only being down 10-7 at halftime.

Somehow that halftime score became 17-10 but I was feeling really good when Aaron Williams tied it up with a pick six of his own. The Dodgers were on the board and the Huskers were setting the table for an upset.

Then the Badgers remembered their playbook was full of unstoppable running plays and spent the remainder of the game shoving the ball down the Blackshirts’ throat. Meanwhile, the Dodgers methodically hung up six runs over two innings with a lone double as the biggest hit. If there was a baseball equivalent of three yards and a cloud of dust, the Dodgers were doing it.

I learned last Saturday night that there’s no weirder purgatory of a feeling than screaming your head off for one team while feeling completely miserable about the other.

Will tonight be any different?

Who knows?

It will either be really good, really craptastic, or somewhere in the middle. Whatever I gain by not having to deal with the trash Ohio State fans who overtake our shared watch site, I lose by having to deal with obnoxious Cubs fans who always swarm Dodger Stadium.

At least the Dodgers added a new churro sundae served in a helmet to the menu for this weekend. If I shovel one of these down between kickoff and first pitch I’ll be ready for anything tonight.

I really hope those are pieces of a full size churro.

Go Huskers. Let’s go Dodgers.

One of these years they’ll both win on the same night.


 

 

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It’s going to be the best night ever or the worst night ever. Or somewhere in-between.

In what has been a semi-regular tradition since 2008, the Huskers will be playing at the exact same time the Los Angeles Dodgers are battling in the playoffs.

If you want a portal into what personal hell looks like, this is it. No sports fan should ever have to deal the the anguish and suspense of their two favorite teams playing simultaneously.

After a spending late night at Dodger Stadium, I woke up at the crack of noon today and have been pacing around the house until it’s time to make the four mile drive back to the ballpark.

By this point, my wife and I have the crossing of team streams down to a semi-exact science. We’ll be in our seats in time for kickoff and I’ll proceed to spend the next hour screaming into a rally towel as I watch the game unfold a few plays behind real-time on my iPad. Once the it’s time for Dodger baseball, I do my best to put the Husker game in the hands of the Football Gods but that never works and I devolve into stress eating garlic fries.

Out of all the times my two worlds have collided, neither the Huskers or the Dodgers have managed to both win. Tonight’s as good as a night as any for that to change.

The Dodgers will be going up against Dbacks pitcher Robbie Ray who is 3-0 against the Boys in Blue this season and has posted a 0.92 ERA in his three starts at Dodger Stadium in 2017.

Meanwhile, the Huskers are trying to avoid making it five losses in a row to those goddamn Badgers including back-to-back heartbreakers. Well, here’s the deal nobody is talking about.

Those goddamn Badgers aren’t that good. They had to rely on Northwestern’s screw ups to win last week and their signature victory was against a BYU team that is 1-5 and all kinds of shitty. As long as Tanner Lee doesn’t score more points for the Badgers than his own offense, the Huskers should win tonight.

Final score: Huskers: 27 –  Badgers: 17


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Breaking Badgers with Cousin Ben (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…

Cousin Ben… ready for business or basketball.

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!]

OFFENSE 

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.

DEFENSE

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.]

SPECIAL TEAMS

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.]

FINAL JUDGEMENT

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.]


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If you start out depressed, everything’s kind of a pleasant surprise.

STATE OF THE SEASON:

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.

Can Mike Riley win back the hearts of Husker Nation?

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


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Sunday Morning Hot Takes: Northern Illinois Edition

Well, it happened. Northern Illinois broke me.

Over the course of 60 minutes, the youthful exuberance and optimism that I’ve had for the Huskers since the age of Game of the Century II was ripped from my body.

It wasn’t a swift, it-will-only-hurt-for-a-second, pulling of the Band-Aid that held what was left of  my spirit together. It was a back alley surgery done by a community college dropout equipped with nothing more than a rusty Garden Weasel and a bottle of expired Robitussin to use as anesthesia.

When I finally regained consciousness following this Medieval procedure, there was no physical evidence of the damage that was inflicted, only a feeling of emptiness where my Husker soul once resided.

Then I looked in the mirror and discovered my hair had been seared into a shade of white, highlighted by a distinct hue.

Congratulations, Huskers.

You did it.

You turned me into a Blue Hair.

Before today, I had a little grey around the ears but I thought for sure I had another decade and a half before the Grumpy Old Man Achievement was unlocked. But nope, today was the fateful day. I didn’t even get to make a pit stop at the Run the Ball Guy level. The Northern Illinois game transported me right to the end.

