Our “Best Moments Of The Decade” countdown so far:
When Nebraska came into the Big Ten, nobody thought Northwestern would give us a fight. 99.9% of Husker fans looked down upon the Wildcats as if they were some lowly football program, incapable of winning games, and certainly not killing a giant like Nebraska on a regular basis. Here we are, a few years later and Northwestern has been a thorn in our side.
There’s no definitive reason for this. You could point out this decade has been pretty bad for Nebraska football. I’ll warn you though, that’s not it. I’ve said this many times and I’ll say it again – the Big Ten has consistently clobbered itself to death throughout its existence. It will continue to do so, and that includes Nebraska.
When we get to be a good team under Scott Frost, there will still be times when teams like Northwestern, Minnesota, Indiana, Purdue, and all the rest beat us from year to year. It’s a fact we need to accept. If you want an example, look at what Iowa and Purdue did to Ohio State the two years previous to this one - even great teams are not immune from destruction in the Big Ten.
(There’s only one Nebraska team that will consistently crush Northwestern - our speech and debate team. I realize that doesn’t give the non-speech-geeks much fuel for their egos, but it’s important that we’re academically better than the nerds at something and debate is as good a choice as anything. Okay, volleyball is in there too. Does that help your ego?)
The 2013 Nebraska football season was like any other Bo Pelini season... a 9-4 record, pretty good, but not great. There were losses to #16 UCLA, #25 Minnesota, #16 Michigan State, and of course, Iowa, 38-17, because screw us.
Not Northwestern, though. That’s because of a beautiful ending, a connection between Ron Kelllog III and Jordan Westerkamp, who, as far as I know, were not roommates.
We’ll get to that.
But first, a story.
I attended this game, along with my brother Jim. I am the youngest of seven. It doesn’t take much to guess we were Catholic. We were spread out. My oldest sister is 21 years older than me. I was an uncle the day I was born. I was so far behind most of the rest of the family that I had to sit at the kid’s table on holidays. I’ve spent my life wondering what happened between my parents the night I was conceived; as if they suddenly remembered who they were in one amorous, but rare moment.
We had a family reunion that weeken that consisted of my siblings only. My brothers and sisters are a group with strong personalities and that comes accompanied with strong opinions; to survive I had to develop the same, something I’m sure you all find shocking. Take a bunch of strong personalities, stick them them together in a house, remove other people from their lives who might serve as mediators or provide balance, then combine that with the fact that they’re so much older than me that I struggle to relate to them and you’ve got a weekend from which you need an escape.
This is why when brother Jim says, “Hey, you want to go to the Northwestern game?”, you scream “YES OH GOD PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE” inside your head, but say “Sure” verbally.
“Where do we get tickets?”
“We go down to the Hay Market and buy them from a scalper.”
It’s somewhat of a lie, because what I really mean is, “We go down to the Hay Market and YOU buy them from a scalper.”
So that’s what we did. Then we went to the Starlight Lounge and had a beer. Or two. Jim doesn’t drink, and there was a game to get to, so I didn’t go crazy.
There’s honestly not a lot I remember about the game. What I remember most is Jim telling me that the last time he was in Memorial Stadium, he was a high school senior. He ran at the state track meet. They ran on the track around the field and he said parts of it went under the stadium. There were boards they ran on and it was muddy. Certainly not any track by today’s standards. I remember this because I thought, “You haven’t been to Memorial Stadium since 1965? Not even to a Husker game? What the hell is wrong with you?”
Everyone remembers the Hail Mary. It’s been replayed so many times it is now indelible.
What I remember most about the game was the play just before it.
It is 4th and 15. There are 33 seconds left.
Ameer Abdullah does what he did for Husker fans; made a Herculian play, the stuff of heroics. He weaves his way through three defenders to get the first down. It’s at the 3:40 mark of this video.
Abdullah represents what’s missing from Nebraska football. He was a player who would put the game on his back. He’s probably most known for his play against McNeese State, but the 4th and 15 in the Northwestern game is much the same. There might have been a few since Abdullah capable of turning a game, but they need the surrounding cast to follow.
Then came the Hail Mary.
It took quite a while (several seconds anyway) for those of us in the North stadium to figure out what happened. It was unbelievable. Everyone was in despair just a moment before and it turned to elation. Fans high-fived and hugged all around. Nobody waited for the replay.
Matt Davison’s joy of “What a wonderful scene in Lincoln, baby!” on the radio call.
It was a wonderful moment in time.