...but trips right out of the blocks and falls squarely on its ass to the tune of a 1-9 record in Bill Jennings inaugural season.
The only offensive explosion would come in the form of a season-high 14 points in their lone win against Kansas St. (Classic - in a one-win season, they still found a way to be our punks.) They would be shut out four times that season, scoring but 7 total points in their final three games. Sorta puts the Watson experience in perspective, does it not?
1957. They'd had enough, man.
1957 would prove to be Jennings' worst season, but he would go on to experience some success in the ensuing years. You know, much like Daniel-san experienced success following his early-scene seaside demonstration of the New Jersey YMCA martial arts disciplines of punch-eating and gasping for air. Yes, he would be pushed down a mountain on his 5th grader-sized BMX bike and, yes, he would be kicked and beaten semi-conscious in his Wes Chandler jersey. But hey, at least these latter thrashings weren't in front of his dream girl and front-runner buddies, right? Definitely the equivalent of the Husker 3-7 and 4-6 years that regularly followed.
(Think of Nebraska's 1994 title as the equivalent of the original All Valley Tournament and the 1995 rampage as the infamous Daniel-san beachside three-way scene with Ali and her big-nosed obnoxious pal. Of course, this gem was left on the cutting room floor along with some gorier beatings for the PG rating, but found its way on the 25th anniversary DVD as a hidden easter egg deleted scene.)
Just how bad was 1957?
It should be noted that things like stats and details from years ago can be hard to come by for legendary teams of past eras. We're just lucky to have the scores for that year, so I dug around and found the 1958 Nebraska yearbook for some help in capturing that season. For the front page of the varsity sports section, they chose a photo depicting a member of the Husker basketball team fouling an opponent who is a split second away from dunkfacing one of his teammates.
Go ahead and check it out here. You might catch some details I missed clicking out at lightning speed. Let's just say those shorts made me wince and look away. We're talking one stumble and shift from The Full Monty 2.
Not surprisingly, a couple of page turns revealed that the varsity sports story of the year was The N Club Members Supervise Spring Day. Jesus Christ.
A few more clicks got me to the football pages which mostly contained some vague prose about character and photos of terrified Huskers running for their lives, not to mention two uncomfortable pics of some poor guy getting a neck rub from his coach. I'm betting that one doesn't come off the shelf when the grandkids come for Thanksgiving.
To be fair, they did lose a pair of back-to-back heartbreakers to Missouri and Kansas by a combined 3 points which would have have gotten them to a Jennings season par of 3-7 had they pulled those out. And wherever I looked, it appears that the consensus season highlight was leading the #6 Okies 7-0 after the 1st quarter before losing 32-7.
It should be noted that the roster that year included a 5'11" 188lb sophomore center from Omaha Benson named Jim Moore. Two years later as a 6' 188lb center (horse testosterone obviously not yet available in syringe form in Lincoln), he would block a 1st half punt that would be returned for a touchdown in one of the key plays of a 25-21 Husker upset of #19 Oklahoma that broke the Sooners' and coach Bud Wilkinson's 74-game conference unbeaten streak.
And I'm not just singling Moore out because I had the privilege of calling him Coach for a senior season in which he helped out our struggling team, scared the crap out of me, and surely made me laugh as hard as any coach or teacher I ever had. Except Head Coach Scribner, but that's a column for another time, if not a whole damn book.
**Note** (If you haven't dropped everything to search that DVD for the hidden sex scene, fruitlessly googled for the easter egg cheat or ordered the 25th Anniversary Karate Kid DVD from Amazon - assuming such a beast exists - then don't do any of those things. I was just kidding. If you already did, I think that's really funny.)