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R E D    C L A D    L O O N


LOON DROPPINGS. THE LAST DROP.
Nebraska 17, Michigan State 3 - Alamo Bowl
12.29.003

One of the best reasons for getting basic cable is so you can watch the SciFi Channel's reruns of "The Incredible Hulk," that kitschy 1970s TV show about a man who transformed into a big green bully when he got really, really ticked off. As the story goes, the madder the Hulk gets, the stronger the Hulk gets. And heck, for a while Monday night, I thought I had accidentally turned to that smashing old show instead of ESPN's presentation of the Alamo Bowl. Let's face it, it hasn't exactly been a Banner year for the Big Red -- but it was obvious from the onset Monday that Nebraska was mad as hell, and they weren't going to take it any more. Wisely, the Cornhuskers focused their rage at the green giants from Michigan State, bombing 'em with play-action and then running Thunderbolt Ross straight at 'em for good measure. Meanwhile, MSU had no (comic) relief for NU's furious defenders, who pounded the Spartans into submission. And so, as MSU limped away, red-faced and green with envy, they got the message from the NU sideline harkening back to Bill Bixby's famous quote: "Don't get us angry. You won't like us when we're angry."

A few takes:

BO NOSE: As Steve Pederson's coaching "search" goes into its second month, it looks like most Loons are ready jump on the Bo-wagon (And psst, this just in: Our ubiquitous clandestine sources are reporting the imminent hiring of Pelini as head coach; it will be just a matter of hours). Monday's win did little to shake out any non-believers in the Church of Bo. Coming into this contest, conventional wisdom said Nebraska was a disjointed mess, while Michigan State was the group that was all cranked up. As it turns out, that fire in the Spartans' belly turned out to be gas. Oh, but that wasn't so for NU's head Italian, who got his Irish up on a key fourth down and then got binged by the field judge for 15 big 'uns. Thank goodness, then, that one of those slow-footed walk-on seniors who Frank Solich was too stubborn to bench, y'know, bailed Bo out with a timely INT -- Sticky's second game-sealing pinch in as many games, in fact. All season, the Blackshirts have come to the Huskers' rescue, and Monday's fortress-like performance was no different. Does Pelini, then, have the job for good? Well, only one guy knows, and he's too busy looking bored and disinterested up in the Alamodome's Royal Box to give us any real insight into that question right now. Methinks Nebraska won because they were simply a better football team, not because of the masterful game-day management from their interim leader. But Bo and the rest of the coaching staff do deserve muchas gracias for keeping things together during one of the most tumultous months in Husker history. For those efforts, the Loon's game ball goes out to Nebraska's coaches -- all of 'em. Now we'll have to wait and see if it ends up on the mantle at the South Stadium next year, or thrown in a cardboard box and shoved onto a U-Haul.

HIGH COTTON: With a few minutes left in Monday's personal-foulfest, the Loon looked up and marveled to see the score was merely 17-3. With all the smashing and dashing by the Cornhuskers, it felt closer to 71-3, quite honestly. Yes, the Cornhuskers whiffed on a few opportunities to administer the knockout punch and run up the score (Psst -- this just in: Our ubiquitous clandestine informants are reporting the imminent hiring of Steve Spurrier; it will be only a matter of hours). But as it turned out, those second-half failures turned out to be as relevant as a rap musician holding a Les Paul. Mainly, because NU's offense played keep-away from Smoker & Co. for huge, huge, Waldrop-sized chunks of the second half. Pork Chop's waterbugging had the Spartans gasping for air, while Lord's deep and intermediate balls -- hell, the kid looked like McNabb tonight -- kept 'em off-balance. But before getting too wacked out about the radical change in Barney Cotton's suddenly unshackled playcalling, consider this: On Monday, the Huskers ran the ball five times for every time they threw it. That's almost exactly the same run-pass ratio they had in battles against the Bluffs, the Jayhawks, the Wildcats and the Whorns. What was that again about Frank overruling Barney all year and keeping the offense nice and vanilla? In this Loon's mind, the Oliver Stone stuff about Solich actually calling the plays this season were put to rest on third-and-four in the first quarter, when NU ran that maddening quarterback draw from the shotgun for two yards. Unless Alltel had a direct line from the Alamodome sidelines to Frank Solich's couch, it looked an awful lot like the same Nebraska offense we've been seeing all year.

