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Nebraska 42, Missouri 24

So far in 2000, the Cornhuskers' football season has looked a lot like a theme song from that old ABC sitcom featuring Ron Howard. Sunday, Monday -- Happy Days. Tuesday, Wednesday -- Happy Days. Thursday, Friday -- Happy Days. But, Saturday ... oh, what a day. True to form, the Missouri Tigers brought their goofy, Richie Cunningham-lookin' quarterback into Lincoln with aims of pulling off an upset. The result, of course, was an old-fashioned rumble that would have made Arthur Fonzarelli proud. And while this season has certainly not gone to Potsy by any means, sometimes watching the Blackshirts makes me want to Ralph.

A few takes:

TO EVERYTHING RETURN, RETURN, RETURN: Concerned with the Cornhuskers' struggles on special teams, the legendary Johnny Rodgers made a cameo appearance along the Husker sideline Saturday to provide some positive kick-return mojo. In fact, rumor is that in the second quarter The Jet slipped on a No. 12 jersey, snuck into the Husker lineup and busted off yet another long punt-return TD for old times' sake. But in actuality, it was the ever-dangerous Bobby "Duke" Newcombe who electrified the Memorial Stadium crowd with a winding, cutting, jetting, record-setting punt return to make it 21-7. Heck, it was nice to actually see Duke touch the ball -- turns out the only way for him to get ahold of the pigskin is if the opposing coach decides to give it to him. Solich sure ain't gonna.

PASS THE BUCK: You know, watching Correll Buckhalter scoot down the sideline on that sweet second-quarter touchdown pass really gave me a case of Deja Vu. (You know, watching Correll "Big Train" Buckhalter scoot down the sideline on that sweet second-quarter touchdown pass really gave me a case of Deja Vu.) The 34-yard-scoring strike, of course, is NU's "Tempe Special," in which the QB rolls right and then flings a pass back across the field to the I-back. NU scored on the play in their Fiesta Bowl emasculation of Florida in '96, and they hit it for a TD again against the Vols last season (a penalty brought it back). The masterful play-call left more holes in the Tiger defense than a murder mystery written by Christina Aguilera, and Buck made 'em pay. NU's slashing backup also hammered for 90-plus yards on the ground. Game ball to No. 36.

SHIRTS HAPPEN: The good news this week is that Eric Crouch's Hypesman campaign stats -- 100-plus rushing, 100-plus passing -- were bolstered because he got to play a full game this Saturday. And the bad news is that Eric Crouch had to play a full game this Saturday ... again. This is because most of Missouri's offensive drives lasted longer than both O.J. trials, keeping the potent Husker offense off the field and, therefore, the game in doubt until nine minutes left in the contest. I hate to say it, but when talking about the Blackshirts I am reminded of the wise, wise words of Jack Nicholson: "You want the truth? You can't HANDLE the truth!" Four hundred ninety-two yards by the Misery Tigers ... these boys better grow into men by the time Oct. 28 rolls around, or NU's New Years plans will be lamer than a 24-hour NSYNC-a-Thon on VH1.

WHAT A FOX: After hearing that former mob boss Artie "Mumbles" Gigantino had been moved to the studio, I was hoping for an improvement in the FOX announcers' booth. No such luck. In fact, given the putrid coverage that FOX provides, it's a goddamned wonder that the network is still on the air, really. Boy, I sure enjoyed that TD pass from Eric Couch to Coral Buckholder. But that was just a great call from Head Coach Frank Stolich, actually. Naturally, the only thing FOX got right was the obligatory clips of "Hey! Our VERY OWN Kellen Winslow used to play for Missouri about 25 years ago!" They've rolled out those trite replays from the '70s four years in a row now. At this point, I hope NU holds the No. 1 position -- but only because ABC's regionally-biased blowhards would get first crack at the game, thereby keeping it off of FOX.

CATS IN THE CRADLE: Saturday was a pretty good day to be a purple-clad Wildcat. As most folks know, hard-charging KSU flexed its muscles in Boulder against the Colorado Bluffaloes, 44-21, to improve to 5-0 on the year. That meant the Bluffs, in their steady progression toward Gary Barnett's so-called "Return to Dominance," dropped to 0-4. Barnett, who is considered by the networks as a Genius Coach despite his 50-63-2 career record, probably wishes he was back at Northwestern, another bunch of violet felines who are -- get this -- tied for the Big TenEleven lead. Looks like it's time for Barnett, the One-Hit Wonder, to bequeath his Ph. D. to Randy Walker, the coach of the "other" NU, for the season.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Up until Kirk Farmer's (un)fortunate injury Saturday, the Blackshirts made the Mizzou QB look pretty comfortable in the pocket. And that's fairly hard to do, really. But after Opie II (Major Applewhite is Opie I) headed for the sidelines, MU's offense looked about as relevant as Art Garfunkel's solo career. Get your Kodachrome ready -- this week, Nebraska will travel to Ames to face an even better quarterback, but it remains to be seen if the Blackshirts will be able to get to "Parsley" Sage Rosenfels in time. Jack Trice Stadium can be a tough place to play, but hopefully by the end of the game, NU will hear the Sounds of Silence from the Cyclone faithful. And while the Cornhuskers may feel their No. 1 ranking Slip Slidin' Away, when they leave town they'll be Feelin' Groovy. Nebraska 31, Ames College 17.

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