All Points West: Keeping fourth quarter faith
     2015-09-24      By Frank Marquez    editor@geringcitizen.com
Hope is it?
That’s not exactly what I saw when my fellow Nebraska fans vacated my brother’s living room after Miami came out in the third quarter, marched down the field, like a knife through a hot buttered corn cob.

More accurately, the Huskers moved around the field like they just woke up from a Saturday afternoon siesta and realized they weren’t in Lincoln. And, this wasn’t Memorial Stadium with some patsy team coming to collect a whooping, and a paycheck. Nope. Instead, they were playing in what seemed like a half empty Sun Life Stadium in Miami. There were some patches of Big Red faithful scattered throughout. Usually our fans travel well, but I didn’t see it. This also was a ‘Canes team looking for revenge from last year’s loss to Nebraska in Lincoln, where Randy Gregory almost tore off the head of then freshman QB Brad Kaaya, not once, but a few times − one of the DT’s more inspired performances of his college career.

The Hurricanes played up to their name, striking quickly and moving past an unprepared populous, fluidly moving around large structures, namely the Black Shirts linebackers and secondary. My edgy compatriots stuck it out through the first half. Miami jumped out to a 14-point lead, then added two field goals for good measure.

Nebraska managed a field goal first, then finally, a conciliatory TD for addled fans, and prime time TV advertisers. Hey, maybe the heat and humidity got to Miami, too. They appeared to be sluggish, too, watching the clock tick off the seconds, anxious to get into a cool locker room.

For me, there was hope. Similar to the first game of the season against BYU, the Huskers seemed to find a fourth and fifth gear, compared to the big games under Coach Bo Pelini. They didn’t lay down and die; they continued to punch back. Think there’s enough talent on this team? I’d say Husker TE Brandon Reilly taking two illegal hits to the head is the kind of toughness I’d want from the entire Nebraska roster, to include the practice squad, and bench. Watching him calmly peel off the white and red markings of his damaged helmet gave me inspiration.

The third quarter began like the first half. Miami picked up right where it left off, quickly and easily scoring a TD and a 3-point field goal, stretching their already seemingly unsurmountable big lead to 33-10. Did Coach Mike Riley and his coaches give any kind of Osborne-like speech at the break, make adjustments, and study any Polaroids … er … I mean drone emitted digital photos?

At the post-game press conference, Free Safety Nate Gerry went on about the Black Shirt mentality with each mind numbing question about how Nebraska did it. Got to hand it to them. The score could have been much worse, considering officials called back two Miami TDs for holding. Among cheating tactics: Two Canes’ defensive backs were ejected. Two others were caught for blatant holds. Woah, the humanity.

As for the Huskers rally, I couldn’t think of a more classically scripted fourth. Three TDs and a couple of two-point conversions by Nebraska, left Miami fans dazed and confused. As a TV viewer, I was reveling in some of the close-up expressions on their green and orange faces. Suddenly, I heard the faint echoes of Go Big Red in the nearly empty stadium. With 33 seconds on the clock, and the game tied 33-33, numerologists must have had a field day, as this was also the Huskers’ third game of the season. My brother’s guests rushed back into the living room, overhearing the jubilant cheers – nay, yells – coming from my girlfriend and me. And, she’s but a novice fan, diligently taking notes on recruiting, the option, 4-3 defense, and learning what it’s like to be a faithful supporter.

These are also the components of criticism beheld by arm chair quarterbacks throughout fandom. Sure, maybe QB Tommy Armstrong doesn’t fit into the new scheme like a round peg in a hole. Or maybe Riley’s playbook might be a little too thick for some players, hence the relentless number of flags thrown. In the old days, Osborne just retooled an unstoppable option attack. Oversimplifying, running the same play over and over again to perfection. Opponents knew what was coming, and Osborne dared them to stop it. Few tried and succeeded. When opponents did manage to stop the Huskers in their tracks, usually mere yards from the goal line, those were the times he pulled out plays like the “Fumbleroosky.” So-called experts say the game has evolved into a multifaceted, computer analyzed approach which uses multiple weapons, and schemes. I say, it hasn’t. The basic formula from high school to pros hasn’t changed. Coaches most often rely on the strengths of their players. And, for the one and only time I’ll say it, Riley isn’t Osborne. But that’s what I said about Pelini. Nebraska can’t makes excuses for the players it doesn’t have.
Watching the coin flip to begin overtime was like opening the wrapping of a present before Christmas Day. In mere moments fans saw a glimpse of the greatness Nebraska could achieve. This was a comeback for the ages, a game worthy of the Nebraska-Miami series of old. Then, on the very first play, Armstrong underthrew his target, a dead duck, which floated away with the team’s chances of winning. And, reality came crashing down like the curtains on a bad play. To top it off, adding insult to injury, offensive lineman No. 71 Alex Lewis put a Cane’s player on his back after the play was called dead. No excuse there except for being human. The Huskers had played their hearts out to get back into the game. This is a performance they can hang their hats on for the rest of the season.

I’d say there’s hope. There’s no two sides to it. There may be those naysayer columnists back in Nebraska’s bigger cities, who might liken Nebraska’s ups and downs to having a Jekyll-and-Hyde personality. Or, like a fall back expression so overused in sports reporting: They’re a team searching for identity. Nah. To me it’s simple. I’d say they’re a bunch of kids learning from a new papa. Instead of fans like me who have always kept the hope. Now, the players have it, too.


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