HUSKERS "CATCH" KITTENS NAPPING, 34-20
BIG WED WAP-UP
You know things are out of whack in Lincoln when Husker place kicker, Jake Wesch, whose kick to start the game landed 5 yards deep into the North end zone, gets a standing ovation. After the debacle in Stillwater just the week before, Husker fans were looking to cheer for anything positive, even a deep kickoff with no return.
DR. JEKYLL OR MR. HYDE?
To be sure, this year's roller-coaster Husker football team has often left their fans wondering which Husker team will show up each week. Will it be the team with the porous defense, inept special teams' play at Oklahoma State, or the team that throttled the Tigers Saturday and won at K-State and Iowa State? What's a Husker fan to do these days?
A "TY" GAME
The Huskers had everything going for them Saturday in Lincoln-a bright, sunny, beautiful crisp, fall afternoon and a record homecoming crowd of 85,197. Throw in heartthrob (according to the young girl sitting next to me) "Extreme Makeover's" Ty Penington and comedian Larry The Cable Guy signing autographs just before kickoff, and you knew the Husker football team wouldn't dare lay an egg on such a special day.
The Huskers managed to send Chase Daniel & Company with many three and outs in the first half and cruised to a 27-6 half-time lead. The 27 points is the most points ever scored by a Callahan Husker team in the first half against a Big 12 opponent. The Huskers scored only once in the 2nd half, making the score 34-13 in the 4th quarter and closed the door on the struggling Tigers. Every time the Tigers looked as though they might climb back into the game, the Blackshirts shut them down. And what a game Bo Ruud had!
Game balls should also be given to Husker Offensive Line Coach, Dennis Wagner, Offensive Coordinator, Jay Norvell, Defensive Coordinator Kevin Cosgrove and Head Coach Bill Callahan.
For Missouri, Wags had to revamp an already unstable offensive line that had seen his senior LG, Greg Austin, ruled out of the game due to a leg injury. Add into the mix, the starting center, Kurt Mann, has had his playing time limited because of the effects of mononucleosis. Wags put together an O-line that consisted of a freshman, three sophomores and one senior. He even had some of the regulars playing different positions. The results were over 400 yards of total offense, 183 yards rushing; they gave up zero sacks and helped the Huskers to have a Time Of Possession advantage of over 10 minutes. Not bad, Coach Wags, not bad.
And what's a defensive coordinator to do when, the week before, his defense gave up almost 500 yards of total offense to BTS bottom-feeder, Oklahoma State, and in the process, had two of his starting linebackers (McKeon and Octavien) unable to play Saturday? No sweat. Coz devised a "30" defense that rushed three linemen and had as many as six defenders playing behind the line. That formation kept Missouri's spread offense confused and bewildered for most of the game. Husker freshman Major Culbert had a great day, with six tackles.
And what did Callahan and Norvell do? They crafted an offensive scheme that negated the Tigers' blitzes by calling short passes, draws, middle screens and reverses. Norvell even called for a TD pass by wide receiver Mo' Purify on a double reverse! Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.
THE URGE TO SURGE
More important, the Huskers executed the game plan well enough to win over a reasonably good Missouri team. (Okay, so it was a Gary Pinkel coached team, I'll give you that.) There was a sense of urgency-lose this game, and the Huskers' goal of playing in the BT Championship game would have gone down the crapper.
After the Huskers got up 17-0 in the first half, there was a feeling by many nervous Husker fans of "here we go again"-remembering the team's penchant for blowing big early leads against Oklahoma State and Kansas. But the Huskers were focused for this game. CATCHES OF THE DAY
There were a couple of spectacular catches by Husker receivers Saturday. How Terrence Nunn can drop easy passes, but can make a sensational catch like the one he made of Purify's pass, is baffling.
And what about Nate Swift's grab of Zac Taylor's pass on 4th and long early in the 4th quarter? Don't forget Mo Purify's leaping catch for a TD in the first half. The Husker receiving corps, when it's working, is a thing of artistry, grace and beauty.
