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Three Degrees of a Mollywhoppin’

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A Classification for Egregious Defeat

Ohio State v Nebraska Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images

As a lifelong Nebraska fan, I have watched more than my share of blowouts.

In my youth, I contemplated how completely my beloved Big Red would demolish some overmatched opponent. I recall one person roughly my age, his name was Mike. During the 1983 season, he was able to pick the score of each home game within five points. These were some ridiculous scores, so I was - and remain - in awe of his prescience. There was a lot to consider. Would the defense bow up and limit the opposition to two touchdowns or less? Or, would the reserves cede three touchdowns in garbage time? What bounty would the football gods bestow upon us? So many permutations! The possibilities left us giddy.

Those were good times.

Times changed.

I have spent what feels like the entirety of this millennium confronting the flip side of the blowout coin. Nebraska has lost to such gridiron luminaries as Troy, Northern Illinois, Southern Miss, and /gulps/ Kansas over the last two decades. The usual suspects—Oklahoma, Ohio State, Wisconsin - have routinely thrashed my favorite team. Rarely has there been a season when Nebby avoided getting its doors blown off at least once.

What can I say? Payback is, in fact, a bitch.

Some quick data points: Nebraska has lost to 39 different football programs since Tom Osborne retired following the 1997 season. Nebraska has not had fewer than four losses in any season since 2003. I am working from a distressingly large data set.

Through this relative misery, I have landed upon a way to describe egregious losses, and it is my gift to you.

The Mollywhoppin’

If you got Mollywhopped, you got dominated. You didn’t win, you didn’t come close to winning, and it is well nigh impossible to spin the defeat into anything other than what it was. What was it? It was GOD DAMNED EMBARRASSING.

The Three Elements of a Mollywhoppin’

  • Get shut out. Your offense did not score. Your defense could not get a turnover. Your special teams did not get it done. No way around it, your team was impotent.
  • Lose by 20 points. Hey, you cannot tell me that you were going to win one of these games. There wasn’t a garbage time interception return that changed the outcome if you lost by 24 points. You did not come close to winning. You came close to NOT getting Mollywhopped. But as it turns out...you DID get Mollywhopped.
  • Surrender 50 points. Your team gave up nearly a point a minute. Your defense got crushed. Let’s move on.

A Matter of Degree

Now we get to the severity of the Mollywhoppin’ - not all egregious defeats are equal, some are much worse than others.

Any one of the elements listed above presents itself as a Third-Degree Mollywhoppin’. Such scenarios include: 7-0, 37-14, and 55-45. You can make an argument that things are not as bad as they seem, but you’d be lying to yourself. Nobody believes you.

Put two elements together and we have the Second-Degree Mollywhoppin’. Examples include: 21-0, 55-31, etc. You cannot make many excuses for one of these, and the best response is usually silence.

Put all three elements together and you have the dreaded First-Degree Mollywhoppin’ (also known as the Jersey Clap). Examples would include: 58-0, 78-0, etc. The only socially appropriate response here is shame. Prayer and meditation might help. Alms and good works can be an answer. Tend your chakras. Do whatever your tradition requires, but some form of spiritual healing is in order.

Case Study


Now to apply what we have learned. I have fixated on blowout losses since Nebraska week, so take a look at all of Nebraska’s Third-Degree Mollywhoppins since 1962.

Third-Degree

Year Opponent Neb Score Opp Score Margin Coach
Year Opponent Neb Score Opp Score Margin Coach
1962 Oklahoma 6 34 28 Devaney
1966 Alabama 7 34 27 Devaney
1967 Kansas 0 10 10 Devaney
1968 Kansas State 0 12 0 Devaney
1975 Oklahoma 10 35 25 Osborne
1977 Oklahoma 7 38 31 Osborne
1985 Oklahoma 7 27 20 Osborne
1988 Miami 3 23 20 Osborne
1989 Florida State 17 41 24 Osborne
1990 Oklahoma 10 45 35 Osborne
1990 Georgia Tech 21 45 24 Osborne
1996 Arizona State 0 19 19 Osborne
2001 Miami 14 37 23 Solich
2002 Kansas State 13 49 36 Solich
2002 Penn State 7 40 33 Solich
2002 Iowa State 14 36 22 Solich
2003 Kansas State 9 38 29 Solich
2003 Texas 7 31 24 Solich
2004 Oklahoma 3 30 27 Callahan
2004 Kansas State 21 45 24 Callahan
2005 Kansas 15 40 25 Callahan
2007 Colorado 51 65 14 Callahan
2007 Missouri 6 41 35 Callahan
2007 Oklahoma State 14 45 34 Callahan
2007 Texas A&M 14 36 22 Callahan
2009 Texas Tech 10 31 21 Pelini
2011 Wisconsin 17 48 31 Pelini
2011 Michigan 17 45 28 Pelini
2013 Iowa 17 38 21 Pelini
2013 UCLA 21 41 20 Pelini
2015 Purdue 45 55 10 Riley
2016 Iowa 10 40 30 Riley
2017 Penn State 44 56 12 Riley
2017 Wisconsin 17 38 21 Riley

As you can see, Nebraska did not used to get blown out a lot. The game has definitely changed, but the obvious increase in blowout losses paints a picture of a program in decline.

Now peek at the Second-Degree.

Second-Degree

Year Opponent Neb Score Opp Score Margin Coach
Year Opponent Neb Score Opp Score Margin Coach
1968 Oklahoma 0 47 47 Devaney
1973 Oklahoma 0 27 27 Osborne
1991 Miami 0 22 22 Osborne
2001 Colorado 36 62 26 Solich
2004 Texas Tech 10 70 60 Callahan
2007 Kansas 39 76 37 Callahan
2008 Oklahoma 28 62 34 Pelini
2008 Missouri 17 52 35 Pelini
2012 Wisconsin 31 70 29 Pelini
2012 Ohio State 38 63 25 Pelini
2014 Wisconsin 24 59 35 Pelini
2016 Ohio State 3 62 59 Riley
2017 Iowa 14 56 42 Riley
2017 Ohio State 14 56 42 Riley
2017 Minnesota 21 54 33 Riley
2018 Michigan 10 56 46 Frost
  • Devaney suffered four Third-Degrees and one Second-Degree (on the road against a Heisman winner) in eleven years.
  • Osborne was dealt ten total Mollywhoppin’s in 25 years - two Second-Degrees and eight Third-Degrees.
  • Solich, in retrospect, does not look that bad. He had one bad season - 2002 - but his teams were generally competitive.
  • Après Frankie, le déluge.
  • A bit surprisingly, Nebraska has avoided a First-Degree Mollywhoppin’ in the years covered (1962-2018), though there were two close calls: A 47-0 loss to Oklahoma in 1968, and a 62-3 loss to Ohio State in 2016.
  • It should be noted that last year - despite a record of 4-8 - Nebraska suffered only one Mollywhoppin’, a Second-Degree thumping at the hands of Harbaugh (it really sucked).
  • All this tells you something you already know: As the size and frequency of beatings increases, the job security decreases.

The football season is upon us and some of us you are going to get beaten...bad. Now we know what to call what will happen to so many of us you.

Use the comments to talk about memorable Mollywhoppin’s in your football past (It has even happened to Ohio State, although a lot of people forget that).

You are welcome. GBR.