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All Points West: Huskers, nephew come up winners
October 07, 2016 Frank Marquez   

Read more by Frank Marquez
We were on the road back to Gering from Parris Island, South Carolina, on Saturday, checking our East Coast clocks to see what time the Huskers were playing Illinois. My two brothers and I spent 26 hours on the road last week to see my young nephew Peyten, arriving early Thursday morning for Family Day and watching him graduate on Friday. He’s a brand new Marine, seven-plus days and counting, enjoying R&R while he can. He may barely remember how his parents dressed him in Husker gear when he was but a wee tot crawling into mischief. As much as we would like to teach the next generation the love we have for Big Red, the likelihood is pretty close to nil.

We started out on our return-trip on Saturday morning at about 8:30 a.m., suffering a celebratory hangover of junk food and pop, and a late night filled with stories about Marine Corps training, and the antics of both recruits and drill instructors. As they say, if you can’t laugh about it, you’ll most certainly cry. Well, there were some waterworks, but it involved missing mom and dad and stepping over one of the most important hurdles in life. The young Leatherneck did something on his own for the first time.

My brother Randall, a former drill instructor at San Diego in the late 1980s, was in Hog Heaven, reminiscing about the days of yore, the bonds that were formed such that he could talk for hours with some stranger and never know his name. If it sounds a little like being a Nebraska fan, it’s not far off.

We passed through Savannah, Georgia, then made a few pit stops in between. Wearing my Nebraska No. 15 jersey and bright red Nebraska baseball cap, I incurred a few wrathful stares in Georgia and Georgia Tech country. Though I have to admit, I do admire UGA, mainly because he matches Gering’s mascot, a proud ferocious Bulldog, and coincidentally, the Marines favor the same animal. A few of the waddling K-9s were trotted out during the graduation ceremony, and I learned that these Devil Dogs are awarded rank, and do indeed fill ceremonial positions of authority. My brother related a story about how a wayward four-legged sergeant at Camp Pendleton was reduced to lance corporal because he had relieved himself on some general’s car tire.

We passed Atlanta and drew closer to the Tennessee border, keeping tabs on the score, unable to stream anything because of the roller-coaster corridor Interstates 75 and 24. Nebraska struck first 7-0, then Illinois added 13 points, a touchdown and two field goals compared with a Huskers’ field goal. My brother Jason, worried, kept sending messages on an App called Line (much cheaper than international phone rates) in which most of my brothers and I communicate regularly about our lives, and most certainly without a breather during the football season. Jason, who teaches English and lives in Osan, South Korea, said, “I get up at 4 a.m. to watch this?” Not his exact quote, but you might understand his frustration. He hasn’t seen a Huskers game in person for nearly two decades now.

The Fighting Illini added a field goal in the third. According to what I was seeing on Facebook, the scores came off Nebraska turnovers, a fumble, and Tommy Armstrong throwing his second interception on the season just as the Huskers were knocking on the door of the end zone both times. Not unlike the previous week, if Nebraska had held onto the ball, we’d be looking at a much different score. A respectable 45-10 finish sounds better, and more fitting for a team ranked No. 12 in the AP Poll. Being bumped a few spots in the polls likely came courtesy of Nebraska’s ability to rally in the fourth quarter – the Huskers laid the hammer down on the Illini, polishing a lackluster effort through three quarters with three TDs, which turned out to be running back Terrell Newby’s coming out party. Also, the Black Shirts limited the Illinois offense to single digits in the second half.

I kept telling Jason, don’t worry, they’ll get at least two more scores before all is said and done. I underestimated them. The effort speaks volumes to Nebraska’s strength and conditioning program.

Erstwhile, No. 1 Nebraska’s volleyball team stumbled against Ohio State 3-1 for its first loss of the season. Rolling past Nashville into Clarksville, Tennessee, I didn’t get the stink-eye from too many Volunteer fans. They beat Georgia in the final seconds indicating the Southeastern Conference is in somewhat disarray. We met up with brother Randall’s daughter and her family to catch up. She had been a soldier serving with the 101st Airborne Division (Screaming Eagles) at Fort Campbell in and out of combat theatres in Iraq and Afghanistan for nearly a decade. She had a mother who hailed from Dayton, Ohio, and is none other than a Buckeye follower. By the way, Ohio State pounded Rutgers, 58-0. Amber has November 5 circled, and knows win or lose, she’ll be getting a call from her father.

After our tearful hugs goodbye, my brothers and I resumed our journey. By that time, passing Paducah, Kentucky, and heading for St. Louis, Missouri, the conversation changed to mixed martial arts, our common fondness for Nick and Nate Diaz, and a possible comeback by Ronda Rousey in her desire to fight Cris ‘Cyborg’ at 135 pounds, and a possible rubber match between Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor.

Meanwhile, locally, Legion Combat 23 played out at the Scotts Bluff County Fairgrounds Event Center in Mitchell on October 1 with a title matchup between Briston Brenton and Chris Saucedo, on a card with 10 fights that included my second cousin Cheryl Salazar going up against Elysa Preacher at 125 pounds. Outside of team sports, my brother and I agreed that mixed martial arts, perhaps not considered a mainstream sport in some respects, still garners a large following, a bit underground if you will. Consider that fans go in search of events, not the other way around. Marketing bouts is just that easy, much like schoolyard fights.

Our final zig-zag through the Midwest, making a right turn at Kansas City (defending World Series champs), and a left turn at Lincoln just as the sun peaked above the horizon, we were six hours from Gering. We pulled into my driveway with just two hours before the Denver Broncos took on and defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 27-7, this time, doing the job with rookie QB Paxton Lynch riding the offensive genius of Coach Gary Kubiak, a former backup to the great John Elway. Next up for the steaming stallions, the Atlanta Falcons. Feel like feasting on foul?

Saying this week was filled with firsts and milestones feels a little like an understatement.

The Huskers have a bye week, then take on the Indiana Hoosiers (3-1) who beat Michigan State last week, 24-21, in OT. Here’s to taking it one game at time.

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