The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat: Jesse and MNWildcat Go to Lincoln

Eric Francis

It happened innocently enough. I had planned my Saturday to be a pretty chill event. After last week's loss at Minnesota, my faith in the Nebraska defense was beyond dead and the idea of losing to Northwestern in Lincoln again was too much for me to take in. You see, I was on a four game losing streak inside the confines of Memorial Stadium, and I had very little desire to make it five. In fact, not only did I have no desire, I had actively been making excuses to not go down to Lincoln. These included:

  • I hate the traffic on the way to Lincoln because we seem to never have construction under control
  • I really don't care what happens in this game because our defense just makes me sad
  • I have yardwork (HA! I DON'T HAVE ANY TREES SUCKAS) (Wait...)
  • I don't have a ticket
  • I don't want to go see a purple team beat Nebraska in Lincoln. It just makes me sad.
These are terrible reasons to avoid going to a game. When MNWildcat emailed me in our weekly WWBWWBD thread, and asked if I wanted to buy an extra group ticket they had, I really couldn't use any of those aforementioned excuses. Again, they were terrible and while I may or may not watch football, I certainly couldn't turn down what was forecasted to be a gorgeous day down at Memorial.

The rest? Well, the rest is kind of history right now. As the seconds ticked down and RKIII throws that bomb, I will never forget thinking, "Man it would be cool if this actually worked." I jumped up and down right after that. But I am getting ahead of myself a little bit. In some blow-by-blow recap action, MNWildcat - who is a heck of a guy to go see a game with by the way - agreed to give some thoughts on that strange fourth quarter of a strange injury plagued game. The sun had just begun to set and chaos would ensue. The cliches get old, but they can often ring true, this game was totally the Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat.

Before We Begin: Non-Sad Thoughts by MNWildcat

  • Westerkamp's mustache was glorious. Well done, sir.
  • 4 INTs for the 'Cats. Even if they were bad throws, well done, 'Cats.
  • Runza. YES.

That Strange Fourth Quarter (Game Tied 21-21)

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Moment (14:18): Tommy Armstrong throws his second INT of the game, third of the game for the Cornhuskers, and ends what would potentially have been points on the board.

MN Wildcat: Two drives, two picks. In retrospect, this probably set in motion the Ron Kellogg III Experience that we lived firsthand in the 4th quarter. At the time, it was like, this is Northwestern's chance: the Nebraska offense is BROKE, and the 'Cats capitalizing just once with points on the board makes this a vastly different game.

Jesse Collins: Not gonna lie. I felt a little numb - not literally numb due to the sun shining and it being quite nice outside - at this point. I have watched the five fumble-pocalypse (also acceptable moniker: the eight turnover-geddon), watched Nebraska run out of bounds with no time on the clock, and understand that sometimes games just aren't going to go your way. Felt like Northwestern was a step away from the game at this point. Crowd was definitely restless, minus the Northwestern section I was in. They were cautiously excited.

Moment (9:36): Northwestern holds Nebraska inside the Northwestern 40 after penalties and stout D

MNWildcat: What I got out of this drive, in which the Huskers were called for the chop block and holding, was that this game was, in the 4th quarter, going to turn into a field position battle. Neither Pelini nor Fitzgerald wanted to make the call that would open them up to criticism, and the #puntingiswinning battle began.

Jesse Collins: If you were sitting with us, you would acknowledge the full-on angst going on between the two fanbases. We were pretty much wondering who would not mistake this game up the most. It's worth noting here that it was really fun sitting with the Northwestern peeps. Big shoutout to them for sticking it out and for keeping the faith in, uh, well, keeping the faith in Northwestern doing Northwestern things (TM).

Moment (7:52): Northwestern's punter, Brandon Williams, loses the #AllThePunts battle and shanks one 36 yards giving Nebraska the ball on their own 41.

