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Field Trip: A Visit to Vintage Red Sports Gallery

With the Spring Game kicking off in less than 24 hours, it’s about time we dusted the cobwebs off this site.

Did you miss us?

When we left off,  hopes were running high that the Huskers would leave Nashville with a victory in the Music City Bowl. That didn’t exactly happen and we’ll just leave it at that.

In the meantime, the Big Red Fury World Headquarters relocated from its Hollywood adjacent location to the hills of Northeast Los Angeles, not far from the Rose Bowl. My wife and I bought a house that included a daggum fort in the backyard. And if that wasn’t enough, it came equipped with a TV, a bar, and a Kegerator.

The new Big Red Fury World Headquarters

The previous owner, a retired Naval Aviator built this fort with his bare hands and now that it was in my care, the first order of business was getting it set up as a proper Husker hangout.

Over St. Patrick’s Day weekend I was back in Lincoln for a buddy’s wedding and on a mission to bring home some Husker collectibles.

As the luck would have it, I stumbled into a Husker store in the Haymarket that was so brand new its owner was still getting settled in.

Vintage Red Sports Gallery is nestled into the ground floor in one of the Haymarket’s many new buildings and is the creation of JC Wickstrom. It’s half vintage Husker store, half Husker museum, and 100% incredible.

Wickstrom has been obsessively and methodically collecting Husker memorabilia since he was a kid and his collection in the museum section of his store rivals anything you might see in that stadium across the road. In fact, it was so impressive that I went back for a second look instead of making a pilgrimage to Memorial Stadium before heading to the airport.  On both visits, Wickstrom was available to play tour guide and his stories were as fascinating as everything he has on display.

Here are some  of the many highlights.

If you ever feel the need to chill among Husker artifacts, Vintage Red Sports Gallery is your spot.

Everywhere you look you’ll see a piece of Husker history. Wickstrom plans to use the museum space to host signings and special events during football season.

The pink #12 jersey was game worn by Bobby Reynolds. According to Wickstrom, an equipment manager kept it as a souvenir and his young son would often wear it when dad was gone. One day, the jersey picked up a little dirt during a backyard football game and the son tossed it in the wash, thinking dad would be none the wiser. Unfortunately, he didn’t account for the possibility of the red numbers bleeding onto the white of the jersey. Whoops. Also, it should be noted that I forgot to ask Wickstrom if the kid survived.

You’re going to need to stop in and ask Wickstrom about how he came into possession of the ORIGINAL Memorial Stadium horseshoe.  It was totally legal but still required years of waiting and an Ocean’s Eleven  amount of planning to pull it off.

The 1996 Fiesta Bowl case.

NBD. Just Tommie Frazier’s Fiesta Bowl cleats complete with Fiesta Bowl dirt.

Lawrence Phillips’  and Mike Minter’s Fiesta Bowl jerseys.

This case is filled with items Mike Rozier had laying around at his mom’s house. Seriously.

The Turner Gill case. Look close and you’ll see the ‘G’ doesn’t match. Back in the day players got one home jersey and one away jersey and that was it.

This glass from the 1940 Rose Bowl is the only one known to exist.

TO’s Orange Bowl headset. Frankie’s practice jersey.

Ameer Abdullah’s Holiday Bowl uniform.

Yep. Looks legit.

Speaking of bowl games, here are the  programs from every Husker bowl game.

When I asked Wickstrom if I could shoot some photos, his only stipulation was that I had to include his all-time favorite player, Derek Brown.

Vintage Red owner JC Wickstrom shows off one of his latest finds.

The retail side of Vintage Red is loaded with one-of-a-kind items.

Nobody tell Clester Johnson that Tim hocked his jersey.

My big score from Vintage Red, a section of Memorial Stadium turf.

Vintage Red Sports Gallery is located in Lincoln at 800 Q Street Suite 103. 

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Gear Up For Gameday

If you search ‘Huskers’ on eBay, a bunch of things that don’t need to exist happen to show up for sale. So whether you are looking for a new jacket for October tailgating or some artwork for the man cave, get ready for gameday with my eBay round up. In honor of Ryker Fyfe, here are the top 17 Husker items up for sale.

17. Youth Nebraska Cornhuskers Taylor Martinez Small Jersey

Who this is for: A little kid that you hate.

Why you should buy it: I don’t know. It’s basically free, I guess.

Taylor Martinez kids jersey
Too bad it’s not autographed

16. Women’s Nebraska Huskers Lingerie Night Gown

Who this is for: The very lucky lady in your life.

Why you should buy it: As seen on Victoria’s Secret models, probably.

Somebody actually owns this
Somebody actually owns this

15. Vintage Nebraska Cornhuskers Glass?

Who this is for: CU Fans.

Why you should buy it: To break it.

This Ebay user should be reported for listing this as a Nebraska item
This Ebay user should be reported for listing this as a Nebraska item

14. Vintage Nebraska Pager Cover

Who this is for: Somebody who still has a pager.

Why you should buy it: There is only one of these and probably only one person with a pager so it’s a match.

Only one left in the world
Only one left in the world

13. Nebraska Cornhuskers Vinyl Stadium Seats

Who this is for: Awful  people who use these.

Why you should buy it: You shouldn’t. If you sit next to me in these, I’m going to hate you. They take more than one space. You are at a football game, I have faith that you can survive for a few hours without cushions.

If you have to sit on these, you have no business being at a football game
If you have to sit on these, you have no business being at a football game

12. Corn Coozies

Who this is for: Men, women, and children.

Why you should buy it: This is one of those items that you didn’t know that you need, but you definitely do.

A Budweiser would look good in one of these
A Budweiser would look good in one of these

11. Nebraska Cornhuskers bed in a bag

Who this is for: I could see Taylor Martinez having this in his room. Or people who like to have nightmares about mediocre football.

Why you should buy it: It will match your new lingerie.

Act quickly. There are only 10 available, so not everybody will get one.
Act quickly. There are only 10 available, so not everybody will get one.

10. 1997 National Champions T-shirt

Who this is for: Somebody looking for a faded gray t-shirt

Why you should buy it: They haven’t made any of these since 1997

Over priced since you will be able to buy a brand new 2017 version soon
Over priced since you will be able to buy a brand new 2017 version soon

9. Portable Tailgate Cornhole Set

Who this is for: Anybody that wants me to visit their tailgate.

Why you should buy it: Because it’s awesome.

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 2.15.20 PM
More than 10 available means I better see some of these at the tailgates

8. Vintage 1997 Huskers Football Unisex Glass

Who this is for: Anyone who loves equal rights and the 1997 Cornhuskers.

Why you should buy it: Not often do you come across a glass that both men and women can drink out of.

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 5.36.03 PM
Equal rights for all drinkers

7. TOM OSBORNE Nebraska Cornhuskers artist signed FOOTBALL ART vintage champions

Who this is for: People who are fans of vintage champions, that’s a nice way of saying they haven’t been recent champions.

Why you should buy it: Art is pretty good investment, and lucky for you, there are more than 10 available at the low, low price of $14.99.

Looking good, Dr. Tom
Looking good, Dr. Tom

6. Nebraska Huskers 90s Starter Jacket 

Who this is for: Someone who can fit in a child’s XL.

Why you should buy it: It’s cool as hell and there is no denying it.

I'm going to look so good in this
I’m going to look so good in this

5. Taylor Martinez Signed Photo

Who this is for: Somebody with $40 too much money in their bank account.

Why you should buy it: Probably don’t.

Closed eyes, full hearts, can't lose
Closed eyes, full hearts, can’t lose

4. Tom Osborne and Bo Pelini Signed Football

Who this is for: A true fan who remembers the best of times and the worst of times.

Why you should buy it: Similar versions with only a Tom Osborne signature are about $100 more. This is a bargain. Just white out Bo’s signature.

Free shipping because the owner wants this out of their house
Free shipping because the owner wants this out of their house

3. Rare Warren Buffett and Tom Osborne Autographed ball

Who this is for: People who weren’t interested in the bargain Bo Pelini ball above.

