LINCOLN — Red face around the world.
Uncle. Enough already. In the words of Apollo Creed, “Ain’t gonna be no rematch.’’
Mercifully, thankfully, the eyes of Texas will no longer be upon Nebraska. Oklahoma never inflicted this kind of torture. Please, Mack Brown, take your whips and chains and leave the good folks of Nebraska alone.
You could see it in them after a 20-13 loss to the Longhorns that won’t be wiped off the Memorial Stadium scoreboard anytime soon. Husker fans were too beaten down to be polite.
As the victorious Texas coaches and players left the field, Nebraska fans in the southwest corner just stood and watched. Same with the fans who lined the path to the locker room.
Typically, they give the opponent a hand. Barry Switzer, Warren Powers, Bobby Bowden and Bill McCartney have all gotten the “good game’’ treatment after breaking Husker hearts. Mack Brown gushes about it.
On Saturday, I saw only a handful of fans in red clap. Several. Not many.
They were frozen. They were in shock. They wanted this one, this one last, good shot at burnt orange. They wanted it badly. Really, really badly.
But did Nebraska want it too much?
Did the Huskers choke?
It’s a debatable point, but one that shouldn’t be broached without giving Texas its proper due. Plain and simple, the Horns beat the Huskers, from the coaching booth to the line of scrimmage and everywhere in between.
Texas, unranked and loser of two straight, played desperate.
Nebraska merely looked desperate.
Ever since the last-second loss in the Big 12 title game last December, revenge was the theme. That was only compounded by NU leaving for the Big Ten and the Big 12/Texas ultimatum.
Then the NU marketing department circled the game and declared a “Red Out Around the World.’’ Bo Pelini said there was no extra emphasis, but running backs coach Tim Beck blew their cover on Friday by telling the Big Red Breakfast crowd in Omaha that NU had been preparing for this game for 10 months.
Yikes. Don’t ever admit you’ve been preparing for an opponent for 10 months. Unless it’s after you’ve already won the game. Even then ...
Nebraska never does that. Ever. In fact, it usually delights in driving opponents like Colorado and K-State batty by refusing to acknowledge them.
Why start now?
Because, clearly, Texas is in Nebraska’s head.
Why else were there three — three — dropped touchdown passes? As Niles Paul, one of the culprits, said, “We make those catches, we win the game.’’
Heck, two of them do the trick. And one ties it up.
Why does a defense that swarms like piranhas suddenly let its victims go?
Why does Pelini go for the onside kick with three minutes left after NU got to within seven with two timeouts in reserve?
The coach said his team needed to stop Texas either way. But why not try to get another punt return instead of a long field? Pelini admitted it was a gamble. Pelini’s not a gambler. The Texas factor?
Moreover, why does Pelini lift his young playmaker, Taylor Martinez, for solid Zac Lee with 6:14 left in the third quarter (and down 17-3)? Martinez is always one missed tackle away from making it 17-10.
Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said Martinez took it well. He said they went to the old veteran because he would be a “calming influence.’’ Martinez, he said, was busting reads and getting visibly frustrated.
Will this mess with Martinez’s head in the future? He’ll have to get over it. It just speaks to the desperate vibe on the Nebraska sideline on this day.
Got to win this game. Got to do anything to win this game.
Did they want it too badly? Or did they not want it enough?
When Nebraska’s offensive line gets dominated by Texas’ five-man front, is that wanting it too badly? Or not enough?
Is poor tackling the result of pressing? Or lack of concentration?
It’s quite possible that the Huskers thought because they prepared for this game for 10 months, and the Horns were coming in unranked, that they didn’t have to block and tackle. Victory would just happen.
It’s also quite possible that this is who Nebraska is: potentially great with maddening growing pains.
It’s more likely time to give the proud Texas program some credit for having the guts to come into a hostile environment and win. Sophomore quarterback Garrett Gilbert played like an old pro.
Meanwhile, Texas’ defensive speed exposed Martinez’s lack of burst going laterally. Give the kid a lane between the tackles, and he’s gone. Those lanes were clogged on Saturday.
Look, would you like to know what would have happened without the Roy Helu fumble early in Nebraska territory? Or if one of those drops results in a touchdown?
Sure. Just as if you’d love to know what would have happened last year if the kickoff doesn’t go out of bounds or Colt McCoy hangs onto the ball one more nanosecond.
Better to focus on what actually happened, and what always happens when Nebraska and Texas get together.
Sure, your Longhorn neighbors now will crack wise that this is the reason that Nebraska is going to the Big Ten. They’ll boast that Texas is better than Nebraska.
Don’t sweat it. They were going to say that even if they lost.
The thing to do is tip your hat, give them their due and hope you never see this bunch again. Unless it’s in the College World Series.
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