MNWildcat: Northwestern punting, man. It's gotten bad. I never thought I'd be yearning for the day in which I could count on a brilliantly awful Stefan Demos rugby punt, but Brandon Williams has not looked good. Williams punted 11 times for an average of 35.7 yards, but wobblers of 31 yards from the NU 26, 33 from the NU 41, and 35 from the NU 28 have me wondering what's happened. His average has declined from 40+ in his first two seasons, and the calls on rugby-style vs. straight-on have been baffling, at best. I don't know if it's the punts he's being told to hit or just execution, but something's amiss. The wind in Memorial, while bad (seriously my face is still chapped), wasn't the overriding factor, and I don't know what's wrong, but something is. If you're going to play field position, your punter has to come through for you, and I'm losing confidence in ours.

Jesse Collins: I felt bad for MNWildcat at this point. This was the 11th - I think - punt in a row for the Wildcats. I actually started to believe our offense might finally break through. Really, a FG would win this thing at the pace the second half had taken. Due to injuries and just flat out good defensive adjustments, points were going to be scarce from here on out. We literally needed to go like 25 yards to get a win in this game. At least that was my thought.

Moment (3:16): Four Punts Later giving Nebraska the ball with 3:16 to go

MNWildcat: See above. The only good one was Williams' 45-yd bomb with the breeze that pinned Nebraska on its own 18 with 3:16 to play.

Jesse Collins: I'm including this moment as important because it points out how absurdly long this game was. Due to media, injuries, punts, more punts, and a few more punts, this game got out of control. The crowd was getting a little freaked out on both sides. Really weird energy in Memorial at this point. Game was running down, but at least Nebraska had the ball with a little under six minutes to go.

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Moment (2:25): Tommy Armstrong throws a pick giving NW ball at Nebraska 7 with 2:25 left. Northwestern gets to the 1 on first, gets super predictable and has two losses in a row and kicks a FG. Moral victory by the defense at the time, and hey, Northwestern is up 24-21.

MNWildcat: Game should've been over here. When you have the ball at the Nebraska 7 and Treyvon Green, of all people, has gone for 149, RUN THE BALL. This game is on Pat Fitzgerald and some abysmal playcalling in the red zone, which has consistently been a problem this season. Colter's scramble for 6 was great, but then Northwestern came out with a Northwestern-flavor of vanilla, being "Pretend we're a power run team" and get stuffed, followed by "Let Kain Colter run around and hope something good happens". It was horribly predictable, and even Bo opting not to take a timeout after first down (what the heck, Bo?) couldn't help Northwestern burn clock and punch it in. Just awful.

Jesse Collins: Look, I remember saying something like, "Tim Beck is about to call three passes in a row and slow down the game a little more. Bad things will happen because Tim Beck does Tim Beck things all the time." Then Tommy drops back for a pass on 1st and 10 and gives Northwestern the ball back. I'll be honest, I thought it was a pick-6 off the throw, but they hustled to make a stop and it was up to the defense to do crazy things. My only hope at that point was for Nebraska to hold to a FG. I figured we could then play for OT and hope for the best. But uh, seriously guys, Northwestern had the ball with 2:25 left in a tie ballgame at the Nebraska 7. This is an overlooked point. If I'm being even more honest, I'm pretty sure I thought the game had been lost. I don't leave early, but it looked super bad.

Moment (1:20): Enunwa tries to return the kickoff for a spark but gets to only the 17. Nebraska now needs to go a really far distance to even come close to FG range. No timeouts, and things look bleak for the Huskers and great for Northwestern. Ron Kellogg III is in at QB for the Cornhuskers.

MNWildcat: That was a Bad Idea(TM), Quincy. Don't do that ever again.

Jesse Collins: During the game, MNWildcat and I talked about how crazy it is for someone to run the ball out, especially going backwards, and even more so when you get the ball at the 25. Then that happened. Things are looking really really really dire. I might have made a snide comment about relying on a 3rd string QB with no protection due to injuries at this point. I'm a little ashamed to admit my snark level being at an all-time high right about now.

