"Nebraska is back!" Screams a college student at his friend. The two had been comparing notes to Nebraska's recent victories. Over Florida Atlantic and Arkansas State. But wait, isn't this the same thing that we thought last year, and the year before? When will Nebraska return to glory? Will they ever?
The answer is an emphatic... Maybe. Nebraska has had moments to return to glory before. The first came under Nebraska former Head Coach Frank Solich before he got ran out of town.
Oct. 27 2001: It had been said after Tom Osborne retired in 1997 that Nebraska would never be the same in 2001 Frank Solich fielded a team that many thought would dispel that myth. The 2001 Huskers took care of the second ranked Oklahoma Sooners at home with a 20-10 victory on one of the most memorable plays for Nebraska an end around to back-up quarterback Mike Stuntz turned into a pass play to Eric Crouch for 63 yards and touchdown to end the game. It looked like the Husker's were back and not missing a beat. Solich was a genius and Huskers were on the fast track to meeting Miami in the National title game.
Nov. 23 2001: The Cornhuskers cam into Boulder thinking nothing of the 14th ranked Buffaloes. Their eyes were set on another Big 12 championship and a chance to go to the Rose Bowl and play for the national title. Who could forget the 62-36 drudging of Nebraska in that fateful game. It was a game that toppled the Cornhusker mystique of great defense and powerful offense and a game that many would point to in later years and say, "That's where it all started. If we had won that game we would not be where we are today." Whether that is true are not is up for debate, but the Mighty Huskers had fallen.
Jan. 3 2002 (Rose Bowl National Championship Game): In spite of a slaughter at the hands of Colorado and the fact that the Cornhuskers didn't even play in their own Conference Championship game the BCS computers decided that the Huskers were the best match-up for a Miami team that looked like it had the best offense in the land. Again the Husker's had a chance to redeem themselves and to prove that they still belonged among the elite. A series of first half miscues and poor passing defense lead to a 34-0 lead for the mighty Hurricanes who ended up with a 37-14 win and National Championship over the Huskers. Again the Cornhuskers had fallen and they had fallen hard.
In 2002 the pollsters gave Nebraska the benefit of the doubt and ranked them pre-season #8 despite starting a new quarterback and coming off of two of the worst wins in Husker recent history. Early season tests against Penn State and Iowa State dropped the Huskers out of the top 25 for good in the 2002 season and culminated with the huskers losing three straight game included a come from behind win for Ole Miss in the Main-Stay Independence bowl 27-23. Oh how the mighty had fallen dropping their seventh game of the season and snapping a nation leading streak of consecutive winning seasons at 40.
Frank Solich made drastic moves in the season after the mind-numbing 7-7 season. He fired just about everyone on staff and hired a man by the name of Bo Pelini as defensive coordinator. The Buzz was electric and the anticipation was unbearable as the season got under way with a game against 24th ranked Oklahoma State. Nebraska won, not in a flashy way, but won 17-7. Nebraska cruised to a 5-0 start and ranking high of 7th in the nation going into a big game against Missouri in Columbia. A man by the name of Brad Smith ran all over the Huskers and dropped them like a bad habit 41-24. A collective silence swept across Husker Nation. Was the same melt-down going to happen again?
Nov. 1 2003: The biggest game of the year, another shot at immortality and the new coaching staff trying again to crack the Top 10 with a win in Austin Texas against the 16th ranked Longhorns. To say the game was a disappointment would be to underestimate the effect of it on the Husker fan base. A 31-7 blowout win for Texas propelled them on to greatness and propelled the Huskers on to an Alamo Bowl victory over Michigan St (17-3).
Nov. 29 2003: Frank Solich made major staff changes in his sixth year as Head Coach of the Nebraska football program and came out the other end with a 9 win season under his belt. Husker Nation thought that maybe they had figured something out, and maybe the next year could even get to ten maybe eleven wins. But the friday after Nebraska beat Colorado in Boulder 31-22 Nebraska AD Steve Pederson made a startling revelation. Frank Solich would not be coming back for his seventh year at the helm of the Nebraska football program. They would look elsewhere feeling as though the Huskers had fallen behind the times.
A man by the Name of Bill Callahan came for a visit to Nebraska and left owning the job as Nebraska's Head Coach. Many fans were nervous over the decision to bring an in NFL coach that coached in Oakland of all places. But the Husker faithful would stay faithful even if they thought the hire was bad and Steve Pederson was doing more harm than good.
Oct. 9 2004:
Nebraska was handed their worst loss in the history of the program to a team called Texas Tech 70-10. The defeat marked the first time in history that a team had posted 70 points on a Nebraska team and the first time Nebraska had ever been beaten by 60 points.
The loss was only one of many as Callahan's first year brought Nebraska's first losing season in 42 season and their NCAA record bowl streak of 36 years. The 5-6 season left a sour taste int he mouth of Husker fans everywhere as Steve Pederson's quote from the year before ran through their minds:
"I will not let this program slip into mediocrity," Pederson had said before firing Frank Solich at the end of the aforementioned 8-3 season (ninth win came under Bo Pelini as interim).
The Husker faithful, still remained such though and after Junior College transfer Zac Taylor came to Nebraska the Huskers thought they might have something going on. In 2005 the Huskers finished 8-4, but with only one win over a ranked team they still looked awful mediocre. A win over Michigan in the Alamo Bowl made Husker fans dare to believe again, and with Zac Taylor coming back the next year who could blame them?
Nebraska came into the season ranked 20th in the pre-season polls. A wealth of experience on both sides of the ball forced Husker fans into thinking that they were on the right track to win the Big 12 North, if not the Big 12.
