A Very "Bland" Homecoming

Some guys just know how to set up a homecoming. Dwight Eisenhower, Charles Lindbergh, Norman Schwartzkopf. <P> And Philip Bland…?

While not of the national magnitude of Eisenhower or Schwartzkopf, Bland's homecoming later this week promises to be something very special. While he's looked forward to it for many months, not even Bland could have set up a scenario this perfect: he'll be returning to his hometown of Boulder, Colorado the day after Thanksgiving as a true freshman – starting at strong safety – for the top-ranked University of Nebraska Cornhuskers, the hometown University of Colorado Buffaloes arch-rival.

Just a year ago at this time, Bland was playing defensive back for Boulder's Fairview High School in Colorado's state play-offs. His Head Coach was none other than Tom McCartney, son of Bill McCartney, the head coach credited with putting Colorado football back on the map in the mid 1980's. On top of that, Bland's father Richard played football at CU in the late 1960's.

"My Dad is a Husker fan…now," says Bland, before adding, "I say that having still never seen him wear a Nebraska logo…"

Odds are that many of the Boulderites who Bland calls his friends will have hard time cheering for him during his first trip home. For instance, his friend and former High School teammate, quarterback Craig Ochs, will be taking snaps on the other side of the ball in what some are calling the biggest football game at CU in the past 10 years.

The Huskers come into the game 11-0 and on top of the Polls. The 8-2, 14th--ranked Buffs, who have lost the past five meetings with the Big Red by a total of 15 points, can upset Nebraska's apple cart by beating the Huskers and claiming the Big 12 Northern Division crown for themselves.

In Boulder, the whole season is a tune-up for this game. It IS the Buffaloes season. The game will be their first sell-out of the year.

At Nebraska, the players are taught to live by the old cliché, "one game at a time." Playing CU is just like playing Missouri. That approach has been tough for Bland, who's been looking forward to this game since the day he signed his letter of intent last February.

"So much around here is about taking it one game at a time, it's been hard for me to think too far ahead," Bland admitted, adding, "This is a game I've been thinking about ever since I committed to Nebraska."

What would make a kid from Boulder, who had his choice of CU, CSU, and Notre Dame among others, choose to go to Nebraska?

"Nothing was ever wrong with CU," Bland emphasized. "It was just one of those things where I guess it was time for me to leave the nest, and get out of state. It just so happened that it happened to be CU's rival."

It's been a dream season for Bland, one of only three true freshmen to see playing time for the nation's top rated team this year. Bland is the only one of the three to start, in what is a very talented defensive backfield. That in itself makes his first season in Lincoln special. Having it end up in a monster game in his own backyard may make it worthy of a parade.

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