For as long as I can remember the fans in Lincoln, Nebraska have been known as some of the greatest fans in the country. They welcome outsiders to Lincoln to enjoy a football game. They follow the Huskers on the road filled with passion and knowledge about the game of football. Many sportswriters have come to Nebraska and left writing stories about their positive experience. They have written that there is no better college football atmosphere. They have written that fans are the nation’s best. And most importantly, they have acknowledged that there truly is ‘No Place Like Nebraska’.
That all, of course, before the 2010 football season. Things have changed over the past year in Nebraska. Fans seem to complain more, feel attacked and ultimately have lost some of the class that others have spoken so highly of in the past. It started a year ago when Nebraska had Texas on the ropes. Time expired in the Big 12 Championship Game and Nebraska appeared to have pulled the biggest upset in the Bo Pelini era. But in the word’s of Lee Corso, “Not so fast!”. Upon review one second was added to the game and Texas kicked the game-winning field goal to earn a trip to Pasadena.
Fast forward this season and that game was still the highlight to talk about for Nebraska fans. Living in that one second of “what might have been”. It was talked about so much the game in 2010 against Texas was supposed to be the game where Nebraska got revenge. Instead, the Longhorns remained unbeaten in Lincoln under Head Coach Mack Brown. After the loss there was still hope for the Big Red to contend for a National Title, but after a couple of close games with lackluster opponents fans were screaming more and more about the conspiracy that the Big 12 Conference is out to get the Huskers for leaving the conference. And after the loss to Texas A&M, Nebraska fans were outraged. A questionable call late in the game led to the go-ahead field goal. Fans put the loss on officials instead of on mistakes made by Nebraska that could have changed the course of the game dramatically.
Nebraska is the second highest penalized team in the Big 12, behind only Texas A&M (71) and tied with Baylor (65). That’s 32 more penalties called on Nebraska than have been called on Oklahoma (33) this season. The penalties called against Nebraska don’t bother me, as a Husker fan. It doesn’t mean the conference is out to get Nebraska. When Bo Pelini was hired as the Head Coach more penalties should have been expected. It comes with the territory of having such an aggressive and passionate coach. The team is expected to play harder and more aggressive. A lot of penalties this year on the Huskers have been because players are being so aggressive. I can live with that. The question becomes penalties against Nebraska opponents. Teams playing Nebraska have been penalized just 35 times this season, the fewest in the league. Perhaps its the conspiracy, but maybe, just maybe, teams are playing smarter against a team they feel is one of the best in the country. Oklahoma opponents have been penalized 67 times this season. If you do the math you will see that Nebraska has been penalized 32 more times than OU, while OU opponents have been penalized 32 more times than Nebraska opponents. That should tell you that the penalty category could very well be lopsided on Saturday.
So here is the test
1. Forget about last year’s game – It’s in the past and win or lose on Saturday, nothing is changing from the 2009 game. Don’t make this a “we want revenge” type of game. It obviously didn’t work when the Longhorns came to town.
2. Forget about a conspiracy – If it’s there, so be it. Good teams can overcome adversity. If Nebraska plays a perfect, turnover free football game and the penalties are ridiculously lopsided with questionable calls, then complain. If Nebraska has turnovers in the game, dropped passes or other mental mistakes and penalties are lopsided against Nebraska then go back and look at some of the Nebraska mistakes to see if that hurt the Huskers before you blame it all on the officials.
3. Be courteous – It is going to be you against the world in this game. The bandwagon fans that would normally ride the Big Red Wave are jumping on the Sooner Schooner this year. Show the rest that there is still class in the Husker faithful. And when Nebraska wins and raises the trophy, don’t take a shot at Dan Beebe or the rest of the Big 12. Say thank you, good luck in the future and finish with, “Well Big 12…It’s been real and it’s been fun, but it ain’t been real fun”, and walk away. Be a champion. Show class. Show character.
4. It’s Big 12, not Big XII – Yes, Big XII is the logo of the conference, but it is not how the conference is referenced in text. Use “Big 12” when you talk about the game this week. It helps show that you are more informed and credible. (You’re Welcome!)
No matter what happens on Saturday, remember who you are and where you came from. We are still one of the few states that send a one finger wave to a stranger we pass on the highway. We still have one of the best fan bases in the country. We are still the most passionate fans in college football. We have simply been sidetracked and forgot about who we really are. Take a deep breath and let’s get our reputation back.
When the final whistle blows on Saturday it will be the end of an era, but the start of a new one as well. When the Huskers take the field next season, we, as fans, will have new friends to show that there truly is….
No Place Like Nebraska.