Why you should buy it: Maybe it comes with an authentic email from Warren asking why you just wasted $3,500.

Warren would not approve of this investment
Warren would not approve of this investment

2. Nebraska Huskers Recruiting Machine Telephone 

Who this is for: Anybody that has the numbers for Darnay Holmes or Joseph Lewis.

Why you should buy it: If a recruit knew you were calling on this, they would probably commit immediately.

Probably the only missing piece in the recruiting process
Probably the only missing piece in the recruiting process

1. Bo Pelini business card

Who this is for: A collector of rare items, misprints, and mistakes.

Why you should buy it: Stick this in your man cave so the next time the Huskers lose, you can remind everyone who is really at fault.

Integrity-Trust-Respect-Teamwork-Loyalty The 5 pillars of Bo's existence
Integrity-Trust-Respect-Teamwork-Loyalty: the 5 pillars of Bo’s existence

 


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Saying Goodbye to Lawrence Phillips

“In life, either you did or you didn’t.” – Lawrence Phillips

Lawrence Phillips Funeral Program

The program for Phillips’ service. You can see it in full here

The decision to attend the funeral service for Lawrence Phillips was an easy one, based in a sense of belief and obligation.

Belief in that I sincerely feel there’s a higher power at work behind the curtain those dozen or so Saturdays a year when the Huskers take the field and a million people around the world wear red and soar or languish with every snap. As someone who is not openly spiritual or religious, going to church has been relegated to weddings, funerals, and baptisms. If you know where to look, the solace, guidance, and inspiration sought within the walls of a church can be found all around you.

And the obligation was to those who wanted to attend but couldn’t. I felt it was my turn to help be the glue that sticks Husker fans together in all kinds of weather.

Honestly, the most difficult part of deciding to go was hunting down the right tie to wear. There’s no question that it had to be red but finding one in the proper shade and style turned out to be a quandary in itself. Part of Friday night was spent at Macy’s carefully examining every single red hued tie on display. In the end, a deep red one that wasn’t quite into Oklahoma territory won out over a tie in the proper shade of scarlet but had silver stripes that were definitive enough to make an impartial college football fan think Ohio State.

Thanks to the unpredictable nature of LA traffic, I allotted an hour and a half to make the 37 mile drive to the service in San Dimas, an eastern suburb just a few miles from the football field at Baldwin Park High that was the launching pad to send Phillips’ life on a much different trajectory than what anyone would ever have predicted if they had to guess his future when he was 12-years-old and living alone on the streets of South LA.

I arrived in under an hour and didn’t know what to expect. By local standards, it was a dreary winter day. The San Gabriel Mountains that would normally serve as an impressive backdrop for Christ’s Church of the Valley were muted by a cold grey sky. Snow covered peaks slicing through the low clouds were a stark contrast to the palm trees dotting the immediate landscape.

After signing the guest book, I entered the nave and found a crowd of a few dozen of his friends, family, and teammates grouped around the casket that was front and center. Those of us who didn’t fit into any of those categories gravitated towards seats a respectful distance away.

Many of the former Huskers I spotted looked like they could still challenge for the top of the depth chart today. Others had become regular guys who’d blend in with the dads at a neighborhood barbecue, their imposing statures becoming more approachable over the years but their stories would always remain more impressive than yours.

As the service drew closer to starting, the crowd steadily swelled to well over 150. At one moment the silence was broken by a small burst of hushed chatter and turning heads when Tom Osborne and George Darlington entered.

That was as grand as their arrival would get. There was no fanfare or elaborate introduction for two legendary coaches who flew in that morning to pay their final respects to one of the best players they ever coached. They selected seats directly across the aisle from me far from where any VIP section would be. One of the most significant figures in Nebraska’s entire history was now sitting less than three yards and a cloud of dust away from a rank and file member of Husker Nation.

I instantly sat up even straighter.

(And I couldn’t help but notice the silver stripes that crossed Darlington’s tie, settling that protocol question.)

Tom Osborne can have that kind of effect on a person. It’s a measure of respect on an entirely different plane than being a starstuck, adoring fan.

The last time I was in the same room as Coach was when he announced his retirement on December 10, 1997. He still looked the same. Just a little older like we all do. Even if I didn’t have a beard that was bracketed in swaths of grey, I doubt he’d recognize me as the budding sports reporter from KRNU who’d be posted up at the back of the room grazing over the spread that was a staple at his weekly press conferences.

Like the players he coached, I have always found him to be a great role model in the way he quietly persevered and carried himself in his conviction for doing what he thought was the right thing. I learned a lot from him just by covering his press conferences as a student. He will never get enough credit for his wit or his ability to effortlessly work a room.

The service was a two hour celebration and remembrance of the life that Lawrence lived as wide range of speakers took to the lectern to share their favorite memories. He packed a lot into his 40 years.

While those who are avid readers of scandalous headlines might try to argue that Lawrence failed, there is absolutely no question that he was someone who lived his life as someone who did.

A person just don’t go from being a homeless middle school dropout to earning a college scholarship en route to becoming a top ten pick in the NFL draft without overcoming very long odds.

The legacy Lawrence Phillips leaves behind will always be conflicted and complicated but if there’s one thing everyone can rally behind, it’s the idea of staying true to your friends and doing all you can to give real help to those who need it most. When others are giving up, it’s time to dig in.

Not long after the service ended, I headed back home. The familiar voice of Kent Pavelka kept me company for the ninety minute drive drive west as he called the action of a Husker basketball game. Even during this very low moment, the pulse of Husker Nation continued to beat strong.

It was such a comfort that I listened all the way through the post-game interviews.

__________________________

Many of those closest to Lawrence Phillips spoke at his service and shared their favorite memories and stories. What follows are fresh insights into his life and quotes from those who spoke.

HE SCARRED OPPOSING COACHES FOR LIFE.

Pastor Dane Johnson, service officiant: Johnson is also a football coach and during Phillips’ time at Baldwin Park High, he was the head coach at a rival school and reminisced about the first time he coached against Phillips.

“He ran down our sidelines and one of our players got a pretty good lick on him and he ended up down at my feet. As I reached down to pick him up I said ‘Welcome to the Sierra League.’ He started laughing and smiled and chuckled his way all the way back to the huddle and another 180 yards.”

HIS REASON FOR CHOOSING NEBRASKA WAS SIMPLE BUT LOGICAL.

Ty Pagone, Baldwin Park High assistant principal:  Pagone was closely involved with the Baldwin Park High football program and helped Phillips through the college recruiting process, hosting visits for his top three schools (USC, Arizona State, and Nebraska) at his home.

“The quietest one was Coach Osborne. He sat there with his arms folded and Lawrence asked one question. ‘Who wears number one?’ and Coach Osborne said, ‘You will.’

Not long after meeting with Osborne, Phillips made his decision to play for Nebraska.

“I asked Lawrence, ‘What made you choose Nebraska?’

“They had the right answer. I was going to wear number one, their linemen were gigantic, I’ve never seen anything like it, and the community was certainly dedicated to football in Lincoln, Nebraska. Plus, Tom Osborne said I didn’t have to go in to beat the man which was sensible. Coach Osborne says you’ll be fighting for second team. And our second team guys usually rush for 700 yards or so if they’re any good.”

HE WAS A RELENTLESS WORKER AND GREAT FRIEND TO OTHERS AT HIS GROUP HOME.

Thomas Penegar, Phillips’ best friend at the Tina Mac Group Home and a teammate at Baldwin Park High: “Lawrence was a person who’d get up early in the morning while everyone was asleep and head to the elementary school right down the street from the group home. He would do 100 yard sprints and pull ups before going to school. ‘That’s how you get good, Tom.’  I didn’t believe that was what he was doing. I just knew he was going to a girl’s house. One morning I waited for him to leave and I went to see if he was working out. And he was. Hard.”

“For myself being raised in Watts I didn’t attend school because of hunger, clothes, and shoes. I was pretty much illiterate when I arrived at the home. I remember, I asked Lawrence why he had a ‘P’ and not an ‘F’ in his last name. ‘He said p-h makes the f sound.‘ Not once did he laugh or make fun of me.”

