2009 was a year of milestones for me.
It was the year I joined the Air Force; it was the year I graduated from Basic Training, and Tech School after that. It was the first year I spent more than a couple weeks away from home, my family, my good friends. It was the first year I had to live on my own, make my own decisions, be my own man. It was the first year I stepped foot outside of America’s borders, the first year I flew over an ocean.
It was a year where I found love, and quickly lose it, only to find it again as it neared its end. It was the year my family and I watched Nebraska play in the Gator Bowl.
I’ve felt the fear of my first night at Basic Training, the pride of graduation. I’ve felt home sick after six months in training. I’ve felt extremely lucky for the close lifelong friends I’ve made, and sad at the prospect of not seeing them again for a very long time.
It was the year that I missed my little brothers High School graduation, the year he went to college at FSU. It was the year my father was deployed to the Middle East. It was the year I found out I was to be stationed in Korea for 2010, and it is from there that I am writing this story.
But through the turmoil’s of a year gone mad, through the long hard training days in San Antonio Texas, through the fear of not making it home in time for Thanksgiving, and the disappointment of not seeing my dad before I left for overseas, Nebraska football kept me going.
Oh, I don’t mean to be a drama queen, and I don’t want to look like some kind of crazy jock who cares more about college football then I do my family, but if I were to be completely honest with you guys, apart from my family back home and my good friends I made in Texas, Nebraska football probably helped me out through Tech School more than anything else I can think of.
In basic training us “trainees” lived meal to meal, Sunday to Sunday; it made going through eight-and-a-half weeks of pure hell seem bearable. In Tech School, I lived Husker game to Husker game.
It all began in February, the month I first went to my recruiter in Ft. Walton Beach Florida to talk about me joining the Air Force. My family and friends warned me not to join at that time, because if I did, I would end up going to basic during summer in Texas, hot, hot, hot, hot, hot. I told them I had to; there was no way in hell I was going to miss football season for something as stupid as Basic Training. If I went during the summer, I would be out in time for football, and in time to see Nebraska play its 2009 season.
Nothing else could be more important.
I do not regret that decision to this day. Even though I ended up suffering through the hottest summer in Texas history, even though I spent a good amount of time marching lock step with my fellow trainees down a terribly hot drill pad in a heavy long sleeve uniform, I endured it for the Huskers. Give me a black shirt and call me Suh.
When the 2009 season finally came, I was still in Texas, still complaining about the heat, still tired from training all day long, but happy to finally be out of Basic and living in nicer dorms. I had everything I would ever want, internet access, TV, some pretty close friends, and best of all freedom on the weekends to be my own man, and let me tell you we had some fun on those weekends.
The season started slow for me. I got to see an early in the year beat down BYU put on Oklahoma; I got to hang out with some buds from Iowa as they saw their team put on an impressive show every week. But I didn’t get to see Nebraska play in its 300th straight sellout. Both early Nebraska games against cupcake competition were missed I am sorry to say, but that was all right, because the Nebraska Virginia Tech game was to be a nationally televised game, and there was no way I was going to miss that game for a second year in a row (the previous year I missed it because it wasn’t playing in Florida, I had to resort to radio).
Irony struck that week, as my team, Team 2 HUA, was called upon to perform CQ, charge of quarters, duties for the weekend of the Nebraska game, and low and behold, I was randomly chosen to pull the shift that just so happened to correlate with the game. I was, as you can imagine, devastated, but as luck would have it the building I was to perform CQ duty in was the jailhouse, an older dorm that isn’t nearly watched as much by the NCO’s as the newer dorms, and right in the CQ room was a giant TV, it was the only dorm with a TV in the CQ room. Oh I was thrilled, I could still watch the game, right?
Turns out I wasn’t the only one with that idea. Seems that the previous CQ shift also wished to use the TV for their own evil purposes, so they could watch Florida play Tennessee. Not only that, but there were about a dozen Florida fans in the room as compared to me, the only person with any stake in the Nebraska-VT game at all. Needless to say I was a bit outnumbered, but every time that Florida went on commercial, they got an earful from me telling them to change the channel to the Husker game. So this went on until the Florida game was finished, and I was thankfully given full control of the TV late in the Husker game.
4th quarter, Huskers winning, offense not doing crap, defense holding the Turkeys down. I’m all exited, we’re in the game, when suddenly drama strikes the CQ building. Seems one of the students in the old dorms had a laptop stolen from his room, and the fuzz were coming in to have a word with this young man, interrogate some of his friends, and get to the bottom of this terrible crime, all while I’m trying to watch my football game.
