R E D C L A D L O O N
LOON DROPPINGS 12:
Nebraska 31, Colorado 22
In the week leading up to this game, word was that Nebraska was preparing to crumple up and throw away one of its favorite sons. Yep, like so much garbage, Fearless Frankie was slated to be junked for a newer, better model. And hey, at the time, some Loons agreed with the sentiment: To many, the Huskers' season had long ago turned into a big ol' heap of rubbish, and all that was left was a lousy trip to that dump called Folsom Field. How fitting: After all, it was there in Boulder where the Cornhuskers were used to being trashed, in more ways than one. So what did the Big Red do in response on Friday? They scrapped their old playbook, laid waste to the Buffs and played like the Huskers of old. And just like that, it appears that their season -- and their leader's job -- may be salvaged.
A few takes:
SPECIAL ED: In the end, three things can be most credited for the Cornhuskers halting the Two-Year Reign of Terror: (1) Nebraska's players finally decided that they actually wanted to play football for Frank Solich, go figure; (2) The inspired play of an offensive line that was more boogered up than a baby's nose; and (3) The mind-roasting ineptness of Colorado's special teams. Yes, yes, Hackett got in there and blocked that one Larson punt, but that single play stands in glaring contrast to the rest of the day for the Fubbaloes' kick-team unit. It's been some time since the Loon has had the opportunity to witness the pageantry, majesty and splendor of a four-yard punt. Or watch in wide wonder as Kellen Huston picks up a key crack-back block from the back judge to spring him for a first down. Or watch as the Bluffs' kickoff return team flails about while Josh "Irunverymuchstraight" Davis turns in a huge momentum-reversing return. Of course, some of that has to do with the play of the Cornhuskers, as well: The Loon's game ball goes to NU's very special squads. They set the tone in this one by pinning CU inside the 10 on the opening kickoff, and contributed mightily to the W.
HOLLOWELL THAT ENDS WELL: 'Course, the Almighty Nebraska Cornhuskers might have been in some deep poop if it weren't for two timely plays from its defense. That sunsabitchin' pass play had been working for Colorado all afternoon, and you figured that eventually a 'backer was going to quit worrying about the tight end with the long German name, get creative by taking two steps to his right, and pinch Klatt. And with CU down two at its own 30 late in the fourth, that's when it finally happened. While guys like Ruuuuud and D-Mo keep gobbling up the tackles -- and the attention -- T.J. Hollowell has quietly had a helluva year. Not only was the pick just in the nick, but Teej's return was what really broke the Buffies' back: NU's four-plays-to-get-five-yards offense squeezed seven out of it instead of three thanks to the good starting spot, and just like that, it was Ball Game Nebraska. And we'd be remiss if we didn't give a holler to Pat "Sticky" Ricketts, who got his second INT in as many games while roaming about in the Cover-2 scheme. Sticky almost pulled a whoops-it's-a-touchback-whoops-no-that-would-be-a-safety move, a la Mike Rozier against KSU in '83, but it turned out to not matter in the end. A couple big plays by the seniors.
AWAY IN A MANAGER: Kudos also go out to offensive coordinator Barney Cotton, who continually kept the Bluffs off-balance with his playcalling. Barney stuck to his guns this week and didn't abandon the run. He also minimized the completely superfluous play-action calls, which only resulted in Lord having to scramble for his life because the depleted O-Line was forced to hold their blocks for an extra second to accommodate for the play-action motion. Pork Chop's 103 yards were key to this win, as it took some heat off J. Lo and kept his feet from getting too happy (read: no fumbles, no INTs). Yes, the Huskers' game management was solid in Boulder (they even spooked Ralphie back into her cage, poor widdle feller). Which is more than I can say for another coach known as Barney, really. In fact, there were unconfirmed sightings of Barnett taking a series of hits from a glow-in-the-dark skull bong right before he called a two-point play toward the end of the first half . Perhaps Gary was thinking back to 1993, and the criticism Bill McCartney received when, after the Buffs scored to pull within 21-16 in the fourth quarter, he decided to kick an extra point instead of going for the deuce, and NU held on to win 21-17. But going for two in the first half? I mean, there have been bad decisions before. Harry Frazee traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees; Pete Best left that little band from Liverpool months before they became a worldwide phenomenon; Willie Nelson sold off the rights to "Crazy" for a $150 bar tab. But going for two, at home, with more than a half of football to play, has to trump 'em all. That's how you achieve a 77-86-2 career record, I guess.
START STRONG, FINISH STRONGER: And now, perhaps the most satisfying part of this win -- well, besides the fact that losing to Nebraska means Colorado won't be going to a bowl game this year, that is. Unlike the last three times the Cornhuskers have traveled into Folsom Prison, when they were left wheezing like a blast furnace and gasping for air, the Cornhuskers actually looked like they were in better shape in quarter No. 4. No collapses or near-collapses -- in fact, the Blackshirts suddenly turned on the pass rush in the final stanza. Kudos, Bryan Bailey, you must be doing something right.
THE BOTTOM LINE: One year ago, the Red Clad Loon was chirping hard on the heels of a second-straight thumping by the Buffs. Ahh, what a difference a year makes. If you woulda told him on that cold, crummy day in Lincoln last year that the '003 squad would win nine ballgames, he would've figured you were so out of touch with reality that your maid must've been smuggling you daily loads of oxycontin. It started in August with the rebirth of the legendary Blackshirts, and it ended with Big Red backers finally finding some faith in the Lord. Along the way, the season had so many curves it made Britney Spears look like Calista Flockhart. But here we sit, red-clad and glad. And after all that hard work, it looks like it's time to reward ourselves with a Holiday. After suffering through Shreveport a year ago, nothing could sound much better than a trip to California. Hey, where else but on that wicked West Coast surf would you expect Nebraska to Hang 10 (and 3)? In the meantime, let the record show: Nebraska 9, Opponents 3.
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