When I saw Mo's pass play developing, I yelled, "Don't throw it, Nunn's covered!" only to see Nunn make a spectacular catch in the end zone. How he managed to keep both feet in bounds is remarkable.
DEJA VU MIZZOU
The Missouri game is special not only for me, but for all Husker fans who have followed the rivalry through the years. Saturday was the 100th meeting of the two schools. Bob Devaney's first coaching loss was against Missouri ('62) as was Tom Osborne's ('73).
Trivia Question: What were Frank Solich's and Bill Callahan's first Husker losses? (Answers at the bottom of this column.)
The '62 Missouri-Husker game was the first Husker televised game I ever saw. It was Devaney's first loss, but was the start of the string of consecutive sellouts that Saturday, stretched to an amazing 281. The 1966 Husker-Missouri game was also the first Husker game I ever saw in person. The last time Missouri beat the Huskers (1978) in Lincoln was the year my son, Brian was born. That loss came on the heels of Tom Osborne's first win over Barry Switzer's Oklahoma Sooners. Warren Powers, former Husker player and assistant, was the Tigers' head coach that year. His Tigers sent the Huskers packing for an Orange Bowl rematch with the dreaded Sooners.
There is an absolutely annoying tendency by some radio and TV networks that broadcast Husker football games (and you know who you are), to sacrifice game action for commercial time. Amazing. They don't seem to mind that we don't get to see or listen to all the live action. Are the networks just that greedy? Of course they are.
As a way to keep their sponsors and fans satisfied, I was thinking that maybe one day, the networks might toy with the idea of doing commercials while the play is actually happening. I wondered what this would have sounded like had this idea been in place for the '71 Nebraska-Oklahoma "Game of the Century". Let's listen in to see how Lyell Bremser might have sounded on that cold day in Norman, Oklahoma.
"Joe Wylie's kick is a high one. Rodgers takes the ball at the 27 and cuts up to the 35, speaking of 35, do you know that Round-Up Herbicide can increase your corn production by 35% over the competition? He's out to the 50, to the 45, he gets another block, cuts up field, speaking of field, you'll have field day at Sid Dillion Auto. Check out their new fall close out sale going on this week. Rodgers to the 25, he's to the 15, the 10. Speaking of 10, did you know you could save 10% on your auto insurance when you sign up with Geico? Holy-moly! And speaking of holy..."
HUSKER DAN SEZ
The rumor coming out of the Aggieville this week is that some A&M players have been saying how they are going to beat Nebraska this Saturday. And since they've already beat Missouri, that a win over the Huskers would mean that the Aggies would be the "official" winners of the Big 12 North. Hmmm.
Maybe the Aggies will win Saturday. Kyle Field is a very tough place to play. And the Aggies have a good QB who can run and throw; they have a stingy defense and a running back (The "J" Trane) who is so huge, he has his own area code. And let's not forget the dreaded fact: The game will be played on (are you ready for this?) natural turf! Oh dear, what will the Huskers ever do?!!
It's no use. The Huskers have no chance at all of winning...wink-wink. The Husker coaches and players know this isn't a must win for them. All the Huskers need is one win or a loss by Missouri to put them in the championship game in Kansas City, December 2nd.
But the players, coaches and certainly the fans, know that the only BTS road win in Callahan's short Husker career was last year's win at Baylor. The Huskers would like nothing better than to make a statement this Saturday. To be sure, points may be very hard to come by for both teams. If it's low scoring game, look for a late Jordan Congdon field goal to preserve a Husker win. The game rests on how focused the Huskers will be for this game. Play a near perfect game and the Huskers will walk away with a very sweet win.
It's a Big 12 South road game on natural turf against a good (8-2, 4-2) Aggie team. Hold on for a wild game, an exciting finish and a "balmy" December road trip to Kansas City.
(The answers to the Trivia questions: 1.) 1998 Texas A&M (21-28) 2.) 2004 Southern Mississippi (17-21)
H U S K E R D A N