LORD OF THE FLIES: Friends, Nebraskans, countrymen -- lend me your ears. I come to praise Jammal Lord, not to bury him. Before kickoff, if you had you told me that the Cornhuskers' much-maligned quarterback would out-pass Jeff Smoker, I would have told you to back slowly away from your little brown jug of NyQuil. But that's exactly what happened. The second-quarter fly-pattern chuck to Floo (damn, that little German can really fly) setting up Chop's first touchdown was a thing of beauty. He would've had another big one had Isaiah not have one go through his arms at the goal line, too (too bad). In his time in Lincoln, J. Lo has been afforded the dignity of Dobby the House-Elf at a Malfoy family reunion, but No. 5 has risen above it all. Perhaps in 10 years, when NU is airing the ball out 40 times a game (Psst -- our ubiquitous clandestine informants are reporting the imminent hiring of Urban Meyer; it will be only a matter of hours), Jammal Lord will be remembered as the last of a great breed of running Nebraska quarterbacks. Time will tell how he's eventually viewed in the annals of Husker history; for now he should take comfort in knowing he withstood every hit -- both physical and verbal -- thrown at him and came out a winner. Congratulations and good luck to Jammal, and to all the graduating seniors on the squad. We hardly knew ye.

WE SHALL RETURN: As another 10-win season is wrapped up in Lincoln and another winter truly sets in, it is important to remember how babyfaced the Big Red was in '003. By taking a quick look-see at who's coming back -- eight defensive starters, seven offensive -- it's entirely possible that Nebraska will be among the nation's top teams in the preseason mags next year. Of course, a lot of this has to do with who is named the next head coach (Psst -- our ubiquitous clandesting informants are reporting the imminent hiring of Steve Mariucci; it will be only a matter of hours), but whoever it may be is inheriting a solid core of returning players. Like the entire receiving corps. And a good chunk of the O-line and D-line. And most of the defensive backfield. This has to bode well, regardless of who is stalking the sidelines. Right?

THE BOTTOM LINE: It comes down to Nebraska 10, Opponents 3. And in the joyous afterglow of this cathartic win for the Big Red, we'd like to ask members of the Corngregation to pause, bow their heads and solemnly mark the official end of the Devaney Era. Yes, after 41 years, 415 victories and five national titles, Cornhusker football as we've known and loved it has most likely ceased to exist. And in hindsight, that's really not that big of a surprise. After all, there are those who have believed that the Big Red has been on life support for a while now, and that this passing was probably a few years overdue. Hard to argue with that sometimes. By coincidence, many of those same sentiments can also describe our thoughts on the nifty online feature you're currently perusing. So, as the lights go out in Texas tonight, so do the ones at The Pond. But before we go, allow us a few final, parting thoughts: When it comes to the Cornhuskers, try to be red-clad and glad, Loons. And don't be afraid to laugh at yourselves once in a while -- we're not above it; that was the whole point of this little adventure of ours all along. As for us, we're gonna move on to some new things and see where they takes us. Now, c'mon, dry yer eyes -- it ain't that big a deal. Like Springsteen once said: "Everything dies, baby, that's a fact." (Of course, he also goes on to say, "but maybe everything that dies someday comes back," but that's another discussion for another time). So, we're hitting the road now -- enjoy the offseason, allow yourselves to get excited and optimistic and thrilled and imaginative about 2004, and hey, look for us at Memorial Stadium next fall. That's right, we'll be the ones in red.

==STEVE==
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