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TED KIRK/Lincoln Journal Star
Husker offensive line coach Milt Tenopir puts linemen David Kolowski (74), Jake Andersen (71) and Nate Kolterman (67) through drills in the pregame warmups Saturday night in College Station, Texas.
JOHN MABRY: Young's spirit remains part of Tenopir, Husker line

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- I never got to meet Jake Young, but I think I came pretty close Saturday night.

As it turns out, Young was at Kyle Field with the Huskers for their stirring 38-31 victory over against Texas A&M.

"I'm sure he was," said NU offensive line coach Milt Tenopir.

Young, a two-time All-America center, was killed in the bombing of a Bali nightclub. A memorial service was held for him Saturday in Overland Park, Kan. Another is scheduled for later this week in his hometown of Midland, Texas.

Tenopir's linemen paid their own tribute Saturday with their finest performance of the season, paving the way for a remarkable 381-yard rushing performance against one of the toughest run defenses in the country.

With its play, the Big Red line helped its coach get through another difficult day. They've all been difficult for Tenopir since word came from Indonesia that Young was missing after the Oct. 12 bombing.

Tenopir wouldn't talk about Young's death because he refused to accept it as fact until authorities made it official. That word came Friday, and you know it left Tenopir in tears.

Tenopir, the longtime assistant who's part grizzly bear, part Santa Claus, loves all of his linemen, but Young was special. He got it done on the field and off during his Husker career (1986-89). He was an All-America center and an All-World friend to his position coach. They were close.

You know the old cliche, "He was like a son"? It really was that way with Tenopir and Young. That's why Tenopir will be back in Texas for Wednesday's memorial service.

"It was extremely difficult for Milt to move on," said NU head coach Frank Solich. "He worked so closely with Jake."

On Saturday night, Young was on the minds of the coaches and players, who wore an emblem with his name on the back of their helmets.

"Everybody that knows Jake inside of this program and outside of this program was devastated by the loss of his life," Solich said. "We consider Jake still with us and still part of this football family."

Young must have been so proud of the way the big guys played against the Aggies, maybe as proud as his tutor at Nebraska.

"I'm proud as hell of them," Tenopir said. "You know they got down a bunch there, but they never quit. They played their butts off. I was very proud of them."

Solich said his offensive linemen had no choice but to play like madmen.

"I think they had to because (the Aggies are) so physical up front," Solich said. "They control things from the defensive standpoint. If you're not playing well up front, they're going to shut you down completely."

Senior center John Garrison never saw Young play, but he knows the legacy.

"From what I got out of everything, he was a guy who would line up with no helmet and play," Garrison said. "He was a tough-nosed guy."

The Huskers had a bunch of tough noses up front Saturday. Garrison. Mike Erickson. Dan Vili Waldrop. Wes Cody (before his leg injury). Junior Tagoa'i. Richie Incognito.

You know the line is getting the job done when the head coach decides to go for it on fourth-and-1 from his own 28 -- in the third quarter.

The guys who have been beaten up all season took out their frustration by wrecking the night for A&M's famed Wrecking Crew. Imagine how much fun it was for Garrison, a team captain who has been a stand-up guy all season when it comes to talking to reporters about the team's struggles.

He had just enough energy to form a grin when he came out of the locker room for interviews Saturday night.

"I've never been so happy to talk to you guys," he said.

He was eager to talk but almost speechless.

"I don't even know what to say," Garrison said. "We had a guy (Junior) come in for Wes, and the guy played his tail off."

Erickson also had a breakthrough game in Garrison's mind.

"He played the game of his life today," Garrison said.

The spirit of Jake Young lives on.

Reach John Mabry at 473-7320 or jmabry@journalstar.com.


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