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Nebraska football equivalent of ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’
LUBBOCK, Texas – Every week, it happens.
I never really realized it because I usually head to a road game only on game day. This season, because of the travel involved (and driving being less costly than flying), I end up in the opponents’ hometown the day before the game.
And that’s where the mystery explains itself.
Ever wonder why Iowa State, Notre Dame and Texas Tech – and others – seem to play out of their league against the Huskers?
Go to the opposing city before the game, and you will see, it is because this is more than a red-letter game for whomever Nebraska is playing on a given week. For coaches who are on the bubble as to whether they’ll return to their current job and school, Nebraska is the gridiron equivalent of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.”
Had Notre Dame beaten Nebraska, Bob Davie would have been assured of a multi-year, million-dollar-plus contract extension. Same for the coaches at Iowa and Iowa State – shoot, with the Cyclones, they might have made Dan McCarney governor had he upset the Huskers.
It would be fair to say that Nebraska gets everyone’s best shot. And it would not be inaccurate to say that Nebraska gets their opponent’s once-in-a-lifetime shot. That was true this year against Missouri and Iowa State, just like it was in 1996 against Arizona State, and in 1998 against Arizona in the Holiday Bowl.
And remember: This is a team that is practically devoid of superstars, though the Huskers have had their share of playmakers.
“I think one of the strengths of Nebraska over the years has been that every player’s not great, but they don’t really have any holes out there,” said Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach. “And they play well together and they play consistently.”
But Nebraska knows how to play – and win – in big games. Nebraska is at its best in overtime, where the confidence grows to such proportions that the other team is demoralized – the game clock might as well read “game over” instead of signaling the extra period.
That was true against Colorado last year – in which CU had all the momentum seemingly after regulation, which featured a furious second-half comeback – and it was true this year at Notre Dame.
Emotion is only good for a finite amount of time each game, perhaps five minutes to start off each half.   
And this is why Nebraska is so good: It steals momentum. It doesn’t merely “take” momentum – indeed, take is far too pleasant of a word for what the Huskers do.
Tech thought it was going to get on the scoreboard first, but Troy Watchorn did what he’d done the previous three games – come up with an interception.
Then, when Dan Alexander reverts to his old form and coughs the ball up, Joe Walker goes Watchorn one better, returning a pick for a touchdown and bringing a deadly silence over the stadium, which only moments earlier had been shaking with emotion.
That’s what you do when a team thinks it has a breath of air: You stomp on their throat. They show some heart, you take their soul away one play later.
This is what winners do. This is what you do when you are the most targeted team in the nation.
Because THIS, is Nebraska.
(Bob Schaller covers Nebraska football for the Star-Herald)

 

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