Published on 11-01-2012 01:52 AM
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The Michigan game started like UCLA, OSU, and NU with the Huskers getting a fast start only to have the lead run away just before half; only this time the lead didn’t run away. It lay in a heap, 8 yards shy of the lead, numb and unable to run or throw.
I’ve never done a Civil War re-enactment (good time I hear) but rumors are that rather than "life or death", they’re more like "life or drink." The Nebraska - Michigan game took on the feel of a 2010 National Title Game re-enactment where General Colt McCoy was vanquished early and a talented frosh attempted to carry the flag against a stifling ‘bama defense, throwing several picks, but also a couple of TDs to make it semi-interesting. In the end however, ‘bama’s pounding offensive marched to a relatively easy victory in the Battle of Pasedena.
Re-enacted, Michigan’s very arguably talented frosh QB launched a dozen missiles with North Korean precision adding a rare couple of completions, with the only thing becoming interesting was where the ball would land next. Nebraska’s depiction of the Rolling Tide on O sprinkled in a little extra flavor, with a couple turnovers and 104 yards in penalties including the admonishment of its Field Admiral (which facing facts could’ve easily changed the whole complexion of the battle had anyone but Bellomy been leading the opposition).
No, it wasn’t BCS Championship football, it was Big Ten Football at its most glaringly average, but at this point if you’re on the side that lives to drink another day you grab your keg tapper and happily stumble to the next battlefield.
Sticking with gunfight analogies, Michigan had loomed a bit like Johnny Ringo, the gunslinger that Wyatt Earp wouldn’t be fast enough to outdraw in the flick Tombstone. But then, Doc Holiday a.k.a. “Iceman” from Top Gun sobered-up and stepped-in to smoke the guy from Terminator and Aliens for Earp, allowing Kurt Russell to live another day where he easily whacked the rest of the Cowboys in a 90 second montage. For you non-Hollywood types, the gist is with Michigan dusted, the rest of the slate seems imminently winnable and the season resurrected.
A loss would’ve had the Huskers’ hopes for Indy pushing up daisies with four games still left to play and you have to wonder what (or who) else would have needed to say their prayers with the season tanked in October. Bo was in rare form for the Michigan game, tense from the get go, lighting into Stafford on the D time-out in the second quarter and a serious ‘say it don’t spray it’ accosting of the officials after SJB’s clear hold saved a UM TD. Then came the notorious 15 yard wrist slap in the second half.
Getting back to the defensive time out, interesting was that Bo was back calling the defense. Bo led the huddle while Papuchis stood on his tippy-toes trying peak over the crowd and Pelini was also signaling-in the D from the sidelines as well. So whether the reason was simply the obvious magnitude of the game or otherwise, this wasn’t just another game for Bo and it showed all over his flashing scarlet and cream face. No doubt, it will be interesting to see how the D is called for the remainder of the year.
But two bizarre wins instead of losses happened over the past two weeks and subsequently the Husker’s, barring total collapse, find themselves penciled-in for Indy. Assuming UM loses to OSU and Northwestern loses to UM and/or MSU; NU would have to lose 3 of its last 4 games to void their ticket to Lucas Oil Stadium. An impossible rematch with Ohio State means that the Huskers are also odds-on favorites to meet and beat Bucky Badger for a second time and spend January 1, 2013 in Pasadena. Proof positive there are no asterisks on wins, even when an innocent looking play turns a dual-threat offense into a zero threat offense (aside from the innocents endangered by Bellomy’s wild pitches).
That said, anyone believing a cakewalk, sure-bet lies ahead hasn’t been watching this year’s Huskers or the weekly reshuffling of the rankings. Pride says, or should say, there’s still a lot to prove to convince anyone that any B1G team deserves a BCS game without droll Big East comparisons from the national gallery and no one would really endorse a four loss BCS team.
Michigan State, as bad as they’ve been compared to expectations still has a 100+ yds/game truck in La’Veon Bell and as stiff as Maxwell began the year at QB, his passing average is now over 200 yards per game. Immobile he may be, but he’s not going to sit back and let NU tee-off on him the way Bellomy did.
MSU’s D, namely their DLs are their team strength and will generate significant pressure with their front 4 alone, especially on the edges with All-Conference caliber DEs Gholston and Rush. Pay attention to NU’s right side of the OL as the pocket caved early and often against UM. Pressure with four will allow Sparty’s other D strength, its secondary, to play zone and bait Martinez.
T-Mart did a fairly good job of throwing quickly against UM, but he’ll need to be quicker and he will get hit hard, so Husker partisans must hope last week’s various ankle and leg strains aren’t one blow away from 2010 déjŕ vu with no Zac Lee or Cody Green warming the bench. No disrespect to RK3 who is just supremely inexperienced having attempted only 5 passes in his collegiate career. Maybe there’s zero concern as both Pelini and T-Mart have assured the media, but some of those twists in slow-mo, especially on the fumble, were cringe-worthy and didn’t project as just “rub some dirt on it” dings that just disappear.
The moral of the story is, win or lose, the MSU game will be extremely physical and no team, much less a still very unfinished NU team owns a protective halo. At the same time there are far more really good reasons to hit the field pumped than there were just 68 football minutes ago.
As it stands, it doesn’t matter how the Huskers arrived at this position and it doesn’t matter if the B1G is a collective disaster where the road through Indy to Pasadena is easier than maybe it should be. It doesn’t really matter if anyone feels the coaches are getting a free pass. No doubt if NU doesn’t smell Roses at this point, it will need to be assessed how it got away; but right now this group of kids has done everything necessary to be in a rare position to become the first NU class to play in the Granddaddy as a member of the Big Ten Conference. Yes, without a doubt, the season has been resurrected and the idea of spending January in SoCal rooting for NU in the Rose Bowl seems like a concept all of Husker Nation can warm up to and get behind.