The Huskers wouldn't mind playing that role this year and their last chance at doing that will be in perhaps the most hostile environment any of them have ever seen:
Boulder just after Thanksgiving
Despite a surprising loss against Iowa State, Colorado still controls their destiny when it comes to the division race. A win against Nebraska and they are assured another chance at the Longhorns, looking to avenge the shellacking they took earlier in the year. If they can't win, though, Iowa State with a victory in their last regular season game will have that "pleasure" to themselves.
looks forward to |
atmosphere in Boulder.
It's interesting Nebraska being the spoiler, but over the last few years that's been about the best option for them as their approach to even a division title has been desperate at best. Just being able to end someone else's year prematurely is not a bad reward for over a year's worth of frustrations. "It'd be nice to beat them, but it's not a revenge factor," sophomore linebacker Corey McKeon said. "It's about us putting four quarters together for once, because we haven't done it all year."
"It happens to be Colorado, so that's the team we have to beat, but it would be great to beat them, in their house and give us a chance at a better bowl."
Easier said than done, Colorado sporting one of their better defenses and a veteran QB in Joel Klatt. Yes, the hiccup against the Cyclones was surprising, but I doubt anyone's going to be too hard on them for the loss to Miami at Miami and the thumping they got from the Longhorns, something Texas has done to everyone they have played.
There's also another problem: It's in Boulder
Oh, the storied tradition of the Colorado fan. Actually, the word "fan" might be overstating it a bit as the reputation of those that go to Colorado games is more akin to a mob mentality than that of a rabid fan base. Also, it seems that it's only for certain opponents when Colorado fans will even show up.
Of course, one of those opponents is Nebraska
Since the days of Bill McCartney turning this one-sided to-do into a bitter hatred, the Colorado fans rally around this day. Nebraska coming to town is probably something like Oklahoma coming to Lincoln.
Oklahoma fans have a reputation, but there's nothing like the rep a Colorado fan has, in Boulder, and even some of the players who haven't been there yet can tell you some of the stories they have been told. "I heard the way the fans are sitting almost on top of you, you can literally smell the booze," McKeon said. "So, I am expecting to get hit by a few beers."
Some might cringe at the idea, but not McKeon. Growing up in Chicago, when he hears about hostile crowds, he gets as excited as anyone on the team. "I love that stuff," he said. "Nothing gets you going like a really rowdy crowd and some of the stories I have heard about their fans, that's what I am expecting."
"I can't wait. I love getting heckled, so I am really looking forward to it."
That's probably the extreme mind-set when it comes to what they are looking forward to the most as Nebraska trips into enemy territory. But from some of the stories some of the players have heard, there's anticipation across the board. "They say they beat on the locker room and try to intimidate you," Taylor said of the stories he's heard about the CU fans. "The fans are supposedly pretty harsh to the players."
With the stories seemingly flying about as to the intemperate disposition of the average Colorado fan, you'd think that the intimidation factor would be just that. An unruly crowd, a good team and your team not necessarily sporting the best reputation on the road.
That's a lot of obstacles that many if not most think that the Huskers simply can't overcome. Taylor and McKeon both look at the atmosphere as a way to get motivated for the game. "Hopefully we'll just feed off of their environment and feed off their fans, and it will just help us to play better," Taylor said. "We expect it to be a tough crowd, and we know what we're getting into."
"If they were so tough, they would be on the field banging pads with us," McKeon said. "That's ok, though, because as much as they might do, I laugh, because I
reward for winning this game |
will be another meeting with you know
McKeon recalled a time where he was a "fan", attending a basketball game and a high school game at that. He said that his fellow fan base wasn't particularly a joy to play in front of either. "Our crowd was just mean," he said of the typical atmosphere for a game. "I remember a basketball player from the other team fouled out and we were chanting at him as he walked out and he flipped us all off."
"I just picked up my book bag and anything I could find – a whole notebook and I just chucked it at him."
"I got kicked out."
McKeon said that they did let him back in before the game finished, but the point being, he understands the mentality that he's about to witness. He understands it, because if it was him in the stands, he'd be doing the same thing.
The rest of his team, though, probably doesn't take quite as hard of a line as that, but there is definite excitement about the game within the game. It's something that even the coaches will acknowledge as a factor in being mentally ready to compete. "I've been to Boulder twice while at Colorado State in 1989 and with Wisconsin," Defensive Coordinator Kevin Cosgrove said of his previous coaching stints. "They're right on top of you."
"I remember the student sections being very ready. So it can be a difficult place to play. We've just got to stay focused and in the ballgame."
Ok, I know you think I am probably embellishing this a bit. I am aligning quotes in a way, which projects a certain line of thinking to the reader. In effect, I am interjecting my own opinion, consciously trying to influence readers to comprehend if not embrace this particular mind-set.
Yeah, that's probably right, but I didn't create the "Riot Bill Act", a bill that was passed specifically to address the near epidemic of riots taking place within the borders of Colorado. And believe it or not, some of the "incidents" that inspired the bill took place at various sports venues around the state.
When Colorado State beat Colorado at Mile High Stadium in 1999, police had to shoot tear gas and pepper spray into the stands to get the rioting fans to disperse.
And when it comes to your average ‘Buff fan, Ram fans are tame by comparison.
That's getting away from what this game is actually all about, though. It's not focusing in on what really matters about this now traditional end-of-the-year contest. It's about going out in style, bettering your bowl opportunities and ending the regular season on a high note, rather than having a year to sit and stir on what could have been or what you should have done better.
That's been the theme for Nebraska and up to this point, nobody on the team has been able to truly explain just why Nebraska really hasn't clicked all year. McKeon doesn't know either, but when it comes to the type of atmosphere they plan on seeing at Boulder, maybe that's what it's going to take to find out just what they can do.
"Maybe it's going to be this environment we are going into," McKeon said of what it could take for this team to put everything together. "Maybe it will pull people together. Hopefully, that will be the factor in the game, but for us not them."
Call it the shoe-on-the-other-foot-factor if you will, but it's not going to change the nature of the game. Colorado needs it to get the division title and Nebraska needs it to get back a lot of what was lost over the course of a season's worth of frustrations. Either way you look at it, both have plenty to lose.
On paper, though, Nebraska is in the no-lose situation, because no matter what happens, they are getting a bowl, albeit not a bowl that most Nebraska fans want to see. It would just be nice if it was a better bowl and they were taking a year-ending-division-title-crushing-victory along the way.
"Yeah, it would be great giving them the loss, but we want the victory, because it means we end the regular season on a high note and the seniors get to go out the way they would like," McKeon said. "All that extra is great, but the bottom line is about winning and whether it's Colorado, Oklahoma or whoever, we want to win."
"No fans, no team, no anything is going to change that for us."