Three Nebraska fumbles in the first half, two Nebraska almost interceptions in the waning minutes, lots of yards on both sides, Venric Mark streaking down the sideline for another Wildcat big play, Northwestern nursing a twelve point lead late in the fourth... and Nebraska wins. One might argue this was going to be like last year, but Taylor Martinez and company had other thoughts.
It felt like déjà vu. Due to an incredibly long first half of football and previously scheduled obligations for the evening, I was in my car listening to Northwestern and Nebraska trying to do everything I could not to drive my car off the side of the road. I suppose it is worth noting that I am not the best driver anyways so this is a fairly normal situation when I am distracted, but this time had my attention even more divided than normal. As my wonderful wife who really couldn't of cared less about the game sat silently beside me as my blood pressure rose little by little, everything felt like I had done this before.
Last year, Northwestern came into Lincoln and punched the Huskers in the mouth. In what was a physical game with a lot of slop, the Wildcats had managed to limit their own mistakes while pouncing on every opportunity to make Nebraska's life miserable. I listened to that game in the car as well, and as the fourth quarter progressed this time around, I felt like this had happened before. It was a terrible feeling and as Nebraska punted the ball giving up much of the momentum it had gained (also after about fourteen million penalties), you just knew Northwestern was going to storm down the field and score, which they did.
Now, I am a pretty optimistic guy, but a twelve point deficit was staring my team in the face. The Huskers have shown that the offense is more than capable of pulling this off, but on this day it just felt like their fate was sealed. Three first half fumbles, multiple penalties, and almost every description of shooting their feet off pretty much made this a done deal. But, you never turn off a game. Just hours before, I was sitting in my buddy's basement watching the end of Ohio State-Purdue and told him anything can happen. Now I was in my own state of anything can happen -- only this time it did.
I did not get to watch the two Nebraska touchdown drives, but was giddy as I listened through my car speakers. While I wish I was watching the game, I gotta admit that listening to a game is magical. Hearing the plays described and the announcer's inflections get more hurried and excited as Martinez lined up the troops was so much fun. When the Huskers marched down the field and scored in two minutes, you could sense that this game was slipping for Northwestern. Then Northwestern lined up for what would be their tenth Three and Out and you knew this was getting serious.
The rest is history. Northwestern's Cardiac Cats moniker ran dry and the FG kicker who hasn't missed, missed. It was thrilling, it was awful, it was fun, it was nuts that Northwestern had to run silent count at home... everything was just a bit insane. Last year, Northwestern had a blueprint for success and ran it with careful execution. This time, Taylor Martinez had other thoughts and despite Murphy's Law rearing its ugly head, the Cornhuskers avoided a loss for another week and will prepare for Michigan. It may not have been pretty, and this week might not be either, but a win is a win. Another week for the team to be happy and hopefully another step towards Indy. Hey, this is an alternate reality after all...