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R E D    C L A D    L O O N

LOON DROPPINGS 5:
Nebraska 30, Troy State 0
10.4.003

When the Cornhuskers make their way out of the tunnel each home Saturday, it's customary for them to slap the horseshoe above the entrance to Tom Osborne Field. It's a sign, you see, that it's time to punch the clock and go to work. Saturday's triumph over Troy State was no different; as has been their practice so far this fiscal year, our industrious group of Blackshirts got right down to business and did their typical job on the competition. But meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, NU had some struggles in organizing its labor. Parts of this work day turned out to be quite a grind; oftentimes, J.Lo & Co. looked like they wanted a vacation rather than to practice their vocation. But like any good union, just when you thought they were down and out, they'd do something drastic -- and strike.

A few takes:

SHIRTS HAPPEN: Some people really dig on Runzas as the best comfort food in all of Memorial Stadium, but after yet another fortress-like defensive performance, the Red Clad Loon must beg to differ: Instead of a steaming-hot gut bomb, he would rather take in a steady diet of Nebraska's top-ranked defense to get his nourishment. In its first four outings, NU's doberman defense had done absolutely everything ... except notch a shutout. Ah, no longer. The gooser, Nebraska's first since they blasted the Baylor Bears into a fine green mist three seasons ago, was a fitting highlight of this game, considering how damned hard the unit plays on eachnevery snap. Much of the talk early in the season was about how Bo's rock-ribbed linebackers were carrying the D, but this week thanks and praise must go to NU's staunch D-line. To wit: Patrick "Green Mile" Kabongo, seemingly in on every play, bounding his 305-pound chassis across the field sans helmet to drop a Trojan ballcarrier; Titus Adams plugging up the middle and scooping up a TSU yip in the second quarter; and guys like LeKevin Smith and Trevor Johnson creating terror and mayhem in the Trojan backfield all day long. Even good old J. Lo -- eh, Jason Lohr, that is -- got into the mix, leading the reserves to a simply dandy fourth-quarter three-and-out. Even without the injured Private Ryon, Bo's down linemen are steadily becoming a force to be reckoned with. There was pregame speculation about TSU's quarterback giving the 'Shirts fits, but as far as Leaks go, the one in the White House turned out to be much more troublesome than the one in the white jersey. Whether it was 3-0 or 30-0, this was the Blackshirts' day.

HEY, THERE'S NO 'I' IN TEAM: Hello. Are you one of those Huskerians who likes to see one guy follow the fullback through the hole anywhere from 25 to 30 times a game? Well, don't look now, but the job of top I-Back is getting passed around like a ceramic skull bong at the Sigma Nu house. Davis, as always, runs hard, but has seemed to wear down in recent weeks, since he does everything for the team except hold on extra points. Miso Horne, meantime, seems to be a contrarian running back -- rather than running for daylight, he runs away from it, directly into the nearest scrum. That leaves Cory "Pork Chop" Ross, whose waterbug-like runs can be a kick to watch, but he's not exactly going to evoke memories of Dan Alexander. Halfback-by-committee can be a nerve-wracking business, but the bottom line is this: Each week, someone has stepped up and has gotten the ball into the end zone. Miller and Miso did it in Hattiesburg; Chop did it today. Dat's good.

