R E D    C L A D    L O O N

Nebraska 48, Rice 3

The Book of Ecclesiastes -- or, on second thought, maybe it was the Byrds -- says "To Everything There is a Season." You've heard the lines: There's a time to laugh, a time to weep; a time to dance, a time to mourn; a time to gain, a time to lose. But during these troubled days in the U.S. of A., those times seem to be overlapping a bit. Regardless, on Thursday two football teams -- one supplying the Red and White, the other supplying the Blue -- did their best to help everyone turn (turn, turn) their attention away, even for a little while, from an overwhelming national tragedy. And though the Huskers knocked the Owls down for much of the evening, it was evident all through the night that everyone stood united.

A few takes:

FLAG FOOTBALL: Usually, the worthwhile game-day items on the omnipresent HuskerVision screens can be counted on one hand by a careless lawnmower repairman. But on Thursday, you'd have to be either blind, deaf, dumb or hiding out in a mountainous Afghani lair not to get goosebumps at all the pregame pageantry in Lincoln. The culmination of the hallowed Tunnel Walk, usually reserved for live footage of our red-clad heroes waltzing through that familiar walkway and doing the "That's Right, We Bad" routine into the camera, was replaced Thursday with some real-life heroes, appropriately enough. A color guard, clutching Old Glory like she was a day-old infant while flanked by law enforcers and a geared-up firefighter, elicited a roar from the crowd unmatched by any touchdown pass or jarring tackle to follow. Trying to keep a dry eye during all of this was as fruitless as Dan Waldrop's diet.

THIS, TOO, SHALL PASS: With no TV coverage, many Loons may have drifted over Thursday to CNN or ABC News to hear the president urge the nation to be patient. The Husker offense obviously was too busy to get the message, as it produced three touchdowns in less than a dozen snaps. What's odd is that for much of the first half, the Big Red Machine was not the usual giant grain thresher that grinds down opponents to dust. It was a sleek, high-octane Lambourghini that went from 0 to 21 in 11 snaps. Coolly piloting the racer was No. 7, Eric Crouch, who had his choice of big-play targets in Tracey "I'm Just An All-America Candidate, So Don't Bother Covering Me" Wistrom and Wilson "That's Right, I Can Catch More Than Just The Fade" Thomas. While Wistrom had two TD snags to Wilson's one, Mr. Thomas had the play of the day with his sweeeet first-quarter grab. That's right, you need four "e"s to describe that diving Extend-O-Catch. Game ball to No. 9 -- he'll be sure not to drop it.

SERVE THE LORD: Much of the pregame chirping from Sunday-morning QBs was that backup quarterback Jammal Lord needed some quality playing time in this contest, not only to protect Eric The Red's routinely boogered-up shoulder but also to give NU's quarterback of the future a chance to polish up his act. Mission accomplished. Off the field, Jammal is his brother's keeper -- you may have recently read how he cares for his 13-year-old sibling, who now lives with him in Lincoln. And on the field, he's a keeper, brother. 'Course, he also knows when to pitch the ball. His timely flip to Thunder "Flash" Collins to produce NU's final score was straight out of Oklahoma's playbook. Well, their OLD pre-Stoops playbook, anyhoo.

NATIONAL DEFENSE: What's there to complain about in a 48-3 piano-wiring of an opponent? Well, not much. In fact, this good, old-fashioned, 1984-style whuppin' is just what the Ph.D. ordered. Sure, the Huskers' reserve defenders won't be mistaken anytime soon for the Baltimore Ravens, but methinks Bohl & Co. were well-pleased with the D's overall performance. At times, Rice's discombobulated offense was harder to watch than sausage being made. And though the Owls' option game popped a couple of decent runs on the first-stringers, this much was clear: There was a better chance of Bill McCartney delivering the keynote address at next week's Touchdown Club Luncheon than there was of Rice getting in the end zone on Thursday. A job well done by the Blackshirts.

THE BOTTOM LINE: No, that wasn't a ghost at Memorial Stadium on Thursday evening. It was merely a broadcast message from Rep. Tom Osborne with some reassuring words for a somber Husker Nation. The Good Doctor, who has been known to produce a motivational speech or two, dadgummit, implored Nebraskans to remain vigilant as our nation enters into uncharted, uncertain territory. And about the time Dr. Tom's tape-recorded message was being received by the Memorial Stadium masses, Oz was sitting in Washington, D.C., to hear similar words coming from -- I think it's safe to say -- the one Texan every Cornhusker can agree to support right now. "For the last nine days, the entire world has seen for itself the state of our Union," Mr. Bush told the joint session of Congress. "And it is strong." Proof of this, fellow fans, is that we were able to respectfully carry on Thursday, and not let terror shape our way of life. In that spirit, we now turn our (justifiably divided) attention toward next week's contest in Columbia, Mo. Two weeks ago, battling a conference foe would have seemed like a life-or-death matter, but our world has changed, no? Still, suffice it to say that NU, much like our nation, will continue to plow on. And to paraphrase the president, they will not tire. They will not falter. And they will not fail. Nebraska 42, Missouri 13.

Splash down in THE POND,
Home of Nebraska's RED CLAD LOON.