R E D C L A D L O O N
LOON DROPPINGS, Vol. 11:
Nebraska 45, Kansas 7
One of the dumbest -- not to mention one of the most overused -- football-fan references these days is to the word "rule," for some reason. As in: "Yeahhhh, Huskers RULE, baby!" Yech, whenever I hear that phrase, I always want to yell back:
"Rule what?" College football? No, contrary to popular belief, the sport is not an aristocracy -- it's a pollster-driven, computer-convoluted pseudo-democracy. Rule over the Kansas Jayhawks? Well, OK, you may be onto something there, Cornboy; if there has been one team that has held sovereign rights over KU over the last three decades, it has been the Almighty Nebraska Cornhuskers. And even in a down year, the Empire struck back Saturday: NU's offense Lorded over Kansas' hapless D while a vengeful group of defenders administered lots and lots and did I mention lots of royal pains. Shoot, Elvis even showed up at halftime, just in time to shake his hips with the band and then watch as wingback Troy Hassebroek got crowned during Homecoming ceremonies. Apparently, Nebraska reigns over Kansas so well that these days, there's even room for two Kings.
A few takes:
THE BIG EASY: In light of this big win, do you suddenly have the urge to revert to an Old School Husker Fan Mindset and nitpick over about how this blowout loss should have been blowoutier? Before you do, please take a moment to harken back to early September and recall the discombobulation that passed for Nebraska's offense at the time. The quarterback was greener than a gourd, not to mention the babyfaced offensive line, and the depth chart was shifting around like the NASDAQ on a bad day. As a result, any consistency was tougher to come by than a "John Ashcroft for President" bumper sticker in a Mexican border town. But here in November, it is a much different unit that strides onto the field in hopes of pummeling opponents. Talent has made up for a lack of experience, J. Lo has gone from flotsam to awesome and NU has a one-two-three-four-five-six punch at I-back. This astoundingly Viagran upsurge continued Saturday, with Nebraska blitzhammering KU in the most Nebraska-like way imaginable: 300-plus rushing yards. Passing when they wanted to, not when they (big difference here) needed to. Undersized white backup QBs in the game early and multiple backs busting the silver-dollar mark. Yes, yes, I know: Nebraska was playing Kansas, which is sort of like wrestling Christopher Lowell -- it's not all that difficult, and in the end you get the feeling that he wanted you to win, anyway. But aside from some chippy passing at times, it appears that the Big Red Machine is primed and ready for the stretch run. And not a moment too soon.
BABY BOOM: What century was this again? The lack of TV, the 12:30 p.m. start time, NU ahead by a gaggle of touchdowns in the fourth quarter and a legion of old men wearing faded "1994-95 National Champions" sweatshirts around Memorial Stadium was reason enough to double-check the calendar. But don't forget about another time-honored practice in the spirit of days gone by: Husker fans scrambling for their copy of First Down Magazine's game roster to see if they could make sense of the Grand Central Station-like traffic to and from the Husker sideline late in the game. One hundred eleven Huskers, many of them underclassmen, saw action Saturday -- a once-regular occurence that for years was the most potent long-term item in Nebraska's weapons cache. In particular, the Loon was pleased to see the return of two very important underclassmen: Lannie Hopkins, who should probably just give in and switch jersey numbers with No. 14, Daniel Bullocks, so he could look just a little bit more like Barron Miles as he blocks punts, and No. 5, Miso Horne, who followed up an oddball seven-carry, 12-yard night vs. the Cows with 122 silky-smooth ones vs. the Chickenhawks. His footwork on that 30-yard score in the first half would have made Michael Flatley cry like a little girl. And while we're throwin' out the bones, it was great to see Josh "Here Comes the Son" Davis get a sixer in the third quarter. Wethinks his hard-nosed running and fierceness on kick returns has earned him a little glory.
NUMBERS GAME: In a completely a propos sequence of events Saturday, J. Lo went over 1,000 yards rushing and passing for the year, received a nice round of applause, and then promptly got sacked for a 12-yard loss on the next play. It's just been that kind of year for Jammal. Other than that, though, he and the Huskers fattened their stats on Saturday. Lost amid the talk (fear?) of Lord closing in on Jesus Crouch's school-record 2,625 yards for a single season was the fact that with his 107 yards, Diedrick moved into the school's Top 10 all-time rushing list. Dee Dee's now in front of guys with names like Craig, Berns, Alexander, Jones and Buckhalter. Predictably, news outlets sought out No. 30 and other stars after the game, while ignoring the man who had the most symbolic number of the day. That would be little-known junior fullback Andy Wingender of Omaha, who wears No. 34 -- as in NU beating KU for the 34th straight year, triumphing in its 34th straight homecoming game and ... drumroll please ... becoming eligible to play in its 34th straight bowl game. And in late September, they said it couldn't be done. Ta-daaa!
THE BOTTOM LINE: After watching Kansas State piano-wire Yeah This Looks More Like Iowa State in Manhattan on Saturday, the legions of Comparative Score Logicians cranked up their scientific calculators in hopes of laying a line for next week's Big 12 North clash. So, let's see ... ISU beat Nebraska 36-14, while KSU beat ISU 58-7. OK, so according to our highly scientific formula, Saturday's score in Manhattan should be ... let's see, carry the one ... Kansas State 73, Nebraska 0. And the way that the Wildcats are devouring opponents right now, a third-straight loss at that arenaball stadium they call Wagner Field is entirely possible, I suppose. Nebraska will have to resurrect some of that road mojo that they found in College Station -- which apparently isn't always the easiest place in the world to win, particularly if you're the No. 1 team in the country -- in order to beat the 'Cats in their cradle. The purple is deep, what with a quicksilver QB, a doberman defense and a coach that is so demonically driven he makes the Marine sergeant in "Full Metal Jacket" look like the guys from "Dude, Where's My Car?" And come Saturday, Kay State will be favored to put another scratch in the Huskers. But the Big Red is about to give those 'Cats pause. Nebraska 29, Manhattan College 28.
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