The last two trips to Manhattan have resulted in losses. Losses that Nebraska felt not just in the regret from losing, but in losing either a chance at a Big XII or even national title chance. In truth, Kansas State has been the largest thorn in the side of the Huskers than any other team for the last eight years.
And this season, Nebraska once again had the most to lose. A continuing run at the conference title game and of course, that road to the Rose Bowl loomed and Kansas State looked poised to be the upset maker, so Nebraska fans could take little for granted as KSU came calling.
Throughout the first half, it was a game not of twists and turns, but gut-wrenching ugliness as turnovers and sloppy play turned both teams into clubs just trying to not make mistakes, rather than control the game or just the tempo.
Nebraska hindered by a fumble and an interception, while Kansas State seemed to be their own worst enemy every time they put the ball in the air. Before the half was over though, Kansas State managed to make a pass that went for a TD giving KSU the tie and the xtra point giving them the lead. This marked the first time that Nebraska has ever trailed after the first half all season.
Though the defense seemed to be the constant throughout the game for NU barring a couple of miscues, it was the offense people were looking to as the separation needed for NU to take a hold of the game. The offense showed up in the second half.
15 plays and 77 yards didn't necessarily take the wind out of KSU, but it certainly brought reality crashing back in a whirlwind. And if that wasn't enough, Dejuan Groce's subsequent punt return for a TD was the proverbial nail in the coffin. Nebraska wasn't rolling like NU does over most, but they were definitely taking the game to the Wildcats versus the other way around.
A field goal by Josh Brown in the 4th made it , Nebraska 31 and Kansas State 14 and all but sealed the fate of the downtrodden Kansas State Wildcats and Nebraska relied on their usual compilation of a little Diedrick, a little play-action passing and a heavy dose of Crouch and the Blackshirts were the icing on the cake. All in all, it was a typical Nebraska win.
Crouch's passing numbers weren't all that good, but the country has become used to seeing Crouch not as a Rex Grossman type putting up one gaudy set of numbers after another, but as the field general that makes Nebraska what it is. Crouch may not win the Heisman but few doubt his status as MVP. As Crouch goes, so go the Huskers.
With Diedrick pouring in triple digits himself, Nebraska put up almost 270 yards on the ground. Not their average for the season, but against what "was" one of the best rush defenses in all of college football, they probably exceeded most expectations.
So, Nebraska sits in the drivers' seat still and Colorado awaits in Boulder to take their shot at dethroning what could be by Monday, the number one team in the country. With Miami stumbling a bit against B.C., it's realistic that Nebraska could leapfrog the Canes and take over the top spot not just in the BCS, but in both the Coaches and AP.
And with Nebraska in such a prime spot, who better but CU to be one of the final real hurdles for the Huskers. Colorado has made a habit out of taking NU to the fence and almost beyond in recent years. You can count the total points that NU has won by in the last few years literally on one hand and don't think that isn't lost on Husker fans.
With CU's perennial stubbornness at making a game out of what shouldn't be, Nebraska fans are going to be stirring once again.
Stirring out of anticipation, maybe just a little out of fear.
Nebraska put a big exclamation point on the season this weekend, but next week looms not just as an obstacle, but a contest with yet another thorn in the side.
The Road to the Rose continues for the mighty Huskers and they have two games to go. With two wins, they are easily the consensus number one going into Pasadena, but as they say, it's not the destination, it's the journey.