>> Video Below: Bo Pelini and select players at the postgame press conference
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LINCOLN — Before iPhones and DVR and WiFi, before radios and cars and books, there were rocks.
And this qualified as entertainment.
Men with scruffy hair and tattered clothes walked along shores, sifted through the sand, grabbed pebbles and skipped them across the waves.
It's an exercise in physics. Velocity, angle, spin, all that good stuff.
But when it gets right down to it, you can't predict the skip. Sometimes you choose the perfect object, make the perfect throw and — kerplunk! — you never see that rock again.
For most of Saturday night's thriller at Memorial Stadium, it looked like we'd seen the last of Nebraska football for this season. Husker hopes and goals — not to mention Bo Pelini's approval rating — were sinking fast.
And then ... life! The Huskers emerged dry as a desert summer.
Beating Wisconsin does not change Nebraska's deficiencies. It does not solve Husker problems on both lines, nor does it transform Taylor Martinez into Drew Brees. But this rock is still skipping.
That means something. Especially this year, when the difference between success and failure in this Big Ten is about as thin as a grain of sand.
Winning this league will come down to talent, yes. But it'll be more about toughness and grit — and taking advantage of a few breaks.
Memorial Stadium was inching toward panic mode for a while Saturday night. Martinez was rattled, the defense couldn't get a stop, even future governor Rex Burkhead fumbled without getting touched.
When David Gilbert — who uttered the “skipping rocks” metaphor this week to describe Martinez's throwing motion — strip-sacked the Husker quarterback on NU's opening drive of the second half, you could almost hear the blue hairs grinding their teeth.
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If these Huskers couldn't beat struggling Wisconsin at home, how were they going to beat Ohio State on the road? Was Nebraska going to be 3-3 a week from now?
Do you know how many times Nebraska has started 3-3 in the last 50 years? Once. That was Pelini's first year and NU's schedule was loaded with top-10 teams.
It's one thing for a rookie coach to go 3-3, it's quite another for year five.
Where was this team — and this program — going?
But Bo Pelini has veterans, lots of them. Players with vivid memories of the 21-point, second-half rally over Ohio State in last year's Big Ten home opener.
The Huskers didn't panic. In fact, they knew something good was coming.
“Football is such a momentum game,” defensive coordinator John Papuchis said. “When we got to about 27-17, you kind of got the feeling it was only a matter of time before things started to snowball for us.”
Bret Bielema will sit down today and watch the film and see countless plays that could've changed Saturday's result.
He'll look at Nebraska's third-and-six early in the third quarter, when Wisconsin led by 17. Martinez makes a critical throw to Kenny Bell for 20 yards — a personal foul adds 15 more. Next play, Martinez bursts 38 yards for a score.
Get off the field on that third down and it might have been over.
Or what if Martinez isn't there to scoop up an Ameer Abdullah fumble in the fourth quarter? Or what if Danny O'Brien's completion to Jordan Fredrick in the final minutes gains a first down — instead of coming up a foot short?
Maybe Wisconsin is the team celebrating.
But that's life in Nebraska's world. Despicable and wonderful all in the course of one evening. On the brink of disaster, then full of jubilation. Sinking one moment, rising the next.
Don't turn away yet. This season just bounced off the water.
Contact the writer:
402-649-1461, email@example.com, twitter.com/dirkchatelain
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>> Video: Bo Pelini at the postgame press conference:
>> Video: Taylor Martinez at the postgame press conference:
>> Video: Rex Burkhead at the postgame press conference:
>> Video: Will Compton at the postgame press conference:
>> Video: Postgame analysis:
>> Video: See the alternate uniforms close up at the NU-Wisconsin pregame warmups: