adidas junior A comeback to remember but never to repeat
I took in the festivities of the inaugural Adidas Bowl last Saturday and while I had fun, I’m still recovering. The game was a culmination of events Homecoming, the first game after Tom Osborne’s retirement announcement, alternate uniforms, a conference opener and flat out Nebraska versus Wisconsin. It’s a shame these teams won’t play every year.
I wanted to take it all in, so I arrive in Lincoln early. As those who have been in Lincoln on game day know, parking is a priority. I circled the blocks between O Street and Vine before settling on a sketchy but free spot about a mile and a half away from Memorial Stadium. I briefly began my journey to the stadium, when it dawned on me that my game tickets were still in the car. It wasn’t that I wouldn’t have time to retrieve them before the game. I was more concerned that my car would be broken into and while the vehicle is insured, the tickets weren’t.
Eventually I made it to campus where I spent time wandering. I checked out the construction on the east stadium not much has changed since April. Then I found the monuments around the stadium including the Osborne and Brooke Berringer statue located outside of the Osborne Athletic Complex.
It’s been a strange week in this state. It is like everyone is mourning. For those who aren’t aware, Tom is still alive and well. We went through this in 1997. Thanks for all you have done and congratulations on your retirement.
Meanwhile, near the south stadium entrance students were in line already. A few of them were playing catch in front of a semitrailer conspicuously adorned with Wisconsin football logos. It’s sad to say, but I wondered how that trailer had yet to be burned to the ground, or at least looted. There weren’t even armed guards tending to it. If you want concrete evidence regarding Nebraska’s respectful fan base, there it is.
At lunch I met up with Hemingford native Brandon Vogel, who was in town to cover the game for “Hail Varsity” magazine. By the way, if you haven’t subscribed, be sure and do so. It’s an outstanding publication. I have yet to venture into Big Ten land, so I picked Brandon’s brain about the various conference sites. He said even though some Nebraska fans had a bad experience last year, Madison, WI is “amazing.” He pointed out that Madison is about a seven hour drive from Omaha. That’s hard to fathom considering I had just driven over six hours and never once left Nebraska. It also explains why there were so many Badger fans in Lincoln that day. I don’t know how many made it to the game, considering everyone was wearing red.
Eventually Brandon had to get to work and I had to find my friend Dave who was going to the game with me. I took the long walk back to my car and drove to Dave’s house. From there we carpooled back, this time parking about three miles from the stadium. We had a “Stand by Me” moment, walking along the railroad tracks, twelve pack in hand.
We were going to go to a tailgate party, but by the time we arrived, it was time to make our way to the stadium.
It was a perfect night for football, though Nebraska’s play was far from perfect. I hadn’t been to a game in Memorial Stadium for three years and hadn’t been to a high profile game in even longer. I have to say, it was strange watching the Tunnel Walk and seeing black helmets jumping up to touch the horse shoe before entering the field. I did like Nebraska’s uniforms, if only for one game. The magical shoes and Wisconsin’s masking tape ‘W’ helmets were disappointing. Also, we were in the south end zone, making it hard to identify players by the tiny numerals over their hearts. Apparently the Nebraska players had the same problem for the first half of the game.
Watching from home you don’t realize how long commercial breaks are or how much time it takes for an official review. Nebraska does a good job of keeping the fans in the game with a barrage of videos, music and entertainment. While the fans need to work on their “Seven Nation Army” chant, they had a big roll in this win. In the fourth quarter, Memorial Stadium was as loud as I have experienced it.
Early in the game, my biggest fears came true. Nebraska was clearly the better team, but they couldn’t get out of their own way. New coaches, different running backs, same old problem the fumble. Strike two fumbles and a roughing the punter and the game isn’t close.
We had aisle seats and for the first time ever, I had leg room at Memorial Stadium. As we stood at halftime to let the legions file in and out of the concourse, my concern must have showed. I stood with my arms crossed and hand over my mouth, wondering why I put myself through this each week. Why don’t I just become a fan of a random SEC team with hopes of winning a national championship within the next decade? As I pondered one of my closest 86,000 red clad friends tapped me on the shoulder. “It’s going to be okay,” he said in a soothing manner. “We’ve given them their breaks. Now it’s our turn.”
“So much for that idea,” I thought as Taylor Martinez fumbled inside Nebraska’s 10, on their first drive of the second half. But Martinez quickly redeemed himself scrambling 38 yards for a touchdown on the next drive. Down 10, there was hope once again.
Wisconsin couldn’t stop Nebraska. Only Nebraska could stop Nebraska, but they found a way to win. Truly, it is Nebraska’s defense that deserves credit in this one. They shut down Montee Ball.
The last audible utterance from my vocal chords occurred when Nebraska forced a fumble on fourth and one to essentially wrap up the game. I screamed, I jumped, I rubbed the head of the kid standing on the railing in front of me.
The journey out of the stadium and to the car had exciting moments too. We were nearly hit by a car and nearly attacked by a werewolf reciting Shakespeare. But we survived, as did Nebraska.
Resilience and maturity were the themes on the sports pages the following morning. Those were the same words used to describe the comeback a year ago against Ohio State. I’ll take a win any way I can get it, but let’s never do that again. I haven’t been overly impressed with the Buckeyes this season. If Nebraska can put four quarters together and for Cory Schlesinger’s sake, hold on to the football they should win. I say, NU 28 OSU 12.