So the cops show up, all bad ass in their berets, and take a few of this kids roommates and friends to the back rooms to have a little chat with them. They ask me a few questions and what not, but leave me alone for a while. What makes this so funny is that the CQ room becomes a hub of activity as the cops start walking in and out every five seconds, MTL’s, military training leaders, pretty much the NCO’s in charge of me, talking with them in the room right behind where I am, people being interviewed, arrests being made, all while I’m watching one of the biggest meltdowns in Nebraska football history.
Its fourth down, I’m pumped, there’s just NO WAY VT can possibly score….And then they make an impossible deep pass to put themselves within scoring range.
The impossible has happened.
Now picture this scene. I’m standing in front of the TV in my uniform, on duty so it is required of me to act professionally, with cops and MTL’s in the room talking and making arrests, when suddenly I pick up my flight cap and throw it as hard as I can on the ground and sink to my knees in disbelief. The two cops in the room look over at me, glance up at the TV, then go back to their work.
But no, it’s not too late, we can still win this game, our defense has been playing great so far, if only we can hold them off for just a little longer. I pick up my hat and place it back on the desk. I pace the floor, grabbing my hair and breathing deep, praying to God in heaven for a stop, just a few stops, a fumble or an interception or anything, but please God, don’t let us lose this game, don’t make me have to go back on facebook and say ‘yeah, good game guys, you won’ to my VT fan friends. Good friends, but having to say that to them was hard—two years in a row.
As fate would have it, God in His wisdom said no. I was devastated, just devastated. I sank to the floor, pounded my fists against the ground, not caring that these two cops were looking at me while I was doing it. I looked to the sky and silently cried my frustrations. It couldn’t be, it just COULDN’T be, how could this have happened?
Facebook update that night, “I cannot believe we let VT beat us today. I mean, come on, our defense plays great for four quarters and gives them a freaking 60 yard pass in the closing minute? Why does this seem to always happen to us?”
Note that I was only able to stay this calm because I updated it a while after the game, after the initial shock wore off.
I missed the game the following week against L.A., but it was against another cream puff team so I wasn’t too worried or upset about that. What REALLY upset me was the next game, against Mizzou, which I would be forced to miss under circumstances outside of my control, but since it is once again an interesting story.
It was the first week of training at Camp Bullis for Team 2. For those of you who don’t know, Camp Bullis for Security Forces Tech School students is where we do all our ground fighting and weapons training. It’s an army base REALLY far away from Lackland where our normal training takes place; it’s where we get to roll around in the mud with actual weapons and shoot blanks at one another while taking over mock villages, setting ambushes, and staying in shitty dorms.
It was the first week of Camp Bullis, and Team 2, me included of course, was at the dorms when the Thursday of the game rolled around. Now, because it was a Thursday night, we had to be in our rooms by ten which meant going to a local sports bar or Hooters was out of the question, so my only option if I was to see my beloved Cornhuskers play probably the most important game of the season was to go downstairs to the rec room and try to convince the people there to watch the game that night.
Try I did, but when there is only one TV and a good fifty people sitting around it, chances are you won’t see what you want. I didn’t, and the reason I didn’t was because all the black people (no offense, but I was half-considering becoming a racist that night—just kidding) there wanted to watch, of all things, BET and The Fresh Prince of Bell Air. Yeah, really, no joke, I cannot make that up.
Oh I was mad, oh I was ready to start a fight and kill some people, but what could I do? I once again found myself outnumbered. There was nothing I could do, so I went up to my room and sulked about it. Until, God bless her, my soon to be girlfriend, Angela, texted me from Nebraska asking if I was seeing the game.
I replied no, and she, being the angel she is, decided she would text me through the night giving me updates on the game and how it was progressing.
Now, this plan didn’t work as well as I’d hoped because Camp Bullis gets awful cell phone reception, and I would get these texts sometimes hours after she sent them.
I went to bed that night Huskers down 12-0 going into the fourth quarter. It was a long, hard sleep, twisting and turning all night praying for another update that would never come.
Morning came early, far too early for any decent human beings to be awake, and still no updates on the game. Fortunately one of my buds on the team is a big Mizzou fan, if anyone else on the team knows what happened he would.
As I passed him on the stairwell going down to the ground floor, he angrily told me about how my beloved Huskers managed to climb back in the fourth quarter after being down 12-0 and win the game.
