View Full Version : MU Nebraska's fall means game's not the same

10-05-2008, 12:57 AM
Nebraska's fall means game's not the same

By Bryan Burwell

LINCOLN, Neb. — On the western edge of the University of Nebraska campus,
80,000-seat Memorial Stadium rises into the sky like a giant concrete monolith.
Even in its renovated state, with fancy glass-enclosed luxury boxes, digital
scoreboards and high-tech artificial turf field, it remains as one of college
football's grandest gridiron houses.

Modern football stadiums dazzle you with their architecture and creature
comforts. Memorial Stadium wins you over with its old-school simplicity. When
you march in from the six-story-tall western façade, you are greeted by these
words carved above the entrance: "Not the victory but the action; Not the goal
but the game; In the deed the glory."

That's just about the most noble bit of athletic poetry I've ever seen scrawled
on the side of anything other than an ancient Greek sanctuary. Yet for 30
agonizing years, there was no glory inside these walls for Mizzou football.

Memorial Stadium represented a three-decade-long monument to failure. It was a
wretched open-aired temple of doom where Tiger football dreams not only came to
die, but to be trampled, stomped, regurgitated and tossed ingloriously aside.

But now on this flawless autumn evening under the glowing Saturday night
lights, all those haunting ghosts of failure were being wiped out in a dominant
offensive and defensive display. Within the first 59 seconds of the game,
Mizzou was already in the end zone. At halftime, it was 31-10, and by the end
of the evening, the fourth-ranked Tigers had destroyed the rebuilding
Cornhuskers 52-17 to end three decades of misfortune at Memorial Stadium.

Missouri had not won a game here since 1978. But it didn't take long to know
that that 30-year-old losing streak was toast Saturday night. The roles of the
programs had mercifully been reversed, with the Tigers the national force and
the Huskers the unranked foe hoping to avoid embarrassment on national

The Tigers took a 7-0 lead on a 58-yard TD strike from Chase Daniel to Jeremy
Maclin, momentarily silencing the enormous sea of red inside Memorial Stadium.

This was one of those undeniable reminders why even though it still felt like a
big game, it just didn't feel the The Big Game, at least not yet. "It's still a
tough place to play," Daniel said early last week. "Not only the 90,000 fans
and the sea of red (but) it's hard to go into a place like that when you have
85,000 to 90,000 fans screaming at you, even though to be honest with you
they're actually pretty nice, maybe the nicest fans outside of Missouri. … But
it's still pretty frightening, especially at night."

It's just not as frightening as it used to be, and that's really a shame. On
Saturday afternoon, Lincoln was a strange place to be for anyone accustomed to
the Huskers being on top of the college football food chain and the Tigers near
the bottom. Husker fans wandered the downtown streets in historic Haymarket
asking the same questions:

"Whadda ya think's gonna happen? How bad will it be?"

Nebraska fans worrying about Mizzou dishing out a severe spanking in Lincoln?

Strange days indeed.

Anyone who has ever experienced Nebraska football in its heyday knows just how
badly college football needs the Huskers to make a quick return to
respectability. It's fine to see this sea of red still hanging in there as Bo
Pelini's program goes through its growing pains. But Nebraska is supposed to be
a special destination on football Saturday, and not because some other team has
become the TV headliner.

Some folks might revel in the notion that the Huskers are on the down side, but
to me, there's something not quite right when Mizzou is running the table in
the Big 12 North and Nebraska is no longer an imposing obstacle.

So the quicker it takes Pelini to return the Huskers to a competitive state,
the better it will be for Mizzou, the Big 12 and college football in general.
The Tigers' triumphs ultimately will look even bigger and better on the
national scene if and when they can do it with the Huskers serving as a
competitive foil.

As a competitor, I always wanted to beat the best to be the best. It wasn't
nearly as much fun kicking someone when they were down as it was to square off
nose to nose, chest to chest with a competitive equal and be the last man

Midway through the third quarter, the recorded sounds of Bruce Springsteen's
"Glory Days" came belting out of the Memorial Stadium public address speakers.
Once upon a time, that was a rallying cry to the power of a rich and ongoing
Husker history. But now it sounded more like a plaintive plea to the 80,000
folks in the building.

The glory days seemed to be nothing more than a distant memory. And even when
the Huskers tried without much success to make Mizzou's inevitable victory
appear to be more of a struggle, we all knew it wasn't. But I want a strong
Nebraska program again. College football needs Nebraska as that competitive
tough guy again, and the sooner the better.