It’s almost football season. THANK GOD IT’S ALMOST FOOTBALL SEASON. The Nebraska Cornhuskers start the season Saturday. Scott Frost and a bunch of kids, many of whom are not old enough to legally purchase alcohol, embark on a season full of high hopes and exceeded expectations.
They deserve both.
Of course hopes are high. It’s Nebraska. It’s almost football season. Fucking Huskers baby. BLACKSHIRTS. Go for two. You get it. Football’s the best. And Nebraska can be too. Has been before. Will be again. This year? Who knows. Probably not but they’re lifting weights now. Have been for a couple of years. Some coaching and some weight lifting?? Shiiiiit. Watch out. BIG RED BABY. The offense will be good/great. ADRIAN MARTINEZ. The line will be better. Young dudes figuring it out. Better every week. The BLACKSHIRTS, led by a band of brothers up front, will begin to assert dominance and lay waste by the end of the year. Playoffs. Championships. Wins. Soon. But now?? Time will tell.
Here’s the best case scenario: 🍿🍿🍿
8/31 – South Alabama– Finally a football game. Huskers by 40.
9/7 – @Colorado – 62 – 36. Never forget. Frost remembers. NU by three scores.
9/14 – Northern Illinois– Ooof. Bad memories. Huskers get caught taking it for granted early but pull through before halftime. Second half uncomfortably close. Huskers by 13.
9/21 – @Illinois – They’re no Northern Illinois. Love Lovie but Illinois football blows. Huskers beat the spread.
9/27 – Ohio State – Well, well. Guess who has a coach now?? NOT OHIO STATE. Fuck Urban Meyer. Fuck the new guy. Fuck Ohio State football and everything it claims to stand for. Huskers make it hurt somehow. A demoralizing play early in the third that makes them cave or a dagger at the end. Either way, Huskers win.
10/5 – Northwestern – Not today. Northwestern has had its way with NU before but that stops now. Fuck purple uniforms. Fuck a big ten school pretending it’s Ivy League. NU by 10.
10/12 – @Minnesota – Have the wheels fallen off of PJ Fleck by now? Scott Frost will never lose a football game to PJ Fleck. Frost builds foundations, Fleck puts oars in water. Land of losses. Huskers by a bunch.
10/19 – BYE – UNDEFEATED AT THE BYE WEEK – FUCK YEAH
10/26 – Indiana – Yay! Who cares?? Would rather be playing Kansas. Fuck basketball schools trying to play football. Huskers by 40.
11/2 – @Purdue – Choo choo!! A fucking train mascot?? Good god. Makes you miss the Big 12 (again). Fuck Purdue. Let’s play the Cyclones. Huskers by 14.
11/9 – TWO BYE WEEKS?? Still undefeated though……
11/16 – Wisconsin – At home. Home of the real big red. Fuck Wisconsin pretending to be Nebraska football. Nebraska gets some pride back tonight. End of regulation. They go for two. Run it right up the gut. Huskers by one. It’s beautiful.
11/23 – @Maryland – THREE BYE WEEKS??? NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS 11-0.
11/29 – Iowa – It’s over. Iowa has been lifting weights for a looong time and Nebraska just stared last year. And THAT game was close. Frost took it personally. Made his players feel the same. From here on out, Nebraska wins 80% of its games against Iowa. We’ll still wave to the kids though. Want a Runza?? It’s all in good fun, right??? NU by 6.
UNDEFEATED. Best. Case. Scenario. They make the playoff. Realize they’re a year or two away. It hurts but they made some hay, right? Get it? Hay? Farms?? Cornhuskers??? Haha. Playoffs? Who would of thought?? THIS GUY. Fuck, they win the whole thing. Why not? HUSKERS BABY.
As I plop down on the couch to write this on Thanksgiving Eve, the Michigan State game is playing on the TV for the second night in a row for no better reason than it’s my favorite Husker game in years.
A couple seasons down the road, this game won’t even be a blip in college football history but in the annals of Husker lore, it will be forever remembered as the one where the Big Red ship was finally righted.