HE NEVER BLAMED ANYONE FOR HIS ACTIONS.

Clinton Childs, fellow Nebraska running back: “Lawrence and I had a bond that will never be broken. I always had his back one hundred percent. The common denominator is misunderstood. He was misunderstood. Lawrence touched a lot of people. ”

“He never pointed the finger. No matter what the media said about him. He took every shot on the chin. He never pointed the finger. He absorbed a lot for 40 years. He absorbed it all. He took it on the chin and he rolled with it.”

HE WAS THE ULTIMATE TEAM PLAYER AND WAS THRILLED FOR THE SUCCESS OF OTHERS.

George Darlington, defensive assistant coach for 30 seasons at Nebraska and the lead recruiter of Phillips: “One of the things that is going to be said all day is the tremendous consistency of Lawrence Phillips. The tremendous team player of Lawrence Phillips. I get so sick and tired of watching television and see these jokers pounding their fists and try to have the focus on them. Well, that’s diametrically opposite of Lawrence Phillips.”

“Lawrence Phillips is as fine of an example as we’ve ever had at the University of Nebraska as a team player. He cared about the team and wasn’t in it for him.”

Darlington closed his speech by telling a story about the 2014 reunion of the 1994 championship team. He regularly corresponded with Phillips and wrote to him asking if there was anything he’d want passed a long to his teammates.

“He wrote in a letter ‘It was so great that Schlesinger got to score those two touchdowns and I kind of got blasted carrying out the fake. Just think how much Cory and the other fullbacks blocked for us.’ He didn’t say blocked for me. He was just a tremendous, unbelievable model of the kind of guy you wanted on your team.”

HE LOVED HIS BIG FAMILY.

Arzelle Dupree, Uncle: “Lawrence was one of those kids who got along with everybody. I am so proud of my nephew.”

HE WAS A SUPPORTIVE AND GENEROUS TEAMMATE

Vershan Jackson, teammate at Nebraska:  “We logged a lot of hours walking as freshman. We logged a lot of hours talking.  And one day Lawrence said ‘Why are you always waking with your head down?’ And I said ‘I don’t know.’ He said ‘There ain’t nothing down but the ground.’ I call him my best friend and there are a lot of guys here who are his best friend too. He breathed confidence in me. He breathed strength in me.”

“LP was the most generous person I know. When he got drafted to go to St. Louis, he said ‘VJ you can have everything in my apartment and my car. You can have it all.’ I look back on my life and I ask myself, do I do that to other people? Would I do it? Can I do it?”

“When we get an opportunity to touch someone’s life, like Lawrence Phillips touched my life when I was an 18-year-old kid, and I’m 40 now, it’s truly amazing. Don’t miss your opportunity.”

EVERYONE COULD SEE THAT HE WAS SPECIAL ON THE FIELD.

Tina McElhannon, Tina Mac Group Home: “I went to one of the games. (My sister Barbara), she put the kids in everything she could put them in. We went to Baldwin Park and Lawrence was playing and I’m one of the people who when they watch I worry that the kids will get hurt. And Barbara said ‘Don’t worry about it. He’s going to be just fine.’ Then this kid goes racing down the field and I said ‘Who is that, Superman?’ and Barbara said ‘No, that’s Lawrence Phillips.’

HIS COACH’S FAVORITE GAME WASN’T ONE THAT WON A CHAMPIONSHIP

Coach Tom Osborne: Coach still has his knack for working a room. He started off with a small quip (as always) that got a nice laugh from those in attendance. He thanked Ty Pagone for calling him an excellent recruiter and added, “I didn’t say anything. I just told Lawrence he could wear number one. Actually, I think I knew it was open that year.”

He went then through of list of those he reached out to to get a remark about Lawrence. The names included Boyd Epley, Frank Solich, Doak Ostergard, Dennis Leblanc, and Jack Stark. They each had something wonderful to say.

In his typical style, Coach was doing everything he could to not make his moment at the podium about him. His only game story about Lawrence didn’t involve any that resulted in a championship or featured anything particularly highlight worthy.

Kansas State. 1994. A downright miserable day in Manhattan, KS, and with Tommie Frazier out and Brook Berringer injured, it was up to Lawrence to shoulder the load.

“Our top two quarterbacks were hurt so we weren’t going to throw the ball much that day and K-State had 11 guys within about five yards of the line of scrimmage. We gave the ball to Lawrence 30 times. And it was tough going. Probably three, four yards at a crack.  And he was playing with a thumb that was so swollen that he couldn’t grip the ball. It was about four or five times the normal size and very painful so he carried the ball with one hand and he kept hitting that line.”

He closed by speaking about the last time he he saw Phillips.

“Paul Koch and I visited Lawrence in prison. Spent about an hour with him and during that time Lawrence smiled for the whole hour.
He was very upbeat. Never did anything negative come out of his mouth. He didn’t put anyone down and blame anybody. I came away from that particular visit thinking maybe I’d lift his spirits and I have to say that, actually, Lawrence lifted my spirits more than I was able to lift his spirits.”

“There were a great number of people who cared about him and stood by him through thick and thin and that love will be endured forever.”

Pastor Daryl Sanders, a volunteer at the Tina Mac Group Home: “I met him when he was 12-years-old and had just come into the home. We were having a competition and I saw muscles come out of Lawrence that I had never seen before the age of 12. I said this man is really a specimen.”

HE WAS A VOLUNTEER FOOTBALL COACH.

Sharon Pritchett, Aunt: Lawrence’s Aunt told a story about how he visited her and her daughter in North Carolina. She didn’t specify the exact place or time but Lawrence spent that fall working as a volunteer coach at the nearby traditionally black college working with the running backs.

“Reach out and touch someone with you can. Make this world a better place.”

HIS STRONG WORK ETHIC CONTINUED TO THE NFL.

Toby Wright, teammate at Nebraska and St. Louis: “Lawrence’s work ethic was unbearable. To see Lawrence work was to to see Lawrence as the person he was today. Everything he did he went 100. He went 100 as a good friend. He went 100 as a football player. He went 100 to everything he loved.”

“I remember we were driving to one of the games He said one thing to me. He turned down the radio and said T-riggity. ‘You know what I found out. In life, either you did or your didn’t. And then he turned up the music back up.”

HE PROTECTED HIS TEAMMATES.

Paul Koch, strength coach at Nebraska from 1987 – 1996: Koch was a frequent correspondent with Phillips and used his time to eulogize his friend by showing how his initials of LP could describe who he was as a person.

An example: “Lasting Protector. A young teammate blew out his knee and was on crutches in the team locker room.  Some older teammates were hazing the freshman where they grab you and throw you in the wet showers and give you a rough time. Well, someone wanted to take the injured youngster’s crutches from him and toss them in the showers but Lawrence quickly stood between them and said no one’s touching him. That was the end of that. He had a soft spot for the weak and defenseless.”

KEEP BACKING HIM UP AND HE’LL STILL FIND A WAY TO SCORE.

Tony Zane, Head Coach at Baldwin Park High: Coach Zane told a story of coaching Lawrence in an all-star game in Hawaii. His next stop was Nebraska and Coach Zane said he’d promised George Darlington that he’d honor his request and not play Lawrence at running back to reduce the chance of injury. (In high school he was also a standout linebacker.) A series of fumbles (and Lawrence’s insistence) caused that promise to be broken by halftime. Midway through the third quarter, Lawrence became to only player Coach Zane ever heard of to make it to the end zone three times in a row on the same drive.

It’s first and 10 at their opponent’s 16 yard line, Lawrence runs left and goes right past a Samoan lineman (who went on to start at BYU) and scores.

But there’s a penalty flag.

They run the same play from the 26 and Lawrence jukes the same lineman before reaching the end zone again.

But there’s another flag.

From the 36 they run the same play for a third time and this time Lawrence runs straight over the lineman, his signature move when he was upset, and sprints to the end zone.

