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Nebraska 31, Utah State 7

Before this epic showdown between storied football powerhouses, some pundits said Utah State's offense was best described as a circus -- that is, they use sleight-of-hand, constant motion and a bunch of aerial acrobatics to get your head spinning. What better place, then, for the Aggies to bring their high-wire act than to the Big Red big top, home of the only three-ringed circus in the last decade? Always hoping to please their loyal crowd, Nebraska put on a decent show -- rolling out an elephantine offensive line, a defense as quick as a jungle cat and an occasional bite of Cotton candy to get some oohs and aahs. The audience went home happy, of course, but for the first half of the show they thought the Cornhuskers were a bunch of rubes. Luckily, NU figured out USU's high-wire act; now perhaps they can move on to more challenging things -- like, um, lion taming, for instance.

A few takes:

RAGE IN THE CAGE: So here was Utah State, flying up and down the field on the Bo-shirts with some kind of offense you'd only see on the ol' PlayStation2, and Aggie tight end Chris Cooley is running loose like how Rashaun Woods was supposed to do a week earlier. By the end of the first quarter they've gobbled up more real estate than Ted Turner; if not for a dropped pass on fourth down and a timely Bullocks pick off an ill-thrown trick toss, NU would've been in even deeper. Fortunately for Nebraska, the defense has a coordinator who isn't afraid to improvise. We're all familiar with improvisation, right? It's what you do when your boss says: "Perhaps you'd like to explain that tequila-like stench around your cubicle this morning, hmmm?" Well, on the football field, you improvise by putting your playmakers in position to make great plays. Exhibit A: "Super" Demorrio Williams. For the second straight week, he and the Blackshirts created points by flying to the football and, well, separating opponents from it. Demorrio's second-quarter it's-a-sack-it's-a-fumble-hell-he-even-recovered-the-ball effort was one of the most amazing acts this Loon has seen in quite a spell. Williams was so dominating in the Huskers' long-yardage schemes that I actually felt sympathy -- sympathy! -- for USU tackle Donald Penn, the slow-footed leviathan charged with trying to block No. 7. While Williams (justifiably) grabs the headlines, let's not forget about the other 10 guys in this Total Defense philosophy and their contributions -- Ruuuud's 10 tackles, Hollowell's five and heck, even the old Henderson Husky, Chad Buller, was in on a few good licks. As "Sex and the City's" Carrie Bradshaw would say: Oooh, me likey.

AND NOW, TODAY'S SCRIPTURE READING: Please bow your heads. "And lo, the offense was low. And lo, the offense looked slow. So slow that the masses raised their arms toward heaven and cried 'LORD, you are only 8-for-12 with one rushing touchdown. Why hast thou forsaken us?' For, only three minutes and 27 seconds remained in quarter number three, and evil had not yet been fully vanquished. Then into the world came our savior -- the baby Joseph, wrapped in scarlet clothes and his initials tattooed on his triceps. And the masses rose to their feet and gave thanks to the LORD, who was now standing next to Mike Stuntz on the sidelines with a clipboard in his hand, as the new savior gave the offense eternal life. And Frank saw that he was good, said that he was good, and he was good. Amen." Here ends the reading; more passages will undoubtedly be written over the next six days.

SOMETIMES YOU KICK: Sometimes you get kicked, or so the old INXS song goes. Everyone knows that a much-ballyhooed freshman was set to make his long-anticipated debut in the first half of Saturday's contest, but few thought it was going to be a placekicker instead of a quarterback. After Sandro missed the opening PAT -- badly -- it was more obvious than Seppo Evwayare in a size-four spandex onesie that the David Dyches era was about to begin. And to paraphrase Pete Townshend, the kid is all right. Granted, none of Bull's four field goals were exactly long-range bombs, but for a kid kicking in his first collegiate game, we'll take it. As for DeAngelis? Barring a similar meltdown with Dyches, it appears his days as NU's starting kicker have disappeared faster than a unlocked Lexus parked overnight on 24th and Lake Street in Omaha. Dyches has made a very shaky kicking situation a little ... well, less shaky. We'll see how he does when he's under a little more pressure.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Every good piece of work (or even bad ones, like this thing) needs an ending. Given Nebraska's proclivity to pee down its leg in the red zone, something tells me that finishing what one starts will be a well-rehearsed theme at Cornhusker practices this week. Yes, the Huskers have some problems in that particular aspect of the game. But this is not a problem that goes away if you simply ignore it, like street beggars, reality television or itchy, burning sensations. NU must find a way to get the ball over the goal line this week, or there will be trouble. That's because the schedule now summons Revenge Game No. 2 -- Penn State, the squad that started the Cornhuskers' Cuba-Gooding-like freefall last season. But that was last year, when NU's prime mission was to pinpoint an exact point in the second half to wilt and die. Do we think the Huskers have some unfinished business with the Nits? Yes, we think so. And will they have the horsepower to provide that finishing kick to get sevens instead of threes next week? Yes, we think so. Can our No. 18 Huskers finish off Penn State and keep climbing toward college football's high-rent district? Yes, we think so. Huskers 24, Lions 10.

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