It takes a special group of fans to pack a stadium on a bitterly cold November morning to see their 3-7 team play a meaningless game but Husker Nation showed up like they’ve done for the past 56 years. On this particular Saturday, our never ending loyalty was rewarded by watching a team with nothing to play for put it all on the line and find a way to win.
And what a team win it was.
When the final whistle blew, never have I felt so proud of a 4-7 team in my life.
The Big Ten’s most explosive offense suddenly couldn’t score?
No prob. The Blackshirts had their back.
Need a true freshman kicker to set not one but two personal records for career long field goals in the span of five minutes off the clock?
It’s cool. The kid transformed into a sure footed sniper.
No matter how the season ends tomorrow, this team is always going to hold a special place in my heart because these guys proved they truly wanted to be Huskers and put in the work on and off the field to prove it. Even in the unlikely event of a loss, we’re going to have a coach who won’t spend the postgame press conference challenging the media to a fight or daring his boss to fire him. And he certainly won’t make worn out excuses for why his team came up short on the scoreboard.
Today, let’s all take a moment to give thanks for the better days that are ahead for Husker Nation.
I just wanted to drop a quick note to share how delighted I am with the interest that your respective fanbases have shown towards @BigRed_Fury this season.
Every week without fail, fresh rounds of zingers (some of them are almost funny even) get lobbed into @BigRed_Fury’s mentions following the Cornhuskers’ latest miscue on the field.
How y’all found @BigRed_Fury I’ll never know, but I’m flattered that y’all take the time to write to show that you care.
Because I sure don’t care about either of you.
Even if the Huskers find a way to do the impossible and lose to Northwestern to move to 0-6 on the year, it’s not going to bother me because this season is a down to the foundation rebuilding project. And if we go down the road a few years and discover Scott Frost isn’t the chosen one, big deal. There will be a new coach and I will still be a Husker fan.
Seeing them lose the 1984 Orange Bowl and a National Championship to Miami. In one night I fell in love with the Fumblerooski and endured the heartbreak of my team coming up short on the biggest stage. When you’ve experienced your team suffering the worst possible outcome before even getting the faintest whiff of what a victory feels like, it fundamentally changes a person.
But that’s not the only Natty I’ve seen the Huskers lose.
Nearly 10 years to the day later, I got to watch the Huskers lose another National Championship at the Orange Bowl. This time around Florida State was the opponent and the game was even more of a heart breaker thanks to a Seminole TD that should have been ruled a goal line fumble and a missed last second field goal that would have won the game for the Big Red and left Bobby Bowden soaking wet.
Then eight years after that I got to see the Huskers lose yet another National Championship at the dastardly hand of the Miami Hurricanes. I was in the third row, straddling the 50 yard line on the Huskers’ side of the field of the Rose Bowl for that one and it remains the most disappointing game of my life.
So what’s this all add up to?
In my lifetime I’ve seen the Huskers LOSE more National Championships than Iowa and Colorado have played for combined during the same stretch.
And I’ve also seen them win three titles, which according to my math is exactly two more than the Colorado Buffaloes and the Iowa Hawkeyes have won.
When you come at me to heckle me about the Huskers losing to Troy, please know that a game like that doesn’t even make a ripple in my pool of Husker heartbreak. It means nothing to me.
Your tweets can’t hurt me because I’m already dead inside.
While we all know how that year turned out for the Big Red, Shawshank was mostly overlooked at the box office and during award season as Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction took home most of the hardware.
It wasn’t until a few years later that it began to receive the acclaim it missed the first time around. Thanks to nearly daily showings on basic cable that are still running strong today, The Shawshank Redemption has cemented its status as very arguably one of the greatest films ever made and currently occupies the number one spot on IMDB’s list of the top 250 movies.
But we’re not here to do a dissertation on the legacy of Shawshank.
We’re here to talk about a theory.
It’s called the Shit Tunnel Theory.
I can’t tell you exactly when I came up with the it but I can tell you I was on the couch watching Shawshank for probably the 100th time and was faded enough to have an epiphany that changed my outlook on life.
