Khus the Red
Of all the times to get hull-slammed and nearly schedule-shipwrecked entirely, the past few weeks have been atrocious. I hope this can stand as my all-too-standard apology for my all-too-regular absence. A superstitious person may think that if Khus avoids the keyboard, the Big Red goes on winning streaks. However, since I am the type who intentionally walks under ladders when they’re available, breaks mirrors when they are within reach and rubs salt in wounds rather than throws a pinch over the shoulder when it’s spilled, at long last once again Red friends, let’s talk.
It pained me greatly to be away while Bill the Snide was given his retirement interment below the surface of Tom Osborne Field. Here’s hoping he enjoys his new hobby as food service coordinator at Topeka Jr. High, where he can spend his days monitoring the distribution of butter pats while not discussing the status of Timmy Jenkins, who was injured during a noon recess dodge ball game.
Just like carving a longhorn logo out of butter and putting it in the microwave just to watch it melt, revisiting the events that left Folsom Field a smoldering Red-glowing crater just won’t get old anytime soon. Return to dominance indeed. Superlatives and overstatement are hard to avoid after games like this, but beyond the routine magnificence of Zac Taylor and his cluster of suddenly seasoned receivers, one number stands out: 27. As in, the number of freshmen and sophomores that had a hand in disemboweling Ralphie. As in, the same number of young guns who had a hand in gutting the purple cat-in-pads in Memorial Stadium the game prior. This young team has endured injury and emerged from inexperience to become a team capable of throttling good opponents. It hasn’t always been pretty this year, but the pieces were there and at long last they fell into place in the same game. If you are surprised that this team and this system are capable of this kind of beat-down, you haven’t been paying attention. The KSU and CU games showcased an offensive line that played far better than against KU. Receivers ran sharp routes and dropped few balls, even though a couple drops were touchdowns. Penalties were minimal in damage. Tackling was exceptional. D-line play was beautiful Blackshirt belligerence. We blanketed their tight ends and Bowman played like the bluechip in a Blackshirt he is. And Porkchop picked up blitzes as well as he caught that bloody lovely slant pass all day long. These pieces have been there throughout the season, but in fits and starts and often too independent from one another. And now, with nearly supernatural timing, they clicked and Colorado croaked.
The Buffie “defense” threw a number of different coverages at ZT all game long, and he calmly picked every one of them apart. Amazing what a smart QB can do when he has three seconds to stand in the pocket. Zac has been the transition quarterback we desperately needed last year. His field command and decision-making, while not always perfect, make it easy to forget he is a first-year player. And for those of us who look back fondly on the tough quarterbacks throughout NU history who have taken the hits and come back for more, it would be a shameful omission to exclude ZT from that group. He took dozens of shots that would have sidelined many other QBs this season, but only one did. I lay one notched and scarred gameday battleaxe at your cleats, Mister Taylor. You have earned it.
Meanwhile on the other sideline, the sniveling Barnett ran out of fiery speeches and found he had no answers. His team was getting shredded, and all he could do was stalk grim-faced on the sidelines, growling near-unintelligible absurdities about no-huddle insults and call timeout with :15 and :09 on the clock as the game expired and any vapor-thin shred of dignity he pretends to still have evaporated. But in fairness, a visiting team going no-huddle actually is an insult. During the Trojan War, Odysseus went no-huddle just before that lowdown, dirty wooden horse trick. In 1988, gang violence between the Crips and the Bloods was reignited when one side went no-huddle during a game of checkers, which resulted in a turf war that lasted weeks. And in Swahili, the word “nohuddle” means “Your mother was less embarrassed of you at Northwestern.”
Some say that what happened in the stands was a reflection of the leadership of the program. Certainly this would be true when the players amass at the 50 to taunt the visitor during pregame warm-ups. A team reflects the attitude of its coach, and often fans will reflect the attitude of their team. In any case, there is without a doubt a senseless and shameful herd mentality in the land of Buffaloes. Whether the blame rests on Barnett, Athletic Director Mike Bohn, stadium security, the incompetent clock operator, Idi Amin, or Chris Fowler, this is a program spiraling downward and increasingly out of control. Deliciously so, at that. But there are good people in Boulder. Their names are Albert Thompson and Marie DuMont. Albert runs his family’s hardware store, which unfortunately was burglarized Thursday afternoon, the thieves making off with his stock of batteries. Meanwhile, Marie woke Friday morning to find her daughter’s bag of water balloons had been stolen out of her treehouse.
The immediate future for the CU program leaves them with a Texas-sized problem on their hands. Although I’d rather wave pompons in favor of an erupting volcano swallowing a village of indigenous supermodels and their herd of unicorns than cheer for Texas, it will be fun to watch the expected vivisecting of Barnett on national television once again. Unfortunately, since Steve Usechek has retired, there is no longer a way for two teams to lose the same game. Sigh…he could have found a way. So together now, Red friends: Gimme an L! Gimme an A! Gimme a V! Gimme an A! What’s that spell? Doom for all the pretty things! However, a Buff upset isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Barnett is best with the feel of cold brick against his back, and Mack Brown is best at losing one game per year he has no business losing. This would have two positive outcomes: No title for UT, and the increased likelihood of Barnett getting a new contract in Boulder. This would be a good thing for the conference. Meaning, the rest of the conference specifically. Psychotic Gary is a decent coach and sometimes a remarkable motivator, but he’s far too important for comedic value and making sure the recruiting level at CU levels off somewhere in the half-a-hundred range for a few more years.
As for our Huskers, we are significant-bowl bound, confident and riding a crest of energy this Red one has not sensed for far too long. There is an intimation that things have come some sort of full circle. But what has happened the past four years did not begin in Boulder and it did not end there last Saturday. CU did not start our slide and beating them senseless did not restore us to pre-21st Century levels. But such things begin somewhere.
One last thing. They can call it a rivalry if they want. We just don’t care. And at that, another disbanded watch face soars across the starry Boulder sky.