R E D C L A D L O O N
LOON DROPPINGS 3:
Nebraska 18, Penn State 10
As the Loon ambled toward downtown Lincoln following Saturday's big victory, he bumped into a Ghost of Semesters Past -- Dr. Graham Spanier, the former chancellor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and now the head honcho at Penn State. You may recall that Spanier's tenure at UNL was far from collegial, as he came under fire for being too liberal for Dear Old Nebraska U. Not to mention that he messed with parking by ordering a paved lot north of the student union removed and replaced with a grassy "Greenspace." Now a Lion, PSU's top scholar said he was so busy greeting old friends Saturday that he didn't get much of a chance to cheer. Not that he would have liked what he saw, anyway. The Cornhuskers, about as conservative as they could be, ditched the pass and went to a time-honored institution: the run. And eventually, it opened up some green space. As the clock wound down, the ivory-clad Lions frantically searched for an answer to the Blackshirts, but it didn't matter -- this outcome was academic.
A few takes:
ALL ABOARD: For those Husker purists who believe that NU's playbook was brought down from Mt. Sinai on a pair of stone tablets, and for those who assert that the Big Red's rushing attack is actually a metaphor that salutes the hard-working, no-nonsense attitude of the Cornhusker State, then Saturday night had to provide a positively viagran spiritual upsurge. Let's face it, after the bumblin'-stumblin'-and-let's-not-forget-fumblin' offensive effort known as the first half, Husker fans were aging faster than an egg-salad sandwich in the glove box of a 1973 AMC Pacer on a 110-degree day in Phoenix, Arizona. Solution? Give the ball to Josh "J-Train" Davis, and watch him plow straight ahead. On Saturday, No. 1 had career day No. 1, slashing and gashing for 270 total yards (42 of them courtesy of a Ross Pilkington monster block). Still, a lot of those yards came on his own -- on more than one occasion, Josh had to run through spaces tighter than a Carrie-Anne Moss outfit. The kid runs hard and falls forward, making what would have been a third-and-five third and two instead. As Robert Frost might say: And that makes all the difference. Game ball goes to Tony's kid, as if that's a big shock to anyone anywhere on Planet Earth.
KILLER D's: Because kickoff commenced at 7 p.m. CDT, it was safe to say that much of the red-clad populace of the state's third-largest burg was, ahem, primed for the contest. This was only furthered by the fact that Nebraska's stalwart defense clubbed the Lions like a pack of baby seals all night long. Memorial Stadium has been louder, but after the Blackshirts befuddled Zack Mills & Co. into a three-and-out on the Nits' first series, the place was jacked up higher than a prom dress in May. The Boshirts quickly deconstructed Penn State down to one dimension -- perhaps because Penn State no longer has the services of Larry Johnson, who ran that marathon against the Bohlshirts last year in Happy Valley. Or maybe it's because Nebraska's linebackers are suddenly mind-altered madmen who have the superhuman ability to run through blockers directly to the football. Save for one fourth-quarter drive, the Lions all but gave up on the running game after halftime. While PSU's young O-line was able to keep some of the heat off of Mills, he had no friends in the Cornhusker secondary. A special nod goes to No. 3, Fabian Washington, who shackled stud WR Tony Johnson all evening. And if "Sticky" Ricketts could have held onto the ball, the 'Shirts might have had six points two out of three weeks.
NU YEAR: Same result. That was the smack-talking message Penn State faithful brought to Lincoln; they even printed the phrase on little metal buttons and wore them around town. A smattering of these navy-and-white buttons showed up throughout the old stadium Saturday, including one on a confident young lad in the Loon's section, who was well-oiled on Miller Lite and ready to suit up for the Lions if needed. But with 6:48 left in the third quarter -- the moment Jammal Lord put a capper on that 16-play, 80-yard, eight-minute-and-twelve-second leviathan of a drive to put NU up for good -- you could hear the :::clink clink clink::: as the buttons were being ripped off and thrown down in disgust. New year, same results, indeed: Last year when these squads met, the home team went 80 yards on 16 plays to open the second half scoring, as well. Good call, Lion fans. 'Course, somewhere there's some bitter Nit adding up the scores of the last two NU-PSU games right now, and coming out with a 50-25 Penn State victory, and working on a daisy-chain of logic that proves without a shadow of a doubt that the Lions should have been named the 1994 National Champions. I hope that as he did his calculations he was able to get a good look at the '94 Sears Trophy on the way out of the stadium last night.
AUSTIN POWERLESS: Given that Nebraska must travel to Texas later this season, I was thinking about letting the Longhorns' 38-28 meltdown at Royal-Memorial Stadium pass sans comment. However, I have a reputation to uphold. So, let's just get this out of the way: Snicker, chuckle, sniggle, laugh, cackle, guffaw. I know, I know -- as proud citizens of the Six Packs and Gun Racks Conference we're supposed to do that United We Stand thing and cheer for league brethren when they play out of conference. But I can't say that I'm too upset that the Whorns are ahead of schedule this year, actually finding a grand way to deflate their fans a few weeks BEFORE taking on Oklahoma. Before this game, Tejas' roster was an embarrassment of riches; now it's just an embarrassment. And let me close by saying Washington State 47, Colorado 26.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Last week, music fans lost a national treasure when singer-songwriter Johnny Cash checked out at the age of 71. Johnny, as you may recall, fancied himself "The Man in Black," wearing the dark hue in honor of the poor and the beaten down. "Until things are brighter, I'm the man in black," he'd sing. Sounds odd following a big win, but with Another Sunday Morning Coming Down, there are some in the Corngregation who are of the exact same mindset. Were You There When They Crucified My Lord? I was, too, and it made me Cry, Cry, Cry. But all that has to be behind us now. It's time to head to Mississippi -- Hattiesburg, not Jackson -- for the first big road test for the Almighty Huskers. And let's hope the extra time gives the offense a chance to Get Rhythm, too. To paraphrase the Man in Black: There's things that need to be made right, I know. Things need changing everywhere we go. But the Huskers are on the move to make a few things right -- hey, at least this year they won't be wearing all white. Nebraska's defense 16, USM's defense 13.
The Tool House Tailgaters rule!
Jason, Brent and Baldwin get their Husker fix at THE POND,
Home of Nebraska's RED CLAD LOON.