Allow me to set it up.
According to Shawshank lore, Andy started tunneling his way to freedom with his tiny rock hammer two years into his 19 year stretch. That’s 17 years of chipping through the concrete wall of his prison cell piece-by-piece. An estimate from someone a lot smarter than me put Andy’s progress at 1/64th of an inch per day, or about the thickness of your fingernail.
So after 17 long years Andy final breaks through and has to face one final crucible-The Shit Tunnel. In a film that’s full of cruel moments, this was the cherry on top of a turd sundae.
But Andy give up?
Not a chance.
He grabbed a rock, broke through that pipe, and dove right in. He charged through that “river of shit,” to quote Red, like he was a plumber named Mario on a mission to save a princess. It was 500 yards to freedom and after all he’d been through he was not going to stopped by a Shit Tunnel.
Now if we can go back to me on the couch for a moment, it was during this breakout scene that I realized no matter what goal you’re working towards, there’s always, without fail, going to be an unexpected obstacle that pops up when you have the finish line in sight. Even if it’s not a literal Shit Tunnel, the concept is the same. If you have something you want to achieve, you gotta pay the price by conquering the Shit Tunnel.
Husker fam, if Memorial Stadium is our Shawshank, we have just entered the Shit Tunnel.
So what if the Huskers leave Wisconsin with an L and an 0-5 record for the first time since who knows when? It’s already been a miserable decade and half, what’s another year at this point?
All this losing now won’t mean shit if hang onto the hope and belief that better days are ahead. Sometimes you just gotta hold your breath and barrel down that Shit Tunnel towards where the light should be.
It feels weird to type that because any and every Husker loss is supposed to be an end of the world gut punch but this year feels different, even if it starts out with a big pair of scarlet L’s that should have been W’s.
It’s 11:45pm and I’ve spent the last hour charting Husker wins and losses because that’s what you do when you’re old. You make spreadsheets on a Saturday night and you’re happy about it because it means you didn’t have to go anywhere.
Going from today all the way back to the year 2000, the Huskers have lost 85 games under five different coaches. At this point what’s the big deal about chalking up another loss? Granted, 85 losses is such an unbelievably high number that I was convinced Excel’s auto sum feature was lying to me. I added up nearly 20 years of losses by hand twice only to discover that Excel was right on the money when it spat out the brutal truth.
To put this another way, this year’s freshman class at Dear Old Nebraska U has been alive to experience 85 losses. When I stepped on campus as a freshman, the Huskers had amassed all of 40 in my lifetime. When I stepped off campus five years later, that loss total had grown to 46 but they also picked up three National Championships during that stretch and changed head coaches for the first time in 25 years.
What does all this mean?
It means that the latest crop of Huskers fans have never known a team to be good in the sense that us old-timers have.
During the game at our watch site, I had the slightly depressing epiphany that I’m officially old enough to be old. It hit me when the youngest Husker fan at our table replied with a Keanu level “Whoa” when he learned I attended college back in 90s. I felt like my grandpa spinning yarns about life before television as I explained to the kid there was indeed a time when the Huskers didn’t lose. “We didn’t have cell phones or email addresses but goddamnit the Huskers were good.”
By the time I was finished, the kid was in such awe that his breakfast pizza with gluten-free crust was left dangling from his mouth.
No matter how this season shakes out, I think the best thing us olds can do is keep an optimistic front for the youngins that the Huskers will eventually find a way to get better. They have to. We finally landed the one coach who knows our wild and weird culture better than anyone and if we turn on him before he has a chance to get rolling we might as well disband the football program.
It’s ride or die time, homies.
Random (and Potentially Unpopular) Opinion:
This week’s Tunnel Walk was set to Let Me Clear My Throat. If we want to exorcise this team of all its past demons, then we need to delete the definitive song from the Mike Riley era off the stadium playlist. Sorry, Dj Kool.
Imma paint a little picture for this week’s ScoFroFroYo Watch.
