Almost 30 years of frustration ended down in Columbia tonight as Missouri routed the Huskers, 41-24. Just by seeing it, you would have assumed another Lord implosion, hampering what was a solid defensive showing throughout the game. The irony behind this one is so thick, you could choke on it or I should say, Nebraska is choking on it right now. Lord looked good, the defense looked bad and when that happens, well, 3 decades of home-frustration are over.
Maybe the muffed punt by Josh Davis in the first quarter of the game was an omen. Could be if you believe in that, but one thing is for sure, omen or not, what Missouri did to Nebraska was more than ominous, it was at times, dominating.
Really, it was the second-half that told the story here, the fourth quarter if you really want to be picky. Nebraska still held their streak of holding teams scoreless in the 3rd quarter, but in the 4th, NU's stinginess turned into swiss cheese as Mizzou tallied 27, taking the game away from Nebraska, never looking back.
To be specific, you can pick on many things about what happened to bring NU to their first loss down in Columbia in 30 years. It wasn't just the turnovers, it was where they occurred, the first by Josh Davis giving Missouri first and goal.
You could the "gimmick" play, a play that helped Missouri to break this game wide-open, a field goal attempt in the fourth quarter that turned into a fake, subsequently becoming a touchdown pass, giving Missouri the lead back, a lead they built upon after that.
Or, you could simply say, "Brad Smith" and that pretty much tells you where Missouri's offensive effectiveness came from, Smith accounting for 3 touchdowns on the ground and 1 via the passing game.
What you can't say or who you can't pin this loss on is the guy that's taken the brunt for the sub-par offensive performances throughout this entire season, Jammal Lord. For almost the entirety of the game, Lord not only held his own, but excelled, having perhaps his best game of his career. Lord ran well as you would expect, but his passing and especially, his judgement in the passing game was as good as it perhaps has ever been.
Until the fourth quarter, Lord shined.
Sure, the fumble and subsequent pic could be considered negative, but this game's outcome fell to the defense and the fact that the consistently maginot-like unit gave up yards and points in bushels and not just in the fourth quarter.
Again, the irony is almost surreal as Bo Pelini was caught off guard by much of what he was seeing from the slippery and savvy, Brad Smith. Between the unorthodox play-calling of the Tigers to how Smith was able to help execute those plays, Missouri's "O" had NU's "D" beaten and befuddled, sporadically thru the game and most definitely, the 4th quarter.
On the night, Nebraska's number one ranked defense gave up 448 yards in total offense to Missouri, 210 of that coming from the rush.
While the NU defense was having issues with Smith and company throughout the game, that didn't stop Jammal Lord from leading NU back from trailing to leading by 10 points. Brad Smith answered, running the ball for 39 yards and the score, bringing Missouri within 3.
The play that came after that changed the entire flow of the game, NU reeling a bit from the touchdown, but still with the lead, still with the satisfaction that they just held Missouri to a FG attempt that could at-best, tie the game, NU's offense getting the ball back, Lord and company proving they were as coach Frank Solich would say, ‘getting things done'.
That FG attempt turned into a touchdown pass from back-up QB, Santino Riccio to TE, Victor Sesay. After that, it was all over but the crying.
Ok, there's still some crying going on, but the game is over and Missouri's offense that had been anything but impressive all year, came out, broke out and took away their most valuable victory at home, perhaps in the last 30 years.
Believe it or not, Husker fans will not be jumping from the rafters tonight or tomorrow. Nope, I don't think even those diehard homers thought that NU would be undefeated up to this point of the year. I know I didn't. The loss to Missouri means yet another streak down the tubes, but quite honestly, look at the year thus far.
It's been an entire year of top ten teams getting knocked off by nobodies and while Missouri hardly qualifies as a team from the land of the obscure, they weren't ranked, just lost to Kansas and on paper, this game wasn't in their favor.
That's why the play the games and Pinkel brought a "we're playing to win" philosophy, the fake FG the perfect illustration as to just how bad he and his team wanted to win this night.
So, Nebraska is 5-1, still having a shot for the Big XII title, but again, was anyone even thinking conference title when this season began?
It was all about, ‘let the coaches learn', ‘it's a new system for all the players, on either side of the ball' and of course, ‘we can't hope to go from 7-7 to a conference title shot or even close'.
Ok, so they are learning now. Learning how to deal with a loss, why it happened and how to make sure that type of loss never happens again.
I know I learned something from this that I never would have thought since the season began. Nebraska lost, turned the ball over about half a million times and gave up enough points in the fourth quarter to remind me of other games, some in not so recent history and guess what, it wasn't Jammal Lord's fault. I thought Lord had his best game, despite the late-game disasters, but those disasters were anti-climactic as enough disasters occurred prior that it was irrelevant in the end.
Lord did pretty darn good and the defense was soundly beat in the fourth quarter. Yeah, I know. That's not irony. That's just ridiculous.
Time to move on.
Steve Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-730-5619