R E D    C L A D    L O O N

Nebraska 31, Kansas State 21

Purple, they say, is the color of royalty. And that's no more evident than with the sporting world's current kings. You've got your Ravens, you've got your Lakers, you've got your Arizoner Diamondbacks. And hey, technically, until Nov. 23 Kansas State is still the reigning king of the Big 12 North -- though in recent weeks they've all but abdicated their throne. Regardless, on Saturday KSU brought its quicksilver cadre to the sovereign confines of Memorial Stadium, and the result was a battle royale with the Big Red. But Nebraska, as Nebraska tends to do, exposed every weakness of this once-proud ruler. The naked truth? This year, the emperor has no clothes.

A few takes:

READY, AMOS, FIRE!: After seeing Kansas State's mascot up close Saturday, the Loon hereby promises to cut Lil Red and Herbie a little more slack. Yikes. Hey, KSU fans know Willie the Wildcat is creepy and wrong, too. Following the game, some purple people were overheard wishing they could have traded their Willie for NU's in a Manhattan minute. Young Mr. Amos is typically a quiet, unassuming kid -- the Cornhusker sophomore is more subdued than Steven Wright after a half-bottle of vicodin -- but his pair of timely picks off Elle MacRoberson spoke volumes. Now, he's Famous Amos. Willie's play directly produced nine points for the Big Red -- so you can say with some conviction he was the difference in this game. Of course, it helped that the toxic stench of Kansas State's passing game makes the reek of Iowa Beef Processors smell like fresh-baked apple pie from grandma's kitchen. But this was no fluke: Nebraska's defense -- led Saturday by Groce, Clanton, Kelsay, Burrow and, yes, Amos -- is the real deal. Game rock goes to No. 27.

(THIRD) QUARTER HORSES: In three out of the last four weeks, Nebraska has been (basically) even with their opponent at halftime. And in each of those games, NU has seen a positively Viagran upsurge in the third quarter to rabidly defend their unblemished record. Solid third-stanza performances against Techsas Tex, Oklahomer and the KSWho have led to a trio of 10-point wins. These Huskers have turned out to be best in the third -- and fourth -- quarters. Consider: Since that halcyon second half against Iowa State, NU has outscored its foes 110-13 in quarters three and four. In fact, opponents' second-half scorelines have had more zeros in them than the lines already forming outside theaters for "Lord of the Rings." Opposing trainers, take note: At halftime, instead of retaping your players' ankles, just fit 'em with a toe tag.

RUNNING THE TABLE: By the time this contest rolls around each fall, Kansas State has usually racked up a lofty array of defensive rankings, which NU then detonates like a cavernous Afghan hideout. This year was no different. Loons, don't sell short silver-dollar outputs by -- who else? -- Eric the Red and Dee Dee against the staunch KSU defense. This year, 100-yard days against that group have been scarcer than a Salman Rushdie book-signing at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Tehran. So to get two of 'em on the same day is a Fonoti-sized accomplishment. And even when the Huskers weren't running the ball, they were merely making long handoffs -- that 45-yard second-quarter strike to Flash on the Patented Lawrence Phillps Throwback Play was real purty, even if Dan Vili Waldrop was hugging his defender so hard, you'd think he had just found a long-lost Samoan sibling. In all, the offense did what it needed to do to bring home 'W' No. 11.

BRONZE STARS: Unlike Nebraska's much-loved quarterback, the options are beginning to dwindle for those holding a Hypesman Trophy ballot. From Ken Dorsey chucking ducks to DeShaun Foster prompting UCLA alums to wistfully recall those long-lost days of handicapped-parking suspensions, it appears it's down to two: The Lincoln Navigator and Florida's Rex Grossman. Sure to emerge over the coming weeks is a heated discussion over running vs. passing offenses, and how valuable the QB is in each setup. To this I say: 62-24. This argument was already settled a few years back with that emasculation out in the desert. Besides, what Hypesman voter could live with himself if he voted for a guy named Rex? The only thing on Grossman's mantel is a Big Mouth Billy Bass -- and that's the way it should stay.

THE BOTTOM LINE: In October, the nation witnessed what may have been Round One in an epic two-part battle between two of the country's best teams. And some have been clamoring that those same two squads will most certainly face off again for Big 12 supremacy in Dallas on Dec. 1. Nebraska-Oklahoma? Oh, no, I was talking about Texas-Colorado. The Bluffs, at 8-2, are still players in the conference championship race, and a win over the Cornhuskers would send them, not the Big Red, to the Big D. Let's just get this out of the way: The Loon hates Colorado. Not in the same way as one hates, say, Osama bin Laden, but just more often. What is there really to like? Ralphie, one of the most overexposed mascots in all of college athletics? Their self-righteous, pious former coach? Their overrated, excuse-making current coach? Their uppity, smug, hypocritical fans? Oh, they think a lot of themselves out there in L.A. on the Front Range. But, friends, they're about to have another think coming. Cornhuskers 35, Vermin 20.

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