Against the Colorado Buffaloes, Nebraska showed something and did something that perhaps it hasn't done since the Texas A&M game last year; encounter, collapse, rebound and overcome. So much adversity in one game, NU saw it all in this game against Colorado, but could not be undone or outdone as Nebraska beat CU, 31-22.
If you try to find any one play or series of plays that epitomizes the overall effort, don't even try. Not the hard hits by either Lornell McPherson or Fabian Washington and not the gritty, determined running of Cory Ross or even the usually tough running of Jammal Lord. Nope, none of that illustrates the game, because the game was about much more than that.
It was about an opportunity to lose when they could have won, collapse when they could have fought back and look for excuses instead of a way to win. This time, Nebraska took advantage of the good opportunities and let the mistakes happen seldom and effect them, not once in this contest.
For an offense so maligned all year (by yours truly as well), this game wasn't a coming out. Jammal Lord was still vastly inconsistent, missing a couple key long balls that could have turned a fairly close game into a rout, but what did happen was what didn't happen hardly at all.
NU killing themselves.
Turnovers, penalties, vast mental breakdowns on the offensive side that has hampered Nebraska all year. There were a few, but possibly only one major mental breakdown occurred at a time where Nebraska needed perfection to retake the lead. That mental hiccup however couldn't stop Nebraska from retaking the lead from CU and then, sealing the win in the end.
What NU had to do going into this game was stop the run first. 62 yards total on the ground for the 'Buffs says they did just that. After that, it was up to the zone coverage, the occasional blitz and some hopefully steady pressure on Sophomore, Joel Klatt that would help the defense keep CU's offense stagnated.
The plan itself was sound as the two first scores on passes from Klatt appeared to be partly due to mistakes made by the defender. The first pass, a play in which the wide receiver broke open, CB, Pat Ricketts bit early, took a bad angle late and it was off to the end zone for CU. The next one that happened against Fabian Washington seemed to be more Fabian keeping his eyes on the QB just a shade too long before going to his man and a perfectly placed ball by Klatt made the effort to get there futile in the end. The last touchdown scored by CU seemed to be just a matter of Colorado calling the perfect play for the blitz NU was running at that moment.
Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't.
What did happen though is something that NU fans are sighing still over in relief. There was a point in that game Colorado took a one point lead. The momentum seemed to clearly switch to their side and it was up to the defense to make a stand against CU or face a possible two-possession deficit.
Admit it, you were thinking it to. 'They're going to fold'.
Just like against Missouri, against Texas and against Kansas State, NU could have let Colorado march down the field and put one in the end zone and nobody would have been the least bit surprised. What NU did though was take a drive that did at first appear to be going CU's way and they didn't just stop the Buffs there, they stopped them the rest of the game.
Because NU's offense was actually staying on the field, Nebraska had one of their fresher defenses for the final stanza in recent memory. And it showed. The final four possessions for Colorado resulted in Punt, Punt, interception and finally, one more final pick by Pat Ricketts to seal the road game for NU.
If you took a look at the stats for this game, total yards doesn't tell you the difference overall. The one and only stat that really says what happened in this contest is the stat that has favored Nebraska most of the year. 3 turnovers by the 'Buffs took any hope they had of keeping the game within reach at the end and that's been typical Nebraska.
In fact, I look at the interception to seal the game for the Huskers analgous to a running back on a scoring drive giving you maybe 6 or 7 straight runs, grinding it out because you want to chew up the clock. That team has it 1st and Goal on the one and who do you give the ball to? Of course, you give it to the reason why you are almost on the goal-line with four chances to score. With the defense carrying almost the entire load this year for Nebraska, it was only fitting that it was them that shut the door on the Buffs to end their season and it helped bring back the 9-win season for NU.
The infamous 9 wins for Nebraska. A streak held so dear for so many years, to have it back even if it was just a one year hiatus, people breath a little easier, smile a lot more and NU can even hit double-digits in victories before the end is here.
Ironic, isn't it? With all that has happened in the recent days about the possibility of Athletic Director, Steve Pederson trying to force coach Frank Solich out, what a victory on the road and against Colorado will do to make you forget all of that if to only appreciate a victory perhaps like you haven't in years.
Oh yes and expect more than a few articles to be written about how this game might have saved Solich's job. Or pieces speculating on whether it did just that. You know what? If before the ill-timed article of the Lincoln Journal Star was printed, coach Frank Solich had already planned to step aside, he's now possibly in the best position he will ever be to do just that and now, he would be smiling all the way.
Frank Solich got a little redemption yesterday. A win on the road, against Colorado, bringing back the 9 wins for NU. For all intents and purposes considering his last two years, he's as much in the catbird seat as he might ever be. If Solich doesn't think that this team will win a conference title or a national title anytime soon, what better timing could he have than right at this moment?
The Lincoln Journal Star painted Solich the victim. Now, after the CU win, he's a hero, though mildly of course. People are talking about him for once without having to grit their teeth and some are even yelling out, 'Solich deserves another shot'.
With Steve Pederson already the bad guy, Solich steps aside and Pederson would remain the bad guy, but a bad guy with more pressure on him than he has probably ever had in his career in the collegiate business. There was little secret as to what kind of coach Pederson had to hire or promote. If Solich were to step aside now, it wouldn't be pressure, it would be an onslaught waiting to happen.
The dilemma for some now and this is what a big win like this can do for a guy is that does Solich really need to step aside or has he crossed some invisible hurdle with the victory in Boulder? Has he came full circle in his career, now ready to start anew?
Those are questions that can't be answered except with hindsight as the reference, but those might be questions that could never be answered at all.
If Solich goes out this season though, at least he can leave with a smile on his face. I guess for the almost lifelong Husker, this is as close to departing in style he may ever get.
Steve Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-730-5619