Fifteen years ago, Nebraska was in the midst of a somewhat unprecedented run of greatness. Then came a fateful afternoon turned evening in Columbia, Missouri that would put that all in jeopardy. The result forced Nebraska into years of karmic retribution, but that all has started to change. The reason? Hard to say, but it's been a lot of fun.
The throw, the kick, and the catch. For Nebraska fans who were alive and cognizant of what was going on, this is a memory one would not forget. Fifteen years ago in Columbia, Nebraska kept their National Championship hopes alive with a bizarre play. For those of you who saw it, you are probably still trying to figure out how the ball missed the ground. Heck, I barely can fathom how it happened, but it did. As Husker Mike put it in a piece on Corn Nation last week:
So there I'm standing in my kitchen, staring at a 13" portable television set ... with my jaw on the floor in amazement at what had happened hours before. I was there in person; I have the ticket stub to prove it. I tried to watch it through my binoculars...but I missed one of the craziest plays in college football history.
The Flea Kicker as it came to be known throughout Husker lore was arguably the last great vestiges of the magic surrounding the Huskers. Sure, there have been some great plays and some questionable calls that went in favor of Nebraska, including an invitation to get obliterated by Miami in 2001, but nothing as lucky as 1997 happened again for fifteen years. As fate would have it, that year marked the end of the Osborne run of dominance that brought hubris to new levels throughout all of Husker fandom and, sadly, was probably one of the last great memories for Husker fans.
As I was watching the game on Saturday, the only thing I could think about was the whole generation of fans who know nothing about Matt Davison, and now, the pride of FIVE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS is as hollow a claim as Minnesota proclaiming SEVEN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS. Fifteen years ago, Nebraska versus Penn State in a conference game would give even the most liberal college football idealist a pause to chuckle. Now? It was very real and normal and such, but everything from McCloskey to 1994 was just a distant memory for the kids on the field. It was kind of surreal.
Anyhow, the fact of the matter is that there was most definitely some good fortune for the Huskers this time around. In the pantheon of Touchdown or Not-a-Touchdown, most fans seem to be on the side of Touchdown. Still, with seven minutes left and the reality that Penn State got more chances to do something about being down, you gotta assume that the game was not wholly decided on that one play. Regardless, Nebraska came out with a good call for the second week in a row during crunch time. Is that because the CFB Gods suddenly conspired with the Big Ten Offices to have them win? Doubtful. However, I sure hope so, because between the meltdown against Oklahoma in the Big XII Championship Game in 2010, Texas A&M in 2010, 00:01 in 2009, Virginia Tech in 2009, Billy C's entire reign of terror, and this irrational hatred of Bo Pelini by media types, who brazenly mocked the exchange with Stafford but forgot to go back to the sideline when they were laughing together after the heat of the moment, I'm definitely okay with catching some breaks. In fact, it's about damn time conspiracy was on Nebraska's side for once.
I'll admit it. This year has been a year of good bounces. As luck would have it, Nebraska is on the cusp of making it to Indy and finally putting to rest the, "No Conference Championships since 1999," thing that has been hanging over Pelini's head. So to all of the Big Ten fanbases, yes, I fully believe my team has the capacity to make you ridiculously angry due to catching a break and coming back from double digit margins. But, I feel very little pity. My advice? Don't bet on Danny O'Brien (I'm looking at you Wisconsin), buy more tickets to avoid going silent count at home (I'm looking at you Northwestern who made no attempt to capitalize on three first half turnovers), have a better backup plan than Bellomy (I'm looking at you Michigan), stop the run on the edge (I'm looking at you Michigan State), and don't give up 20+ second half points (I'm looking at you Penn State). Blame bad breaks all you want, but other mistakes led to each loss. Now obviously this is easy to say because my team has been on the positive side so far, but I'm cool with that. It's been a long time coming. Pelini's challenge to his team has resulted in four down with two to go. It has been a very strange year, but luck has been on our side. I may not be able to explain what has been going on, but I don't need to. I'm just going to enjoy the wins.