It was palpable in the air Saturday night in Lincoln, NE. Though I was unable to attend, by all accounts something was back that had been missing in recent years. Fans and players alike brought something different to the game—something that had disappeared so long ago.
Nebraska fans showed the passion and energy that is usually reserved for "big games," like those against Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, or any bowl game of recent memory. It wasn't just another home opener.
The Nebraska players, especially the defense, appeared more energized, relentless, and aggressive in their approach to the game. The players flew around, gave 110 percent effort, hit hard and gang tackled, and appeared on the way to reestablishing a bit of the pride and heart and soul of the Blackshirts.
Mistakes were made, coverages were blown, and there were a few missed assignments, but overall any Nebraska fan can be proud of the effort that was displayed Saturday night.
It came out late this week that the entire team and especially the defense had completely lost what it meant to play with reckless abandon, heart, passion, and the relentless sense of purpose that carried Nebraska football so far in the past. That is what a read and react style of defense will do to a player.
Football, especially defense, has to be played with an aggressiveness, heart, a passion, and a disregard for your body that was so obviously gone under Bill Callahan and staff. It had even been lost on the offensive side of the ball when the offense moved to a scheme more focused on passing.
Pass blocking is by nature a reactive and unaggressive type of play. The offensive linemen take their stance and only try to impede the rush to the QB or the RB.
Run blocking, which Nebraska had done and done well for decades, is a kick your butt, smashmouth, aggressive, and knock the man down in front of you type of game. That works well at Nebraska! That is why for years Nebraska was so difficult for teams to prepare for.
That is what was lost under Bill Callahan and his regime: the spirit and the sense of urgency needed to play for that "N" on the helmet and for the guy lined up next to you.
Nebraska is slowly on the way back to reclaiming a bit of its mystique.