Derek Johnson Muses

Home of the Straight from the Cornfield Podcast

Tag Archives: Home Game

Huskers vs. Nittany Lions: The Goal Line Fumble Dissected, Frame by Frame. Almost There…

Free

While it occurred with more than seven minutes to go, Matt Lehman’s goal line fumble was critical to the outcome. The immediate outcry was obvious: many Nebraska fans brought up Penn State’s McCloskey reception in 1982 that appear to be out of bounds and were complaining that ABC kept showing the play. (That controversy generates big advertising dollars, Husker fans.) Then this morning, the Penn State sites were full of articles claiming conspiracy and saying that the Big 10 doesn’t want Penn State to be successful because of the Sandusky scandal. Given that many Penn Staters read the Sandusky report and said we needed to “wait for the facts”, it is hardly a surprise that even Penn State journalists rushed to play the conspiracy card.

When I watched the play live, I couldn’t see what happened, although I thought that it was more likely than not that Lehman had scored judging by where the ball came loose. When I watched the replay the first time, I wasn’t as quick to think it was a touchdown, which admittedly was what I wanted to hear. After watching the replay a few times, I judged a couple of things. Lehman moved the ball within his hands from where he caught as he extended toward the goal line. If you watch his hands from where he caught it to the goal line, he carries it loosely. While his hands and the ball seemed to be moving forward, the ball seemed to jiggle and rotate in a way that was not consistent with the way his hands were moving, as if he was fumbling the ball forward. It seemed that Lehman’s grip on the ball was on the back third of it, and you could see a lot of the rotating ball outside of his grasp. The image of the ball was before his hands, not in his hands. I wouldn’t have argued had the call been overturned, but as I sat there and watched the play, I feared the overturn, but I feared that the evidence to overturn the call was not complete.

To me, this is an instance where 98% of the evidence to overturn a call was there, but it just wasn’t enough to change the call because of the slight bobble. The right call was made, if a fumble begins at the first bobble of a football and if the bobble continues through to the ball’s dislodging via contact with another player. I will concede something else: if the play had been called a touchdown on the field, it likely would have stayed a TD as well. Let’s not forget something else: when a fumble occurs, officials more often than not will swallow the whistle, because it’s harder to make a non-fumble a fumble than it is to make a fumble a non-fumble. Nebraska got a huge break, as the official were erring on the side they were trained to air on.

The Big 10 is not out to get Penn State. The NCAA leveled severe penalties against PSU, not the Big 10. Given the conference’s lack of quality (and depth of quality teams behind Ohio State), they need Penn State to be viable so that all the TV screens in Pitt and Philly keep watching Penn State and the Big 10 and not ACC or Big East football, aside from the fact sports conspiracies just don’t exist (NBA included).

To Penn State fans who are arguing, I’d point out that you lost more on that play than Nebraska gained. If Penn State had scored, Nebraska fans don’t panic. There’s seven minutes to go, and the Huskers have the wind at their back, only needed a field goal to tie, and a team that’s built to come from behind. The game wouldn’t have been over for them. In addition, Penn State got two more possessions when they were behind by only a score. This wasn’t the final decision maker in a game you lost by 9. This was game between two teams that were pretty evenly matched and swung on many key moments. That play wasn’t even close to the only deciding factor, and it just happened late in the game.

Matt McGloin’s behavior in the post-game press conference was horrible, as well as his actions on the field. He should have been flagged for taking his helmet off on the field after he was called for the safety (he also took his helmet off after the Lehman fumble). Couple with his tweet of the play, I’m guessing there are a lot of NFL teams taking him off there draft boards.

Unfortunately, this may not be the final officiating controversy Nebraska finds itself in this season. While I don’t think the Big 10 will put in the fix for the Huskers in the Big 10 Title Game, consider the following: Wisconsin looses their last two games and is 7-5, a reasonable assumption, given that Brett Bielema may save Montee Ball’s carries for the Title Game. Everyone assumes the Big 10 wants Nebraska to win as the conference has had enough bad publicity and doesn’t want to see a 8-5 team in the Rose Bowl. Not saying it will happen, but fans will put the dots together.