I was, understandably, thrilled.
No, I was more than thrilled, I was ESTATIC. Oh, Cheney, my bud, probably hated me, but I knew now that Nebraska was SURE to win the Big 12 North. HAZA! There was no one who could beat us now! I went out that weekend and had a great time.
Facebook update, “Nebraska kicked Mizzous ASS!!
Then the next week came around. Just like almost everyone else I was flush with victory and didn’t expect a weakened Tech team to put up much of a fight, especially since we nearly beat them last year when they were much better and we weren’t as good as we were now. That week I went to a Buffalo Wild Wings with my buddy Pait who’s not really a big fan of football but went with me anyway because we were going to see Zombieland afterwards.
My prediction? Nebraska 37, Tech 20. Haha, haha, *sigh."
Anyway, we show up and the game is already underway (a trend that kept up for most the year, showing up after the games started). This being Texas, I had to endure a bunch of drunk Tech fans sitting in a corner talking loudly and being completely obnoxious, who had, apparently, according to my server, been there all day.
The game didn’t go exactly like I imagined. OK, it didn’t go ANYTHING like I imagined.
Near the end, I walked off to take the biggest crap of my life (I’m telling you this was one hell of a crap I took), and while in the middle of it, my dear old sister texted me to ask how I was. She probably talked me out of suicide that day. Not really, I’m not really THAT dedicated to Nebraska football, but it made me feel better at least. I wiped my ass, walked out of that place with my friend, and vented my anger to him all the way to the theater. Yeah, and he listened to every damn word I had to say, I made sure of that.
As upset as I was over the Tech loss, I, like everyone else once again, thought it was nothing but a fluke. Certainly our offense couldn’t possibly be as bad as it was that game. No way, we would be back, just had to rebound against crappy competition like Iowa State and Baylor, and we’d be fine. We’d play the rest of our games like we did against VT, and if we play that good, we can beat anyone in the country. Iowa State was more like a division two team anyway; we’ll roll over them, then roll over Baylor, then go back to Lincoln to play the much awaited Oklahoma game. Or so I thought.
I went out that weekend again, still in Bullis but at least now it’s the last week and the game is on a Saturday like the week before and not on a Thursday. So me and my best friend Chambers go to Hooters to watch the game.
Took a while for the Hooter’s girls to put the game on, but I wouldn’t take no for an answer this time, there was no way I was going to miss Nebraska actually WIN a game. I realized that up to this point I hadn’t actually seen Nebraska WIN, I’ve only seen two games so far, and both of those were losses.
Well that streak wouldn’t get any better as that long day wore on.
It began with simple annoyance, then evolved into concern, changing suddenly into shock, disbelief, anger, and then finally rage. My brother back home was texting me asking how it was going because he couldn’t watch the game, and I had to tell him.
At the end of the game, I picked up my barstool and slammed it angrily against the ground. I think I freaked out some Hooter’s girls but whatever, I was mad, and stomped out of that place as fast as I could. I ranted and raved about how angry and frustrated I was to Chambers, who teased me for being so passionate, but I got over it.
Suddenly Nebraska didn’t look so invincible anymore.
Where at the beginning of the year it seemed we could beat anyone, now it looked like anyone could beat us.
I was shocked. I just couldn’t believe that we would give up eight turnovers in a single game. It was…unthinkable. Eight! Our season seemed at the end of its ropes. Something needed to change, and fast, because if we lost to Baylor the next week… well, there was likely to be a riot. My buddy and I decided to see Paranormal Activities that night to get over the tragic loss. I thought it was great, he almost peed his pants. Hilarious.
Facebook update, “Once again, I ask, how can Nebraska do this to me?”
Something happened in the week between the Iowa State and the Baylor game that changed my whole mood. What was that you ask? What could possibly make me forget about our devastating loss and look forward to the next game win or lose? I realized that Waco was only a three hour drive from San Antonio and that I still had time to get tickets.
The reality struck me hard. I hadn’t even considered it up to that point. I mean, I’d been wondering what the closest university town was so I could maybe see a game, but I hadn’t even considered Baylor. I don’t know why, they’re a Big 12 school in Texas just like the others, but for some reason they completely slipped my mind.
Lucky for me I remembered that Baylor was in freaking Texas. It was the last week at Bullis, we were getting ready to go back to Lackland, but all I could think about was how I could get to the game. Could I rent a car? No, too young. Could I maybe take the train? No, train didn’t run when I needed it to. Greyhound? Bingo. Little problem though, I would have to leave Lackland EARLY in the morning on Saturday, hop on the greyhound, watch the game, get a cheap room, then come home Sunday afternoon and study for a big test I had Monday morning.