Hours have passed since the final whistle against Troy. The roar of 90,000 Husker fans inside Memorial Stadium has long faded away. The only sound to break the ghostly silence is a big red bus idling outside the stadium. (For the purposes of this story, the bus is large enough to fit the entire team and Coach Frost is pulling double duty as the driver.)
An unmarked stadium door opens and a dejected Husker team begins to file out and head towards the bus with their heads hanging low and eyes focused on the ground. Coach Frost is the last one to board and slides into the driver’s seat. He takes a quick glance at his team but he doesn’t make eye contact. He only looks at them out of his obligation to not leave anyone behind.
He slips the bus into gear and it jumps forward to begin the journey home.
After a few minutes, the dejected player’s faces begin to brighten as they see the glow of a TCBY sign off in the distance. The anticipation builds as the bus moves closer and reaches its crescendo when Coach Frost flips the turn signal to indicate a stop for yogurt is imminent.
He begins to turn the wheel and the bus responds accordingly. Then, with the deftness that only an option QB who led his team to a National Championship could have, he jukes the bus out of the impending turn into the TCBY parking lot and continues on its original course.
As the players look out the window and watch the TCBY fade off into the distance, Coach Frost clinically looks at his team via the rear view mirror and says, “TCBY is for winners.”
A few years from now when we look back on this game, we’re not going to remember the start of the Scott Frost era being rained out.
We’re going to remember the Scott Frost era beginning with a vintage Big 8 style ass whoopin’ of the Colorado Buffaloes.
Here’s everything you need to know about Colorado in handy listicle form…
Remember them? Apparently Colorado still has a football team. They play in the PAC 12 these days which makes sense considering Boulder is 1,000 miles from the Pacific Ocean.
Coach: Ditch digging must not pay like it use to because they found someone to take this job.
Offense: They scored more points than Colorado State last week and their fans have been bragging about it so they can’t be that good.
Quarterback: No idea but I did spend the last 45 minutes watching Ndamukong Suh truck Cody Hawkins over and over and over again and it’s still hilarious.
Defense: Colorado State hung 13 points on them so they should pretty be a sieve against the Huskers. (And looking up that score is the most research I’m doing for this preview.)
Famous Alumni: That kick return bro who was a better skier than a football player and Kordell Stewart, the greatest Colorado QB to go 0-3 in his career against the Huskers and lose his job as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ starting QB to Tommy Maddox.
Celebrity Score Prediction: Comedian Nick Allensays…
Nebraska 62, Colorado 36. Revenge. This one is for Frank.
Catch Nick Saturday night at the Comedy Loft in Lincoln’s Haymarket.
I gotta hand it to you. I didn’t see this one coming.
After having a front row seat to witness all the crap you’ve been putting the Huskers through since November 23, 2001, it should have been as obvious as a pass to a wide open tight end that you’d have a trick up your collective sleeve. But never did I think you’d flip all the way back to the earliest pages of the Playbook of the Gods and channel Zeus almighty and dial up some good old fashioned lightning during the biggest moment in Husker football in a generation.
It is with no small amount of admiration when I humbly say that saving your latest spiteful act until the absolute last second was a baller move befitting of deities of your stature. It was the glistening cherry placed atop a towering turd sundae of disappointment that’s been growing taller and taller year by agonizing year.
Saturday night was supposed to be a transcendent event in Husker history. One that brought together friends and family from near and far for a monumental changing of the guard. After so many brutal years with a string of coaches who turned out to be nincompoops in their own special way, we finally landed the true chosen one who is destined to right the ship.
Instead Football Gods, you Charlie Brown’d Husker Nation when you so cruelly yanked the football away and left us all sitting on our collective asses in the rain and at watch parties around the country wondering what the hell happened.
The gathering we hosted at our place here in Los Angeles was setting up to be a legendary evening. Some of LA’s finest GI natives were in attendance, the beer brats were grilled to perfection, and all that was missing was a can of Cornhusker whoop ass that never had a chance to be opened.
Oh, but you made sure we saw that can when you dangled it in front of our faces during that glorious Tunnel Walk.
