SONNY AND CHER?
In the '93 movie "Groundhog Day," Bill Murray plays the part of TV weatherman Phil Connors, whose assignment is to cover the annual Groundhog Day celebration in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. But what begins as a one-time assignment turns into a nightmare that makes him relive the same day, day after day after day. Finally, he gets to the point that to prove his own immortality, he jumps off the roof of a building, knowing that no matter what he does, he'll wake up the next morning in his hotel room with "I've Got You Babe" blaring on his alarm clock radio.
And this is where this year's Husker football program seems to have found itself. For the third time in four games, Nebraska has had to overcome a 4th-quarter deficit. And in the past two games, the winning touchdown was a 5-yard pass from Taylor Martinez to Jamal Turner. In each game, the Huskers have self-destructed, but somehow have managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. More penalties, mistakes and turnovers and another win.
ONE FINE DAY
As I made my way to the stadium, I overheard someone say, "It's 42 degrees in North Platte right now." But not in Lincoln. The weather was near perfect (a bit windy), with game-time temps in the mid 70s -- not bad for November 10th. Beautiful blue skies and awesome fall colors greeted everyone. And a 2:30 kickoff provides fans with the best of two worlds -- a beautiful afternoon game and the allure of a night game.
Surprisingly, there were people selling tickets about an hour before game time.
First of all, it's interesting to listen to the Penn State fans who are enraged over the official's call that negated Matt Lehman's 4th-quarter TD that would have put the Lions ahead. There, there. Husker fans feel your pain, but those of us who are old enough to remember the HORRENDOUS calls made against Nebraska in the 1982 Husker game at Happy Valley will offer absolutely no sympathy. Read more of my comments below.
CROSS MY HEART
Don't look now, Husker fans, but Fr. RB Imani "Cross The Goal Line" Cross, who scored two TDs Saturday, is emerging as a bruising running back for Nebraska. Look for his role to expand to more than just short-yardage situations. It's scary how good this kid can be.
GOOD WILL PUNTING
And what about Brett Maher's 69-yard punt that pinned the Lions on their own 2 yard line? It was a thing of beauty, not only for the distance and location, but its timing. Because of PSU's terrible field position, the Huskers were able to get a safety when Lions' QB Matt McGloin was flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone.
THE LOUD CROWD
I lost my voice midway through the 3rd quarter. The crowd was so loud all night long that I had to plug my ears to avoid sustaining any permanent hearing loss. The only criticism I have was in the attempts to get The Wave going while the game was still very much in doubt. Okay, you're forgiven...
HEADLINE OF THE DAY
On the back of the Omaha World-Herald's Sunday morning sports section, there is a full-page picture showing Husker TE Kyler Reed catching a pass among several Lion defenders. Reed raced 56 yards to the PSU 10 yard line to set up the winning TD for Nebraska. The headline? "REED BETWEEN THE LIONS" Brilliant, just brilliant.
There's a good chance -- check that, a great chance -- that the three nail-biter wins over Northwestern, Michigan State and Penn State would have been losses had Taylor Martinez not matured into the player he is. Time and again, his calmness in critical moments has been the difference for Nebraska. Let's hope he gets some championships to go with all of his offensive records. Without them, Martinez's career may not be validated.
I just received my first copies of the new Husker magazine, Hail Varsity (www.hailvarsity.com), run by Aaron Babcock, formerly with Huskers Illustrated. It's a classy magazine, worthy of collecting. The photography is superb. The venerable Mike Babcock (no relation to Aaron) is one of the contributing writers.
Please note that HV will donate $10.00 to Husker Fans Salute The Troops (www.huskersalute.org) for every subscription they sell this year. Just make sure you use the promo code T2SAL when you subscribe. Just go to www.hailvarsity.com. With Christmas quickly upon us, HV would make a great Christmas present for the Husker fans on your list.
50 AND COUNTING
I've already listed what I think is the greatest Husker win in the past 50 years-the 1971 "Game of the Century" with Oklahoma. Nothing comes even close to the magnitude of this win. And if there's a best, there must be a worst.