The same ref goes to throw a flag again but wasn’t in his pocket.

“One of my players probably picked it up,” said Coach Zane to big laughs.

 

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Why Husker Fans Need the Dodgers to Win the World Series

With the Major League Baseball postseason starting today, it’s time to blow the lid off the missing link to the Huskers getting back in the National Championship hunt and maybe even winning a trophy or three.

The Los Angeles Dodgers need to win the World Series.

Feel free to pshaw and call this idea cockamamie all you want, but if you do the research, you’ll see I’m not yanking your chain. Every time the Huskers have played in a title game or made a National Championship run, the Dodgers preceded those appearances with a World Series victory.

No other team in baseball matches up to the Huskers’ championship aspirations the way the Dodgers do.

Before diving in, I should add a disclaimer:  the mind-blowing argument I’m about to present is grounded solely in hard data and logic. The fact that my lovely wife and I are Dodger season ticket holders (I made it out to a personal best 35 games this year) has not been factored-in in any way, shape, or form.

Here’s how it breaks down:

1965: The Dodgers win the World Series.
1970: The Huskers win their first National Championship.
1971: The Huskers tack on one more for good measure.

1981: The Dodgers beat the Yankees to capture the World Series crown, avenging losses to the Bronx Bombers in 1977 and ’78.
1982: The Huskers come up short against Clemson.
1983: Miami can suck it.

1988: The Dodgers are World Series champs once again and provide one of the most dramatic moments in the history of sport.
1994: The Huskers vanquish Miami to win a long-awaited third National Championship.
1995: The Huskers double down and Tommie Frazier makes one of the most incredible runs in college football history.
1997: Ain’t nothing wrong with going 3 for 4.

Boom. There you have it. Undeniable proof that a World Series victory by the Dodgers means the Huskers will follow up with an appearance and/or a victory in a game with the National Championship on the line within six years. (A wholly reasonable time frame for a new coach to build a dynasty.)  No matter which way you slice it, there’s no denying the cold, hard truth. For the Huskers to win it all, the Dodgers need to do the same.

Now that you’ve suddenly disavowed whatever baseball team that has tickled your fancy for however many years, here are a few nuggets to help you realize that the combo of Scarlet and Cream and Dodger Blue is a match made in sports heaven.

Odd Names in the Early Years: Old Gold Knights, Rattlesnake Boys, Bugeaters? The Dodgers used to be called the Bridegrooms, Superbas, and Robins. Plus, they’re right up there with the Bugeaters when it comes to having a nickname derived from a derogatory term.

Legendary Announcers: While I’m too young to know Lyle Bremser, a chill still runs down my spine any time I think of Kent Pavelka exclaiming “Touchdown, touchdown, touchdown!” The same holds true for Vin Scully saying “It’s time for Dodger baseball!” In case you missed the news, Vin is coming back next year for an unprecedented 67th season behind the mic for the Dodgers. If you’ve never had the pleasure, you need to hear him call a game. The only way I can begin to describe it is that it’s like the coolest guy in the room, who just happens to be a living, breathing baseball encyclopedia, has invited you to sit with him at his private table for a few hours.

Did I ever tell you about the time Jackie and I raced each other on ice skates?

Extremely Knowledgeable and Loyal Fans
dodger-fan-spinning-and-double-birding-angels-crowd
This kid knew exactly what he was doing.

Say what you will about the stereotypical Dodger fan arriving late and leaving early but the truth is getting to the stadium for a weeknight game requires as much planning as the Invasion of Normandy. And the exodus you see in the 7th? That’s everyone running to get one last beer before the taps get shut off.

Just like the average East Stadium blue hair could give a master class on the intricacies of the triple option, I’d be willing to wager that the little Thai lady who sits in front of us could manage a game as well as Don MattinglyAnd that’s no disrespect to Donnie Baseball. She’s just that baseball savvy.

Husker Fans and Dodger Fans
While the Dodgers will never give the Huskers’ sellout streak any competition, they have topped Major League Baseball in attendance the past three seasons. Since 2001, the Dodgers have finished in the top 5 all but twice, coming in at #8 in ’01 and at #11 in 2011, which not coincidentally was the absolute rock bottom of the Frank McCourt era, aka the Dodgers’ Bill Callahan years.

During this same period, all you plucky Kansas City fans, managed to get the Royals out of the bottom 5 exactly twice, #22 in 2003 and all the way up to #10 this year. Gee, bandwagon much?

Zack Greinke
Zack Greinke

If you’re a Royals fan and suddenly butt hurt by the last comment, just simmer down and remind yourself how badly you wanted to see Zack win a ring.

Carl Crawford
Carl Crawford
How can you not cheer for a former Husker quarterback recruit who actually made it to the bigs in a timely manner unlike that Bubba kid.

Tom and Tom Tom Lasorda and Tom Osborne
Mr. Lasorda, Meet Mr. Osborne. While Tommy only ran the show for 20 years to Dr. Tom’s 25, Lasorda and his predecessor Walter Alston managed the Dodgers for a combined 43 years compared to Bob and Tom roaming the Memorial Stadium sidelines for 35.

T-Magic and Yasiel Puig Are Brothers From Another Mother
Taylor Martinez Yasiel Puig

Both came out of nowhere with otherworldly talent and a penchant for making some of the most brilliant and boneheaded plays their respective sports have ever seen. Puig is currently going through his T-Magic senior year, having missed most of the season with hamstring injuries (the Dodgers’ version of the good ol’ groin pull). He miraculously recovered in time for the final days of the regular season but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he were left off the postseason roster.

Milton Bradley
Milton Bradley

The Dodgers’ version of Lawrence Phillips is currently serving 32 months in jail for domestic abuse. In 2004, he famously ended his stint as a Dodger when he tried going into the stands to fight everyone after he was showered with boos (and assorted debris) after botching a routine pop up with the bases loaded. I was at this game and the response from the crowd will never be forgotten, especially the cholos, vatos, and homies, who tried climbing over the outfield wall World War Z style to kick his ass.

If Alex Lewis ever tried blowing kisses to the Dodger Stadium crowd following an epically stupid loss, there’s no way he’d make it out of Chavez Ravine alive.

Dodger Fans Know the Sting of Losing to an Arch Rival: Think Oklahoma, Texas, Miami, Florida State and Wisconsin have the Huskers’ number? Try losing to the Yankees in the World Series EIGHT times. After six tries, the Dodgers finally took them down for the first time in 1955.

To the Dodgers, Reggie Jackson is Melvin Gordon, Brian Bosworth, and Jamaal Charles combined.

The run to the Husker’s next National Championship starts at 6:45pm this Friday night.

Let’s go Dodgers.

It goes so well with Go Big Red, doesn’t it?

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Diminishing Returns: The state of Nebraska’s National Prestige.

You may have noticed something curious with the latest AP poll in regard to Nebraska.

Since dropping a heartbreaker to BYU two weeks ago and looking quite polished against South Alabama (in a week in which many schools up and down the AP Top 25 struggled mightily against lesser competition) Nebraska has failed to collect a single vote from any AP voter. In the meantime, the Comeback Cougars have climbed steadily up the AP ladder with dramatic wins over both Nebraska and Boise State.

BYU currently sits at #19. And, as well they should. Both victories were hard-fought and gutsy.

But when you add up the number of teams ranked below BYU along with those unranked schools receiving votes, you find a whopping 26 football teams.

Zoinks!

Like, where's NebraskaGranted, it’s merely Week 2. There are plenty of undefeated teams out there for voters to consider before factoring in the 1-loss teams. But when a team has another team dead to rights for the win and only gives up the victory on a last second miracle, shouldn’t that losing team at least get a look from the voters as being in the same general ball park as the winner?

Instead of wedging 26 friggin’ teams between them? Maybe it’s just me… Call me crazy.

It’s a disheartening lack of respect in general for a program that, from 1969 to 2002 was ranked in 397 out of 400 consecutive AP polls. (And never, over that time, did the Huskers fail to at least receive votes.)