Oh, and if I failed the test I’d be washed back and have to spend an extra two weeks in Texas. Could I do it? For Nebraska, yes I could! So, I did.
Woke up at about two in the morning gameday, called a cab, got dropped off at the bus station in downtown at around three, got on the bus not too long after that, and was in Waco an hour before the game began. After getting a room nearby at some rundown hookers den called “The Sandman” (yeah, cause THAT’S what I want to picture when I go to bed) to drop off my few belongings, I rushed towards the game.
Quick side note, upon arriving at Waco from Austin I met a fellow Husker fan by the name of John who made the trip all the way from Louisiana to see the Huskers play. Anyway, we met at the station, recognizing each other right away as Husker fans from our clothing, and decided, hell, we were both here by ourselves, might as well hang out and see the game together.
We both got to the game at different times, but after halftime, with Nebraska up 20-0, we met down below, ate some hotdogs, and hung out the rest of the game cheering on the Big Red as they tried their best to lose the game. Their best didn’t quit do it though, as the Huskers pulled off the victory.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, John and I decided to go down as close as we could to the sidelines, right behind the Husker bench, and try to get some high fives as they players and coaches walked out the tunnel.
Funny thing about that was that the Husker bench was located right underneath the Baylor student section (I know, kinda weird putting the student section on the visitors side), and let me tell you these Baylor fans thought they were Texas fans who’d just won a blowout victory by the all crap they talked.
They even bragged about winning the NIT, yeah, like being the 60-something best basketball team in the country means anything after your football team just got beat by a school that doesn’t give two shits about basketball.
Needless to say, we had a lot of fun with those guys, especially when we mentioned the small fact that there were FAR more Husker fans at the game then Baylor fans, something I didn’t expect to see on my first Big 12 road game, but hey, guess mediocrity makes people ignore you. Go figure.
But as the players exited the stadium, we did get the chance to give them some high fives. I don’t quite remember which players and which coaches, and which managers, those guys need some love too!
It was good enough giving a Husker player, ANY Husker player, a high five. Oh yes, very good indeed.
Then we waited outside the stadium for the players and coaches to come out. Unfortunately, I missed Suh, that would have been something, but I got to shake Cody Green’s hand and see Jared Crick, and the brothers Pelini. To all those Husker fans who still live in Nebraska this might not seem like much, but I don’t live in Nebraska, I NEVER get to do these kinds of things, getting to see that Husker players are REAL people, well, it just made my day, more so then actually getting to SEE the Huskers win a game.
John and I went out to celebrate that night, going to the local Outback Steakhouse for some steak and drinks. Funny thing, when you tell the bartender you’re an Airman they tend not to check your ID. Yeah, maybe I shouldn’t be telling people that, but it is what it is.
Needless to say, John and I had a good time that night, but there doesn’t seem to be much of a night life in Waco Texas, and since I did have a test that Monday and needed to study I decided not to go looking in back alleys for one.
Next morning was some more fun. We both got a cab to the bus stop assuming, of course, that there was going to be a place to eat nearby—you know maybe a McDonalds, or a Wataburger, or even Dunkin Donuts or something. But noooooo, nothing, nothing at all.
Oh we looked, we looked high and low for something to eat, but everywhere we went we saw why everybody hates Waco.
That place looks more run down then Detroit.
Sure, I’ve never been to Detroit, but if I were to picture it, it would look something like Waco, Texas.
But John and I, you see, we were REALLY hungry. So we took off down one of Waco’s fine empty streets littered with trash and sporting pot holes that look like something living there would jump out and drag us in. Searching for food, only to find this tiny little mom and pop bakery with just THE finest pastries in all of Waco; of that I have no doubt, Waco sucks. We gobbled down on some fine Cheese Danishes. Looked at the clock, oh no, bus leaves in seven minutes, and we’ve walked a good distance from the station.
Run, run, run, run, run for your lives!
And we did, chowing down on some Danishes and trying to keep our coffee from spilling, we ran and somehow made it just in time as the bus was trying to leave us poor Husker fans behind.
John and I said our goodbyes in Austin, he was to return to Louisiana to teach, and I to San Antonio to study for my test. But every Husker game after that I always get a text from that guy that reads “GOOOO BIIIIIIIG REEEEEEED!” To which I reply “GO BIG RED!” Ahh, fun times, fun times.
