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Nebraska 27, Notre Dame 24 - OT

Since I was in Nevada to watch the Huskers mix it up with the Domers on Saturday, I decided to put down $20 on the over/under for the Big Game. But I'm not sure whether I won my bet or not, because there were bunches of overs AND unders in this one. For starters, there was NU's underwhelming special teams play, which was exploited by a motivated group of underdogs. Plus, the underproduction by the Husker offense in the fourth quarter nearly left NU's title hopes trampled underfoot. But at the same time, Notre Dame Stadium was over-run by Red Clad Loons, who were hoping to see Dame get overpowered by the hulking Huskers. And, of course, the Big Red had to work overtime to get the win, leaving some to wonder if NU's a tad bit over-rated.

A few takes:

MANY UNHAPPY RETURNS: Figuring that field position would be a key factor in this game, it was particularly comforting at the start of the telecast to see No. 17, senior thunderfoot Dan Hadenfeldt, suited up after serving a one-game NCAA suspension. Dan saw some significant playing time, too, in getting off seven punts for a 41.7 yard average, handling NU's kickoff duties, and also serving as the final red-and-white fencepost for ND's return men to whiz past on their way to that backslash-filled end zone. I'm not sure if it was the natural grass surface, the Luck of the Irish, the ghost of Lou Holtz, El Nino or what, but for most of the day the Husker coverage guys looked slower than an underwater tai chi lesson. Great job, guys, in nearly snatching defeat out of the clutches of victory.

SHAM-ROCKED: As downright wicked as ND's return game was, their offense looked, um, Erin-Go-Blah. Naturally, that is to the credit of the Blackshirts. While the Irish amassed nearly 200 yards on the ground, most of it on broken plays, in the end Battle & Co. were about as effective as a skeeter bite on a Sherman Tank. The final, valiant play by the 'Shirts -- Jeremy Slechta's quarterback sack inside the 10-yard-line -- made for a Dizzy Arnaz, too. Hail to the Blackshirts: All told, they gave up a grand total of 10 points against the Domers, which is not too shabby for being the team's supposed weakness after week one. Footnote: SJSU's Deonce Whitaker ran for about four and a half miles against Stanford on Saturday.

THANK HEAVEN FOR SEVEN: Long after the final Armchair Solich finishes ranting, the reason Nebraska won this game will remain starkly clear: Nebraska has Eric Crouch, and Notre Dame does not. The Cornhuskers' first touchdown, a 62-yard play in which the Irish defense opened up like the bomb bay doors on the Enola Gay, was vintage Crouch. And though the overtime period was about as nerve-wracking as a Kosovar grocery run, Eric The Red was coolly operating the Big Red Machine to the winning score. His third-down toss to Tracey Wistrom for a first-and-ten is, to date, the biggest pass Crouch has ever completed. And finally, he made that game-ending whisk around left end look easy. Game ball to No. 7 -- a big-time performance by a big-time player.

MICRO-PHONIES: I'm told NBC's usual Notre Dame color man was in Sydney, Australia, on Saturday getting ready for some insignificant sporting event, so that meant former LA Rams quarterback Pat Haden manned the analyst's microphone for the Peacock in South Bend. Now, Pat had plenty of good things to say about Nebraska, but his blarney-filled praise was about as sincere as the customer service at The Gap. Methinks the glad-handing Pat, in hopes of an Irish triumph, was merely trying to portray NU as the unbeatable foe so an Irish upset would seem even more magical. What do you expect from a guy who took over the Rams team that former Husker Vince Ferragamo had led to the Super Bowl and proceeded to turn them into Ball State?

POWER PAC: What a difference a year makes. Last year, being the champion of the Pac-10 was a lot like being the valedictorian of a summer shop class. But in Y2K, there's been nothing pacific about the guys out west. Asamatterafact, they've been downright nasty during out-of-conference play. The Washington Huskies, despite having Rick Neuheisel as their coach, embarrassed Miami on Saturday even more than the Canes' ungodly new uniforms could. Meanwhile, USC's last-second win against an all-white-clad Colorado Buffaloes team -- jeez, is CU ever going to learn that dumb clothing gimmicks don't help you tackle or catch passes -- provided the Pac-10 yet another visible win for the nation's review. The Bluffs wasted a 150-yard day by freshman phenom Marcus Houston in falling to 0-2, and it doesn't get any easier for Gary Barnett's smartasses to Nebraska's western border: The Huskies come to town for the Second Annual Skippy Bowl next week.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Had you talked to most Loons before the Notre Dame game, they probably would've figured the hosts had a snowball's chance in hell in giving NU a serious run for its money. But the nation's most prolific parochial school whipped up an effort of biblical proportions, and Davie nearly knocked off Goliath. Though the Red Sea was parted on occasion Saturday, the only revelation that needs to be taken from this one is that the Cornhuskers are now 2-0 with a tough road win. Now there's an extra week to analyze the game -- you just know there will be a few sermons in the film room -- and to prepare for lowly Iowa, which frankly could use some Divine Providence to be competitive in Lincoln on Sept. 23. The Hawkeyes are supposedly better than they were when Nebraska ripped them apart like a bunch of lepers in Iowa City a year ago, but that's not saying a whole lot, now is it? The Hawks are dead ducks. Huskers 50, Iowegia 7.

Loons have www.ebbed feet. Swim over to THE POND,
home of Nebraska's RED CLAD LOON.

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