It was such an amazing run of national relevance and esteem for Nebraska that, when the Huskers’ remarkable high-level consistency came crashing down with the 7-7 season of 2002, the Los Angeles Times sports page ran an article with the following gist: There was no surprise that Nebraska suffered a slump that year. The surprise was — why did it take so long?

The article went on to detail the amazing level of performance sustained by Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne and then, briefly, by Frank Solich. It was a nice bit of Chicken-Soup-For-the-Soul for a Nebraska kid living in LA and suffering through what I’d hoped would only be a temporary downturn for the Huskers.

[Editor’s note: The article in question is seemingly impossible to find but this one from October of 2002 will give you a nice flashback to just how dire things were for the Big Red.]

Twelve seasons later, we’re all still waiting for a full recovery. While only two subsequent seasons have been worse than 2002, Nebraska has failed to reach the 11-win mark even once since then. By comparison, Nebraska racked up twelve such 11-win seasons in the 31-year span from 1970 to 2001. And those were mostly done in years in which Nebraska played just 12 games in total. Not up to 14 like they do now.

Nebraska’s string of success during the Devaney/Osborne/Solich years was a remarkable feat contributed to by an array of ingredients — great coaching; high-level recruiting; low coaching staff turnover; a pioneering strength and conditioning program; and a passion-fueled walk-on program like no school has seen before or since.

But one has to wonder how much of “getting the benefit of the doubt” by the national sports media also contributed to Nebraska’s success.

Looking back over Nebraska’s rankings compared to teams with similar records reveals just how far Nebraska has dropped in national prestige over the last 13 years.

Entering the 1970s with back-to-back National Titles, Nebraska saw teams with equal-or-worse records ranked ahead of them eight times in the final AP polls. On the flip side, the Huskers themselves were ranked higher than 51 other teams with the same or better records over the course of that decade.

In the 1980s, that trend continued with Nebraska finishing the seasons of 1980 through 1987 behind only seven teams with identical or worse records, while finishing ahead of 28 with identical or better records.

Then the late-1980s/early-1990s hit the Tom Osborne era. This was that brief tumultuous period in Osborne’s career when the Huskers suffered a string of seven consecutive bowl losses and were regularly torched by the speed demons at Florida State and Miami and saw Colorado leap ahead as the Big 8’s heavy just as Oklahoma had started to slip.

The national perception of Nebraska football from around 1988 through 1992 was that it had become a paper tiger under Osborne. That his teams would always be good for nine to ten wins thanks to a conference slate that wasn’t exactly a murderer’s row of competition.

From 1988 to 1992, Nebraska saw its final AP ranking higher than teams with equal or better records ten times. Not too shabby, right? Fairly respectable, sure. Until you realize that 27 teams over that same five-season span with the same or worse records finished ranked above Nebraska.

The Huskers were no longer getting the benefit of the doubt.

To encapsulate all this data, the eighteen seasons from 1970 through 1987 saw the national media rank the Huskers ahead of all teams with equal or as good of resumes 84% of the time. During Osborne’s “dark period,” that percentage dropped to just 27%.

Let me tell you, an 84% benefit of the doubt ratio is as good as what the SEC Conference enjoys in the same category even today. And, as we all know, that ratio is pretty ridiculous.

The success of the Huskers from 1993 to 2001 catapulted Nebraska’s prestige ratio back up for a good decade run. But, since then, it’s gotten pretty grim.

If you thought 27% was bad…

So far this decade, Nebraska has finished in the AP poll higher than a team with an equal or better record just once. Meanwhile, 17 teams with equal or worse records have landed higher on the final tally than Nebraska. That’s about a 5% benefit of the doubt ratio.

Over Bo Pelini’s entire run in Lincoln, his teams have finished better than five teams with equal or better records while landing lower than 25 teams with equal or worse resumes. A 17% ratio, that bump up from 5% is entirely attributable to Ndamukong Suh.

Now, one might argue, “So what?” You win, people give you the benefit of the doubt. You lose, people don’t. So winning takes care of the problem, right?

The short answer is, yes. But there’s more to it than just that. Let’s take a look at the SEC’s string of seven consecutive BCS Titles.

Before Florida State and Ohio State came along to put a cork in it, SEC Conference honks were wondering out loud — and in all seriousness — whether or not a non-SEC team would ever win a National Title ever again. Outside of a return by Pete Carroll to USC, these blowhards could not imagine a scenario in which the SEC’s BCS Championship streak ended.

As they saw it, every year the SEC Champion was a defacto place-holder for at least one spot in the BCS Championship Game. And, whomever landed in the other spot simply could never be good enough to defeat the SEC Champion (unless that team is another SEC team, ala the 2011 season). Therefore, the string of BCS Champions from the SEC would continue again and again in the same way, forever. Ad infinitum.

Jameis Winston and Florida State became the St. George who slew that dragon. But even then, the SEC supremacists rationalized that it took a program which essentially exits in the heart of SEC territory and amid the fertile SEC recruiting ground to do it. In other words, only a defacto SEC team like Florida State was capable of stealing a title from the SEC trophy corral.

But how did the SEC’s streak happen?

From 2006 to 2012, four different SEC schools produced seven consecutive National Titles. To do that, those schools had to win all seven of the final match-ups, which they did. And the rest of the world should salute that feat.

But the question is, should every single one of those BCS championship games even have had an SEC team playing in them?

In some cases, the answer is yes. In 2010, 2011* and 2012, no non-SEC school had equal or better records than the SEC schools who made the cut. The one caveat for 2011, is that there were two SEC schools in the BCS Championship. 13-0 LSU was the only undefeated team in the country and the only obvious participant that year. But the other SEC team, 11-1 Alabama, had an equal record to three other teams from outside the SEC — Oklahoma State, Stanford and Boise State.

Was Alabama the best team of 2011? Probably. The Crimson Tide soundly defeated LSU in a rematch. The question is, was it fair to block from the BCS Title game three other teams with identical records to Alabama based solely on assumptions? After all, Alabama already had their shot at LSU during the regular season and they lost. Rematches between two evenly matched opponents rarely go well for the team that won the first round. The BCS committee essentially handed Alabama a trophy, despite the Tide’s lack of even a divisional conference crown.

But there’s no guarantee that one of the other 11-1 teams couldn’t have also defeated LSU. Alabama got the benefit of the doubt, much to the distaste of most every fan outside the SEC. And so did most of the other SEC representatives in BCS Title of the last eight years.

Consider the pool from which those teams were selected.

Adding in the 2013 season — when Auburn played in the BCS title game, but lost — a total of 35 football teams had resumes worthy of consideration for a championship berth going back to 2006. Only nine SEC schools were in the mix. But, when it came time for selection, all nine SEC schools were taken along with only seven non-SEC schools, leaving 19 non-SEC football teams on the outside looking in.

That’s nine SEC teams in eight BCS Title games compared to just two for the Big 10, two for the Big 12, one for the Pac 12, one for the ACC and one independent.

Enter the College Football Playoff and the Ohio State Buckeyes.

The new playoff system had SEC honks salivating. How many all-SEC championship games would they get to see in the coming years? Could the SEC land three teams in the four-team playoff, instead of what would surely be their usual two? What about all four spots? Could that also be on the menu?

If you think I’m exaggerating, go into the archives of any national college football message board from about two years ago and you will see these scenarios suggested and debated. And without any reticence.

But the launching of the 4-team playoff produced, without question, a national champion that would not have existed were it not for the change in the system. Had the BCS Series method still been in play in 2014, we would have seen a match between 12-1 Alabama and 13-0 Florida State. Based on the results shown in the actual 4-team Playoff, the most likely outcome is that Alabama would have beaten the Seminoles — and re-tracked the SEC National Title-winning locomotive by defeating the very team that derailed it the year before.

Meanwhile, Ohio State, which tore through its three post-season matches like the Mongol Horde ransacking Anatolia, would’ve shown up in some unmemorable BCS Bowl consolation game. Probably against Oregon in the Rose Bowl. Which, if I’m not mistaken, would’ve been something like a 42-20 win for the Buckeyes. Good enough for maybe a third place finish in the final polls.