Facebook update, and since their all the same except for a few exceptions after this, I’ll stop posting them all, “Huskers Win!!!!! Huskers Win!!!!!!”
The season was on now. With the Huskers showing some major life, Jared Crick coming off his best game of the year, and Suh playing at the highest level possible, all of Nebraska held its breath for the coming week as the Big Red took on the Oklahoma Sooners in Lincoln, a game that summed up the whole season for our beloved Cornhuskers. Fears ran high as the game loomed closer; would the Huskers pull off the amazing upset? Or would they once again like so many times before be outclassed by a superior Sooner team, even without their star QB? Would there be a repeat of last year?
That Saturday, I once again went out with friends, shopped a little, ate at this nice Italian place right on the river walk by the mall where a Peruvian flute band played their version of Stairway to Heaven. However, as the night wore on and I prepared to visit the Hooters in the mall downtown, my friends decided they didn’t want to stay and watch the game, and to take the bus back to Lackland.
Naturally, I was steamed. They were going to leave me to watch the game all by myself in Hooters? How pathetic would I look? But they did, and being the Husker fan I am, I decided to brave the scorn and just suck it up. There was no way I was missing a SECOND game, not for anyone.
And so I bravely went into the Hooters and told the Hooters girl that it was just me, and to sit me at any table where I could see the Nebraska game. She did, and that’s where I stayed for the remainder of the night, trying my best to keep my emotions in check as my beloved Cornhuskers played like maniacs on defense, but like high school cheerleaders on offense.
It was a hard game to watch, but with Suh once again playing like a mad man, with O’Hanlon pulling out all the stops, and OU’s kicker apparently getting the heebe jeebes at the right moments. I watched in awe-struck silence as the last seconds ticked off and Nebraska defeated the Oklahoma Sooners.
Let my people rejoice.
I got out of that place as fast as I could, leaving a ten dollar tip, and power walked my way through the mall muttering “yes, yes, yes, yes” under my breath over and over again, while people looked at me like I was some kind of crazy person.
I was in a state of shock, happy shock, but shock none the less. I’d been telling every Husker fan I knew for the whole year that this was the year we’d finally beat Oklahoma, that they wouldn’t escape us this time, no, not THIS time, only to be met with cautious optimism.
Screw that man! we were going to win, I felt it in my bones, don’t tell me you hope, I KNOW!
And I was right.
I almost didn’t know how to react to this kind of situation. It’d been so long since the Huskers won a game like this against a bitter rival like Oklahoma. Hadn’t happened in a while. My friends got an earful when I got back, that’s for sure. They told me it was a boring game, 10-3 must not have been that much fun to watch. But it was, oh God it was.
That was a week before graduation. The following Wednesday I completed my last day of training in Tech School. The day after that, I graduated.
My family came out for the ceremony; we went out to eat at Cheesecake factory the first night and then to this really good Asian place the night after that. I said goodbye to a lot of my friends, including Timothy Chambers, who watched the Iowa State game with me.
It was a good day and a sad day at the same time. My time as a student in Tech School was over, my time as a holdover, a student waiting for orders so they can go home, had just begun. Without my knowing, it would be another two-and-a-half weeks before I would get to go home. I graduated the twelfth, it would be the twenty-sixth before I would set foot in my house and pet my dog. But that didn’t bother me at the time. I still had friends in Texas, other holdovers like myself who were waiting to go home, and the Nebraska-Kansas game was coming up, not to mention 2012 just came out in theaters, and I was dying to see it.
Unfortunately, the Kansas game doesn’t have nearly as interesting a story as the VT game or the Baylor game. My friends and I went to the mall, visited the same Hooters where I watched the Oklahoma game, and watched the first half of the game before deciding to go see 2012. Not wanting to be left alone in Hooters again, and wanting to see 2012 myself, I went with them confident that my team would take care of business. Coming out of my theater I immediately checked my phone to see who won, and low and behold, we scored 31 points.
That number alone shocked me. I didn’t think we had it in us. Time to get ready for K-State the next week, and the Big 12 north Championship.
Once again, the K-State game isn’t as memorable as the others, if for the simple reason that I didn’t have many friends left in Texas to watch the game with me, and I was extremely bummed out because I still wasn’t able to go home.
