Nebraska fans would like it if they didn’t have to mount big comebacks too much more often. That’s a tough way to make a living.
For another thing, it is hard on the furniture.
How else can you explain the informal poll captured above? Two-thirds of the respondents visiting The Omaha World-Herald by Monday afternoon chose “lucky” or “a close call” to describe Nebraska’s come-from-behind win Saturday night against Wisconsin. I wonder how many would have chosen “frightening,” “baffling,” or “appalling” if those had been options.
Judging by the range of responses, Nebraskans would rather not think about it.
There no doubt was great glowering going on in the man caves of Nebraska late Saturday night. Our correspondents tell us an embarrassingly large number of Huskers fans switched off the telecast before halftime, preferring silence over suffering.
They need not have deprived themselves. Nebraska acquitted itself well, mostly. The sluggish start to the game — the Badgers scored 14 points in the first seven minutes — seems, after a second viewing, to have been something of a fluke. Wisconsin’s first scoring drive was buoyed by a long, dying quail of a pass that nine times out of 10 would be successfully defended; its second by a fumble from you-don’t-expect-him-to-do-that Rex Burkhead. Its third had only four gains longer than 4 yards, one of them a 15-yard penalty.
Certainly, the Huskers did not look polished or powerful. Happily, there are no style points in college football. And despite the anxiety — my favorite in-game texting partner quit after the first quarter — most people (78 percent of 800 registered voters who answer their phone) support the coach, Bo Pelini, and therefore, presumably, the direction all of this is headed.
“He’s very honest, and he does the best he can,” said 81-year-old Omahan Jean Jacobsen…
The “best he can,” it says here, has not been all that good. Still, even if 78 percent of Nebraskans are wrong, they are still 78 percent of Nebraskans. So Corn Nation’s David McGee can be forgiven for expressing what may secretly be the majority point of view: “If they don’t give Wisconsin 2 very short fields, that game was probably a blowout.”
One thing is for sure, the market over all remains slightly, strangely bullish on Nebraska. The Huskers ranked higher, either No. 20 and No. 21, in the big media-sponsored polls this week, No. 18 in SB Nation’s BlogPoll and were again No. 1 in the so-called Big Ten, according to Corn Nation’s weekly breakdown.
But in a free market, a test of value is never far away. Nebraska’s equity will have a major revaluation on Saturday against Ohio State, otherwise known as Mr. McGee’s No. 2.
The Huskers rallied to beat the Buckeyes last season, of course, in an eerie echo of last week, and it began an impressive mini streak: a comfortable win at Minnesota and a season-defining win against ninth-ranked Michigan State. But before fans had cause to use adjectives like “incredible” or “great,” the “lucky” bled out in a black and purple “close call,” a 28-25 loss to Northwestern.
“Guys are able to come back and battle through it, but you can’t be digging holes like that. No way.”
The echo from last year’s comeback, reverberating painfully in my empty head, is not the only familiar thing about this game. Ohio State is a club not unlike Nebraska. The Buckeyes’ defense, which was seen as a strength last season, was criticized much of this year until Saturday, when it shut down Michigan State in a narrow victory. The offense is led by an erratic, mobile quarterback, Braxton Miller, and has a potential breakout star at wide receiver in Corey Brown. Even the coach, Urban Meyer, has had mysterious health problems.
The difference this season is that even if the Huskers are unable to harvest a streak of any kind from Saturday’s win, it may not matter. Even with a loss or three, a conference title will probably stay tantalizingly, achingly within reach until late in the season.
That is, as long as Nebraska stays on level ground.
- Ohio State Football: Keys to Victory for Buckeyes vs. Nebraska (bleacherreport.com)