The Playoffs clearly now make it harder for teams to win Championships with the aid of mere assumptions. That aspect will still come in to play when figuring out who should fill the four playoff spots each year. Without Ohio State’s 59-0 demolition of Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship game, the eventual 2014 National Champions would’ve been left out of the tournament in favor of either Baylor or TCU.

Seeing ten SEC schools land in the AP Top 25 for the second poll of the 2015 season clearly illustrates that the Southeastern Conference remains the darlings of the media. Gray area still exits. And that’s why Mike Riley needs to repair Nebraska’s national reputation as soon as possible. A 12-1 season might not be good enough to land Nebraska a playoff spot in this day in age. We’ve seen two dozen teams over the last decade who can attest to what that feels like.

But, beyond worrying about the pinnacle (which Nebraska is in no current contention for), rankings matter. Having a number next to your school’s name determines how much national press the football team gets. How much exposure to potential recruits your program receives. ESPN’s pumping up of SEC schools (never mind the conflict of interest with its TV contract) inflates the value of those teams, who are then ranked higher by the national media, who then receive more attention, who then reel in better recruits, who then win more games, who then get more and more benefit of the doubt.

It must be nice, huh?

Well, once upon a time, that was Nebraska’s luxury, too.

Quick trivia question: Name the only two college football teams to win National Titles in the AP era with two losses on their records.

If you said 1960 Minnesota and 2007 LSU, give yourself a cigar.

But did you know there was almost a third such team?

Indeed. On January 1, 1982, #1 and undefeated Clemson arrived at the Orange Bowl to take on the Big 8 Champion — 9-2 Nebraska, who held a #4 AP ranking. Between them sat #2 Georgia and #3 Alabama. Soon after the Huskers and Tigers kicked off, Bama and the Bulldogs took turns losing in the Cotton and Sugar Bowls, setting the stage for an outright National Title match in Miami.

Clemson jumped out to a 22-7 lead by the end of the third quarter, thanks to a pair of costly Husker fumbles. But, on the legs of Husker legend, Roger Craig, Nebraska mounted a comeback, picking up a 26-yard touchdown run midway through the final period. A two-point conversion put the Huskers within seven with almost eight minutes left on the clock.

Nebraska got two more shots after stuffing Clemson’s subsequent drives, only to see its comeback fall short with a final desperation heave toward the end zone in the waning seconds.

Orange_030_largeBut, had Nebraska completed the comeback, the Huskers would have collected their third National Title with a 10-2 record. A claim Nebraska would’ve had while sitting above a whopping nine teams with equal or better records. Including a would-be 11-1 Clemson.

Yep, getting the benefit of the doubt in college football is no easy task. Especially in today’s SEC-loving world. But, if Riley and crew can build some sustained success over the last half of this decade, well — it’s clearly a benefit worth pursuing.

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I Was the Cheese in a Peter Brothers Sandwich

With a tale as improbable as one that finds yourself trapped between nearly 600 pounds of caged fury known as the Peter Brothers, you just can’t start with “That one time…”

It needs some proper backstory. So let’s set the table.

Twenty years ago today, the Huskers played their home opener against Arizona State. 77,418 fans packed in to Memorial Stadium to witness the carnage as the Huskers piled up 686 yards of total offense en route to a 77-28 victory that was nowhere near as close as the final score indicated. Nebraska went to the locker room at halftime up 63-21.

After starting their season on the road against Oklahoma State and a Nick Saban coached Michigan State, it was a much needed welcome home for the Big Red. Following their 50 – 10 blowout in East Lansing, running back Lawrence Phillips was arrested for assaulting his former girlfriend which turned out to be his first major step on a long and winding road that would end in prison. Nebraska didn’t miss Phillips’ absence in the backfield as Clinton Childs and true freshman Ahman Green each racked up over 100 yards rushing and combined for three touchdowns.

While they didn’t make much of a ripple at the time, players of note that day for the Sun Devils were quarterback Jake Plummer, wide receiver Isaiah Mustafa (you might know him best as the Old Spice Guy), and linebacker Pat Tillman.

Also in attendance that day was this guy. I was working my very first game as a Sports Director for 90.3 KRNU.

If you’ve never caught the signal around Lincoln or listened online (hello, future!), KRNU is the official radio station of UNL that’s run by broadcasting students under the very patient guidance of legendary professor Rick Alloway.

To give students the experience of working at a “real” radio station, KRNU’s programming back then was a little bit of everything and on fall Saturdays it wasn’t uncommon for the station to segue from playing the likes of Mercy Rule and Throwing Muses to becoming the Mighty Sports 90 for a few hours.

Being a Sports Director was one of two prestigious positions at the station. While the Music Directors were plied with free CDs and concert tickets, our perks were rectangles of card stock and an elastic string known as the press pass.

To this day, it boggles me how much access the Athletic Department and Journalism School gives to its students. Even with the Huskers in the midst of the greatest run college football has ever known, us dopey kids were treated the same as the rest of the working media all the way down to having our own booth atop the press box, which back then wasn’t the sleek, shining jewel that you see today.

Our little cube of Memorial Stadium real estate wasn’t much more than a tree house built from plywood and corrugated metal that would be right at home in the Diepsloot area of Johannesburg. Couple the lack of structural integrity with a lack of windows and we’d either swelter or shiver our way through broadcasts.

But we never complained. We got to talk Husker football and watch the best team in history from an incredible vantage point just barely to the right of the 50-yard-line. Lunch (plus dessert at halftime) was a catered affair and if you weren’t on the mic for a game broadcast, you’d watch the finish from the sidelines so you could get a head start on getting set up for recording the post-game press conference as part of our duties for the Huskers Sports Service.

Husker Sports Service… sounds impressive doesn’t it?

To help media from around the country gain access to sound bites, the “Husker Sports Service” would make selected clips available, not for downloading but recording, as in with a tape player. Don’t forget, the internet was still a novelty back then.

After recording a press conference, we’d use state-of-the-art Audio Wizard software to chop up a few choice soundbites from coaches and players that we’d then transfer onto Fidelipacs which would then be plugged into a refrigerator sized machine that was connected to the Husker Hotline, a series of telephone numbers that media could dial-in to and record sound bites to use for their own radio shows.

Basically, it was a lot of work to do what could be handled with an iPhone and a Twitter account today.

A few minutes after the Huskers and Sun Devils left the field, Coach Osborne opened the press conference with a story about Kenny Cheatham blaming his muffed punt return on a nasty case of pink eye that was affecting his vision. He got a lot of laughs and was off and running. One thing TO never gets enough credit for is just how funny he is.

Since we were just there to record the thing, we’d usually hang in the back and let the big dogs in the “real media” like Tom Shatel, Lee Barfknecht, and a young gun named Steve Sipple ask the questions. We knew it was a privilege to be in the same room so we always did our best to not draw unnecessary attention to ourselves.

I found a spot on a couch in the back and soaked up the excitement of being at my first press conference. I guess that’s why I didn’t notice the eclipse until it was too late.

If you’ve ever watched a shark attack survivor tell their tale during Shark Week, many of them will say the only warning was how the  water around them suddenly shifted a split second before a shark clamped down.

So there I was, on that couch minding my own business when my field of vision suddenly went dark. I looked up and saw the silhouette of something massive blocking out a stand up light. It pointed towards me and promptly plopped down on the open space to my right.

Holy shit.

It was Jason Peter. Before I could even process what was happening, his big brother Christian claimed the seat to my left.

They were both still wearing their uniform pants and were completely drenched in sweat and blood in varying states of dryness. Base layers didn’t exist back then so they both wore chopped up grey cotton t-shirts that had soaked to a few shades darker.

They were two of the biggest humans I had ever seen. They didn’t say word. They just snarled, rumbled, and shook as if they were getting ready to play a fifth quarter.

Meanwhile, I just hoped they didn’t notice the wet spot forming in the crotchal region of my brand new Eddie Bauer khakis. My first day on my job was going to be my last because two of the baddest dudes to ever wear Blackshirts were going to eat me.