My soon-to-be-girlfriend, Angi, who lives in Papillion Nebraska, was visiting my home in Crestview Florida for Thanksgiving, and at the time, the prospect of me being home for that Holiday was very much in doubt. Understandably upset, I sulked through most of my time as a grad holdover, honestly not giving a damn about anything going on around me, slacking off, fooling around, acting like I was cool because I was wearing a Beret. But there was one thing I had to look forward to at least, something I could always count on to cheer me up and that was Nebraska football, and what better game to look forward to than the de facto Big 12 North championship game against a very overrated and outmatched Kansas State football team?
There wasn’t any doubt in my mind, after taking care of Big 12 foes Kansas, Mizzou, and Oklahoma, that we would easily handle Kansas State which, quite frankly, was not a very good football team. Hell, I’m very surprised they were in the hunt as long as they were, but I wouldn’t let that kind of arrogance go to my head less I be served another stinking pile of horse turds like I was during the Iowa State and Texas Tech games. No sir, Bo would have the troops ready and properly motivated for the game.
As the night of the game came, I once again had no friends who wanted to see the game with me, and lacking money to leave base by myself and see it at a sports bar, went to the Skylark Community Center to watch the game for free on their big screen. The reason I hadn’t used the Skylark before is because if you don’t get there soon enough people have the habit of taking all the TVs and you end up watching some other game instead of the one you want.
I never had to risk it, but that night I had no choice.
At first, I was disappointed because it seemed like that was exactly what was going on. Some Texas fan was getting ready to watch the Longhorns play God knows who that night and none of the other TVs were working. Foiled again, until thank God, that lone Texas fan vacated the area JUST long enough for me to grab hold of the remote and change it to a game that REALLY mattered.
While watching the game that night, I texted my family back home every ten minutes or so, pretending I was with them cheering on the Huskers in my living room instead of by myself in a large dark room clinging to the remote lest someone try to take it. Fortunately, Texas fan never showed up again. Lucky me.
Like I expected, it was a massacre, well not really but we handled K-State easily winning a 17-3 victory with the help of our amazing Blackshirt defense. I cheered them on as loud as I could, not caring who heard me, and walked out of that Community Center feeling like a million bucks. With Texas locking up the South that night also, it looked like a showdown was getting ready to be played out in Dallas, and unlike the media, I was smelling an upset. Sweet, sweet victory.
Now, time to go back to work and die of boredom waiting for my orders.
But oh happy day, my orders would come! In a dramatic twist worthy of Hollywood, my orders arrived just two days before Thanksgiving, giving me JUST enough time to out-process, buy my tickets, and be home the night before Thanksgiving.
Oh, it was great flying into Ft. Walton after being away from home for six months of training in Texas. I have to tell you I HATE Texas now. Oh, it was fun in San Antonio and all, but the Air Force just RUINED that state for me. Kind of funny since my sister now lives in Dentin, Texas and tells me that it’s just the greatest place in the whole wide world blah blah blah blah blah. Whatever girl, tell it to somebody else.
But that was all behind me, I was home, back in Florida with my family just in time for the holidays. Oh sweet joy of mine, I got to eat Turkey and watch the annual thrashing of Colorado in my own house. HAZA! Yes, things were finally looking up.
Thanksgiving was great. I ate a lot of food, got to read the traditional story of the pilgrims, helped by my wacky brother who gave a dramatization of the events. Angi and I got serious, and I got to see friends I hadn’t seen in a long, long time.
Oh, and Nebraska managed to beat Colorado despite the worst effort put forth by our D all season.
I don’t know if they were sleep walking, or just not taking the game seriously enough, but come on guys this is Colorado; we HATE losing to those idiots. You can’t play them like that; you have to kill them early or else they get to thinking they can win, and when that happens, they can be dangerous. Just ask our 2001 team. They can tell you. But it was a memorable game, the first game I got to see in my own home all year, and thankfully not the last, and a good excuse to party. Go Big Red!
But the real story of the weeks to come would be the Big 12 championship game. I remember very well some idiot on ESPN giving Nebraska a 0 percent chance of beating the might Longhorns and his partner giving us a whopping 1 percent chance. I mean come on, these guys obviously never got to see Suh in action. If they had, they would have realized this guy was the real deal. There was no way in hell he was going to let Texas’s O-line stop him on his quest to destroy McCoy.
The day of the game came. My best bud Jacob came over that night, not a big college football fan, Jacob, no, and he likes to tease me about being such a crazy fan—he’s witnessed Nebraska games in the Porrata house before. A few years ago, in '06, he came over and saw a Colorado game, and boy did it leave an impression on him.
