Commentary by David Max
Well, the Baylor game was a tale of two halves and it is good that we were the ones that got our act together in the second half. It is nice to see shutoff ball that second half and come back to win when being behind at half time for the first time in a long time.
Coach Pelini can't say it publicly so I will. I think the game was officiated by Larry, Moe, Curly and their close cousins. There has been a lot of commentary in the papers and online and some of it goes along the lines of Pelini should be focusing on the game and not the refs and you can't "work" the officials in football like you can in basketball. Something needs to be done to insure consistency. I lost my voice from yelling at the officials in the first quarter right after the call against Cody Glenn and the tackle out of bounds on the Baylor side line. I asked my good friend Arleen Heibel "Who are these guys?" and she handed me her program. I couldn't find out who they were as they don't seem to be listed in the program. Must be a reason for that. In a previous commentary I made the statement that the players should run more steps than Jerry Murtaugh if they get any more personal foul penalties. I doubt my comment had anything to do with it but the next week they ran "gassers". For this game I would give the players a Mulligan as there wasn't a single obvious personal foul penalty as bad as the one they missed on Marlon Lucky. The missed face mask on Marlon Lucky's long run was far more flagrant than anything any Nebraska player did and it didn't get called. I would sincerely hope the Big 12 Office does review this pattern that seems to be developing of calling every ticky tack foul against Nebraska and missing the obvious ones against the other teams that don't get called with regularity. Maybe the officials should be running "gassers" for every call they miss. Might even the playing field a little bit.
Putting the poor officiating aside, the team played through that adversity and came through when it mattered. That goal line stand was a thing of beauty. We are continuing on the road to respectability and it is games like this one that help build the foundation. I expect it to carry forward into next week on the road against Oklahoma in that hostile environment. We will be respectable. I was re-reading some of Johnny Rodgers book Era of Greatness and several players talked about the mutual respect that Nebraska and Oklahoma have for each other. I think the Oklahoma fans, especially the older ones, realize that what happened in Norman four years ago with Coach Callahan's unfortunate comment that was captured on tape is not representative of how the Nebraska fan base feels about Oklahoma fans. We respect the NU-OU rivalry and I wish it could be played every year on Thanksgiving like we used to. Maybe the current Athletic Directors can revisit the idea playing each other in our non-conference schedules during those off years. It should be a no-brainer and would be good for both schools.
I remember where I was during the Game of the Century. I was at Greg Gentry's house on 1307 South Elm in Shenandoah, Iowa and we were in the basement watching the game on TV. His parents were gone and somehow or another there was plenty of beer in the refrigerator for us less than 21 year olds to drink. When Johnny made that punt return it was a surreal moment. I just knew we were going to win after that. That return overshadows the fact that the other four touchdowns Nebraska scored that day were by Jeff Kinney. It doesn't really matter who carried the ball across the goal line. It was a team effort on both sides of the ball. Years later when we lost all the "Sooner Magic" games I took solace in that fact that Nebraska would always be the winner of the Game of the Century.
We had our 70-71 team reunion dinner prior to the VA Tech game this year and it was a real pleasure to see 19 of the team members (18 players and one manager) from those two National Championship teams in the same room together. Like always, they gave 100% as every one that gave an RSVP did show up at the dinner. They still have the mutual respect for each other and they are still part of the "team" that is the Nebraska legacy. You can feel that coming back with the current team and it is a pleasure for this 50-something year old guy who remembers when Jerry Tagge played and is in his "need to get a colonoscopy" age group to see that those relationships are being developed again with the current team. The future at Nebraska is bright. We still need to keep realistic expectations for this transition year. The goal of a bowl game is still intact. The possibility of beating a Top 19 team can probably only happen this season on Saturday as Kansas has fallen out of the Top 20. Stranger things have happened this season in college football and it would be another surreal moment if this year's team could get that monkey off their back this year with a win on the road in Norman.
This week we will be showing video clips from that National Champions teams dinner including Jerry Tagge who I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time. Other speakers will be Doug Dumler, Dave Mason, Jerry Murtaugh, Jeff Kinney, Joe Orduna, and Bill Kosch. I wish we would have had time for all 19 of them to speak as I am sure they all have a unique story or two to tell.
Just my 2 cents. What about yours?
GO BIG RED!!!