[Braxton] Miller broke his own school record for a quarterback by rushing for 186 yards, zig-zagging 72 yards for one score and passing for another, to lead the 12th-ranked Buckeyes past No. 21 Nebraska 63-38 on Saturday night before the largest crowd ever at Ohio Stadium.
Nebraska was roundly beaten Saturday on national television, and that is never fun to watch. For a Husker fan, anyway. But this loss — three interceptions, peculiar decision making and another indelible stamp on the defense’s most-points-allowed list — was not as painful. For me, anyway.
The reason had nothing to do with football. My wife realized, round about halftime, that JayZ was live streaming the last of a series of eight concerts that have served as the official opening of Barclays Center.
Now, I am not much of a JayZ fan, but I had never seen him perform before. And the unfolding spectacle was enough of a curiosity to make the other unfolding spectacle, the Huskers’ long, slow meltdown in the chilly Ohio night, fade into the random screaming, car honks and other anomalies that pass for background noise in Brooklyn.
I would not have guessed that a JayZ concert would be more enjoyable than a ballgame, but I found myself pleasantly distracted. So much so that I literally did not notice as a 35-31 deficit turned into a 56-31 one. I mean how did that happen? I was too busy watching Beyonce make two cameos, and JayZ pause the music and raise the lights long enough to engage in oddly affecting one-way banter with audience members.
JayZ is from Brooklyn, of course, and his show was a celebration of the borough. As he said at the first concert: “I’ve been on bigger stages. I’ve been all around the world. Nothing feels like tonight,” Jay-Z said. “I’m really overwhelmed by the moment.”
But when the encores were over, I was left with the carnage in Columbus.
Hyperbole, and bizarre writing, is in abundance. In the lead of The World-Herald’s main game article, the sportswriter Sam McKewon writes that the loss “that puts fresh splotches of paint on a Husker canvas of doubt.” Brian Christopherson of The Journal Star described the loss as a trip to a frightening, nauseating amusement park, writing that the Huskers were glad to get “away from the ear-ringing noise.”
The twin towers of Nebraska sportswriting, The World-Herald’s Tom Shatel and The Journal Star’s Steve Sipple, were shell-shocked, each of them lobbing lamentation upon lamentations on what must, by now, be a scorched landscape.
“Here in the fifth year, with his guys,” Mr. Shatel groans, referring to Coach Bo Pelini, “they said they would fix the holes in the offseason but they’re still leaking oil all over the place.” Mr. Sipple whimpers: “Maybe next time.”
- Shatel: “It’s not funny. It’s sad. In year five, in week six, it’s déjà vu all over again.”
- Sipple: “It’s perplexing, really, these Big Red collapses.”
- Shatel: “You leave this game with serious doubts whether Pelini or [quarterback Taylor] Martinez will ever figure it out.”
- Sipple: “Such losses add fuel to the argument that Pelini’s program isn’t moving forward quickly enough.”
I am no less disappointed, I assure you. I don’t know how a reasonable person can watch any of the games Nebraska has played this season and not be disappointed, or believe that there has been any improvement during Mr. Pelini’s tenure.
But this disappointment has been fermenting inside me for a long time, throughout Mr. Pelini’s sideline tantrums, his smug attitude toward the media and last season’s unimpressive debut in the so-called Big Ten. So the final score did not sting. And writers like Mr. Sipple and Mr. Shatel sound like panicky children to my ear.
The Huskers, simply, are not that good this season, certainly not as good as many fans had expected. Probably not even as good as the No. 21 ranking they are sure to lose. Get used to it, I say.
Call it cynicism. Not a single Husker, you will remember, was named to the preseason all-American team.
Call it realism. Mr. Pelini, with no previous head-coaching experience, might not be the right person for Nebraska, but who is? Are you really ready to start over with some other rageaholic?
Or call it philosophy. How many national championships is one program supposed to win, anyway? Is it really so bad? I will tell you one thing: Nebraska games are a lot more surprising than they ever used to be.
Like Mr. Sipple writes:
In the final minutes, Ohio State fans streamed out of the stadium, the outcome decided. It was interesting. You saw smiles, but you didnt see jubilation. Beating Nebraska no longer evokes such feelings. People see NU go down hard on national television on a fairly regular basis.
So. Yeah. A leap backward. But what is coming up?
Next week, Nebraska, which is 1-1 in the Big Ten and 4-2 over all, travels to Northwestern (1-1, 5-1), which shares second place in the division with the Huskers and Michigan State (1-1, 4-2), who the Huskers play Nov. 3. In between, Nebraska plays host to Michigan (1-0, 3-2), which shares first place with Iowa (1-0, 3-2).
So, a three-game stretch that should sort the division out neatly. Mr. Sipple gave the Huskers a 50-50 chance next week. Mathematically, of course, Nebraska, weak, mistake-prone and uninspiring Nebraska, remains right in the thick of things. But you would have to be thick in the head to expect too much.
As JayZ might say, “What More Can I Say?”
- Buckeyes cruise past Cornhuskers behind Miller (scores.espn.go.com)
- Now Isn’t the Time for Finger Pointing for Nebraska, Only Acceptance (bleacherreport.com)