So he came over to see the game, we got some pizza together, some Big Red soda that I fell in love with while I was in Texas, my brother Jared got back from a parade he was in and brought a bag full of candy, I hung my new dynasty banner with all the championship years on it above the TV, my “Huskers only” plaque over the doorway, lay my giant Husker blanket out on the floor like a rug, got dressed in my favorite Husker jersey, put on my Husker cap, and sat down in front of my TV in anticipation.
I listened to the nay-sayers tell me we had no chance, that Texas was going to run over us, that we were outmatched, outclassed, that our defeat was guaranteed. We didn’t have a chance. We were going to lose, but not just lose—we were going to be massacred.
I didn’t believe it. There was absolutely no way it would go down like that.
Nebraska might not beat Texas a lot, but we always play them close, even in '07 when we were terrible, we had a shot to beat them. Now, this year, when we have the best defense in the country, you’re telling me we can’t keep the game competitive? Horse spit. We might not win the game but we had more than a chance, and it would be close. That’s all I really wanted from the game, I honestly didn’t expect a win, although I knew we could win, but I did expect to play competitively and give them a good scare.
Oh, there was much cheering and pumping of fists, there was much eating of pizza and spillage of drink on my mom’s carpet. My family and I, and my best bro, sat in front of our TV cheering as loud as we could, crossing our arms and yelling "SUUUUH!" every time everyone’s favorite defensive linemen named “House of Spears” did something amazing.
When he battled through a double team to take down McCoy one handed, when he fought through a double team and throw McCoy across the field like a rag doll, when he dove head first into McCoy as he tried to scramble, plowing him into the ground.
Oh, Suh plowing McCoy into the ground never gets old. Never. I’ll be watching those clips for years to come. No doubt.
But alas, the valiant efforts of brave defense were wasted on a terrible, terrible offense. Five first downs? Really? That’s all they could manage to do? Five? And not one time did they try a trick play to spark something. Oh, I can’t blame them completely, I can never really get down on my team. I can be mad yes, but I love them oh so much. Besides, they were hurt, Lee with his throwing arm, Helu with that shoulder, and the O line was beat up all year. I can forgive. But dear God, it was hard for me to keep my sanity when we wasted great chances given to us by our defense and special teams on field goals or not scoring at all. It drove me completely mad, MAD I TELL YOU!
But with a minute-forty left, Alex Henry kicked what looked like a game-winning field goal to put us up 12-10, the game seemed won. How could Texas possibly hope to score on our amazing defense? They hadn’t done it all night, we held them, we destroyed them, there was NO WAY! I remember very clearly, us spectators danced around the room, that I was shouting “There is hope!” over and over again. And there was, oh there was, but it slipped through our grasp.
Fate, as it seems, was not on our side that night. First the kick off went out of bounds, then McCoy completed a pass against our stout defense, and then the horse collar penalty put them in field goal range.
Just like that, in two plays.
The next couple plays were meant to run out the clock, as Texas tried their best to leave us with no time to possibly pull off a VT and win the game. However, their efforts very nearly cost them the game in what would become the most controversial call of the year, maybe of the decade, for Husker fans.
We all know what I’m talking about.
I remember very clearly looking at the clock as the pass flew out of bounce, seeing the ball hit the ground, and that one extra second tick off a moment later. As Husker players and coaches stormed the field and the celebration started around me, I held my head very low knowing what was going to happen. Oh, there was no doubt in my mind at that point, even as the game clock read zero, and I saw the look of stunned silence on the Texas fans faces, I knew the Big 12 wasn’t going to let us win the game. They’d made absolutely sure throughout the game with terrible interference calls and refusing to call the holding penalty every time Suh was double teamed, this call wasn’t going to go our way either.
I couldn’t help but think the refs came out a moment after the play and said, “Hey, now wait just a minute, we’ll see about that.” Honestly, that very thought ran through my mind when I saw Brown put one finger up into the air as if they had a second left.
As the field goal sailed through the uprights, stealing away a victory that should have been ours, I lay my head in that big soft Husker blanket I was using as a rug and just lay there on the ground, face down, for about ten minutes. Didn’t say a word, didn’t show any kind of emotion, just layed there with a hood over my face. Shock. That’s what I felt. Shock, not anger, though that would come, and not so much sadness, though I felt that too, but mostly just shock.
Ten minutes I lay there, as the awards ceremony went on, as the Texas players rushed the field, when I heard the state of Texas give a long sigh of relief. I’m just glad I wasn’t still in Texas, having to deal with all those happy fans after the game would have made me snap like Bo and Carl did after the game.