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Moment (0:21): Lots of craziness happening. Ron Kellogg III is sacked which is absolutely destroying the time left and forced a 4th and 15. Rushing back to the line, a play is called and lots of buzzing is going on in the stadium. Kellogg III tosses to Ameer Abdullah in the flat, he pushes the chains forward on guts and determination. Nebraska now has 21 seconds left to go 25 yards or so to get into FG range. Northwestern defense is suddenly on its heels and Wildcat fans are getting nervous.

MNWildcat: Good players make good plays. Abdullah is a damn good player. He made a damn good play. Nebraska shouldn't have allowed that inexplicable sack on 3rd and 7, but if my memory serves, Kellogg got a little jumpy in pocket, like a third-stringer would do with the game on the line. Northwestern had him and just didn't capitalize. Kudos to Abdullah for a great play.

Jesse Collins: I was having trouble tracking the first down marker on this play, but the crowd went absolutely crazy when Abdullah fought for the extra yards. You know that roller coaster feeling as you move to the top of the big drop. There was a sense that one way or another we were moving in that direction. As I have seen replays, it's pretty awesome how much effort Abdullah put into making what comes next happen.

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Moment (0:04): More insanity happening. Northwestern is protecting the field quite well with only dumpoffs allowed. They were not going to let Nebraska pass it downfield too far. Time was ticking and an incomplete pass to Enunwa leads to Nebraska needing a desperation moment. A FG is impossible, so coaches call for 'Geronimo' the Hail Mary play. The rest is history as Ron Kellogg III tosses it - and falls down - as far as he could and Northwestern tipped it up and over the group into the falling hands of Jordan Westerkamp - the Mustachioed One.

MNWildcat: I'm going to cringe every time the Eleventh Doctor says that before he's replaced in December. I don't know why these things happen. Just terrible that he can slip behind, terrible that Northwestern rushed 3 and just gave Nebraska every change they wanted, terrible, terrible, terrible.

Jesse Collins: I started to talk about this a little bit in the Sunday Coming Down column, but let me expand a bit. There are a few times in your sports fandom life that you can remember no matter what the situation is. Perhaps the game did not matter in the giant scheme of things, but it was memorable and painful and great and confusing and, well, it was everything that made you happy to be there. For me, I have only seen those moments on TV and wondered how it would feel to be a part of that happen. When RKIII reared back to let the ball go, it literally felt like everything had slowed down. The stadium was at a fever pitch, knowing that this was it, and as you realized that the ball had a chance to get there, the volume started to intensify.

Then it hit. We caught the ball. The referee threw his hands up in the air and the volume in Memorial was at the most intense I have ever heard it. I will never care that this game is between mediocre bowl teams, I will never care that the game was overly long and slow, and I will probably never care that I was not even supposed to be standing in the North stadium with a bunch of Northwestern fans who had traveled to see their school face down Nebraska despite all the bad that had gone on for them. What I will remember is jumping up and screaming as it happened and then looking over at MNWildcat and realizing that his - and the Northwestern fans around us - heart had been ripped out pretty violently. A great moment to say the least, but also enough pain for the visitors that I just had to sit back down and try and take it all in.

Pandemonium

MNWildcat: I got numb, then got mad, then got numb again, then laughed manically, then ate hot wings at... um... somewhere. Drinks were involved. I went to the Spigot for old times' sake and sang some Steel Panther (it's how we celebrated after 2011, when I was also a few sheets to the wind). Don't judge me. I'm heartbroken.

Jesse Collins: My dad called in the midst of the chaos. I saw twitter and facebook explode. I watched fans just cheer and cheer and cheer. I walked back to the shuttle to get my car and we all talked about how incredible the win was. My biggest takeaway is that this was a team that was not going to give up, even though they are quite probably outmatched at this point. Great feeling, but that's the beauty of victory. This will be a game we talk about for a long time, I have a feeling. I'm glad to have been a part.

Special thanks to LincolnPark Wildcat for helping me get most of these GIFs together. That ended up being a lot more work than initially thought. But seriously, huge ups to him for taking time to help me. I don't know anything about this stuff apparently. Also, go check out CornNation's gallery from the game. Awesome stuff from an awesome game.

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