It was a case of Deja Vu Do-Do that the Huskers were stepping in Saturday night at Memorial Stadium as they made an eerie repeat of last year's error-prone come-from-behind win over Ohio State also at home. This time, NU found itself behind by "only" 17 points in the third quarter. (Last year, it was 21 points.)
If it wasn't a fumble, it was a stupid penalty. The Huskers looked at times unprepared, disoriented and undisciplined. And then, as life imitates fiction, the Huskers ducked into a phone booth at halftime and came out wearing their Superman costume. The result was a dramatic 30-27 victory over a 3-1 Wisconsin team that had come to Lincoln thinking upset.
In the first half, it was Nebraska that looked like it had a RFr. quarterback as its starter. It was Nebraska that looked like the visiting team, rattled by a hostile crowd. It was the Huskers who looked as if they'd just replaced five assistant coaches, and changed their offensive coordinator and O-line coach.
To be sure, the 13˝-point underdog Badgers held a first-quarter 14-0 advantage. Their lead happened in a span when the Husker offense had run a total of four plays, two of them being fumbles. Why does this team seem to save some of its worst performances for the most important games? Last year, it was games at Wisconsin and Michigan. And it looked ominous against the Badgers.
Bo Pelini said afterward that he thought his team was too pumped up just before kickoff and as a result, didn't play well early.
Maybe so. But this game should have been a solid win, maybe even a blowout win for the Huskers, but they kept getting in the way of themselves. A repeat performance this Saturday night at the Horseshoe could result in a long night for the Huskers.
THE NEW YEW-NIES
The best part of the Huskers wearing the new alternate uniforms Saturday night is it was the last time they'll wear them.
What was up with Taylor Martinez's white shoes Saturday night? The rest of the Huskers wore black. It was shades of the Houston Oilers' Billy "White Shoes" Johnson years.
Tom Osborne used to have the Fumblerooskie play in his arsenal. And Saturday night, Tim Beck "unveiled" his version. Ameer Abdullah took the handoff from Taylor Martinez and gained a few yards before fumbling the ball forward. An alert Martinez picked it up in stride and ran for a first down. It was then that you knew the Huskers would win the game. Had the ball not bounced the right way, the Huskers could have been staring another loss right in the kisser.
50 YEARS AND COUNTING
MEETING BOB DEVANEY, 1962
It was right after Nebraska's September 29th 25-13 upset road win at Ann Arbor in 1962. To be sure, this wasn't a vintage Michigan team, but for Husker team that had been struggling for more than 20 years, it was a huge victory. And to my excitement, first-year head coach Bob Devaney was going to be showing the Michigan game film the following week at a church in North Omaha.
I had to be there.
What struck me the most about him was how plain, how ordinary he was. He was dressed in a Sears & Roebuck medium gray suit, wore a wrinkled white shirt with a gray tie and a tie clasp. His shoes weren't polished. He looked like a high school biology teacher. Until he began talking.
Within a few minutes, Devaney had the crowd of about 50 people thinking he was one of their long-lost relatives. He had a twinkle in his eyes that seemed to say, "You ain't seen nothin' yet!" He made everyone feel that the Huskers' best days were ahead.
His grammar was flawed. "He come up behind Claridge on that play," he'd say, but no one cared. Little did we know the full impact he'd have on the Husker football program, the university, the state of Nebraska and the world of college football. He was right. We hadn't seen nothin' yet.
T.O. TO GO
I was traveling out to western Nebraska last Wednesday morning and caught Tom Osborne's retirement press conference on the radio. I'll admit, I got a little verklempt when I heard him speak. It's been almost five years since he was hired to succeed Steve Pederson as the Husker AD. And in those five years, he fired three head coaches and hired Bo Pelini (football), Tim Miles (basketball) and Darin Erstad (baseball). He saw the expansion of the new basketball facilities, the East expansion to Memorial Stadium and even the switch to the Big Ten Conference. All this in only five years? Are you kidding me? Take a rest, coach. You deserve it. We'll not see the likes of Tom Osborne again.
HIGH PLAINS HOMESTEAD
Just 16 miles north of Crawford, Nebraska, lies one of the most unusual places I've ever seen. It's like a dude ranch, but has an archaeological twist to it. My buddy Ken Korte and I had lunch there last week. We had one of the best burgers (buffalo) we've ever had. Our hosts were Linda and Mike Kesselring and Lisa was our server. The Homestead is built like an old western town, complete with livery stable, a blacksmith shop, grade school, bar and mercantile store. They raise their own chickens, eggs and buffalo. It's open for groups or individuals until November 16th. For more information, go to their website, http://www.highplainshomestead.com/
THE HUSKERS AND THE HORSESHOE
I'm not sure what to expect Saturday night in Columbus, Ohio, as the Huskers take on the Buckeyes. Braxton Miller scares the heck out of me. He is "Lighting in a Bottle." He is so good that one of the reasons Nebraska won last year's game with OSU was because Miller got injured in the third quarter and didn't play the rest of the game. Defenses that worked Saturday against two immobile Badger quarterbacks won't work at the Horseshoe. Miller can run, pass, scramble and make even the best tacklers miss. The only advantage the Huskers might have is in the Buckeye secondary. With the Huskers' receiving corps and Taylor Martinez's improved passing game, NU may be able to have some success there.
Needless to say, if the Huskers resort to a circular firing squad, the game could get ugly for Nebraska. NU is a 4-point dog in this one, and that sounds about right.
If the Huskers ever wake up and play four quarters of good, solid, error-free football, they could emerge with a huge win in a very hostile environment. I've switched my position a couple times -- and that's just in the past 10 minutes. Let's hope I'm right.
You may contact the writer at HuskerDan@cox.net.