Don't look now, but with all the Huskers have been through this fall, most of the team's goals are still reachable: Win the Legends Division, win a conference championship, go to the Rose Bowl with a possible rematch with UCLA (?), win a BCS bowl game for the first time since 1999? Yup. It's all possible.
At the half way point of the regular season we know this about the Husker football team.
1.) The Husker defense (still can't call them the Blackshirts just yet) is getting better every week. The defense, once considered to be a huge liability, may prove to be one of the team's greatest assets. Continued experience and confidence for these young players is going to payoff later in the season.
2.) Don't look now, but for the first time in a long time, NU has some real depth at the QB spot. NU has three QBs who can perform at a high level. but one (TM) is in a league where few dwell. And Tommy Armstrong, Jr. and Ron Kellogg III are more than capable of playing winning football.
3.) If Taylor Matinez comes back at full strength (and I hope he does), the Huskers are going to be a tough out for any opponent.
4.) The combination of TM, a very talented O-line, a running back corps of Ameer Ab-"Zippty"dullah, Terrell Newby, Imani Cross "The Goal Line", and a receiving corps of Kenny Bell, Quincy Enunwa and Jordan Westerkamp are going to be fun to watch down the stretch.
4.) Win out and the Huskers are a assured of a December trip to Indianapolis where they would likely face Urban "The Turban" Meyer and the Buckeyes.
5.) The value of this year's B1G schedule can not be underestimated, especially for a group of young and inexperienced defenders and two QBs who had little PT prior to this season.
6.) Bo Pelini's 2011 meltdown audio tape may have been a blessing-not so much for Bo, but for all the sportswriters who may have been gunshy about asking him questions in post game interviews.. Pelini is on a short leash -- a VERY short leash. At least for now, you won't hear Bo snipping at ANY sportswriter, no matter how stupid the question might be. Gone are the "You were there! What did YOU think?" retorts BP has been known for.
7.) It's too early to tell what impact the simplifying of the Husker O will be, but if the Huskers can be more efficient on offense, they may find more success in moving the chains.
8.) A group of my football buddies and I met recently and we took a poll of how everyone thought the Huskers would finish the regular season. All but one (and you know who you are) said 6-0. Let's hope the Sixers are right.
9.) The Gophers will be a good opportunity for the Huskers this Saturday. If NU can make a statement this week, it may pay off when the Huskers get into the meat of their schedule. And this isn't to diss the Gophers. Nebraska can not afford to overlook any team left on its schedule. Just keep getting better, baby.
HUSKERS WIN SIXTH ANNUAL "SALUTE BOWL," 44-7
Okay, so the Huskers didn't play in a "real" bowl game yet, but on October 12th, Nebraska did beat Purdue in our sixth annual "Husker Fans Salute The Troops" Football Watch Party at the Cornhusker Hotel in Lincoln, NE.
The weekend events were amazing and included an emotional appearance of 25 Wounded Warriors and their family members who were bused to Lincoln from Ft. Riley, Kansas.
The bus was escorted all the way by a motorcycle brigade made up of veterans.who wanted to honor the wounded warriors.
They were saluted by a flag honor guard that formed an aisle in front of the hotel. The WW were greeted by applause when they got off the bus and continued until the last person was off the bus.
I've seen some emotional events in by life, but none has ever come close to this one. Amazing.
I watched the game with Adrian Fiala and 550 of our closest friends at the Watch Party that was held in the hotel's main ballroom. There was food, beverages and a special appearance by the Cornhusker Spirit Band. (And BTW, they had one of the best bass drummers I've ever seen...)
Former Husker radio colorman, Adrian Fiala, did a masterful job as the MC for the Watch. So good that during the second half, chants of "AID-DREE-UNN, AID-DREE-UNN filled the ballroom.
FOUR-GAME WIN STREAK
And if you are keeping score, the Huskers are 4-2 in Salute "bowl" games, losing to Oklahoma and Virginia Tech ('08 and '09) and beating Washington, Minnesota, Northwestern and now Purdue.
