It's not calculus.
Once upon a memory, those were Major Applewhite's words. The Texas quarterback was talking about the Nebraska defense, and he later said he was trying to throw the Huskers a compliment. Like, their scheme is so good it's not complicated.
The Blackshirts didn't take it as such. They had already lost to UT once in 1999, and defensive coordinator Charlie McBride blamed himself for being conservative in that one. He vowed he wouldn't do it again in the Big 12 championship game in San Antonio.
It's been 13 years. Thirteen years since McBride told his Blackshirts to come at Texas so hard that he could see “the skin peeling off their eyeballs.”
We don't get quotes like that anymore.
Thirteen years since Julius Jackson, Brian Shaw, Mike Brown and the rest blitzed nearly every play and buried Applewhite in the Alamodome.
Thirteen years since Eric Crouch scored on two runs, the NU offensive line kicked butt and took names. Thirteen years since Nebraska last held up a conference championship trophy, its seventh of the 1990s.
I wonder now if we took that feat for granted.
That was NU's second Big 12 title in four years of the league. Texas seemed more of an annoyance than a threat. Bob Stoops hadn't turned around Oklahoma yet. Kansas State was good. But so, too, was Nebraska.
This was how it was always going to be, right? Frank Solich was coaching the last of the Tom Osborne-era recruits, but nobody could have imagined what was next. In 1999, nobody was saying Solich had only four years left.
Bill Callahan? He was Jon Gruden's offensive coordinator in 1999. Nobody could have dreamed where he'd be in 2004.
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Nobody living in the state of Nebraska football knew the Huskers were on the verge of a college football drought. Three coaches. No league titles.
That's history for you. Name a college football dynasty, it's gone through a drought. Nobody's immune. For the last decade, Big Red has forgotten the way to the award stand. It's been as hard as, well, calculus.
Enough is enough.
It's time to stop talking about it, time to stop writing about it, time to stop wondering if and when it will ever happen again.
It's history night in downtown Indy. Legacy night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Bo Pelini, Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead, the stage is yours.
Oh sure, it's not just on them. From Will Compton to Cam Meredith to Brett Maher to Spencer Long, they all want to be part of that legacy. That championship team photo. The 2012 team reunion.
But the head coach, the quarterback and the legend figure to change the most if Nebraska can beat Wisconsin tonight.
With a win, they all elevate in stature. Pelini becomes a championship coach. Martinez becomes a guy with a flashy ring to go with gaudy numbers. A Rose Bowl trip might cement Burkhead's status as most popular Husker ever.
Lose, and the season isn't the same. Ten wins is never, ever a bad year. But it becomes a disappointment. Because it's time.
Bo, Taylor and Co. should seize the moment.
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This isn't Texas in 2009, playing for a berth in the national championship game. This isn't perennial Big 12 champ Oklahoma in 2010.
This is Wisconsin, two-time defending Big Ten champ Wisconsin, but a Badger team with five losses and a season with a coaching staff and quarterback position in transition.
This is a Badger team that will try to bow up and run the ball all night long, but a team without a great passing threat. A team with a good, not great defense. A team that has a hard time making a field goal at times.
But look at those five losses. Three in overtime. One by three points at Nebraska. Another by three at Oregon State, before we knew what the Beavers were all about.
Wisconsin is an underdog tonight, but given the way Bret Bielema coaches, and the pride factor on a two-time Rose Bowl squad, nobody in the Big Ten would be surprised if Wisconsin makes it three-for-three Rose Bowls.
It shouldn't happen, though. Not if Nebraska can save its best for last.
We've been repeating this broken record all season: Keep it clean, Huskers, and you win. Turnovers were the reason Wisconsin jumped in front in Lincoln back on Sept. 29.
Tim Beck's offense is built for an indoor track. Crank up the tempo, hit some short passes to the receivers, and turn Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah loose on big runs through the gaps. Don't forget No. 3 running, too.
The Huskers' offense has enough weapons to wear down Wisconsin and put some considerable points on the board.
But will they hold onto the ball?
If they do, they win. If they don't, and the Badgers have short fields and a ton of plays, Montee Ball and that hefty line might bulldoze Nebraska's patchwork front four.
Can NU stop the Badgers' run game? Maybe for a while. But not if it's a turnover parade.
This is the Huskers' moment. If they execute and avoid the slapstick, then it might be one heck of a night.
The formula is the same as it was in 1999. Play with confidence. Make plays.
It's not calculus.
Or, as Uncle Charlie might say tonight, “Don't stop until you peel the skin off your eyeballs.”
Time for a new quote.
Contact the writer:
402-444-1025, firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/tomshatelOWH
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