At least my youth went out with a bang. I watched the game alone in the fort that sits at the top of our backyard and fixed myself a hearty breakfast of Lucky Charms and a few beermosas. I  was living that best life that Ben Sasse hates all too well. It was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning.

Then Tanner Lee threw a pick six and then another one for good measure and then I switched to drinking straight beer.

When that shit show mercifully ended, I holed up in the fort long after the final whistle, laying on the floor, using an inflatable beach chair as a pillow, and doing my best to avoid my lovely wife, who would no doubt ask if the Huskers won. We’ve been together for 12 years and outside that glimmer of hope in 2009, she’s never known the Huskers as a good team. It’s been a long running joke in her family about how every season is going to be the year until it isn’t. Sunday afternoon she’ll have a few laughs with her Georgia Tech alum father about my misery and she’ll pass along the cleverly underhanded condolences from her mother. (I swear the lady does research in order to craft the perfectly cruel thing to say.)

The most biting part of losing to Northern Illinois is that it doesn’t sting. It’s a new, undiscovered level of embarrassment.

From 1987-2001, the Huskers lost 26 games and every single one was a devastating loss. Since 2002, the once mighty Big Red has put up 73 losses and when a fresh one gets added to the scorebook, fans either become more numb or, even worse, indifferent. The crop of fans that was born during the dynasty of the 90s are pushing 25 these days and none of them know a time when the Huskers were a consistent juggernaut. Sure, there were a few good seasons but there’s legacy to hang your Cornhead on.

And that’s a big problem.

At the path they’re currently on, the Huskers are going to be known to future generations as a team that doesn’t win them all but might be able to run with the B1G dogs for 55 minutes and maybe even knock one off every season or two.

Meanwhile, those of us who are old enough to have been there will keep muttering to anyone who will listen that the Huskers went 60-3 once.

Enough moping. Here’s the shit that sticks in my craw.

SHAWH EICHORST: At least he got the memo quick that Black Fridays are for Husker football. Now he just needs to remember that the next time he’s on the cusp of making another mealy mouthed decision for the good of the Big Ten at the expense of the Huskers. Shawn, put your foot down and stand up for the school that pays you, not suck up to the one you wish would hire you.

MIKE RILEY: There has to be a point where even the World’s Nicest Coach gets pissed off enough to flip a table and shows some real emotion and fire. Half the time he roams the sidelines like he’s either Walter Mitty or a grizzled coach who was probably going to retire until he won a lottery he didn’t know he entered and ended up with a job in coaching heaven.

Pretend for a moment that you’re a 17-year-old being recruited to play at Nebraska. Would you see the opportunity as a chance to help a once storied program return to glory or as a chance to take the easy way out?

Think about it.

You’d be playing for a coach who doesn’t yell at you AND would hook you up with Kendrick Lamar tickets. He’s basically a super chill grandpa. He won’t even suspend you for weed. Your locker room is so nice it makes the facilities on a Saudi Prince’s yacht look pedestrian. You’d get all the adidas gear you could handle (maybe even a pair of Yeezys). Then there are the fans who always show up NO MATTER WHAT and will cheer you on to the bitter end or until your lackluster play sends them to the exits but they’ll all be back next week because that’s what Nebraska fans do. If you can handle the relaxed pace and schizophrenic weather of Lincoln, you’d live like a football god and get all the thrills of playing at a marquee program without any of the annoying pressure to accomplish something. If that sounds far fetched, there’s a key recruit who didn’t even make it to fall practice before being shipped back to Calabraska.

THE HUSKER BRAND: It’s time to get back to the good ol’ days when it was the football team that won all the trophies instead of its in-house advertising agency. Look, I know all the Chatsnap and Instantgram videos and other #onbrand #content that fans love is really to lure potential recruits but maybe it’s time to dial it back. If the architects of the Husker Brand are so concerned with its image that Fox Sports is asked to stop running a promotional video that shows the goddamn Nebraska Cornhuskers standing in a goddamn cornfield, you might as well change the team name to the Silicon Prairie Dogs and put helmet cams on every player and stream the games live on Twitch.

During the summer, the Huskers digital department posted a video of Tristan Gebbia and a few other young players exploring all of downtown’s attractions like Raising Canes (whatever the hell that is) and Chipotle (Taco John’s for life) and other fast casual restaurants. I know kids these days are special and unique snowflakes but if their decision to come to Lincoln hinges on mediocre dining options then maybe they’re not the right players.

Back in my day if you ever saw a football player stroll into a downtown restaurant, you gave them a wide berth and didn’t make eye contact just like gazelles do when a lion saunters up to the watering hole.

And here’s the important thing. None of those guys gave two shits about living in a college town that was considered cool to people outside Nebraska. The only media exposure they got was a yearly black and white picture in the Husker Media Guide and they were happy. If any of them were asked to take over the Huskers Instagram account for day, the first thing posted would be a video of the Husker digital intern who bothered them with that dumb question getting his spine ripped out because those guys came to Lincoln to do two things: play football and kick ass.

TANNER LEE: I’m not going to go back and see which interception it was but there was a moment during the game where Tanner was on the bench getting some words of encouragement from Joshua Kalu. Dude, you’re the quarterback and a captain and the Huskers are your team. Get off the bench and fire up your teammates, unless throwing a “nice ball” to other teams is literally your only skill.

THE OFFENSIVE LINE: There was once a unit that went an entire season without giving up a single sack. It’d be nice if these guys could stop giving up a sack every series.

THE BLACKSHIRTS: Handing out 16 Blackshirts before the season begins is like handing out 16 participation trophies before a game starts. But Bob Diaco’s defense has quietly given up only one touchdown in the last six quarters despite the lack of a total badass to anchor the defense and send fear into the hearts into the team on the other side of the ball. Was Randy Gregory the last one? Sure feels like it. Oh wait. There was Nate Gerry, when he could bother to not be suspended.

THE SOCKS: During the pre-game show before the Oregon game, Matt Davison went on a little rant about how the Huskers no longer wear matching socks and it ruins the look of the uniform. At the time it seemed like a minor quibble but while watching the Huskers play like shit, I noticed they look like shit. That socks thing is kind of a big deal. You see white socks, red socks, black socks, high socks, and low socks. They look like a Pop Warner team where everything was included except the socks and the coach told the players to wear whatever they like. To bring it back to the 90s glory days one more time, I had a classmate in Sports Broadcasting class who was dating a football player. During warmups she pointed him out from up in the booth and told us that he was intentionally wearing his socks low so that he would stand out on the field (this was during the time of the red knee highs that Davison loved). When he went in to make his first punt return of day, the ref halted the game and ordered him to fix his socks so he matched his teammates.

Being on the same page with the little shit turns into being on the same page with the big shit… like not getting beat at home by Northern Illinois.

Alright. I’ve ranted enough. The early bird special starts in six hours at IHOP. I better go get in line.

MIKE RILEY’S BALLOON WATCH

We’ve reached football armageddon, people. And it’s only week four.


 

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Get excited. Apparently there’s a game today.

Nothing sucks the joy out of a football Saturday like an 11am kickoff, especially when it follows a loss that is still confusing a week later.

While I couldn’t seem to find the time to write about the Oregon game this week, I had time to watch it (the second half at least) three times and still feel like I don’t understand what exactly happened in Eugene.

Last week’s still-drunk-from-the-night-before prediction was that Bob Diaco would go all Rocky on the Duck defense somehow came kinda true except for the part where Bobby D. let the defense get a little too roughed up before flipping the Eye of the Tiger switch.

Pitching a shut out against the Ducks in the final 30 minutes was something nobody saw coming but then again a 42-14 halftime score walked a big chunk of the crowd from our watch site. By the time the Huskers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, there were maybe a dozen of us left and we were surrounded by 200+ Ohio State fans, including this absolute peach of a lady who couldn’t stand it that the Husker game was left to play on a single TV.

Four random thoughts about the Oregon game 

1. Many folks seemed relieved and/or content that the Huskers weren’t embarrassed in Eugene. (I have to admit I’m kind of in that same boat.) With that final drive getting stomped out on the first play, there was no time to build up a glimmer of hope before the rug was pulled out from under the Big Red and almost coming back from being down 42-14 is the kind of effort that doesn’t require you to change out of your Husker shirt in the parking lot before continuing with the rest of your day.

However, is the standard of “at least we weren’t embarrassed” one we want to settle on? That’s the exact same standard my lovely wife has for me when we attend a social function with her friends. When you think about it, that’s a pretty low standard. Chew with your mouth closed, keep your fly up, and don’t tell any obnoxious jokes at the dinner table… basically as long as I’m not Homer Simpson I’m golden. Myself and the Huskers should probably try to do better one of these years.