There was no way I was going to survive this.

I was more terrified than Ripley was when she met the alien in Aliens 3 except I had two beasts breathing down my neck. I just tried my best not to twitch and wondered where I went so wrong in my soon-be-over 19 year-old life that I found myself sitting in the Daisy Duke seat sandwiched between a pair of future NFL players.

The closest thing to social media back in 1995 was the phone book. All you knew about a Husker player was what you saw on the field or after the game. In the case of the Peter Brothers, they murdered the opposition and then they talked about how they carried out those murders. That’s all that the world knew about those guys. There were no Instagram or Twitter accounts to show off their fun loving, “just like us” side off the field. What you saw was all you got.

And I was going to be disemboweled if I didn’t take decisive action. Getting locked in the pen with the bulls after the rodeo was no place to be for a 175 pounder who lettered in tennis.

I summoned all the courage I could and somehow the words fell out of my mouth with a semblance of order and as little fear as possible.

“You guys played a really good game out there. Really kicked some ass.”

I looked at Christian. He didn’t say a word but nodded his approval at my statement. Before I could even glance over at Jason, I heard a growl that sounded a lot like “Thanks, man.”

And that was my window of daylight to make an escape.

I gotta go check my tapes,” I announced to no one as I stood from the couch. Realizing my pants were miraculously still dry, I looked back towards my new friends and said, “You guys can spread out if you want. I don’t think I’ll be coming back.

The didn’t need my permission. The sliver of space I once occupied was already long gone.

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Get pumped up Husker Nation — We’re playing Alabama Tonight!

For those of you who like omens when it comes to predicting the outcomes of future football games — how’s this for Nebraska’s impending epic showdown with Alabama on Saturday:

The last time the Crimson Tide came to Lincoln, it was a crisp September day, the second game of the season, Nebraska was 0-1 and unranked in the polls — and it was a year in which a Star Wars movie premiered in theaters.

September 17, 1977.

BAMAbernsRick Berns racked up 128 yards on 23 carries the last time Alabama rolled into Lincoln.

Low and behold, what’s in store for this year’s match up with Bama?

Crisp September day — check! Second game of the season — check! Nebraska is 0-1 and unranked in the polls — check! And Star Wars, Episode Abrams hits theaters this December — check!

What happened when the same ingredients were thrown into the mix back in 1977?

The hapless Huskers took down the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide 31-24 in what was then described as the “most colorful and emotional effort of the Tom Osborne era.” It would be the only time Bear Bryant would be beaten that season.

So, fasten your seat belts and get ready for a little case of history repeating itself. Bama is going DOWN!

Okay, okay… Enough shenanigans. The boys from Tuscaloosa aren’t heading to Lincoln this year or any year currently scheduled. Instead we’re getting a group of guys from Mobile, most of whom would never make the three deep on their in-state blue-blood to the North’s loaded roster.

But is that any reason not to get fired up all the same?

After the heart-attack inducing final second of the BYU game, maybe the tailgaters in downtown Lincoln could use a bit of a relaxer. A situation in which something resembling a football game takes place, but the outcome of the contest is never in doubt.

Enter, the (South) Alabama Jaguars.

Vegas puts Nebraska as a 27-point favorite. I’m thinking, take the Huskers and the points. Riley and company will look to make a statement Saturday night— the rust is gone. The inconsistencies that allowed BYU to own the second quarter (while Nebraska owned pretty much everything else) have been worked out of the system. And you will see a precision machine ready to combine the remainder of the unharvested schedule.

For casual observers of the game, this sort of match-up tends to be boring. My wife asks, “Who wants to watch a fifty-point blowout, anyway?”

The answer, always, is, “Me.”

Several years ago when the Huskers were still in the Big 12, I was watching Nebraska vs. Colorado at the In-Laws’ house. My wife’s stepbrother, Mike, was there. A rabid Husker fan who, for the fun of it, resides in Boulder just on the principal of keeping your enemies closer.

Nebraska, beating the Buffs by three scores late in the game, drove deep into CU territory when they get stopped on a third and short. My wife’s stepbrother leapt into the air and shouted, “God damn it!”

The Huskers kicked a field goal to pad their lead, but Mike was still fuming. He wouldn’t let go of the idea that Nebraska blew a chance to tack on another touchdown.

My wife looked at me, rolling her eyes. I knew what she was thinking — Nebraska’s got the game won. What’s the big deal?

Well, the big deal was something that Mike and I both knew. Nebraska wasn’t merely playing Colorado (who, by this time had been driven by Dan Hawkins to the conference cellar). Nebraska was competing against the hypothetical performances of other upper-tier football teams were they to also play the Buffs. So beating Colorado by three touchdowns isn’t sufficient if you can imagine Ohio State, Alabama, or Oregon beating them by five or six.

This was a concept well established by the time I started following the Huskers in the 1980s. Hammering Utah State 63-13 the second game into the 1988 season wasn’t a mere act of inhospitality. It was a necessity. Because you just knew that if Oklahoma or Florida State were wailing on the Aggies that day, they’d be doing it by at least as much. Utah State was not so much an opponent, but a gauge. A way to judge whether or not the Huskers looked capable of toppling a big dog.

Bill Bryson, the well known travel-writer/humorist once described attending a Husker game as Nebraska leading their outmatched opponent by six touchdowns, while the obnoxious throng in the stands brayed for more.

Bryson obviously doesn’t get it. He comes from a world in which 17-point wins over the likes of Illinois State are no cause for concern. That world is called Iowa.

But, for fans west of the Missouri River, we know better.

When (South) Alabama falls five or six touchdowns behind the Huskers on Saturday, that’s when the collective nerves at Memorial Stadium will first be soothed. Because Alabama will actually be down on the turf, too. Facing off against the Jaguars, superimposed over the Scarlet and Cream.

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Nick Allen’s Reasons to Be Optimistic About the Huskers

The first game of the Huskers’ season is always a special time full of optimism and hope right up until the moment the first pigskin is launched from the tee into the heavens.

To help ward off any dread that may be sinking in as the hours and minutes tick towards the Huskers’ date with destiny against BYU, we’ve enlisted the assistance of Omaha-based stand up comic Nick Allen. Maybe you saw him on NBC’s Last Comic Standing this summer?

And that accolade (no matter how brief) puts Nick squarely in the position of being the funniest white guy comic living in Nebraska not named Larry the Cable Guy. You can catch Nick in action on September 10th when he headlines the Comedy Underground show at Brewsky’s in Lincoln’s Haymarket.

Take it away Nick…

Guess who’s undefeated baby? The Huskers. Just like they’re supposed to be. New season, new coach, new, new PA announcer. Cue up the Alan Parsons Project. Let’s do this shit.

1) THE BLACKSHIRTS ARE BACK
Right away. Like they should be. Lead by spirit animal Jack Gangwish and a beastly defensive line, NU’s storied defense enters the season with an attitude and intensity backed by decades of tradition.

2) THE PIPELINE
Another backbone of Nebraska tradition is set to rise again. Milt Tenopir has been a regular at practice. Alex Lewis is a bad ass (‘with record’). All championship teams have rap sheets. A pancake breakfast all season long.

3) THE COACHING STAFF
A Head coach with championship pedigree.

mike-riley-bombers-cp-1988
TWO Grey Cups.

Plus, the Huskers now have an actual QB coach (who knows how to properly hold a football).

Tim Beck
Have fun with this guy, Urban.

Eli Manning Danny LangsdorfEli will retire with more rings than Peyton. Just like God intended.

4) STRENGTH COACH MARK PHILIPP

Mark Phillpp
Spontaneous bare-foot deadlift of 400lbs.

5) KEITH WIDEOUTS WILLIAMS

He could suit up if he had to AND he’s not a golf coach!

6) THE GUYS ON THE FIELD

Tommy Armstrong

STUD. End. Of. Story. He’s carried himself like a championship QB since his first snap. This year the big wins follow.

Jordan Westerkamp

Total magician. Usually I despise dudes with novelty mustaches but he gets a pass on that.

Vincent Valentine and Maliek Collins

Collins and Valentine
Wrecking balls.

DPE

DPE
He’s not out the whole season.

Sam Foltz

Thunder Leg
Even though he’s a punter, he could probably beat your ass.

7) EASE OF SCHEDULE
No self-respecting football program should ever be intimidated by the Big Ten West.

8) THE JET SWEEP
If you run it, you should  FINALLY be able to stop it.

9) TOM OSBORNE

Tom Osborne
I was on the same flight as him this spring. That has to mean something, right?

10) UP AND COMERS
According to the coaching staff, a lot of guys are ‘on the come.’ Not sure exactly what that means but it sounds like they’re either on they’re way up or involved in a ‘sticky’ hazing situation. Hopefully they’re rising stars.

11) WHY NOT?
Hey, the Huskers could be pretty good and somebody has to win these games. The past few years they’ve been close. Really close. Shit just fell apart in big games. Sometimes in spectacular fashion but they were ahead in most of those games to begin with. They usually lost one you would have thought they would win too. But they’re close. Plus they’re due. Either way, enjoy it and don’t get too caught up in it.

And if you find yourself screaming at a kid you’d go to jail for buying a beer for– don’t.

GO BIG RED!

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BYU Fans: Your Guide To Drinkin’ In Lincoln

Welcome to Lincoln, BYU Fans!

While Nebraska’s capital city may not seem like the most exciting destination, the town does have a couple things going for it.

1) Even without a GPS (and even with impaired brain function), it is absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to get lost in Lincoln. Navigation  is easier than making a Jell-O salad. The streets run on a brilliant grid system of numbered and lettered streets.

The lettered streets run east/west with O Street considered to be main street. The numbered streets go north/south and any address north of O is considered north and anything south is south. Most folks will give directions based on an intersection e.g. Misty’s Steakhouse (home of the best prime rib in Lincoln and Modern Monks Brewing) is at 11th & P. Boom. Easy, right? Its real address, 200 N. 11th Street, translates to two blocks north of O Street on… wait for it… 11th Street.

If you’re staying downtown (as you should be) consider the Capitol (that 400 foot tall building that looks like a p-e-n-i-s) to be your southern boundary and Memorial Stadium (can’t miss it) to be your northern boundary. Anything between those two monuments is your weekend playground.

2) BOOZE while the streets of Lincoln may not literally flow with beer like the streets of our Big Ten rival up in Madison, the Star City is no slouch when it comes to ease of opportunity to get wasted. Bars are sprinkled throughout downtown as liberally as cheese on Funeral Potatoes. Walk ten feet in any direction and you will find one.

These are some of our personal favorites.

The downtown section of downtown:

Duffy’s – Home of the Fishbowl. You can literally get a fishbowl filled with booze. Perfect for sharing and making friends. Stay in town until Tuesday and take advantage of Dad’s Beer Night. In 2015 you can still get a beer for only a buck.

Duffy's fishbowl
A Duffy’s fishbowl. (Photo: @randallrex14)

Yia Yia’s – Great selection of regional and national microbrews. Best pizza in Lincoln.

Sandy’s – Get an Elk Creek or five and spend a nice night sleeping on the sidewalk under the stars.

O’Rourke’s – Last call in Lincoln is 2am for most spots and O’Rouke’s will keep serving right up until the moment the clock strikes 2. Plus, you can get beer to go here or “off-sale” as the locals call it.

The Brass Rail – If Greek letters permanently adorn any part of your person, you’ll be right at home. Often named one of the best college bars in the US by the scandalous Playboy Magazine.

Zoo Bar – While Donnie and Marie would never play here, this is a great place for live music.

Cliff’s Lounge – Pay tribute to the guy who invented Cliff’s Notes (seriously) by ordering a cocktail served in a pint glass.

The Watering Hole – Chicken wings and beer. Two of man’s most glorious inventions.

The Haymarket section of downtown:

Lazlo’s – Home of Nebraska’s largest microbrewery and one of the best restaurants in Lincoln.

Barry’s – Can’t go wrong with making this classic Lincoln sports bar your game day HQ.

Vega – Live music venue with a tailgate parting on game day.

Brewskys – The most self-explanatory place on this list.

If you need caffeine the morning after, The Mill is the best coffee shop in Lincoln.

HOW TO DRESS:
When you step out on the town, be sure to proudly, but not boastfully, wear your BYU gear, so you can be easily identified by any Husker fans who’d like to buy you a drink. As strange as it sounds, Nebraska folk love being good hosts to out-of-towners. Anyone living outside Nebraska’s borders is considered an exotic specimen who will no doubt add a dash of excitement to another humdrum day of watching the corn grow.

Like politics and religion, there’s is some decorum that must be followed when talking football with Husker fans. It’s always best to keep things on the complimentary side. If you stick to the following talking points, you’ll be the new best friend of everyone wearing red in no time.

Coach Osborne sure is a legend. You can almost feel his presence in the air.

No matter what they say, I still believe the 1995 Huskers squad was the best team of all-time. The Heisman should have gone to that Tommie Frazier.

Ameer Abdullah and Ndamukong Suh are both on my fantasy team.

I’d love to see Nebraska go back to the option some day.

After everything that happened last season, I’m just glad to see Nebraska moving in a positive direction.**

TAILGATING: While the campus is technically a dry one, authorities tend to look the other way when it comes to adults with valuable booster money drinking. The key is to put whatever adult beverage you’re drinking into a plastic cup. And the best part, the same rules for walking around Lincoln apply to tailgating but even more so. If you’re hungry or thirsty before the game, just walk among the throngs of tailgaters and marvel at how quickly a Husker fan fixes you a plate and hands you a beverage.

Husker Tailgaters
If you ever wanted to have strangers hand you assorted meats, a Husker tailgate is the place to be.

FINAL BIT OF ADVICE: If you’re roaming around downtown and feel the need to tinkle, it’s totally cool to dip into an alley to relive yourself. In fact, it is heartily encouraged. Those Lincoln bike cops cruising the streets like they’re on a mission? They won’t give you a ticket. No way, no how. Heck, they’ll even play lookout for you. Scout’s honor.

**Like those of the Jewish faith not mentioning g-d or Muslims drawing a portrait of Allah, it is best to save yourself any potential trouble and never mention former head coach Bo Pelini by name.

He is still quite the polarizing figure among Husker Nation.

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Gone Fishin’. Be back in August.

Here’s another item to add to the pile of reasons why Dirk Chatelain hates us. As a wholly independent (and sporadically reliable) source of Husker news, we are our own boss, the master of our domain, the captain of our own ship, and that ship is setting sail and won’t be returning to port until Monday August 3rd*.

Tom Osborne Fishing
Save us a seat in the boat, Coach!

That’s right, this humble site is taking a month off. It’s the summer and for the sake of our sanity and yours, we’re stepping away from the Husker crack pipe until the sound of pads crunching on the practice field isn’t so far off the horizon. FYI, the Mike Riley era officially gets real when fall camp opens on August 6th.

While taking time off from obsessing over the Huskers sounds like a weird thing for a Husker site to do, we will not be spending those long summer days idly sipping Bartles and Jaymes on the porch. Granted, we might take down a few delicious tall boys of Colt 45 between now and August but the bulk of our sabbatical is going to be spent in the digital gym, and in the new fishing local fishing spots San Diego Fishing Report tells us about.

Big Red Fury is coming back for the 2015 season bigger and better (for lack of better adjectives). This ramshackle operation started as a lark 10 months ago and has taken on enough of a life of its own that its time to see what can be done when it isn’t mostly just one guy writing in his underpants from his home office.

See you turkeys in August.

And who knows, I might even celebrate the occasion by wearing pants.

*Barring any unforeseen, truly huge breaking news that requires our special blend of hard hitting analysis. And no, what a high school kid tweeted or did at camp does not count as news. We’ll leave the stalking to you know who.

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