Sept. 16 2006:
Nebraska has a chance to climb out of obscurity. The number four ranked team in the nation has invited them to come play at their house. It is a chance for Nebraska to once again scale the wall of glory and fame. But awkward play-calling and conservative at best decision making by the coaching staff led to a 28-10 win for the Trojans of USC and yet again people doubting that Nebraska would ever climb out of the realm of obscurity again.
Oct. 21 2006:
Yet another opportunity for the Big Red to climb into the national spotlight. Number five Texas came into town, and with two minutes remaining on the clock the Huskers had a 20-19 lead on third down and three. A pass to Terrence Nunn was complete and it looked like the Huskers had won the game and the spot-light, but the receiver got hit and before going down lost the ball. Texas drove to the Husker five after the fumble and scored on a field goal to win 22-20. Again, Nebraska's fight had ended in a loss.
Nebraska would win one game against a top twenty-five opponent, but again it came against a team ranked only 24th in the nation and at that on a last second fade route to Maurice Purify to beat Texas A&M 28-27. Nebraska would end up winning the North, but losing the war as Oklahoma flattened the huskers 21-7 in the Big 12 Championship game to send the Huskers to the Cotton Bowl where #10 Auburn awaited. Nebraska blew a chance again and lost in a close one 17-14.
But, oh yes we continue on to Billy C's final year with the Huskers.
The year 2007 marked significance. Again Nebraska was pre-season ranked at 20th and it was Bill Callahan's 4th year coaching the Big Red. Arizona St. transfer Sam Keller was the hope of all Husker Nation as he came on campus, and Marlon Lucky looked like one of the premier backs in the NCAA. There was no way this year ended horribly and an early test at home against USC would tell the tail of Nebraska's ability in the end.
Sept. 15, Oct. 6, Oct. 27 and Nov. 3 2007:
These were the dates that the Cornhuskers played ranked opponents in Callahan's final 5-7 season. His worst with the Huskers. With a close loss to Texas because of a defense break-down and blow-out losses to the likes of USC, Kansas, and Missouri Bill Callahan and Kevin Cosgrove had all but sealed their fates. Once again the Cornhuskers had failed and drifted back into the realm of mediocrity.
The hope of Nebraska came back again, Tom Osborne, the old coach of the Huskers of old took Steve Pederson's place as Athletic Director and fired Bill Callahan. A collective sigh of relief was heard all accross Husker nation as they waited to hear who the new Head Coach of Nebraska Football would be.
Bo Pelini, the Defensive coordinator during Frank Solich's last year was asked, and excepted, to become the next Head Coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Reason for BOlieving as some said had finally arrived.
But even under the savior of Bo, the Cornhuskers couldn't help but stay stuck in the realm of relative obscurity.
Oct. 4 2008:
The Nebraska Cornhuskers were coming off of a disappointing loss to the Virginia Tech Hokies at hom 35-30, but had the opportunity to wash the taste from their mouths and defeat Chase Daniel and friends the next week in Memorial Stadium. The then ranked fourth Missouri Tigers had no problem dispatching the Cornhuskers with a solid 52-17 pummeling of the good ole 'skers.
Oct. 11 2008:
Again Husker nation was standing quietly by holding their breaths. Could they stand seeing another losing season? A trip to Lubbuck Texas answered the question... and it was no. The Red Raiders were outplayed by the Husker Defense and Offense in the second half. Joe Ganz played nearly a perfect fourth quarter and the defense made enough stopps of the potent Tech offense to bring nebraska back with a 21-7 fourth quarter and a trip to overtime. A missed extra-point for the Red Raiders in overtime made it look like the red hot Nebraska offense had it all wrapped up. And then it happened again. On a a second and ten the offensive line buckled and the Red Raiders came rushing furiously at Joe Ganz who attempted to throw the ball away to live another down but instead threw it into the arms of a waiting Red Raider ending the overtime loss as a 37-31 stunner.
Nebraska would later get owned by Oklahoma 62-28 but move on to beat Kansas, Kansas State, Colorado and Clemson to close a season at 9-4 but yet again into relative obscurity.
That brings us to this year... 2009
Once against he air couldn't be more electric. Players like Roy Helu Junior, Niles Paul, Menolik Holt, and who can forget Ndamukong Suh all need and want to make an impact. Two cup-cake wins have been marked down in 2009 and just like a few years ago the first real test of the season comes rolling in.
Sept. 19 2009:
They game hasn't been played yet but this is the another chance that Nebraska has to climb our of obscurity into the National Spotlight. See, since 2001 there have been a myriad of opportunities to make that jump back into the conversation of college football and each one has failed.
This is the year and this is the time for that marquee win. That win that will turn heads and make the nay-sayers second guess themselves when it comes to Nebraska. Many teams get credit with wins in Blacksburg at Lane stadium and this Husker team would be no different. It is no secret that nebraska hasn't beaten a top 20 team on the road since a 1997 win over the #2 ranked Washington Huskies 27-14, and Nebraska hasn't beaten a ranked team since 2006, that win on the last second pass to Maurice Purify to solidify a 28-27 win.
If Nebraska is going to make that jump this season it needs to come this weekend. It doesn't necessarily have to be impressive it just has to be finished. Too many times has Nebraska snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. This time Nebraska must pluck victory from the jaws of defeat and out from underneath the legs of Tyrod Taylor.
Can Nebraska get back to the Glory Days?
Yes, but it starts now, in Blacksburg at 2:30 on Saturday afternoon. Will they seize this moment or will Husker Nation be forced to wait another year?
Oh yes Nebraska can beat Oklahoma this year... maybe... but before Dominance comes relevance and before relevance comes Oklahoma, but before Oklahoma comes Virginia Tech.