NIGHT AND DAILEY: Perhaps one of the strangest moments at Memorial Stadium on Saturday -- aside from what is quite positively the most awful Tunnel Walk opening montage of all time (Husker Nation Alert! Ho, ho, did you see what that crazy Sower did to the other team's helmet? Ho ho) -- was after wunderkind Joe Dailey led his first offensive series to a prompt three-and-out. JD presided over an incomplete pass, a semi-decent run negated by a penalty, a short gain and then another unsuccessful pass before ushering Kyle Larson onto the field. The crowd's response? A round of rousing applause. "S'OK," the Cob Mob seemed to say. "After all, he's only a fresh-uh-min." Earlier in the game, something similar happened with the fifth-year senior in charge, and the Cob Mob wailed like Justin Timberlake taking a nine-iron to the groin. Suffice it to say that Jammal Lord's margin for error this season is thinner than Callista Flockhart on Slim-Fast; meanwhile, Joe's has been measured to be somewhere between the Grand Canyon and the Mariana Trench. And that's how it should be, after all: As Loons, we are conditioned to expect great things from the starting signal-caller. And regardless of populist angst, No. 5 had a credible performance Saturday. Yes, he missed a few reads, particularly the slant, which was open all day, but he bounced back from a profoundly Salt-Creek-smelling stretch in the third quarter to finish his day on a damned fine note. Meanwhile, those who hung around until the final minutes got to see a bit of history -- No. 12's first (of many, we hope) touchdown as a Cornhusker. And that's right, it came via the airwaves. Whether you're a disciple of the Lord, a Dailey Show watcher or just a Big Red fan who likes to see (gasp) everyone in red do well and not find the need to pick sides, there was something for you to enjoy Saturday. This, contrary to popular belief, is a GOOD thing.

ORANGE YOU LUCKY: Well, Loons, we might have a QB who has a propensity to fumble, but at least he has the common decency to do it when the game isn't really on the line. Kansas State, unfortunately, cannot say the same thing tonight. LR3, back in action after four weeks on the shelf, had a costly yip in the 'Cat loss to the Cows on Saturday. As a red-clad child of the corn, it was difficult to decide who to pull for in the conflagration in Austin. It was sort of like watching Saddam take on Osama in a two-out-of-three-falls cage match -- you just hoped for a long, protracted struggle and that eventually, for someone to get hit in the back of the head with a folding chair. Guess in terms of how the Big 12 North shakes out, Texico's win was a good thing. It's scary to think that six short weeks ago talking seriously about NU being a contender for the division championship was a bigger pipe dream than Guns-N-Roses ever finishing "Chinese Democracy." The next two weeks could be telling -- let's hope oSu gives the 'Cats a ride next week, and then remind Colorado's sieve-like defense in two weeks that it's OK to move after the ball is snapped. In the meantime, you have my permission: Dare to dream, Loons.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Like each of the last three years, Nebraska has taken on a supposedly smelly Troy State team at home. Like each of the last three years, the Cornhuskers have left the field victorious, yet frustrated. And like each of the last three years, the Corngregation has questions, lots of questions. Such as: Will David Horne ever stop channeling Keith Jones while looking for a hole to hit? And: After three straight years of playing TSU, can anyone in Lincoln actually confirm any sightings, any at all, of an actual, live-and-in-the-flesh Troy State fan? And: Will the starting I-Back ever score a touchdown? And, the question on everyone's mind: Is Nebraska really a Top Ten team now? Well, as the Loon writes this, Tennessee just went down in flames to the suddenly-surging Auburn War Eagles, which most likely means NU will climb higher in the polls. If one compares Nebraska's current team with those of Big Red Past, he likely will get the sneaking suspicion that NU is currently overrated. But what's past is past -- the days of Crouch, Frost and Frazier are done and gone, despite what the HuskerVision hacks try to pound into your head each week. What the Almighty Nebraska Cornhuskers have done so far is survive unscathed -- which is more than a lot of supposed preseason heavies can say for themselves right now. The next opportunity for NU to prove themselves is next week in Columbia against ever-dangerous Mizzou. Undoubtedly, the Tigers are inspired after hearing one of Siegfried & Roy's jungle cats turned vicious during a Las Vegas show. But if Brad Smith and Gang want to turn their fortunes around and make Nebraska's quarter-century winning streak crap out, they're going to have to roll the dice and come up with quite a few sevens. Lots of pundits are wagering that this is where NU will bust out, when the chips are down. Hey, wanna bet? Nebraska 23, Misery 13.

==STEVE==
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