Seriously, Santa Claus could go to an orphanage on Christmas Eve with a sleigh full of presents and force the orphans watch a three hour show and tell of all the gifts he was bringing to kids with real homes and it wouldn’t have been as big a dick move as canceling a Husker game.
I’m onto your game, Football Gods. I know this was just one last crucible for Husker Nation to bear before closing the books on the nearly two decade long penance you’ve forced us to suffer through to atone for whatever it was that we did to incur your wrath.
And trust me, the irony is not lost that you’ve seen fit to finally lift this dark cloud in time for next opponent to be the one that started this wretched curse in the first place.
Thank you in advance for allowing the first game in the Scott Frost era to be one where he sends the Colorado Buffalos running off a cliff.
He’s the kid standing next to me in the photo below. It was snapped while we were tailgating before the game against UCLA at the Rose Bowl back in 2012.
I took him and his dad and a couple other buddies to the game so they could experience Husker football in person. It was the least I could do after years of droning on about the Big Red during our Sunday morning bike rides. For one friend, I promised him that if he went to the game, I’d never mention the Huskers again. That deal is still (mostly) intact to this day.
But let’s get back to Seamus.
Seamus was born and raised in West Hollywood. The most experience he’s ever had with Nebraska was finding it on map in school but it was no accident that he was wearing a number 7 jersey for his first Husker game.
I custom ordered it for him so that he could surprise his friend Scott Frost the next time he saw him.
Yep. My buddy Seamus is friends with Scott.
When that photo was taken, they’d already been tight for years. Seamus’ uncle was a longtime defensive coach for the Oregon Ducks. A couple times every season, Seamus and his dad would make the trip up to Eugene to catch a game.
In 2009, as you may remember, the Ducks hired an up and coming coach named Scott Frost and put him in charge of the wide receivers. That season, Seamus happened to be a receiver on his Pop Warner team.
When Scott found out about this after a practice Seamus attended, he pushed back whatever was next on his schedule and stayed on the field to give him some one-on-one coaching. For the next half hour, he ran Seamus through the same the drills that he watched the Ducks perform during their practice. Footwork, blocking, catching, it was a real practice and Scott treated him just like one his players.
When I read the email from Seamus’ dad that recapped meeting Scott, I about fell out of my chair.
Seamus made friends with the new receivers coach when we were up in Eugene. I guess he’s a Nebraska guy. Have you ever heard of Scott Frost?
If I recall correctly, I believe my reply included every 1997 Husker highlight I could find on YouTube.
A short while later, Seamus’ dad came down with a full blown case of Scott Frost Fever.
You never told me about him. He took down Peyton Manning! Dude played in the NFL for years. Bill Walsh and Tom Osborne were his coaches!
The best part about Seamus’ coaching session with Scott was that it was far from a one time deal. Every time Seamus was up in Eugene or the Ducks would be down in LA prepping for the Rose Bowl, Scott would stay after practice and run him through drills. It got to the point where Seamus basically had a private coach.
Here in LA, kids have private coaches for every activity they do and the fact that Seamus had Scott working him out is the kind of thing that starts a coaching arms race among parents.
Coaching Seamus was not something Scott had to. It was something he wanted to do simply because he loves coaching. Every time I’d get an update on their latest practice session, it made me like Scott even more.
If he can have that much enthusiasm for coaching a random kid who showed up to watch practice, I can’t help but imagine how he’s molding the Huskers into a completely different team than the one we’ve seen the past few years. Husker Nation is going to be in for a treat on Saturday.
Seamus has never given me a straight answer if he ever wore his Husker jersey to an Oregon practice and he certainly didn’t text me a photo of Scott marveling at how good he looked in scarlet and cream. Whenever I’d ask him about it, he’d quickly change the subject to Star Wars and our conversation would be off in a new direction.
I have a hunch that moment can still happen though.
Seamus hung up his shoulder pads after his freshman year to focus on music. He’s grown up to become an incredible drummer and will be graduating high school in June. His band is already playing gigs in and out of town and record labels are starting to get curious about them.