Compared to what we’ve seen, this Nebraska comeback wasn’t nearly as dramatic as the ones on the road at Northwestern or Michigan State. When Nebraska’s offense took the field after Penn State turned the ball over in the end zone in the fourth quarter, I had to remind myself that this was the first time Nebraska had lead in regulation since the Michigan game two weeks ago, other than the six most important seconds against Michigan State. As the teams went in at halftime, there were some signs that hadn’t been there in the previous weeks. There was the argument on the sidelines between Pelini and Stafford; another exchange showed a despondent Will Compton talking to his head coach on the bench. It’s no wonder that Pelini said at halftime that he thought it might take until the fourth quarter for his team to make up the deficit.

This win wasn’t a comeback for Nebraska so much as it was a series of little moments between two pretty evenly matched teams. Nebraska won because, quite simply, Nebraska had more ways to win, was at home, and forced Penn State into poorly timed mistakes. In a way, this may have been the most important of Nebraska’s come from behind wins because you know that the crowing from Columbus will start the second Ohio State beats Michigan. At least Penn State can’t claim they beat Nebraska, in spite of the fumble that may not have been.

As we saw last year with Penn State, this series is bound to be a chippy affair year in and year out. After their comeback came up short in Happy Valley, Penn State has to be steaming about letting the Huskers off the hook. Three out of the next four years, Nebraska and Penn State will met in their penultimate games of their seasons, except in 2014 when Nebraska will open their home conference schedule against the Nittany Lions.

Nebraska burned through a lot to be 5-1 after a daunting stretch of conference games: Ameer Abdullah’s 35 touches today were a lot to ask, and Rex Burkhead may have to come back. But Pelini deserves a lot of credit for going to Imani Cross in short yardage situations, and bringing Braylon Heard off the bench. Burkhead was ridden into the ground last year, and let’s hope there’s still something left with both him and Burkhead. But Abdullah does do a better job of getting out of bounds; part of Burkhead’s physical breakdown now was that he sought out contact, a death knell to a running back’s career in the Big 10.

So Nebraska’s through with the toughest part of their schedule. All they have left are Minnesota, who already has their bowl eligibility in hand, and Iowa, still reeling. We’ve seen Pelini stub his toe against teams like this before, so yes, there’s some reason to be cautious, especially playing at Iowa on a short week in an early game (I do know it’s Iowa). This team has relied on magic for the past couple week, even when they’ve been good. Perhaps for the next couple of weeks, they can just be good.

My Husker Game Day: Part 3

(This is the the third post in a piece I wrote a few years ago about my experience going to Husker games: Part 1 and Part 2)

Washington 2011-Big Picture

Tunnel Walk is where the game starts for me. Highlights from the previous years, mingled in with a few highlights from this year, or last years game against a common opponent. It has been a bit sad in recent years; looking at the glory from the 1990’s which seems a million miles away. But times in college football have changed, and Nebraska’s had a rough patch. At least now, we’re a program that the state can be proud of.

As I watch the memories, some of which I can recall as I kid and many I can’t, my blood starts to rush as I begin to think about the five year stretch between 1993 and 1997 when Nebraska won sixty of sixty-three games and three national championships. And I wonder if, in spite of the tougher conferences and the nemesis that is the state of Texas, that kind of dominance could still be possible. It is usually about this team that I see the team exit the locker room and start toward the field. And as I see the players pup themselves up with high fives from the fans, I feel the rush again, the ownership that whole state has in this team. And then they hit the field, and I know inside that anything is possible.

All games are different, depending on the opponent and the stakes. I don’t go to insignificant non-conference games anymore . The only two notable non-conference game for me were Bo Pelini’s first game against competent mid-major Western Michigan, and the 2007 season opener against Nevada, where I was lucky enough to find a $50 ticket four rows up on the forty yard line.

Then there are the average conference games, against the Baylors, Iowa States, Kansases, and, since the conference switch, Minnesota. These games are nice wins, and occasionally, a very embarrassing loss. (See Iowa State 2009). These are the majority of games that I go to. Occasionally, bigger stakes make the games more important (the K-State game in 2009 for the conference title), but most of the time there’s little tangible drama. These teams may have good enough players or a good enough coach to hang with the Huskers for a while, but ultimately, the crowd takes over.