2. Tanner’s Lee’s final stats: 19/41, 252 yards, 3 TD, 4INT, -19 rushing. With a line like that, Tanner left the field looking an immobile Tommy Armstrong on a bad day. For all the YOLOBombs Tommy chucked, he was only (miraculously) picked off four times just once in his career. With Tanner’s total lack of mobility, the offense basically gives up an extra runner out of the backfield so his passes better be to the right team.

3. Will DPE ever take one to the house again? When Oregon punted the ball away with 2:25 left in the 4th quarter the stage was set for DPE to tie it up. Instead he called for a fair catch when there was nothing but open field in front of him. Here’s hoping he finds a way to get his groove back before he graduates.

4. Why couldn’t have Stanley Morgan Jr. also have been Tommy’s roommate? Heading into the third game of the season he’s nearly at 50% of his final numbers from 2016 and has already eclipsed his touchdown total.

So… about today’s game…


With Les Miles in the booth, we had to make a drinking game. Play along at your own risk. 

Northern Illinois, huh?

Well, one thing the Huskies have in common with the Huskers is the last time both teams were ranked in the two major polls to end a season was 2012. While that was a crowning achievement for the Huskies, the Huskers, meanwhile, haven’t been able to climb back to what was once a tragically low standard.

NIU’s coach, Rod Carey, took the Huskie helm for the 2012 Orange Bowl as their former coach Dave Doeren parlayed that dream season into a dream job (if you want to call it that) at NC State.

Even if the Huskies are good enough to give the Huskers fits today, you can rest easy knowing the Huskers have a secret weapon lurking on the NIU sideline. Senior kicker Christian Hagan is an Omaha native who grew up a Husker fan. If this game comes down to a last second field goal, there’s no way he can drive a stake through the heart of Husker Nation, right?

But it won’t matter because the Huskers are going to win 49 – 17

PS: Can we at least see some proof of life that Devine Ozibo is still alive.


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Ducky II: How Nebraska Will Beat Oregon (Again)

It seems like the only one who’s confident about the Blackshirts’ chances of stopping the Oregon Ducks is Bob Diaco.

That would be same Bob Diaco whose defense surrendered 497 yards to Arkansas State last week and made no bones about the fact that his bone throwers on the field were conceding all those frustrating swing passes by design. If the Red Wolves offense was going to make the Blackshirts bleed, they were going to have to scratch and claw their way to the end zone. There would be no shots to the jugular on Diaco’s watch.

Diaco broke down his unconventional game plan during his unplanned Monday presser in which he also had to take time to set some things straight with his new buddies in the Nebraska media. 

Seeing a Sun Belt team rake up 497 yards doesn’t make for the sexiest stat line ever but as Diaco said on Monday, his prime directive is for his defense to do whatever it takes to ensure their opponent has one less point than the Huskers at the final whistle.

Sure, the Blackshirts could have been more aggressive last Saturday and gotten after the Red Wolves but why show what they’re really capable of if they don’t have to?

Kind of ruins the surprise for Oregon doesn’t it?

Now here’s where the Ducks are going to be in for a rude awakening. Since Diaco arrived on campus and flipped the 3-4 switch, the true potential of the revamped Blackshirts has been shrouded in a cloak of mystery.

Or, you could say he’s been keeping his defense holed up in a meat locker where they pound sides of beef into submission from sunup to sundown.

And suddenly, everything all makes sense.

Here’s an important detail about Diaco.

He’s an Italian who grew up in Cedar Grove, New Jersey, a mere 96 miles away from The City of Brotherly Love. It’s listed on your atlas as Philadelphia.

In other words, there’s a rather high likelihood that the Rocky saga has been fused to Diaco’s DNA.

What Bob Diaco was thinking about as the Nebraska media chased after him following the Arkansas State game.

In Rocky II, as we all know, Apollo Creed and Rocky Balboa squared off for a rematch. In their first fight, Rocky suffered a detached retina, an injury that could lead to much graver consequences than just being a career ender.

In order to protect his eye, which, as we all know, would go on to become the eye of the tiger in Rocky III, Mickey convinced Rocky to fight as a right hander instead of his natural southpaw. Keeping his left hand up to jab would make it much harder for Apollo to knock his eye out of his head. Then, when the time was right, Rocky would switch back to fighting left handed and pow, Apollo would have no idea what hit him.

And that’s exactly what is going to happen to the Ducks today.

The Blackshirts are finally going to come out swinging lefty and will spend the afternoon eating lightning and crapping thunder up and down the Autzen Stadium turf and knock Oregon’s block off.

Huskers win 37 – 31.


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