This is it - the moment you've been (sort of) waiting for, the last regular season Big 12 game ever for Nebraska.
Oh, joy, that it comes against the most hated of all teams - the Colorado Buffaloes!
The Big 12 brought us the end to the Thanksgiving rivalry with Oklahoma, inserting Colorado in their place. Nebraska fans, by and large, never accepted that change, instead resenting that it was foisted upon them by change. (Compare that to how you're feeling now with the move to the Big Ten. What a difference!)
Colorado and Nebraska have played 67 times since 1902, the Huskers winning the lion's share with a 48-18-2 series record.
This one may be one of the biggest in the series and not just because of this season's implications. If the Huskers win, they have a shot at embarrassing the Big 12 in the Championship game. If Colorado wins, the Buffies get a bowl game, and the Big 12 gets tell itself that it didn't lose one of the best programs, but only one that was "so-so".
Before I get to some big games - a have a question. Husker fans have never called the Buffaloes a rival. In the honor of this last game before we both head off in different directions - would you change that stance at all?
While I was writing an article for the Flashbax series, I discovered that I've never published my favorite Nebraska - Colorado story on this web site. It was published in the book, Huskerville, by Roger Aden, but how I overlooked it here (or maybe it got deleted during site upgrades), I don't know.
It was 1994... and there was this fall wedding.... ah, hell, hit the jump for the full version and relive with me a wonderful day in my life and some of the people whom I love.
The road to the 1994 Colorado-Nebraska began many months before with a phone call from my brother-in-law Doug. He called to let my wife and I know that he and his fiancé, Sarah, had finally set a wedding date. He proudly announced they were going to be married on October 29, 1994.
I yelled to my wife, Heidi, to inform her of the date for the upcoming wedding.
"Does he know what day that is? It's the day of the Colorado-Nebraska game!"
I asked Doug, "Why did you pick this particular date?"
"It was the only day the church was available".
In other words, my brother-in-law Doug was the only person in Nebraska who was crazy (or desperate) enough to get married that particular day. I've never asked him, but I wonder if he was worried about whether or not Sarah would suddenly jump up one day and run off on him, unless they got married before that could happen.
Given Doug's reluctance to change the wedding date, we relented from bothering him too much, as we were happy for Doug that he had finally found someone to love (and more importantly and surprisingly, someone who would love him back). We stopped bothering him about it, until it became clear as the season continued that the 1994 Colorado-Nebraska game was going to be something special. This was especially bothersome for me since I accepted the responsibility of being a groomsman. Short of a serious illness or death, there was no way out of attending the wedding and being involved as an official member of the wedding party.
The church Doug was referring to is St. Mary's Catholic Church in Lincoln, Nebraska. St. Mary's is a beautiful old church that is right across the street from Nebraska's State Capitol building. It happens to be only eight or nine blocks away from the home of Husker football, Memorial Stadium. Not only would I be in Lincoln and unable to attend, I would be close enough to hear the roar of the crowd and wonder what the hell had just happened.
The 1994 Nebraska offense featured the best offensive line in school history - the "Pipeline", featuring Behind the line stood the greatest college quarterback to ever play the game, Tommie Frazier. Nebraska had worked their way to third in the rankings, one spot behind Colorado.
Lead by soon-to-be-NFL-starting quarterback Kordell Stewart, the Buffs had more than their share of NFL-level talent. A number of the Buffs would later play on Sunday, including Michael Westbrook, and Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam. Colorado featured an offense that no one had stopped so far that season, so not many people outside Nebraska figured that the Cornhuskers had much of a chance in the game.
The "Fabulous Sports Babe" had a radio sports show that was syndicated throughout the nation. The Sports Babe talked about nearly any kind of sport that callers would bring to the show, but had a special love for college football. Each week, fans would call raving about this or that with regards to the teams they hated, those overrated, and the outdated.
The "Babe" had a theme every Thursday in which fans could pick their "Geek of the Week". The "Geek of the Week" was the sports figure, organization, or event that had done something the previous week to deserve the ire of the fans.
Doug has been one of my best friends throughout my life, but the idea that he'd chosen to be married on the day of one of the most important games in Nebraska football history was something that I could not let go unpunished. Doug deserved to be nominated for the "Geek of the Week".