Since 2010, I only go to the significant games. That year, I only home games I went to were Texas (ugh) and Missouri, and this past year, Washington (family in town) and Ohio State (my soggy story of the night) . I trimmed back how many games because, in my memory, the tougher games are the ones that stand out: the 2006 games against Texas was the most memorable game I attended at Memorial Stadium, win or loose (read the experience here). It’s so much work to go to a game, it’s almost not worth it to go in the stadium and watch anyone but Oklahoma, Texas, or Ohio State and Michigan now.

The game, I get lost in. After the kickoff, I rarely take photos of the action, shameful I know. But for the three-and-a-half hours in the stands, it’s just me and my team, as I’ve been abandoned in uniformity. Game day is really the only time that Lincoln becomes a crowd like a crowd you would find in a major city like San Francisco or Chicago, where you can just be anonymous and no one looks at you. It’s strangely freeing.

Attending a live games pull me in ways that are almost inexplicable. Unlike when I’m at home, I have to fight the urge to curse, and I can’t just go get up and walk into another room when it gets frustrating. Everything’s out there in front of me. The turmoil within always comes from the fact that this game will stay fixed in my mind for the better part of the next couple of years, and even though I’ll watch the highlights on YouTube, the nuances from the stadium will stick with me. The views of the players on the sidelines, the demeanor of the people around me. My brain will process everything.

During halftime, I usually get up and walk. When I was younger, I liked to walk around the stadium as much as I could, but not as much now that I’m familiar with all the nooks and crannies. Often times now, I’ll just find an empty space and sit against the wall with my legs stretched out and periodically check my radio for updates on other games. But I like to take the earbuds out and sit there distant from all the senses that I’m taken in, almost as if I’m napping.

But then I go back to my seat and watch the game. If Nebraska ends up winning, I’m on a high whose high by is determined how big the win is. It’s just a buoyancy that propels the rest of my day. If it’s a loss, I feel as if I’m trapped in a painting that I can’t get out of. Losses feel more like subtractions to me, little non-events and omissions where something I can’t define has left me.

Washington 2011-Little Moment

When I leave the game, and usually I stay to the end or near end (longer than I have to), I’ll take a round-about way to get to the one of the west gates, if I’m not sitting in the south stadium, which is closed off. Leaving is always a rush for me, and I like picking my way through crowds. I feel unnoticed even though I’m with people, and once, when I was going back down through a crowd of people who were trying to head up to their seats, someone tapped me on the shoulder from behind and noted how good I was at doing so.

I have a bad habit of cutting across streets when I’m not supposed to. I’ll do it a lot at the end of the I-180 bridge at 9th street, where occasionally there will be enough breaks in traffic (no one heads into downtown at the end of a Husker game), and dart back into the Haymarket, reversing my way back through the tailgaters who are still grilling and watching games as I go back to my car. On the way, I often stop at Jack’s for a drink (they’re less crowded) or grab a tea from Scooter’s or The Mill.

When I get to my car, I’m exhilarated. I hit the streets, and try to calculate the best way to get Highway 6. Usually, it involves going down to A via minor streets, then cutting back on Coddington to get on Highway 77 North to go back to Highway 6. This helps me bypass most of the heavier traffic, and once I pass the entrances from Highway 6 to the Interstate, I’m home free.

When I get home, I usually try to go to bed if it’s a night game, but I’ll check the scores quick on my computer. If not, I crash on the couch, grab on easy dinner if I don’t get something on the way, and watch other college football games, waiting for the perspective from the game highlights. By now, I’m very content, and while working on Monday has usually started to loom, I couldn’t be happier for the experience. Except if it was a loss, of course.

My Husker Gameday: Part 2

(Earlier this week, I shared Part 1 of my experience going to Husker games, which I had written a couple of years earlier. Here now is Part 2.)

Within two or even three hours before kickoff, I’m back to wandering the streets looking for potential ticket sellers, if I don’t already have a ticket, and I usually don’t. The first corner of seller inhibit Ninth and “P”, but these are mostly scalpers who I never buy from if I can help it. Many scalpers also make up most of the ticket selling crowd at Tenth and “P” by the Embassy Suites, although occasionally there are some individuals selling tickets. (I purchased the Missouri ’08 here). I head up Tenth to take “Q” over to the bookstore, and by then time I get to Twelfth, I have a good idea of what the market is like. I try to keep myself from buying until I can judge the market, no matter how excited I am for the game.

