header photo

That Guy's Wearing Red, Too!

Exploring the State of Nebraska and its unique football tradition

It Ain't Over....


“I guess we found out it’s not over ‘til it’s over”.

These were the first words out of a smiling Coach Riley’s mouth at the post-game press conference following Nebraska’s stunning one-point win against the number 6 team in the nation, the previously-undefeated Michigan State Spartans. Meanwhile I’m still struggling to put things into perspective as I write this blog entry high up in the West Stadium late in the evening after the game and press conference.

Judging by the scenes of pandemonium after the game as the Nebraska players and coaches ran on to the field to the roar of the ecstatic crowd, one would be forgiven for thinking that the Huskers had just won a trip to the Big 10 championship game. But while there is no formal trophy for tonight’s victory, the team won redemption for itself and its coaches as for the first time this year they were the victors in a close game that came down to the final seconds.

With just over 4 minutes remaining in the game, the Huskers got the ball back after a Spartans touchdown that had made the score 38-26 in favor of the visitors. It was a cold evening in Lincoln and many people took the opportunity to leave the game at this point, thinking that the plucky Huskers had reached the point of no return. But quarterback Tommy Armstrong lead the team on a 10-play drive that ended with him running in his second touchdown of the night.

The ball went back to the Spartans with less than 2 minutes remaining with the score at 38-33 and the odds stacked heavily in their favor. Thanks to a solid three-and-out defensive performance by the Huskers and the use of its two remaining timeouts, the Huskers got the ball back on their own 9-yard line with 55 seconds remaining on the clock. Armstrong immediately went to work with two long pass completions to Westerkamp to bring the Huskers to the Spartans 30 –yard line. After an incomplete pass, he threw a 30-yard pass to Brandon Reilly for the go-ahead touchdown to bring the score to 39-38 in favor of the home team. It was a remarkable drive down the field and in fact it was almost too efficient as it left 17 seconds on the clock for the Spartans to try to get into field goal range. Once again the defense held firm in the face of the Spartans onslaught and the Huskers ran out winners by the narrowest of margins.

While the players ran on to field to celebrate, the jubilant fans stood in place and roared their appreciation of a remarkable performance by their Huskers. I can only pity those who had left the stadium with the score at 38-26 and were hearing roars as they walked to their cars followed by descriptions of the heroics over the radio. If only they had followed the same guiding principle as Coach Riley when it comes to deciding when a game is truly over.

Earlier in the day Bob the opera-loving ticket man had introduced me to some friends of his in the gas station tailgating area near where he plies his ticket trade. In typical Nebraska style I was warmly welcomed and enjoyed Jen’s fabulous chili, red velvet cinnamon buns, brownies and other assorted delicacies. I will write more of this tomorrow, but will close for tonight with a brief account of the nice Michigan couple I met at the Holiday Inn bar before the game.

This retirement-age pair had driven 12 hours from Michigan to Lincoln to watch their first-ever Huskers game. We had a nice conversation as I warned them that they would likely be herded into a green ghetto in one corner of the stadium from which they would be able to see their fellow visiting fans as an island of green in the diagonally-opposite corner amidst the sea of red. After suggesting they might want to take the opportunity to rent a seat cushion to make themselves more comfortable during the game, I inquired about their return trip to Michigan. They told me that they would break up the trip by spending a night in Chicago with their son and his family who live there.

“How nice” I said, “that will be a happy moment in what will otherwise be a very sad trip home after your team loses to Nebraska.”

My comment was of course in jest, but at that moment I couldn’t help but feel a little bit guilty for teasing them like that. But now that the game is over, I must say I don’t feel guilty at all!

I might have to go to Confession tomorrow morning before I fly back to Fort Worth.

Go Back