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Nebraska 31, Troy State 16

The only real drawback to night games is that they typically kick off around suppertime in Nebraska. That leaves us Loons in a precarious position on how to get our nourishment. Do we opt for a Runza, or do we take in some runs on the option? Do we order some scrambled eggs, or do we watch as The Pipeline pounds out a bunch of pancakes? Kickoff came against Troy State at six bells Saturday, and predictably most folks were expecting this contest to be a mere appetizer in this season's 13-course meal. Problem was, the Trojans were pretty hungry, too -- and their gutty play nearly spoiled the Husker Nation's dinner. As for the Cornhuskers? Well, it's becoming clear that this season in Lincoln, there will be no such thing as a free lunch.

A few takes:

DEJUAN GONE: Toward the end of their 1980 smash hit "Don't Bring Me Down," Electric Light Orchestra would sing "Gross! Don't bring me down/Gross! Don't bring me down." Those bizarre lyrics helped the band land a gold record and temporarily silenced their critics. One wonders if No. 5, DeJuan Groce, was blissfully humming that old ELO tune Saturday as he twice streaked past Troy State's special teams on his way to paydirt. No one ever did bring Groce down -- in fact, on both returns he was as untouched as Rosie O'Donnell at a Hawaiian Tropic convention. In the last week, some questioned whether Groce should be risking injury by running back kicks. Any other bright ideas there? Geez, I was awake all of last night trying to decide who to give the Loon's game ball, y'know, because it was such a tough choice. But No. 5 intercepted it before I even had a chance to give it to him. I guess just let him hold onto it -- something good is always bound to happen when gets his hands on the ball.

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING: Last week, the Loon took some flack for comparing some Husker fans to that shape-shifting library apparition from "Ghostbusters" that has a flaming skull for a face. Now, we here in The Pond are always sensitive to the views of our vast legions of loyal readers, so it is with deep regret that I must retract and amend last week's statement. Here goes: Some Nebraska fans are nothing at all like the glowing apparition in "Ghostbusters." After further review, some Nebraska fans bear a stunning resemblance to Frank and Estelle Constanza from "Seinfeld." Most of these shrill orators are also card-carrying members of the Fan Math Brigade, which in case you were wondering has listed Saturday's Real Actual Score as a nailbiting 17-16 Nebraska win. Naturally, Brigadiers took out the special-teams TDs, which have been determined to be (A) lucky, (B) rare and (C) not an official part of the game. This is a distinct departure from most's views on special teams in the last two years: After the 2000 Notre Dame game, of course, everyone was squawking about how Nebraska didn't have enough of their best athletes on special teams. So which is it?

DEAD BOLT: The rumors about whether or not Nebraska's Thunder Collins would play Saturday (Did he have Arthur Andersen report his summer-school grades? Is he really drinking testosterone from a tap? Did he sell his game tickets to get money for PlayStation cartridges?) basically overshadowed a truth that is becoming much more self-evident by the week. The offense is having, eh, how shall I say this ... issues right now. 1998-style issues. Hey, Troy State was no pushover -- and we should have known this because they have a man's first name in their school title, rather than a direction or a hyphen, so that automatically makes them tougher than most preseason minnows -- but that's not likely to make anyone feel better about two-yard fullback dives. There is a silver lining in this thunder(less)cloud, however: (1) Unlike 1998, there are stud athletes along the offensive line, and talent is undoubtedly going to make up for experience by season's end; and (2) Collins' absence means more carries for Cory "Pork Chop" Ross, whose center of gravity is so close to the ground he makes Eric Metcalf cry like a little girl. The darting, elusive and surprisingly strong Ross is quickly becoming a Pond favorite. Time to go dust off the old Doug DuBose jerseys and act like I knew it was coming all along.

MILE HIGH CLUB: This funny thing happened when I turned on ESPN2 on Saturday. I was expecting to see the Colorado Buffaloes continue their grand, glorious, couch-burning march to college football immortality, but saw a horror show unfold instead. First, the announcers made no less than 17 references to CU's "Four-Headed Monster" in reference to those tailbacks. Then, of course, there was the usual freakshow of Bluff fans in the stands. Or maybe I was watching a comedy: For example, Colorado's offense trying to waddle for those first downs. Regardless, the highlight of the show was at the end of the first half, after CU's offensive supergods churned out all of 90 yards, and when Genius Coach Gary Barnett (career record: 63-73-2) yelled at a sideline reporter. Now, some may say I get a little bit too much enjoyment out of seeing the Evil Ones lose. And to that I say: Bullcrap. We all need our enemies. Without the Green Goblin, Spider-Man would just be a screwball in bad pajamas with a thing for chicks in wet T-shirts. And besides, do you think there's any coincidence that the Bluffs always dress in black? Me either.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The conventional wisdom around these here parts is that Nebraska's football program is sort of like the TV show "ER." Back in the mid-1990s, they were each at the top of their game, so naturally both had a lot of people tuning in. But as time has passed, they've lost one key player after another and though they still are highly ranked, haven't been nearly as good, quite frankly. Admirably, they've soldiered on in hopes of maintaining the high standard that they have set for themselves, but sometimes it just looks like they're going through the motions and pretty soon people start wondering exactly what the hell they're looking at. Such is life in the emergency room known as Husker football, where some are already prepared to pull the sheet up over the head of this patient. Now, I'm no Doctor (Tom) here, but methinks that grave prognosis might be a wee bit premature. Let's wait for a third opinion, shall we? We can get it next Saturday as the Cornhuskers host Utah State -- and while there's a chance that this contest with the Aggies will be about as exciting as getting your tonsils looked at, something tells me that in the end, a Husker blowout will have us saying "ahhhh." Nebraska 49, Utah State 14.

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