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LOON DROPPINGS 4:
Nebraska 38, Southern Miss 14
9.25.003

As most Husker fans know, the home of Southern Mississippi University -- a place called M.M. Roberts Stadium -- is known in some circles as "The Rock" (cue Sean Connery clip here). And usually when Southern Miss gets their quarry trapped in that pit, the visiting team ends up in a pile of rubble. Well, not so on Thursday. Behind a rock-ribbed defense and a solid effort from the starting QB, the Cornhuskers pulverized their black-clad foes into so many harmless pebbles. The biggest gem in this victory, surprisingly, came via the air -- little did we all suspect that success in Hattiesburg was just a stone's throw away. And speaking of throws, from the looks of Jammal Lord's metamorphic performance Thursday, perhaps we've all been taking the guy for, uh, granite.

A few takes:

START STRONG, FINISH STRONGER: So there were the Huskers, wading through a sweltering throng of bourbon-fueled USM yahoos who were conveniently perched right on top of their sideline, yelling not-so-neighborly ephitets in their general direction. And there were the Huskers, swimming around the swirling, ThunderStick-beating cauldron whipped up in the demonically driven hope of ambushing the Big Red in a Mississippi night so humid you could cut the atmosphere with a buck knife, or light it on fire with a match, even. Luckily, Nebraska treated this environment like most people treat Gene Simmons being sober, Jewel as a poet or Madonna as a Jew -- they just weren't buying it. Two turnovers and a 17-point first-half blitzkrieg later, the Cornhuskers had set the tone and reduced the partisan Hattiesburg crowd's busyness level to that of a Bum Steer Steakhouse in downtown Seattle. Yes, Golden Eagles, if you would have had your No. 1 quarterback healthy, things may have been different. And yes, Golden Eagles, if Bower would have played quicksilver freshman Dion Carter a bit earlier, things might have been different. And yes, Golden Eagles, if my grandmother had testicles, she would be my grandfather. Face it -- the Huskers owned this day. There aren't enough ifs, ands or buts to rationalize the Birds a moral victory in this one. Frankly, USM puts up a better fight when they go on the road, dontcha think?

JAMMAL IN THE FAMILY: Oh, what wonderment swept across the Plains when ESPN returned from a second-quarter commercial, their screens filled with the wunderkind freshman preparing to direct the Cornhusker offense. Was this it -- the start of the Dailey Era? Had The Future arrived at last, at long, long last? Could it be that The Kid That Did No Wrong was about to take the Almighty Nebraska Cornhuskers, already sitting on a three-score lead, even further into the promised land? Well, in a word: Nope. While Joe performed decently in his brief turn at the helm, it was clear from his limited action that his action is just that -- limited. Someday soon, The Tattooed One will be a superlative scarlet stud and the Dailey Show will be required viewing for every devoted member of the Cob Mob. But on Thursday, the Cornhuskers benefited most from the experienced play of one J. Lord, Esquire. With the Husker running game getting stuffed by the gap-shooting Eagle D, Lord turned to the long ball -- and delivered beautifully. Two sweeeet tosses from scrimmage later, a 17-to-7-and-getting-more-interesting-by-the-minute ballgame was suddenly a laugher, and the rest is history. The Loon's game ball goes to Jammal "He Can't Throw Oh Please Would They Just Start Dailey" Lord. Here's hoping J. Lo doesn't throw it at all of his former doubters.

DEFENDING THE PROGRAM: What more can be said about the positively Viagran upsurge we've seen in the Cornhusker defense this year? Simply put, there hasn't been a comeback like this since Lazarus sat up, yawned, and said, "Hey, what did I miss?" From Private Ryon's megacolossal fumble recovery in the earlygoing to Super Demorrio continuing to play like an escaped mental patient to Never Mind The Bullocks ringing up yet another pinch, the Boshirts showed why they're the top-ranked defense in all the land. Beauty of it is, they've shut down offenses as a t-e-a-m -- asking to choose between your favorite individual Cornhusker defensive player is like asking horny fans of "Gilligan's Island" who they'd rather see in the buff, Ginger or Mary Ann. A special nod to Jerrell Pippens, as well -- Pip seems to have a knack for making the most of his time on the field, as evidenced by his pinch in the second half Thursday. Good to see the reconstructed cyborg, Jason Lohr, back in the mix as well. Sure, the Southern Miss offense has gone through more physical overhauls than Michael Jackson, Pamela Anderson and Jerry Jones combined, but you still woulda thought that they would've gotten a first down in their home stadium before the three-minute mark of the first quarter. And hey, the 'Shirts did it without Julius Jackson, too! Another masterpiece from Pelini -- the guy could kill a man in Lincoln just to watch him die, and no one would really care right now.

WHITE OUT: The red pants are back. Thank Devaney. 'Nuff said.

THE BOTTOM LINE: In mid-August, not long after Tom Osborne let it be known that he might run for Nebraska's governorship in '006, the good doctor spoke with a Lincoln reporter about his future political prospects here in the Cornhusker State. Once the interview was over, the reporter then asked him what was REALLY on everyone's mind -- that is, how did he think the Huskers were going to do this year? In typical beltway fashion, T.O.'s response was noncommittal and diplomatic. "It's hard to say," Doc said. "But I can tell you this: If they go 4-0 out of the gate, they could have a great year." And, after four ballgames, that is exactly where the Cornhuskers find themselves: Unbeaten, perched atop the Big 12 rankings, blessed with one of the nation's top defenses, and knocking on the door of the nation's Top 10. Was this really the same crew that went down like Jenna Jameson on a truckload of E in Shreveport just nine short months ago? Or the one that needed a couple of special-team bailouts to pull out a W against lowly Troy State last September? Hard to believe, but yep ... and yep. Next week, Nebraska comes home to engage in what is quickly becoming an annual slugfest with the Men of Troy, and are looking certain to nab victory No. 5 of the young season. In past years, the Trojans have been game, of course, but they haven't seen a Husker team with a chip this large on their red-clad shoulders. For the Trojans, this is where the rubber meets the road. Huskers 35, Troy State 3.

==STEVE==
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