MOST DEVASTATING HUSKER LOSS
1984 ORANGE BOWL (Miami Hurricanes 31-NU 30)
To fully understand the impact of this loss, you have to have a sense of history. Tom Osborne seemed to be doomed from ever winning a national championship at Nebraska. For his first five years, his teams couldn't beat Oklahoma. And in 1978, he even interviewed for the Colorado opening. But '78 would be the year Osborne would get his first win over Barry Switzer and the then #1 ranked Oklahoma Sooners. That day, the Huskers played brilliantly, taking advantage of myriad Sooner turnovers. Osborne finally got the monkey off his back. All NU had to do to stay in contention for a NC was to beat Missouri the next week in the final regular-season game. But a fired-up Missouri Tiger team coached by former Husker player and assistant Warren Powers upset the Huskers 35-31 to end the Huskers' NC chances.
And to add insult to injury, shortly after the game, it was announced that the Huskers would have a rematch with the Sooners in the Orange Bowl. The result? Another loss to Oklahoma.
PARKING LOT CATCH?
Fast forward to 1982. In what many think was Tom Osborne's best team prior to his run in the '90s, the #2 ranked Huskers went to Happy Valley to take on Joe Paterno's 8th-ranked Nittany Lions. The Huskers took their first lead of the game, 24-21 with 1:18 to go in the 4th quarter. But PSU's QB Todd Blackledge quickly engineered a drive that brought the Lions deep into Nebraska territory. On third down, Blackledge hit TE Mike McCloskey for a first down on a "catch" that was so far out of bounds that McCloskey was seen running in the parking lot. Had there been instant replay, it would have been 4th down for PSU. Time was running out, but Penn State had a first down and new life. Trailing 24-21, Blackledge hit Kirk Bowman for the winning "touchdown" with 0:04 to go. This was another horrendous call. The ball fell out of Bowman's hands before he fell on it for the win.
Penn State went on to win not only the game, but a NC that year. The Huskers finished at 12-1.
THE FREQUENT FLYERS
Now fast forward to the Huskers' 1983 season. This was the year of "The Triplets" and "The Scoring Explosion" comprised of wingback Irving Fryar, QB Turner Gill and 1983 Heisman winner Mike Rozier, all of whom were seniors. This was a scoring juggernaut the likes of which Husker fans had never seen. For the third straight year, the Huskers had defeated Oklahoma and were on the verge of winning TO's first NC. The stage was set. They went into the 1984 Orange Bowl ranked #1 with only the 5th-ranked hometown favorite Hurricanes, led by Howard "Helicopter" Schnellenberger, standing in their way.
THE TIMES THAT "TIE" MEN'S SOULS
The Huskers trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half of that game and by 14 going into the 4th quarter. Amazingly, the Huskers, with their Heisman winner sitting on the bench due to injuries, staged a rally that brought the Huskers within an extra point of tying the game at 31. But instead of going for the "sure" win and Osborne's first NC, TO decided to go for two. This was before the days of the overtime option.
KC AND THE HEARTBREAKERS
I can still see the play developing -- the rollout pass to RB Jeff Smith that was batted down by Miami defender Ken Calhoun. One play. One chance. One incompletion. One devastating loss for Nebraska. I erased the tape of that game, vowing never to watch it again. The loss was tantamount to someone ripping your heart out of your chest, stomping on it and stuffing it into a wood chipper.
A GAME OF INCHES
And lost in all this was a play that happened with 10:16 to go in the 3rd quarter after Miami scored its final TD of the game. Hurricane placekicker Jeff Davis' extra point try hit the left upright but bounced through, giving the Hurricanes a 31-17 advantage. If that kick had been another inch to the left, the Huskers could have won the game by just kicking their own extra point. But no such luck.
Now do you see why Husker fans have not an ounce of sympathy for Matt Lehman and the Nittany Lions?
You may contact the writer at HuskerDan@cox.net.