Sound familiar? While this loss to CU was just the finishing touch to a crummy season, (yes, we can still blame last year's CU loss for all this mess) it had an eerily familiar feel. We all thought the Big Red would come out swinging against these Buffs – looking to avenge last year's debacle in Boulder. But the fighting spirit was absent – as it has been many times this season – and even with all that pride to play for, the Huskers played with none, especially in the second half. It was just like the 1990 game, when NU led 12-0 before Colorado ran off 27 straight points in the fourth quarter to win going away, leaving Nebraska completely demoralized.
Those Buffs did the same thing these Buffs did – as K-State did two weeks earlier: They out Nebraska-d Nebraska. They had better defenses, better runners, and (shudder!) better offensive lines.
The question now becomes simple. How does Nebraska get back to being a better version of Nebraska than Colorado and K-State imposters?
It wasn't quick or easy for Tom Osborne after the disappointments of the 1990 season, and it won't be easy for Frank Solich, either. The 1991 season was better (CU and NU tied, 19-19), 1992 better (NU 52 CU 7 before the unthinkable loss to Iowa State and another Bowl defeat to Miami), but in 1993, the "aura" seemed to return. Nebraska went unbeaten during the regular season – including some close calls – and it was obvious they had regained a lot of confidence and passion again.
We all know what came after that. The Glory Years.
So how does Nebraska get back to those days of old?
Let's start with the impending coaching changes. A fresh infusion of enthusiasm is always a good thing for a program, especially one that has been as stagnant as NU. Yes, the continuity of the coaching staff has been a great asset to the program. Stress the ‘has' part. It's time for change. It's time for new blood, new ideas, a new approach in several areas. It's time for Solich to surround himself with people he can delegate authority to, and become the guy who can keep his eyes on all facets of the team.
After that, it becomes internal. Tom Osborne never recruited ‘classes' that thrilled the recruiting experts, but they were overloaded with guys who brought passion and fire to the party – guys like Eddie Stewart – and guys who were all about the team, and all about winning.
Sure, Nebraska has to recruit better, but they don't have to be Texas and bring in class after class of Parade All-America's. Texas may have all the talent in the world, but something is always missing from groups like that. Nebraska has to get guys who fit the Husker profile – that being players who are willing to sell out for the team for all five years, who don't bring with them a "NFL-or-bust" attitude.
And most importantly, these better players and new coaches have to mesh so that each and every player gets better every day he's a Husker. That will lead to more confidence, more energy…and more nine-win seasons.
I'm as down about this season as the next red-faced fan, but I have confidence. Confidence that the imposters in Manhattan and Boulder will be exposed, and the original will rise again. In fact, while K-State is the best team in the conference this season, and CU has won the North two straight years, I'm willing to bet that in the long run, it will be Nebraska that wins it's sixth National Championship before K-State or Colorado ever reach that plateau.
For now, the imposters rule the roost. But as they say, in the long run, nothing beats the original.