In a few years, if you see a hot new band playing Pinnacle Bank Arena and the drummer happens to be wearing a number 7 Husker jersey, that’s probably my buddy Seamus behind the kit.
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
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
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
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.
Welcome to the greatest weekend of the season, Husker fans.
It’s bye week!
There’s not even a chance the Huskers are going to lose another game.
And because we all need a second favorite team to root for so we can have a reason to avoid mowing the lawn for another week, I interviewed Austin Heffernan, a die hard UCF fan to get the scoop on the Knights football program and their currently undefeated season thanks in no small part to their upstart coach Scott Frost. (You may have heard of him.)
Speaking of Scott, I met Austin on Twitter the day he was hired away from Oregon. Somehow, we found each other’s tweets and traded some thoughts about Scott. (There’s a good chance I told him to make sure UCF takes good care of Nebraska’s next head coach. )
Anyway, Austin is a huge UCF fan and cheers for his other local teams in Florida. He’s the kind of ride or die sports fan any team would be proud to have. He was nice enough to answer all my dumb questions with some valuable insight about the Knights so you’ll enjoy watching UCF (and Scott Frost) take on Navy Saturday afternoon.
1. Along with being a UCF fan long before the Knights cracked the top 25, you’re a fan of your local teams across the sports spectrum which is something of a rarity these days as sports fans aren’t as tied to geography as they were before. As background, how would you describe your fandom and what it’s like to be such a dedicated fan of Florida teams? (For the record, I was pulling for the Marlins when they went on their late summer run.)
Austin: Growing up in Miami was really fun. In my younger elementary school days, I was blessed with nationally dominant Miami Hurricanes teams that set the city on fire. [Ed note: Husker fans remember the that 2001 team. Too bad you’re too young to have missed those 80s teams.] Rumor has it that those Hurricanes players from the early 2000s were skipping Dolphins players in the club. We then had the Marlins make their run in 2003 and the Heat in 2006 and also again in 2012/2013. Miami definitely has the most diverse sports fan base in terms of ethnic backgrounds. The best picture I can paint of Miami sports fandom is pots and pans in musical rhythmic unison while celebrating.
Since I moved to Orlando, I’ve been a part of the soccer movement and have attended a handful of Orlando City Soccer games. We have the 2nd highest attendance in the MLS despite not having made the playoffs in the 3 years we’ve been in the MLS. That has been a fun experience and celebrating a scored goal is unlike anything I’ve been a part of as a sports fan.
2. Florida certainly has its share of college football teams. What was it that made you pick UCF, or did the Knights pick you?
Austin: I decided to not attend an American school and I got into a school in Rome, Italy at the last minute. UCF still had open rolling applications and decided to roll with them instead. I was still rooting for the Canes up until the 3rd home game of my freshman year, where we beat Boston College by 40+ points. We ended up winning the C-USA championship that year and that season cemented my passion for the University and all of their sports teams.
3. In 2013, UCF went 12-1 and ended their season by beating Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl and finishing in the AP Top 10. Then in 2014 they when 9-4 and followed that up with an 0-12 season in 2015. Last year Scott Frost got things turned around and the Knights posted a 6-7 record. Now, they’re 5-0 and ranking in the top 20. What’s this roller coaster ride been like for you and how does it to have been on it the whole time?
Austin: The 12-1 year, or as we call it, “the dream season,” was my senior year at UCF. That year was so incredible and the campus was electric all the time. If you would’ve told me before I went to UCF that we would win a BCS game while I was there, I would’ve recommended you take me to the local mental hospital called Lakeside. The following year we won the AAC again but it took some miraculous plays, including the miracle we needed to clinch a share of the conference championship.
And then we hit rock bottom. Our head football coach at the time, George O’Leary, was acting as the school athletic director at the time. His attention wasn’t fully set on the team, and the team suffered mightily. Following that year, the Lincoln Legend himself, Scott Frost, made his way to UCF. Since we hired Frost, the football team’s confidence appeared to have instantly jumped to the ceiling. Since then, I’ve had no complaints and have been following along for this fantastic ride that I never want to end.
