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R E D    C L A D    L O O N

LOON DROPPINGS 1:
Nebraska 17, Oklahoma A&M 7
8.30.003

Whether you like her or not, you have to admit that Madonna is a master of staying in the spotlight. She does this, of course, by constantly reinventing herself. She's morphed from one look to the next through the years, from being punked out to becoming a Marilyn Monroe clone to her leather-clad dominatrix days to riding around in limos as a techno-chic cowgirl. She's still at it, too; as those who tuned into the MTV Video Music Awards recently know, The Material Girl drew worldwide headlines by planting an open-mouthed smooch on neo-diva Britney Spears in the middle of the show's opening act. Not like such shenanigans made many waves in Huskerland, really. This week, the denizens there were far more concerned about a much different kind of opener. That's because for a year now, Loons have had to take a bunch of lip from oSu backers. So, as a hot, steamy summer came to an end Saturday, we were more than eager to see how our newly-redesigned Cornhuskers would, um, make out against a high-octane foe. Heh, as it turns out, all that talk about the Pokes' great offense was just a bunch of wagging tongues; in the end, Bo & Co. showed that no matter what kind of look you adopt, the best way to stop someone is to just come right up and smack 'em -- right in the kisser.

A few takes:

THE ITALIAN JOB: It was difficult to tell what was the source of the most embarrassment for Cowboy faithful following the game -- the fact that their punter's last name was actually "Farden," or the fact that he got so many opportunities to exhibit his skills on Saturday. Oh, let's just go ahead and admit it, gang, after O-State scooted right down the field and scored on that first drive, we were all thinking the same thing: "Bo-Ball seems to look a lot like Bohl-ball, doesn't it?" Ah, turns out it was just first-drive jitters -- the first points Nebraska allowed turned out to be their last, and from that point on, the Pokes' offensive productivity disappeared faster than Michael Moore hearing the words "The line for the all-you-can-eat buffet starts over there, sir." Taking on the en-fuego persona of their leader, the Blackshirts -- and it's safe to call them that again, methinks -- played with that long-lost intensity that makes a Loon's arm hair stand at attention, especially when it's third-and-14 and you just KNOW they're bringing the wood. By the way, it was positively nifty to see our old friend, Gang Tackle, making a return to the starting lineup. Ruuuuud was everywhere, and Demorrio Williams, unshackled at last, showed why he was one of the top Juco prospects in the nation when he arrived in Lincoln last spring. And let us not forget Josh "Never Mind The" Bullocks, who snabbed two picks off of Mrs. Fields and swung momentum back to the Big Red just when they seemed to need it. It's a no-brainer, kids -- the Loon's game ball goes to the unrelenting ballhawks up and down the Husker D.

TOUGH ENOUGH: Earlier this week, many an eyebrow was raised when No. 1, Josh "Vanilla Thunder" Davis, was named No. 1 on the depth chart, too. And there even was a small reason for concern: After all, I-Backs wearing No. 1 have had quite the hard time finishing their senior seasons over the last 8 years or so. Also, Davis moving to the top of the "I" meant that the Cornhusker starting offense would consist of one (1) black quarterback and a whole bunch of white guys around him (well, Vili's Samoan, but you get the point). However, by the time the final saccharine-sweet seconds melted off the Memorial Stadium clock Saturday, Davis had made his Oklahoma Statement: Ninety-five yards on 20 totes, plus yeoman's work returning kicks and punts, made him one of the hardest-working Huskers in the house. To say that Vanilla T runs hard is like saying Mick Jagger and Keith Richards have written a couple decent songs -- the crack statisticians at Huskers.com are STILL counting the number of tackles he rumbled through on Saturday. Sleep well, kid, you earned it.

AND NOW, A CAREFULLY-BRANDED STATEMENT FROM THE ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT: Husker Nation. Husker Nation. Husker Nation. Husker Nation, Husker Nation, Husker Nation. Husker Nation. Husker Nation. Husker Nation, Husker Nation, Husker Nation. There is no stopping this merchandising leviathan. If you need a visual of what kind of might the whole concept wields, then envision this vernacular-infiltrating buzzword as an American stealth fighter, and your free will as an Iraqi anti-aircraft cannon near the al-Rashid Hotel. Resistance is futile. What's that? Husker Nation? Well, Husker Nation to you, too. And in case you didn't pick up on the theme for the '003 season, let us close by saying: Husker Nation Husker Nation Husker Nation. Get your t-shirts and other fine merchandise now. Husker Nation.

THAT SAID: The Loon must admit that he got a little verklempt in seeing the old lettermen pour onto Tom Osborne Field from all four corners of the stadium as part of the Husker Nation Reunion. It was OK to be down with that, 'cause it was the same red-blooded, button-poppin' feeling a guy gets when the U.S. delegation comes marching in for the opening ceremonies at the Olympics -- hope, faith and glory all rolled into one. It was virtually impossible to try to identify even a small percentage of all the ex-Huskers on hand, but from my perch in the north end zone, a gaggle of familiar faces, names and numbers came streaming past, each evoking a separate memory throughout the day. Suddenly, it was 1995, 1985, 1975 all over again: There was Neil Harris, tipping away Danny Bradley's last second pass in Norman; there was William "Goggles" Washington, catching a strike from Gerry Gdowski for a score; there was Mike Knox, running a pick back for a touchdown in the very first Kickoff Classic against Penn State; there was Phil Ellis, plugging up the middle in those final, immortal seconds against the Hurricanes on Jan. 1, 1995;  there was Dave Burke, not looking a day older than when he ran his interception off UCLA's Steve Bono back for six in '83; and there was Clinton Childs -- still talking, still laughing, still joking, still at the side of the immortal Tommie Frazier, the Twin-Ringed God of the Option and Supreme Confidence. It was amazing how these men, young and old, kept popping into view Saturday. The Reunion made an already notable day at the old stadium one of the most memorable days ever in Husker football history. Quite literally.

BOTTOM LINE: As the saying goes, Change Is Good. Apparently, Cornhusker fans have taken this to heart when it comes to their post-game traditions, as well. As the Formerly Ranked Cowboys trotted off the field following what had to be a disappointing opening-day loss, a contingent in the northwest stands predictably partook in the traditional contrived-golf-clap-for-the-opponent. Others, however, chanted "overrated" as the kids in orange and black trudged past. Which got a Loon to thinking -- with this regionally televised win, does NU's long, conspicuous absence from the Top 25 finally come to an end? Or is NU still jockeying for position in the Others Receiving Votes agate type at the bottom of the poll listings? Well, we'll find out soon enough, I suppose. It's guaranteed, however, that the focus at the South Stadium offices has already shifted from an opponent that was ranked to one that is downright rank. Yes, it's time to slip into something a little more comfortable this coming week -- the Utah State Aggies, a/k/a Guaranteed Victory No. 1 according to conventional wisdom. It's probably fair to say that Nebraska (currently alone atop the Big 12 standings, harty har har) will probably suffer a mild letdown after this week's emotionally-draining Holy War with the Pokes. So maybe that means Utah State's high-wire act gets them within 30 when all is said and done. Maybe. Wake up Aggie, there's something we want to say to you: Nebraska 44, Utah State 14.

==STEVE==
Red. White. Loon.
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