MABRY COLUMN: Brown gives demons boot with game-winning kick
BY JOHN MABRY Lincoln Journal Star
The mind of the kicker can be a strange and frightening place, but that didn't scare anyone away Friday.
The "Do not disturb" sign on Josh Brown's helmet must have fallen off, because the visitors kept coming.
Center Dominic Raiola was one of them. He was very stern but also very polite for a 300-pound junior sports psychologist.
"Just do your job," he said.
Another offensive lineman, senior Jason Schwab, said Brown wouldn't disappoint anyone if he didn't connect.
"Make it or miss it, we still love you," he said.
But with it being Senior Day and all, the "miss it" option probably wouldn't have gone over too well, and Brown knew it.
Coach Frank Solich wanted to pop in for a visit as well, but he couldn't find Brown before the kicker took the field with 5 seconds left in the fourth quarter and Nebraska needing a field goal to beat Colorado.
It's just as well. One more "Just stay calm" and Brown would have lost it.
"When you have all those people counting on you, you're thinking about it, and it gets in your head, you get mixed up," Brown said, "so I just tried to stay focused and concentrate on what I had to do."
It was what Brown had done - two weeks ago in the frozen mist of Manhattan, Kan. - that made staying focused and concentrating more difficult than anyone could imagine.
Josh Brown did not lose that football game, the game NU lost to Kansas State 29-28, but he did miss a 28-yard, second-quarter kick that might have made the difference.
You don't know how things would have gone if Brown had connected, so it's unfair to flat-out say his miss cost the Huskers a victory.
But that didn't keep the thought from crossing Brown's mind.
"It took a couple of days to get over," he said. "It was like, 'Wow, that was mine. I could have made a major difference in this game.'
"Being a kicker, that's the spotlight. That's where if the game's lost by a certain, short amount of points, that's who they look at. Especially on a miss from such a short area. So it was definitely hanging over my head for a couple of days."
The pain left briefly before returning last weekend while Brown was out with friends. Some guy in "a big Texas shirt" decided to make Brown feel the size of Rhode Island.
To paraphrase the critique, it went something like this:
You're a loser. You're the reason the season is meaningless.
Although no punches were thrown, Brown had the wind knocked out of him for a while.
"I know that it's part of the job. But it's a part of the job I never expected would actually come," he said. "It's something that you have to take in stride, something you have to swallow. You have to let it go."
It took a while to let it go, though. Like until Brown, who missed from 32 yards in the second quarter Friday, hit a 20-yarder in the fourth.
It was, by far, the biggest 20-yard field goal of his career. Not because it tied the game at 24-24, but because it tied a tourniquet on his bleeding confidence.
"When you make one you feel good," he said.
Feeling good doesn't come close to describing the euphoria that awaited the sophomore from Foyil, Okla.
It began at the NU 41-yard line with 44 seconds on the clock and the Huskers trailing 32-31.
Brown knew it could come down to him.
"I wanted them to get across that 50," he said. "I was like, 'You get across the 50, and I'll hit it.' "
The Huskers quickly did that, putting the ball on the Colorado 44 three plays later, but Solich, just to be safe, decided against a 61-yard attempt on first down. Probably a wise idea even though Brown made a kick of just that distance to seal a 45-point mercy-rule victory in high school.
A 13-yard completion from Eric Crouch to Bobby Newcombe and a 2-yard run by Crouch put the ball on the CU 29 with 10 seconds left.
"Every time they got closer," Brown said, "it was 'Oh yeah, oh yeah, percentages are going up.' "
Along with the blood pressure of 77,672 fans.
On second-and-8, Crouch threw a perfect ball to Newcombe, who skipped out of bounds at the 12.
What happened next was a blur to Brown, to his teammates, to the Buffaloes, to everyone.
Josh Brown on to attempt a 29-yard field goal.
Just do your job.
It's just like an extra point.
Make it or miss it, we still love you.
You're a loser.
Don't yank it. Please don't yank it.
The snap from John Garrison was good. The hold by Dan Hadenfeldt was good.
The kick was good.
In fact, it was perfect.
"I aimed at the right upright, allowing my crossover to split 'em," Brown said. "And it worked.
"Thank God it worked."
In an instant, Brown had an entire football team on top of him. A heavy load to say the least, but nothing like the burden he'd been carrying for the last two weeks. A few minutes later, he found himself on the shoulders of teammates and on top of the world.
The scene was believed to be a first in Husker history - an NU kicker winning a game on the last play of regulation.
The scene was without a doubt a first in the history of Josh Brown.
"I've waited for a moment like this my whole entire life," he said. "I got it, and I'm a happy man.
"I could die a happy man right now."
Reach John Mabry at 473-7320 or firstname.lastname@example.org.