On the Thursday one week before the Colorado game, I sent a fax to the "Babe" show, explaining my dilemma and pointing out Doug's choice of a wedding date and that he deserved "Geek of the Week" nomination.
During that Thursday's show, I feared that the "Babe" wouldn't recognize Doug's geekiness and he would go unpunished. My fears were put aside when Craig James (a member of ESPN's College Gameday crew at the time) came on the show, and the "Babe" read my fax to him on the air.
"What do you think of that? This guy is going to be at his brother-in-law's wedding eight blocks away from the greatest game of the season, and he can't even go!"
Revenge had begun.
ESPN called my office shortly after the Babe's on-air rant. I promptly returned the call, and a person there explained that they loved the nomination and wondered if it were possible to interview Doug before the game. The Friday morning before the game, Doug went on the Babe show to get grilled, and I followed him on a few minutes later. The Babe and I professed our love for each other, but mostly for our love for jabbing Doug.
Doug and Sarah had set the wedding time at 4:00 PM. The game was to start at 1:30 PM, and this meant that if the game were close going into the fourth quarter, we had a good chance to miss out on the ending. Another problem - I was chosen to be in the wedding party as a groomsman and therefore would be part of the picture taking. This meant that I would expected to be dressed nice, look nice, act nice, and stay that way at least until the wedding was over - a truly difficult task.
The day of the game, er, wedding, had finally arrived - October 29, 1994. My first thought of the day (after finding aspirin) was to get some of the "cornhead" head apparel for pictures. The early model "cornhead" looked more like a pointy bald skull cap, like Saturday Night Live's "Coneheads" wore, with corn kernels painted on them.
While the game started, the wedding party gathered at the State Capitol building for picture-taking. A couple of us had portable radios, but we had tried to time everything so that pictures would be finished by the time the game started so that we could watch it on a tiny nine inch portable battery-powered TV I'd purchased for the occasion.
So there we were, a bunch of guys in tuxedos, some sporting dorky-looking cornheads, huddled around an itty-bitty portable TV on the steps of the state capitol building. Nebraska was playing inspired football. As our buddy Terry said:
"It's like we're telling them where we're going, and they still can't stop us."
It was true. Nebraska's 'Pipeline' spent the day blowing holes in the Buff's defense. The Blackshirt defense terrorized Kordell Stewart, not allowing a third down conversion through the game. By the time the wedding started, we knew the game was a win, so we abandoned most of the hi-jinx we'd planned, such as the old 'paint the score on the bottom of the shoes so people see it when they kneel' trick, hidden radios and pre-arranged hand signals from guests to let us know the status of the game.
It helped the wedding go smoothly. Doug and Sarah said their vows, and we exited the church, and as a traditional wedding party, we stood outside St. Mary's waiting in line for the wedding guests to congratulate us. As we waited, we heard the roar of a crowd growing louder - a crowd from the stadium that had torn down a goal post and decided that the steps of the state capitol was the perfect place at which to deposit it.
The draw of the crowd was too much for me - I wasn't going to stand in line waiting for someone to congratulate me as a groomsman for not showing up drunk or falling over or screaming out loud when the priest asked if anyone should stop the wedding. Congratulating Doug and Sarah, I and the other groomsmen took off to celebrate with the crowd. When people saw us, they wanted pictures taken with us, and we wanted pictures with them and the goalpost.
And there we were, tuxedos, cornheads, goalpost on the state capitol steps, like a big Happy Husker Wedding stew with all ingredients complete including happy bride and groom. Doug and Sarah got their perfect wedding picture, standing on the capitol steps holding up the goalpost along with a throng of fans (not included in this book because of copyright).
Rather than being one of those stories about how some guys missed a great Husker game because of a wedding, we found ourselves part of the greatest part of it - the celebration of carrying the goal posts to the steps of the capitol building.
A few years later, I found out that the ESPN College GameDay crew had tried to get in touch with the wedding party so that we could come down to Memorial Stadium and get on the College GameDay show. I'd considered heading to the stadium early that Saturday morning, but was informed of my need to remain clean, calm, and in general good order and decided that it was best I not go. It would have been fun, but the day turned out to be nearly perfect as it was.