Huskers V.S. Gamecocks: A Post-Mortem Exam

Posted: January 4, 2012 in Sports
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Connor Shaw almost slipped. 

He almost tripped over the unseen turf-monster that has leapt from the shadows of used-rubber-tire-darkness and claimed many a toe or a heel of a player and crash landed them in an unceremonious, helmeted heap.  As the Sophomore QB dropped back, with time burning low on the clock and his coach’s perma-smirk firmly affixed to his lips, the words “poor clock management” were still ringing in the viewers’ ears.

But Shaw didn’t slip.

Instead he stepped up in the pocket and heaved the ball deep in stereotypical Hail Mary fashion.  It arced high in the Florida air and hung briefly before plunging down into the very a-typical hands of Alshon Jeffrey.  The moment, so quickly turned from potentially routine batted down pass or defensive interception, somehow exploded into a massive, game-altering play.

Jeffrey caught the ball, having somehow slipped his 6’4″ frame behind the defense despite being the one guy you could ill afford to let slip behind you on a hail mary play, and leapt into the endzone.  A game that was well within Nebraska’s reach, controlled by the Huskers’ defense (*Author’s note: in particular, The Fonz was shutting Jeffrey down.  Turns out, with that second quarter catch by Jeffrey, The Fonz’s game had jumped the shark.) and their power run game was harpooned by the Hail Mary.

A 13-9 halftime advantage suddenly turned into a 16-13 disadvantage.  Husker fans went from jubilant to jittery in the 9 seconds it took the play to occur.  We’d been down this road before.  Seen a big play turn into a big quarter, turn into a big half, turn into a Hindenberg-style, fiery, mass-explosion-and-subesequent-meltdown-tragedy.

Throughout all but nine seconds of the first half, Nebraska stuck to their gameplan.  You know, the one that had led us to tough, ballsy wins over Penn State and Iowa and Michigan State.  That gameplan. 

Then Shaw put the ball up for grabs and a group of the Huskers’ athletic secondary seemed rooted to the turf; an ancient forest of red and white oaks, rigid and solidly attached.  They were more grounded than an airline passenger wearing an Al-Qaeda flat bill hat; more grounded than a tweenager caught sneaking out at 2 A.M. with a bottle of their parents’ booze.  You get the point.

After Jeffrey scored ESPN sideline reporter Quint Kessenich was tasked with the job of getting a few words from Bo Pelini as he headed to the locker room.  (*Author’s note: can you imagine being the sideline reporter and hearing those doom-prophecizing words come from your producer’s lips, “Hey, let’s have you go get a mic in Pelini’s face after his team just took a huge dump on the field to end the half.  Quint. . .that’s you, buddy.”  I’m shocked they didn’t cut to Kessenich and reveal that he was about to do the interview wearing a full-on, Hurtlocker jumpsuit. 

“We go now, live, to Quint who’s with Coach Pelini.  Quint?”

)

Bo decided that he would apply his usual, deft touch with the media and just growled a pre-packaged response; a very-mad Mad-Lib retort.  “We’ll be fine.”  He said, thereby starting and ending the interview.  “We’ll be fine.”  He repeated.

We weren’t fine.

In fact, we haven’t been fine in the second half of games this whole year.

The Huskers had 227 yards of offense in the first 2 quarters.  In the second half?  34 yards total.  And that’s with a 52-yard drive to start off the third quarter.  Which ended in the shortest missed field goal in recent memory.  (*Author’s note: 35 yards isn’t exactly a gimme, but we’ve spoiled as of late.)

As the game progressed the Huskers quicksanded their way downwards; the more they struggled, kicked, thrashed about, the further they seemed to sink. 

The ESPN cameras, who have at least one designated employee whose sole job is to try to catch an image of Bo Pelini in a maniacal, explosive outburst.  Then, in their infinite wisdom, the team of sideline reporters pretends to be shocked by such heinous events, which is a lot like gasping in horror when you dangle a piece of meat into a tiger cage and it voraciously tears into it.  (*Author’s note: “Huhhhh?!?!?  That thing just went exactly like we thought it would.  Well, I never. . .”)

“The Fonz” Dennard, pulling a page directly out of the Bo Pelini How-to-Keep-Your-Cool Handbook, got into a shoving match with Alshon Jeffrey and threw several haymakers at the much taller player.  He got the boot, ending his illustrious career as a Husker on a sour note that felt almost apropos for the direction the game was heading.  Jeffrey, too, was kicked out for his part in the fracas, although he was allowed to come back and receive his MVP trophy.  (*Author’s note: real classy move, Steve Spurrier, letting your ejected player come out and get rewarded for losing his cool.  Perhaps the people at Capital One, who seem to find barbarism infinitely humorous in their Viking commercials decided that the MVP trophy actually stood for Most (likely) to Violently Pillage)

The game ground down, brutally scratching to a halt like a needle sliding from a record.  The Huskers, they with the coach who mentions discipline and execution more than he mentions virtually anything, seemed disinterested.  Unfocused.  During one stretch the team had 4 penalties in 6 plays.

As the refs were moving the line of scrimmage backwards so much they appeared to be moonwalking, the f-bomb train was moving forward at a startling rate at my residency.  Husker fans, suffering from another manic-depressive Husker second half swing, let out a collective tooth-pull-sans-novacain wail.  Even hundreds of miles from the stadium, it was palpable.  It was painful.

The final score ended up 30-13.  It wasn’t really that close, either. 

Pardon my cynicism, Burnpoetry readers, but a season of difficulties, of Atmospheric highs and mine-shaft lows have left me with little positive to say about this game.

In a way, the second half turnaround by the opposition, the Huskers’ inability to adapt to the challenges that come with adversity, and a coaching staff that seemed to be looking for a paper to cheat off of during one of the biggest tests of the season instead of devising their own answers served as an agonizing microcosm of the entire season.

I’ll post my season review soon and I fear that it will be so gloomy that it can only be accompanied by Adele’s scorned-lover soundtrack.

FIN

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Comments
  1. Sue Tolles says:

    it was sad, so hard to watch. Do you think the players lack self-controll, all the false start penalties, and Dennard getting kicked out, because the coach isn’t controlled?

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