4. Two things Nebraska fans take a lot of pride in are a sellout streak that’s been going since 1962 and having a reputation as being the “greatest fans in college football.” How would you describe the UCF fanbase? Are there a lot of dedicated, hardcore fans like you, or is the bulk of the fanbase more casual? And how has the the momentum and energy been this season? Is the bandwagon running out of room?
Austin: The fan base is really young. The school opened up in 1963 so our alumni base isn’t as strong as most other schools. Orlando is mostly a Gator town, which makes it tough to get local non-students and non-alumni into the stadium. Last year, following a winless season, I was surprised at how many people were in the stands at all the home games. It made me proud to be a Knight fan to see everyone screaming at the top of their lungs despite the product the team produced the year prior. [Ed note: Just like Nebraska!] 5. The UCF program started out as a Division III team in 1979 and steadily worked its way up to Division !. What are some traditions, both for the program and during games, that the rest of the world should know about?
Austin: My favorite tradition is Spirit Splash. Every Friday of homecoming week, students gather around the fountain called the Reflecting Pond in the middle of campus and there’s a pep rally of sorts. Then a countdown starts, and all the students gathered around the Reflecting Pond run into it. A video will explain it better than I can.
6. What’s a game day like at Spectrum Stadium? How would you describe the atmosphere? And I gotta know, how did Zombie Nation’s song Kernkraft 400 become an anthem?
Austin: Tailgating at UCF is my favorite hobby. The whole campus is wet and you can bring an open container anywhere, so it makes for a great atmosphere. I actually have no idea how Kernkraft 400 became our pre-kickoff anthem but I just found myself joining in my freshman year back in 2010.
7. A lot of Nebraska fans will probably be spending their Husker free Saturday watching UCF take on Navy. What should they know about the Knights’ offense and defense in terms of attitude and identity and who are some of the key playmakers they should keep an eye on?
Austin:McKenzie Milton, our quarterback, has progressed in a way that I didn’t think was possible. He has brought life to the passing game, so I would definitely keep an eye on him. Tre’Quan Smith is probably our best wide receiver. I would also pay attention to our defense. A couple of players I would pay attention to are Mike Hughes, a cornerback, and Shaquem Griffin, a linebacker. Those two are both playmakers and will be huge factors in stopping Navy’s triple option.
8. Nebraska fans have prior experience with UCF when Dante Culpepper came to Lincoln in 1997 and roasted the Nebraska defense (we call them the Blackshirts) for 318 passing yards in what turned out to be a very close (by Nebraska standards) 24 – 38 loss. (Btw, Scott Frost put up 120 passing yards and ran for another 50.) Who are some of UCF’s other legends that Nebraska fans should be aware of?
Austin:Blake Bortles led us to a Fiesta Bowl win so he’s probably going to have a statue on campus at some point. [Ed note: OMG.] Coach George O’Leary put us in the national spotlight by winning 4 conference championships during his tenure. Kevin Smith finished the highest in the school’s history in Heisman voting at 8th place. He had insane rushing numbers and is our best running back in school history. Brandon Marshall, the wide receiver who now plays for the New York Giants, is probably the best professional player to come out of UCF. Another great NFL pro was Asante Samuel.
9. What would you like to say to Nebraska fans (or Florida or Tennessee fans) who have their eye on Scott Frost? Do you think he’ll be temped to jump to a new program or will he stay put and keep building what he started?
Austin: This is a conversation UCF fans have been having frequently lately. It’s impossible to know at this point what the man is thinking. All that I know is that I will be OK with whatever decision he makes. He’s done more for this program than I ever expected him to do. I will always admire Frost, whether it is here or at another institution.
10.Finally, what’s your prediction for Saturday? Do you think the Knights will be able to handle Navy’s option attack and a hostile road environment? Oh, and what did you think of Scott Frost playing QB on the scout team?
Austin: I think we have the personnel to stop the triple option and the offensive weapons to put up enough points to win. However, playing on the road is its own animal but Frost has our kids focused. Also, Navy’s Coach Ken Niumatalolo has his team playing as probably the most disciplined team in the country.