I don’t even know where to start with this game.
Well, actually, I guess I have to start with the second half. Because it was an amazing half of football. But also mostly because I, believing the game started around 9, missed the first half in favor of seeing The Boxtrolls, the greatest animated film since I’m not even going to finish that claim because it would take far too much research.
But getting back on track, when I came into the game Nebraska was down 17-0. And then, after watching the third quarter tick by relatively uneventfully, I noted partway through the fourth that Michigan State had actually managed to expand its lead to 18. And yet, watching the two teams on the field, I really didn’t think there was such a disparity between the two. Whatever had happened in the first half, and I’m still not entirely sure, though I’ve managed to catch up some thanks to sportswriters and fellow Husker fans, I felt that if it had just gone a bit differently, the game could easily be close, or it could even have been a significant lead in Nebraska’s favor.
Regardless of whatever else might have happened, I think it’s pretty clear that what Nebraska didn’t do for the first three quarters is block anybody. I’ve seen my mother open bigger running lanes than the alleged pipeline opened last night. A fathead of Ndamukong Suh could have sacked our QB and stuffed our rushing attack. Our line did such an awful job of protecting our quarterback, I’m told Mark Pelini is a leading candidate to be the new head of the Secret Service.
And I think the most frustrating part of that, to me, is that Ameer Abdullah, baring some sort of miracle, is out of the Hesiman race, through no fault of his own. The loss stings, but I can deal with it. I’m a Husker fan, I’m used to disappointment. Seeing a man who is easily one of the nation’s top three backs (and the only one with a name not reminiscent of little girls or ’80s cheese) held to 45 yards on 24 carries because of an offensive line that created so little space Harry Houdini himself couldn’t have found a way through really irks me in ways I can’t explain.
Abdullah, I know, does not care. He’s a true leader, and cares only about the team. But he has done everything that’s ever been asked of him, and more, and carried this team in ways that I didn’t even know it could be carried. He deserves all the recognition in the world for that, and it’s just hard to accept that one game with a 1.9 yard-per-carry average has ended that. Never mind the fact that any mortal would have been lucky to average even half a yard in his situation.
I’m not sure what happened, if Nebraska finally figured something out offensively or if the Spartans thought the game was locked up and quit playing, but with just over 4 minutes, that crazy, inhuman man carried his team into the end zone again, and with the extra point the Huskers pulled within 11. The friend I was watching with offered encouragement, saying the game wasn’t over and the Huskers still had a chance. I appreciated his support, but, as I explained to him, this type of thing doesn’t happen to Nebraska. Sure, they can rally from 17 down if they get started in the third quarter, or 21, provided they injure the opponents’ starting quarterback, but not 11 points in 4 minutes. Any other team in the country could have a chance… But this type of thing doesn’t happen for Nebraska.
A De’Mornay Pierson-El punt return (seriously, how exciting is this kid?) and a missed field goal later, I was pounding on my thighs in anticipation and wildly texting about how it might actually happen.
And of course it didn’t. Of course, when the game’s on the line and Nebraska needs to make a play, they don’t. Because how could it happen any other way? Even in the week of wild upsets and miracle finishes, Nebraska couldn’t pull of their wild miracle upset.
Because this type of thing doesn’t happen for Nebraska.
There are a lot of what ifs, and a lot of positives to take away from this game. Not the least of which is how good it was to see Nebraska not quit, even rally a bit against a superior team. And there’s definitely hope in a rematch for the Big Ten Championship, a sense that Nebraska, if given a second chance, can more than just hang with these guys, but beat them. That there was just as much raw talent wearing scarlet and cream as wearing green and white last night.
But ultimately all of these small victories only highlight the fact that this was just another frustrating, “so close,” We’ll Get You Next Time!, good-but-not-great game in the frustrating, “so close,” We’ll Get You Next Time, good-but-not-great Pelini era.
Bring on Northwestern, in a suddenly-critical Big Ten West matchup.
Go Big Red.