Wait a second, did the Big Ten send an officiating crew down to Lincoln?
In all seriousness, it was very refreshing to see an evenly officiated game after tension between Nebraska and the Big 12 spiked last week after the controversial 9-6 loss in College Station.
Many UNL students and fans came to the ball game with yellow hankies in hand, waving them around wildly every time the officials called a penalty. While this behavior was unnecessary, one can hardly blame them for their bitterness based on the past few weeks.
What the fans got was clearly not what they were anticipating.
The Huskers had eight penalties called on them, nearly all of them unquestionably deserved. One or two could have been questioned, but the penalty disparity between the Huskers and their opponent on this day was a far cry from the weeks leading up to this tilt.
Was it just a coincidence that the Huskers' opponent was the only other team leaving the conference?
While many bitter fans may say so, I would tend to say that was not the case. And whether or not this was the result of the Big 12 trying to quiet the masses is another argument. Regardless, the officiating was better, and that's all we could have asked for. Props to the officials for a very well called game.
This game was refreshing to watch in more ways than one.
A calmer Husker sideline. A third dominating defensive effort in three games. A cool, confident Cody Green. A heavy dose of Rex Burkhead. Great blocking from an inconsistent, embattled offensive line. A good old fashioned butt whooping of the rival Buffs. And did I mention the goose egg on the scoreboard beside "Nebraska turnovers?"
Bo Pelini clearly coaches better when he's not busy screaming at the refs. While I admire his heart for the players and determination to stick up for his team, sometimes, he has admitted, he lets it get personal. And when he does, he forgets to coach his players.
His emotions permeate the Nebraska sideline, and when he is calm and collected rather than enraged, his team plays much better both in tough situations and all-around.
Although the defense eventually gave up two touchdowns, they held the Buffs to just under 100 yards and three points until the Huskers had taken a commanding four touchdown third quarter lead. Alfonzo Dennard got badly burned on a long touchdown pass, but otherwise shut his man down all night.
Hey, everyone gets beat once in awhile. Just ask Prince Amukamara, who had yet another phenomenal night four games after admittedly being humbled by OSU receiver Justin Blackmon (who hasn't been humbled by that guy?).
And you can hardly blame the Blackshirts for giving up a couple touchdowns, as it is surely difficult to sustain intensity after gaining a big lead.
Quick, someone call 911. Something is seriously wrong with Cody Green.
Don't worry Cody, I'm just giving you a hard time. I won't lie, like most other Husker fans, I didn't give Green much of a chance going into this game after his stinker of a quarter-and-a-half in College Station. Sidelined with a broken foot, Niles Paul must have injected his fighting spirit into Green, because Green came out with something to prove.
While he did get a lot of support from the impeccable "Sexy Rex" (don't ask me where he got that nickname, I couldn't tell you), who flashed a quick, relentless motor and unveiled his quarterback arm, Green didn't turn the ball over, made some very nice throws (10 of 13, 2 touchdowns), and ran with toughness and grit.
One of Green's favorite targets was senior Joe Broekemeier, who came out of nowhere to have a fantastic night in place of another senior, Niles Paul, on senior night.
Rex Burkhead has a phenomenal game, carrying the ball 19 times for 101 yards and a touchdown, mostly out of the wildcat, and also threw for two touchdown passes. His first, to Brandon Kinnie, was a beautiful 26-yarder right over the top of cornerback Jalil Brown.
Kinnie and Kyler Reed had two touchdown catches each. These two players will be integral parts of next year's offense.
On defense, the unit as a whole had a good night. Dennard redeemed himself by forcing a fumble that was returned to the two yard line by Dejon Gomes, who also had an interception. Eric Hagg added a second interception to put the Huskers at plus-three on the night.
This was a resounding win for Nebraska, who just a week ago seemed to have a tension and nerve in the air after the loss to A&M and a lot of bad publicity surrounding Bo Pelini. Great season seniors, we will miss this one of a kind class.
All is well in Huskerland, for now.
Now, it's on to the Big 12 championship, where we will likely face (sorry, Sooner fans) Oklahoma State in a deadly rematch. While the officiating was much better in this game, I will not be surprised to see plenty of questionable calls in the mother of all Big 12 games.
We're going to need all the help we can get.
So get healthy, Taylor. Keep your head up, Cody. Keep churning those legs, Rex. Keep that arm warm, too. Let's bring the trophy back to Lincoln, Bo.
Let's get the heck out of the Big 12, Husker fans.
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