At the Alumni Center, I stop to watch whatever games are on. This is what I love the most about game day: the greater college football landscape. Across the nation, literally hundreds of college football games are being played, and here, I have my window into a few of them. Sometimes, I’ll cross the street to Nebraska Bookstore and watch games in the basement, hopefully sitting in one of their comfortable chairs or browsing the racks of Husker shirts while I watch the games. Most days this is just a waste of time; I have so much Husker gear already, it takes something really special to grab my eye.

Within ninety to sixty minutes to kickoff, I’m heading up campus, with an occasional stop by the union to use the restroom or purchase a snack or drink that I will sneak into the stadium in the pocket of my long-sleeved T-shirt (beats the two hundred percent markup inside the stadium.) Sometimes, I even buy my Gatorade from the vending machines inside the library, which is great. No lines for the vending machines or the restroom in there. I’m surprised more fans don’t know about it.

As I continue on my way to the stadium, I’m always struck by the number of older people who go to the games. I understand this typical of most programs that have been good for at least forty years, like Nebraska, Michigan, or Alabama, that the affluent professionals bought up the season tickets forty years ago and have held on to them all this time. I’ve been games at Iowa State, and their stadium is mostly young people, some with families. Here, it’s an odd mix of twenty-somethings and grandparents.

When I get to the sidewalks that surround the stadium, I start to look for a ticket if I haven’t bought one yet. This is where I find the private sellers, and by this point, they’re desperate. My preference is always to buy from an older person, someone who won’t bargain much. I’ve done pretty well here; sometimes as much as twenty dollars of a ticket to a conference game (Kansas ’08), and once I got a pair of tickets for free (Iowa State ’07). But I always try to be fair to my fellow Husker fans. We are on the same team, after all. Once my ticket is tucked into pocket of my gray t-shirt hoodie, I take to the soccer practice field and watch whatever game is being shown over the Husker Nations Pavilion, as fathers and sons amuse themselves on the field.

Husker Nations Pavilion in 2008

I try to wait until there are about twenty minutes until kickoff, watching as much of the games outside as I can. So I head in, my drink tucked safely inside my shirt and head for seat. On bad weather days, it always take so long to get to my seat, because people have to open their coats for security. I always hope for a seat that isn’t in the north end zone. Those seats usually mean that I will have to allow extra time to get to my seat, plus longer lines at the restroom. Usually, when I sit in the north, I just go around to either the east or west side to use the bathroom, where there’s no line whatsoever. Stadium expansion is great-as long as you have enough infrastructure to handle the extra people.

So with fifteen minutes to go until kickoff I’m in my seat in the sea of red, watching the people file into through the holes in the ranks of bleachers while the team preps on field. The part of pre-game that I love is the mass huddle of all the players before they rush into the locker room. The band routine is less important to me. Not that the Cornhusker Marching Band isn’t great, but I never count it a loss if I miss the band’s opening numbers. Tunnel Walk is a different story.

Band on the field prior to the Virginia Tech 2008

TVLine

TV News, Previews, Spoilers, Casting Scoop, Interviews

goingoutandcomingin

"The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore." Psalm 121:8

Just a Guy

with an Appetite

Sun-Ton Farms

Dairy Farming through the eyes of a former "city" girl. I am blessed to be able to work along side my husband of over 20 years and help care for our cows, calves, and beautiful farm.

StarboCho

Dragon Slaying: from the Lutheran Perspective

Final Mystery

"The final mystery is oneself" - Oscar Wilde

Biking with Coleman

Traversing North America by Bicycle

Christian in America

The blog of Matthew Tuininga

Cassie Moore

Adventures in the Mundane

An Illustrated Parsonage Life

A new pastor's wife writes about church, home, children, and life's general absurdities and mishaps.

Musings of a Circuit Riding Parson

Just another small town, small town, small town preacher

Oratio + Meditatio + Tentatio

A theologian's pressure cooker.

Brent Kuhlman's Blog

A great WordPress.com site

Peruse and Muse

One Author in Search of an Audience

St. Matthew Lutheran Church

Bonne Terre, Missouri

Tips On Travelling

Learn how to travel Further. Longer. Cheaper.

%d bloggers like this: