As if this season needed to be any more frightening, it’s time continue a tradition that startedlast year. Here are some fresh Halloween costume ideas for Husker players, coaches, and a few hangers-on.
As much as Mike resembles the pride of Ocelot, Iowa, this choice is also symbolic as Coach Riley has found himself Munsoned in the middle of nowhere with a fan base that’s making their pitchforks a little sharper with each passing week. As someone who happens to share Roy’s cursed last name, I’ve somehow never dressed as him for Halloween but I did get to meet his landlordthis past summer so I’ve got that going for me.
Yes. This one is in absolutely poor taste but when all you need to pull off a costume that will get the whole neighborhood talking (and the police making unannounced visits) is a pair of glasses and foot long, you just gotta do it.
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 inhistory 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.
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.
It was Jason Peter. Before I could even process what was happening, his big brother Christianclaimed 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.
Just a couple months ago, it seemed like this day would never get it here. Now, every day is suddenly like Hanukkah except our daily gift is that we’re 24 hours closer kick off.
While this might be a good time to start spinning our Husker dreidel and try to predict what the future may hold for Mike Riley’s first squad, we’re not going to do that.
There’s so much optimism that abounds with first game week of the season that we’re not about to harsh that mellow with any doom, gloom and/or reality.
For college football fans, spring is blooming in the prologue of fall.
Even the World-Herald’s Tom Shatel is riding in business class on the Husker happy train. His Sunday column pitching the concept of positive football was very welcome surprise.
While the previous guy’s favorite go-to line (after “next question,” of course) was “trust the process,” we’d like to go ahead and revise that phrase to fit Mike Riley.
Move over, trust.
It’s time to ENJOY THE PROCESS.
There’s no clearer example of that philosophy than the Huskers team photo for 2015.
Your 2015 Nebraska Cornhuskers, ladies and gentlemen.
Look at Mike Riley (front row, dead center) smiling like a guy who ended up in more unlikely situation than his fellow Alabama alum Forrest Gump. (For the record, Riley would have missed the Gump era by a few years.)
Here’s a closer look at the guy.
Seriously, Nick Saban doesn’t even smile that big when he wins a championship.
There’s no doubt that Riley knows this season is going to be a heck of a ride no matter how it shakes out. We might as well follow his lead and do our best to enjoy every twist and turn and unexpected loop.
As June creeps towards July, the dog days of the Husker off-season are upon us.
If you haven’t been swayed by summer and all her lovely distractions, you may have noticed the full-time Husker media has been chiseling away at the bottom of the Husker news barrel since just after Memorial Day. They have an unbelievable amount of air-time and column inches to fill and somehow, they’re making it work.
I imagine they all gather for regular meetings in Tom Shatel’s basement to discuss their story ideas for an upcoming week and draw their daily topics of discussion from a well worn bingo ball tumbler that was a solid find at a church garage sometime during the Solich era.
How else can you explain the magic that no talk radio show or writer ever covers the exact same topic on the same day?
One area that has yet to become a topic of open discussion is the elephant in the room that is Husker Nation.
What will be the reaction if a Mike Riley led Husker team ever loses?
Please note: I said if. Not when.
I am by no means advocating for a Husker loss.
But I do know that during slow periods, it’s standard practice for news outlets to write obituaries in advance so that when a person famous enough to warrant a pre-written obituary kicks the bucket, they can have one ready to go with minimal updates.
With any Husker loss feeling like a death in the family, I’d bet a stack of Runzas there at least a couple sportswriters who’ve been outlining what they’re going to write following the first loss of the Mike Riley era- should one ever occur, of course.
With that in mind, we’re going to make some bold predictions, aka hot takes, on what might be said following such a tragic event.
Mike Riley, asking which way to run out of Lincoln. (Just in case.)
If Mike Riley’s Huskers ever suffer a loss, we’ll come back to this and see how we did on our cliché predictions:
“Well, the honeymoon is over. Like any marriage, this day was inevitable. The first test between Mike Riley and the state of Nebraska is upon us.” – First writer to file their post game analysis gets dibs on the most obvious lede ever.
“The life of Riley just got a lot harder.” – The second most obvious lede.
“The Mike Riley era began with a humbling loss in front of a nationwide television audience but when the final whistle blew, the Huskers and their new coach were not the laughing stock of the country unlike season’s past.” – On the off-chance BYU opens their season with a win in Lincoln.
“This defeat doesn’t sting or humble any less than the others but Husker Nation can show some pride in knowing this setback was taken on the chin with dignity and class, elements missing from the Husker sideline for far too long.” – Losing with class will be a major theme. (If a loss ever happens.)
“Sorry, Coach Riley. This is where Nebraska nice gives way to Nebraska expectations.” – This one is right in Dirk Chatelain’s wheelhouse.
“Those shallow wrinkles on the 62-year-old coach’s boyish face are about to become etched a whole lot deeper.” – Again, this one is all Dirk.
“Coach Riley is going to start looking his age real quick.” – The over/under on sportswriters using this one is 5.
“Gone are the jaunts down to the Haymarket for a happy hour beer and a photo or two with the fans.” – Sipple. Naturally.
“It was a loss that will give Riley’s coaching staff dream team nightmares for days to come.” – This one better not happen. The Justice League of America is not as well assembled as Riley’s crew.
“After today’s humbling defeat, there’s no way the happy go lucky coach could ever be brave enough to bum a ride home from a fan.” – Not to worry, Coach. The code uberBigRedFury will get you a free ride from Uber. (This deal also applies to you, dear readers.)
“The trio of coaches who failed to escape the long shadow cast by Tom Osborne’s 25 year legacy has now become a quartet.” – Sam McKewon, Omaha World-Herald.
The Nirvana of coaches who failed to escape the long shadow cast by Tom Osborne’s 25 year legacy has found their Pat Smear in Coach Riley. – Sam McKewon, back in his Nebraska State Paper Days.
“When the consistent mediocrity of a 9 win season, suddenly becomes a pie in the sky dream…” – Worst case scenario if the Huskers lose more than once.
“No matter which way you slice it, losing with class is still losing.” – An average member of Huskermax.
“Maybe he should have kept paying by the night at the Embassy Suites.” – A below average member of Huskermax.
“If you take I-80 west for 140 miles or so, you’ll be able to pick up the Oregon Trail and follow that home.” – A Huskermax member who thinks the coaches actually turn the forums for advice.
“The special, allergen-free paint in the home the Riley’s spent so much time searching for is barely dry and it may already be time to put it back on the market.” – Nobody better say this one. I feel bad for even thinking it.