Saturday morning, despite the 11:00 a.m. kickoff, we were able to bus over 500 veterans, troopers and their families to Memorial Stadium and back. Our guests were treated to a behind the scenes tour of the new Husker athletic facilities and got to enjoy a special Tunnel Walk ceremony.
If you'd like to help support "Salute" go to www.huskersalute.org
WAITING FOR OZ
It was my responsibility to get the guest speaker for our Sunday brunch. Past speakers have been Eric Crouch, Tyrone Fahie, Adrian Fiala, Trev Alberts and this year, Tom Osborne. He was scheduled to speak that morning from about 9:00 to 9:30.
I had confirmed with Tom's administrative assistant the week before that Tom was going to be there.
It was about 8:30 Sunday morning and I began to wonder when he was going to show up. All 450 of our guests had gone through the breakfast buffet line and were eating at their tables.
About 8:45, one of our Board members, John Ward, asked me where coach Osborne was.
"I'm sure he's on his way," I tried to assure him even though I was starting to sweat bullets.
At 8:50.. I started pacing the floor.
Where was Coach? Was he just going to pop in at 9:00? Surely, he would allow himself (and us) a little cushion, right? Right?
Time ticked away -- now it was 8:55. And no Coach. We placed a call to Tom's cell phone, but just got his voice mail.
I kept thinking, what if something had happened? Maybe he forget. Or maybe he got the wrong.information.
And I kept thinking, that when he does come, wouldn't he just appear out of thin air, you know like Santa, but without a sled and a bunch of reindeer?
What if he didn't show? Who would speak? It wasn't going to be me. All I prepared for was my introduction to Coach. And it was going to be pithy. But I knew of no one else who was prepared to give a speech to 450 people, some of whom had traveled several time zones just to hear Coach Osborne speak.
I decided my pacing wasn't helping. So I went back to my table and tried to pick away at my breakfast.
But I couldn't eat. I couldn't even THINK of eating until Coach was in the ballroom. (I thought about my mother who when my brother and I were in our late teens, never slept until both of her brood were safely home for the night.)
Then there was a hush. I looked over to the entrance to the ballroom, and there he was. Coach Osborne was here. I'm not sure how he got there. I didn't care. Coach was here! Salute was going to be a monstrous hit after all!
I introduced myself to Coach. He smiled and we shook hands. After getting through some fans who sought his autograph (we had announced it several times that Coach was not going to be able to sign any autographs) he sat down at our table
A few minutes later, it was time for me introduced Osborne-"a man who needs no introduction."
A SPEECH FOR THE AGES
Through the the past 30 years or so, I've had the opportunity to hear Coach Osborne speak many times. His words are always special. And he's one of the best story tellers I've ever heard. He told two of them at our Brunch. One about a NYC cab driver and another about a fat General.
Of course, the audience roared with laughter. And then Coach got serious, as he usually does. But this time it was different. This time his words were personal. It was a side of Coach I've never seen.
A DAY OF INFAMY
He talked about his father who, despite having a wife and two young sons, decided on December 7, 1941 that he was going to do something for his country. He enlisted in the Army when Tom was four, leaving Tom and his brother with their mother who, to help with the war effort, got a job at the munitions plant in Grand Island.
And this is where Coach's voice cracked.
His dad didn't return home until Tom was almost 10.
"When my dad came back, I didn't know him. He was a stranger to me." In his dad's absence, his uncle, who taught Tom the love of hunting and fishing, took over as Tom's mentor.
And this is where Coach's voice cracked again.
Now we know where Coach got his love for fishing. And where the roots of his TeamMates (www.teammates.org) program may have begun.
He went on to talk about commitment, spirituality and the need to have a firm foundation to carry you through life. These are typical Osborne themes, but everyone in the audience came away with a better understanding and respect for one of the truly great coaches in the history of college football.
You may contact the writer at HuskerDan@cox.net