Nebraska Cornhuskers Must Seize the Opportunity They Have On Thursday Night

Bleacher ReportAnalyst IOctober 4, 2009

JACKSONVILLE, FL - JANUARY 1: Armando Murillo #6 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers celebrates following a win in the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl against the Clemson Tigers at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium January 1, 2009 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Come October 8, the Huskers have a monumental opportunity presented to them in Columbia, Missouri.  That Thursday night, with a national ESPN TV audience watching, the Huskers have a chance to begin to build a foundation that will begin to reestablish the Huskers as the preeminent program in the Big 12 North. 

At the start of this new millennium something curious began to happen in Lincoln.  Cracks were beginning to show in the mortar and bricks of a program that had held strong for 40 plus years.  During this long reign the Huskers had without doubt established themselves as a team to be reckoned with.

But, from 2001 to 2007, in just seven short years, all that work over the previous four decades was suddenly gone.  Long winning streaks would be no more, no more bowl streak, the nine win season streak was gone, all these gone in just a few short years. 

Every team in the Big 12 North has had their hand in aiding the fall of the once mighty Husker dynasty.  Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas State, Missouri, and Kansas have all had their moments against the Huskers in recent years. Missouri, Kansas State, and Kansas ended long standing win droughts against the Huskers.  Missouri and Kansas State have even ended long streaks of futility in the Huskers lair.

The successes of each of these teams over Nebraska in recent year helped to greatly widen the cracks in the already crumbling façade of the once proud dynasty.  In 2007, those cracks opened up and down the once mighty Huskers fell, in an improbable and ugly spectacle.  In a short span of six or seven years, the 40 plus years of sweat, blood, guts, tears, and hard work were just gone, undone.

Almost no team in the Big 12 North has had as much success as the Missouri Tigers in recent years.  Three straight trips to Columbia have resulted in losses for the Huskers, with all three seeing the Tigers score 41 points on the Blackshirts.   Not to mention the ugly blowout in Lincoln last year that saw Missouri end 30 years of futility in Lincoln.

Something needs to change and it needs to begin to change in 2009.  Missouri has become way too comfortable and confident in recent years when playing the Cornhuskers.  If this trend doesn’t begin to change and change now, I see huge problems for Nebraska in the Big 12 North in 2009 and in upcoming years.   

What are the Cornhusker players and coaches going to do to make the Tigers feel a lot less comfortable and confident this year? 

First off, it starts with Nebraska getting back to what they used to be and why they were so successful for so many years.  In and of itself, that means being the most physical, toughest, nastiest football team on the field each and every game.  That means being able to run the ball when they want and when they need to and playing very strong physical defense.

The Huskers need to look at this opportunity before them and grab it by the throat.  Go in to Missouri and get a win and people in other parts of the Big 12 North will take notice.  This game could be a landmark, watershed game for the Cornhuskers.  Bigger even than the game in Blacksburg, VA. 

The Cornhuskers' performance in Blacksburg should bolster their confidence going to Columbia.  They went to Blacksburg and were clearly the better team for 57 minutes.  They went into a truly hostile environment and quieted a hostile crowd.

Win in Columbia over a team that has owned the Huskers since 2003 and a win in Lawrence, KS looks like a real possibility.  Win in Columbia and maybe, just maybe, things are starting to turn in favor of the Cornhuskers in the Big 12 North. 

A win in Columbia and this group of Cornhusker players begin to rebuild a bit of what has been lost in the previous seven or eight years. Win in Columbia and they send a shock wave through the rest of the Big 12 North that maybe the Cornhuskers are truly on the rebound.

This is a game for the present and for the future.  This is a game that Nebraska needs to win unlike any I can recall in recent memory.