R E D C L A D L O O N
LOON DROPPINGS, Vol. 10:
!@$#ing Texas 27, Nebraska 24
I'll tell you who I really feel bad for in the aftermath of this heart-wrenching home loss to the Cows. The Cornhusker Marching Band. Ever since the onset of the Orwellian Telescreens in each corner of Memorial Stadium, the Pride of All Nebraska has been drowned out and relegated to a mere mop-up role. So, moments after the final seconds of this thriller ticked away and when everyone else was wanting to go home, our melancholy musicians dutifully took to the field and reprised their halftime show, a tribute to "The Sound of Music." Still in a daze and listening from my perch in the North Stands, I realized that this contest had, indeed, provided me with many of My Favorite Things -- White pants and red shirts and stir-crazy masses. Options and stiffarms and sweet J. Lo passes. Proving the Longhorns are mere human beings -- these are a few of my favorite things. So, though this loss bites, and the score stings, I ain't feeling sad. I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don't feel so bad.
A few takes:
CALL OF THE WILD: Here's a question that's touchier than Ray Charles at an all-night strip club. Trailing 27-24 with the ball on Texas' doorstep in the game's dying moments, should Frank Solich have played for a tie rather than go for the win? In filing a series of post-game grievances Saturday, many Loons retained the popular law firm of Woulda, Coulda and Shoulda to prove that The Call was uncalled for. And sure, that's easy to say --- now. But I've seen enough CourtTV, and enough football, to know that the second-guessers don't have much of a case. Sure, you can nit-pick the final playcalls all winter if you like -- that's your Devaney-given right as a Husker fan. But the 20/20-hindsight whining about kicking a field goal on third down is about as well-grounded as Tom Green on a boatload of methamphetamines. First, the assumption is that a field goal conversion would have been automatic, conveniently overlooking a pair of first-half kicking nightmares. Second, which offense do you suppose would have had the advantage in OT? Hint: On Saturday, that unit was wearing white jerseys (and a helmet emblem that is eerily familiar to the female reproductive system, come to think of it), not red. And third, Frank Solich is not Bob Davie or Pat Dye or Bobby Bowden, thank the maker. Fearless was correct to seize the moment and take his shot -- it was now or never, all or nothing. Sure, it didn't work out like any of us wanted, but the Loon's game ball still goes to Coach Frank, for his decisiveness, his will to win and, of course, his cojones.
BE JAMMAL THAT YOU CAN BE: Hey, it was swell to see a gaggle of former Husker defenders, chief among them Mike "Mother" Rucker and Broderick "How Could Anyone Forget What His Nickname Was" Thomas, patrolling the sidelines of Tom Osborne field Saturday, pumping up the heirs to their Big Red throne. But the famous NU alumni weren't the most important defenders along the NU sidelines Saturday. A tip of the Loon's cap goes to Task Force Husker, the code name for the 167th Cavalry and 134th Infantry Division of the Nebraska National Guard, which is now on its way to Bosnia as part of a peacekeeping mission. It's common to wish such long-distance travelers "godspeed," and on Saturday the soldiers got a first-hand, field-level view of what constitutes "Lordspeed." With his long strides and his fluidity of movement, it never looks like J. Lo is moving very fast -- but then again, neither do the guys chasing him. His 54-yarder to set up NU's first TD was a thing of beauty, and unlike quarterbacks of recent years who shall remain nameless because we don't like to get nonsensical angry e-mails, Jammal can hit the pitch man when needed. In the words of Mizzou's Larry Smith, he was one stinkin' play from becoming a legend. And from his press-conference demeanor, Lord obviously felt he lost the game for Nebraska. He shouldn't. His show-stealing, record-shattering, monster of a game was Reason No. 1 that the 'Skers were in it until the very end.
SIMMS LIKE OLD TIMES: After his 216-carry, 2,309-yard game against Iowa State last weekend, Cedric Benson was on the minds of everyone in Memorial Stadium on Saturday. But save for a few decent runs, Benson looked more like Robert Guillaume than Ricky Williams against the Blackshirts. Credit the inspired play of the defensive line, key among them Patrick "Green Mile" Kobongo, whose penetration eventually drew more double-teams than Jordan in his prime. By the time Ruuuuuuuuud had made his 71st tackle, it was obvious that Nebraska had Stooped to a proven strategy on how to beat Texas -- stop Benson and make Chris "And Now For My Next Trick" Simms beat you. And, harkening back to that age-old adage of "If you make a team one-dimensional, you have them right where you want them," it seemed like Nebraska's plan was coming together. Argh, the problem was, Simms (and his genetically-engineered superstar receiver, Roy Williams) simply torched the NU secondary. The three-step-drop-and-fire approach had Bohl's boys spinning like a top, and even when Simms tried to make his patented key mistake, the Blackshirts were in no mood to oblige. Josh "Never Mind the" Bullocks missed a chance for a pinch on what eventually became a Whorn touchdown drive, and I won't even begin to try to repeat the blue streak that rent the air when Ruuuuuud's sure interception bounced into Brock Edwards' grubby little burnt-orange mitts. Facing so many weapons, you hoped that the 'Shirts would bend but not break. They fought valiantly, but in the end, break they did. And, fellow Loons, therein lies the difference between 7-3 and 6-4.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The most disturbing thing about this loss was not the manner in which it occurred. Nor was it the smug arrogance of the mullet-headed, knuckle-dragging Texas fans sitting in front of the Loon. These two were so excited that they must've mistaken the game for the World Cup, since they brought the flag of Puerto Rico with them and all. No, here in the awful aftermath one very disturbing fact comes clear: If the Cornhuskers do make their way to a bowl game this year, the best they may be able to do is the upstart Tangerine Bowl in Orlando. Not exactly the fruit we Loons are used to plucking when we're down in Florida, is it? I've never acquired a taste for it, so the word "Tangerine" instead makes me think of that old Led Zeppelin tune of the same name. A lyric somewhere in that ballad goes something like this: "Thinking how it used to be / Do you still remember times like these?" And right on cue, we can pretend like it's 1975, 1985, 1995 all over again when considering next week's opponent -- the Kansas Jayhawks. In fact, the two best ways to get over a hangover in the Husker Nation is (1) drink a tomato beer first thing in the morning, and (2) pulverize Kansas into a finely granulated red-and-blue powder. Time to start building another home win streak, no? Nebraska 52, Kansas 17.
Baud to the Bone.
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