I'm a pessimist by nature.
I try not to be, and I know the toll my neverending angst can cause to those around me. Don't argue with me that a glass is half full, because I will walk away knowing it is half empty.
Some of it is life in general. Wanting more for me and my family. But some of it does come from the downtrodden views of my favorite college football team, the Nebraska Cornhusker. They fill you with joy, hope, and optimism. A bright future with hope and possibilities. All to have it vanish from view in the final seconds of the game. Those feelings of euphoria were replaced with those of cynicism.
But I'll let you in on a little secret, Husker fans, I broke the cycle tonight. I went into this game with more optimism and enthusiasm than my body could contain. I felt this was it. Forget what national pundits were saying. The Huskers were going to be 1-0 by the end of Thursday evening. I was so sure of this fact that I turned a somewhat morose group of Corn Nation staff writers into true blue believers by the end of the first half with the game still very much in reach despite some poor play to start the game.
3-0. Minnesota. It's Game 1. First game jitters. Sure we through an Interception in the Red Zone when we were seconds away from a Game Tying Field Goal at the Half. Coaches will make halftime adjustments. We get the ball to start the 2nd half. All is still right in the world.
And for two plays. It was. A beautiful kickoff return by Rahmir Johnson. Then, the 'Osborne'. A miraculous throwback pass from Anthony Grant to Jeff Sims, who picks up a poorly thrown ball only to sail it right into the open arms of Alex Bullock in the End Zone. A SportsCenter Top 10 play. A momentum changer. Just like we drew it up.
The 3-3-5 of Coach Tony White looked very bend, don't break before the half. But managed to create 3 & Outs several times in the 3rd and 4th Quarters, as well as sack contributions from Blaise Gunnerson, Luke Reimer, and The Polar Bear (Nash Hutmacher). Sealing the W was definitely Omar Brown's pick of Athan Kaliakmanas and a clutch field goal by Freshman Phenom, Tristan Alvano. 10-3. All the way up to the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
We were finally going to shake off the mistakes that have cost us, mistakes that came in this very game. Penalties. The ejection of Blackshirt leader, Ty Robinson. Questionable Referees(go back, especially in the 3rd & 4th Quarter, and watch the Golden Gophers Starting Left Tackle). Things that I kept telling my colleagues would have had us multiple touchdowns down for in past teams. This team feels different. Ready to answer the bell.
Even after 3 turnovers.
But it was the 4 and final turnover that turned out to be the costliest. You can say it was the Grant fumble that allowed Minnesota to go down and tie the game. But it was in fact Jeff Sims' 3rd Interception of the game that sealed our fate.
But I still held out hope for Overtime. I was reaching deep within myself to coax the last ounce of optimism out of the corner and inject it into my veins. We can win it in OT. But as I watched with 3 seconds on the clock, as Coach Rhule called Nebraska's last timeout in regulation, Minnesota Kicker Dragan Kesich, who missed from 54 yards earlier, lined up to kick a 47-yard Game Winning Field Goal.
It's going to be different this time. I kept repeating this in my head over and over again as I waited for the snap of the ball, for the kick, for the neverending nightmare that has plagued Husker Football for the past several years.
Minnesota-13 : Nebraska-10
Pessimism sucks. But Optimism can crush you just as painfully. I think most of Husker Nation at this point in time would tend to agree.
Now, it is Game 1, we have 11 more of these. Minnesota has a Defense. No joke. It's legit. The offense is in good hands with Kaliakmanas as he is accurate and mobile, but not too keen about taking too much abuse so he is willing to give up on a slide to avoid a costlier injury. This game could end up deciding the East in the Big Ten. I think the Golden Gophers have that potential. Up until tonight, they were 0-6 when teams rushed for over 150 yards on their Defense. We had 181.
We also learned why bell cow back Gabe Ervin Jr. was limited on the night. Receiving a suspension for something that happened over the Summer. Say what you want about Coach Rhule, but accountability matters. So while my screams for Run. The. Damn. Ball. And 'Where is Gabe Ervin?' fell mostly on deaf ears, it shows that no man is bigger than the team.
I liked most of what I saw from Coach White's defense. Omar Brown and DeShon Singleton lead the team with 7 tackles a piece. John Bullock had 6 in place of an injured Nick Heinrich. Gifford is a stud and almost sealed the win with an INT in the end zone. The secondary likes to keep a cushion to make plays on the ball, but an accurate quarterback can take advantage of that down the road. You could see how the press coverage might have helped us in Minnesota's game-winning drive.
Outside of his big TD catch, Alex Bullock had a couple of nice contested catches, as did healthy Marcus Washington. But the separation was hard to come by tonight for Coach McGuire's unit. They will need to establish dominance in their zone if they want to contribute and help out their QB, Sims.
Jeff can be electric. His 19 carries on 117 yards tell me he's going to be dynamic. But his decision-making in the passing game needs to come along as the season progresses. Aside from the 3 INTs, he was sacked 3 times, at least 2 could have been avoided by throwing the ball out of bounds past the line of scrimmage. Maybe it's Ghosts of Georgia Tech. Maybe he's trying to do too much. All I know is, that I hope he stays healthy because if Coach Satterfield can calm him down in certain areas, he can be a threat to the rest of the Conference.
I don't coach, so play calling I leave it up to the people they pay to do it. But, I feel that some more patience is required from our staff. We were very effective at times running the ball. When Ervin was given a chance he took 7 carries for 56 yards at almost 8 yards a clip. But when the game is on the line and you have to milk the clock because your offense is still finding itself, our run game should be something to lean on, not use only when it's convenient.
My optimism is dormant right now, I'm pessimistic again. Maybe not as bad as before, but this stings. Like all the one score, close losses over the past few seasons have stung. But I believed Coach Rhule in his post-game presser when he said the team will learn from this and get better. This team still has goals, still has plenty to play for. A bitter, hard-fought loss in Minneapolis on the eve of Labor Day weekend 2023 will not define this group of Cornhuskers. An equally important and challenging non-conference game awaits them a week from Saturday in Boulder, Colorado.
Time to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, catch a flight, watch the tape, rehab, and start the process over again on Sunday. Week 2. Big Noon Kickoff. Coach Prime & the Colorado Buffaloes.
I'll start saving up some of that optimism. 2023 is far from over.