|All Points West: Huskers make memories happen|
|September 25, 2014 Frank Marquez|
Twenty years passes by in a blink.
Just ask the 1994 National Champion Huskers who reunited at Memorial Stadium moments before Saturday’s kickoff. Back then, the loss was a bitter disappointment for a great Canes team that came up short against an even greater Nebraska team. On a positive note, the reminder of glory days seemed to be just what Coach Bo Pelini’s squad needed.
Make no mistake. Big Red came to play.
In this latest tilt, Nebraska prevailed, 41-31, taking a 6-5 series lead versus Miami. But what will folks say about this game 20 years from now? How will it impact the rest of a still very young 2014 season?
First, adding to his highlight reel, senior I-back Ameer Abdullah broke the record for all-purpose yards surpassing 1972 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers’ 5,487 career total. Abdullah’s career total rose to 5,762 yards after rushing for 229 yards (313 all-purpose) and scoring two touchdowns, literally willing Nebraska to victory. Against a Miami team considered to be a premiere program on its way back up — not too shabby. The Canes will not soon forget this loss — a fact that can't be ignored, considering the Huskers travel to the U next season.
Fans will also remember how Abdullah shared Big Ten player of the week honors with Wisconsin Badger's running back Melvin Gordon. This should be a good head-to-head come Nov. 15 in Madison. Not nearly enough can be said about how Abdullah took Nebraska on his back, and inspired his fellow teammates to raise the intensity of their game. Though, as Pelini admitted, despite Miami’s turnovers, some things need to get better on defense. The Black Shirts may have their moments, but they will need to continue to build on fundamentals, especially in pass coverage. The emotion that fueled them against the Canes will get them only so far. Yet, I’m glad they got emotional. It was enough to bring about the momentous big plays.
I had to believe that when Nebraska ran on to the field, it already had won. There was no hesitation by Touchdown Tommy Armstrong slinging the ball downfield. He was focused, and he rose to occasion time and time again. TV analysts and writers reported how Nebraska had returned to its bread and butter — the RUN game; the ground-and-pound game. The common refrain: opposing teams know what’s coming. They just can’t stop it.
This was the Nebraska of old, the one that doesn’t say quit. It's steeliness personified by the relentless pursuit of Defensive Tackle Randy Gregory and the Black Shirts' supporting cast. A merciless defense neutralized and rattled Miami freshman QB Brad Kaaya. This is the team that won’t bow its head when it falls behind. If trouble is brewing, they’ll just play better. If last year’s gutsy wins against Northwestern and Penn State are building blocks, this season must promise more — so far, the tough knocks have paid dividends. Big Red has come to life. Nebraska has a distinct purpose. And marching forward, with each step, the Huskers must focus on one game at a time.
In 20 years from now, observers might also note how the game transformed NU fans. Never have I heard a Nebraska crowd cheer as loud. Lincoln must have felt the tremors. In fact, all of the Big Red nation rattled and rolled. The love the crowd showed gave me Googly Moogly goose bumps.
But one thing I hope never changes about Husker fans is our character. What stood out wasn't the pushing and shoving after Nate Geary's interception was negated, but what Nebraska fans did after the game. They booed. In my book, this goes against our reputation. If NU commands respect, it should give respect. I was just as filled with emotion as the next guy about the way Miami played, but I'll be dog gone if I ever stoop to their level. Over the more than 40 years I have watched Husker football, did I nary hear a cat call, boo or hiss with the exception of a few bad calls by the officials. Doing so is not a true celebration of the game we so cherish. Rather than remembering the egregious arrogance of Canes players, we as fans should always focus on the great things NU does, and one of those is the congratulatory handshake after the game and the other is telling the Miami players what a good game they played. Let's not forget where we come from and what we are all about. Who could forget the character displayed in the 2013 spring game, the gift of a 69-yard TD for young Jack Hoffman?
OK, rant over. I'm glad the crowd showed spirit, but there's no place for ugliness in true sportsmanship.
Next up for Nebraska: the Illinois Fighting Illini (3-1) visit Lincoln for a conference opener under the lights. The Illini come off a 42-35 non-notable shoot-out victory over the Texas State Bobcats. Nebraska is nearly a three touchdown favorite, but less than a dozen points if the Huskers suffer the big-win hangover.
On national rankings: The Huskers go into the game at No. 19 in ESPN's Power Rankings and No. 21 in the AP Poll. Frankly, this is a disappointment. I predicted a bigger jump as other top teams struggled.
My advice to the Huskers in Week 5: Keep believing, and keep making memories. Who knows? In 20 years, this team may be coming back for a reunion of its own.