Tell you the truth, I can’t blame them. We all felt cheated, but after such a long year of ups and downs, after the year I had seeing these games and relying on them to get me through my training so I could come home and have it climax like this, well, I was just too stunned to move.
Oh, I knew it wasn’t really the end, Suh now was definitely going to New York, the Huskers would get a very good bowl invite, we have 2010 to look forward to; life as a Husker would go on. But let’s face it, the Holiday Bowl is no Fiesta Bowl, and no amount of offensive power in that game will make up for that one second in the Big 12. Even if we got blown out in the Fiesta, it would be better than losing that Big 12 game. To not win our conference in ten years, well, that was just unthinkable last time we won in '99.
Jacob and I went out to Wataburger. He seemed to take the hint that I was angry and needed to vent, so we got cheeseburgers and I vented. Oh I vented.
“Remember, remember, the 5th of December, the BCS treason and plot. I see of no reason why the BCS treason should ever be forgot.”
I seem to have a bad habit of venting on friends. Good thing I have such good friends who don’t take it personally. God I miss those guys.
Soon after I put the game behind and focused all my attention on one thing: Suh winning every award he went up for. With the season done, and the bowl game a long way off, seeing Suh win all those trophies seemed like a tenth victory for the Huskers. Not only did we have a hell of a year, but we had THE best player in college football, bar none.
My extreme focus on Nebraska’s football season turned into extreme focus on Suh’s awards. One by one he brought them in, winning the Outland trophy, the Rotary Lombardi Award, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Award, and the Associated Press Player of the Year.
One day, while I was driving to pick my little brother up from a parade in Ft. Walton Beach, I heard over the radio that Suh was a finalist for the Heisman trophy and would be making the trip to New York with McCoy, Tebow, Ingram, and Gerhart. Although I’d been saying Suh at least deserved to go to New York with the rest, I didn’t actually expect him to.
I counted down the days to the ceremony. Did you realize that if he won we’d have as many Heisman winners as Oklahoma this decade? For a program with such a mediocre decade like ourselves, the possibility was utterly amazing. Ingram and Gerhart are good players, but relatively speaking they are nowhere near as good as the running backs in the past who have won the award. A player like that comes around every year a couple times over. McCoy and Tebow on the other hand, well, neither had great, or even good, games in their conference championships.
It looked, to me at least, like Suh really was the most deserving player there.
Quarterbacks and running backs like Ingram and McCoy come every year, but how many DTs like Suh do we see dominate the game the way he did? Not many, not many at all. Could this be the year a defensive player finally won the award? A defensive player who didn’t also return kick offs?
I did my part. I voted for Suh every day almost fifty times on that Nissan Heisman vote, making darn well sure that CJ Spiller, the only real competition in that vote, didn’t steal that vote from Suh. I visited Stiffarmtrophy.com every day to check on the most recent projections, which frustrated the hell out of me when Ingram would always come out on top by a slim margin. I searched the internet for voters revealing their vote, finding many who gave it to Suh.
Well, he didn’t win, go figure, they gave it to another running back. To be completely honest, I wasn’t really surprised. I knew the offensive bias was working against Suh, along with so many voters (I think they said 10 percent) voting before the championship games.
He got robbed, plain and simple. I still tell that to anyone who asks. I’ll still be saying it for a long time to come too.
SUH GOT ROBBED!
By Christmas eve, I was in Korea, sleeping off the jet lag and trying to figure out what to do on the weekends. I’ll answer you, pretty much nothing unless you’re of age, which I was about a month away from.
Because of the time difference, I missed the Holiday Bowl, came home after work one day and logged onto Huskerpedia to see the score. Imagine my surprise when I saw we’d not only scored 33 points, but kept Arizona from scoring any. Angela videotaped the game for me, the sweetheart, and I watched it on skype. Unfortunately the picture was bad and kept pausing, but I watched it all the way to the third quarter after we’d scored our 33 and decided that was enough dealing with technology. I went out that night and watched the whole game at the community center on base.
2009 was a great year of Husker football. With Nebraska leaving the season ranked No. 14 in both polls, and the Pelini brothers predicting our team being five times better next year, despite the loss of so many great defensive players, 2010 looks like an even more promising year, a year where we are bound to win the Big 12, and dare I say it, play for a National Title if all goes well. Here’s to you Huskers.
GO BIG RED! We've restored the order, we've restored the tradition!