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Huskers, A-Rod end Big Red season on a high note PDF E-mail

Isn't it amazing what one win can do for the perception of an entire football program? What one win over a ranked SEC team in Florida can do for a state's confidence?

Wasn't it just late November when the Husker football program was imploding, with a loss to Iowa on Senior Day and our coach seemingly on the hot seat?

It was an 8-4 regular season, with a loss to the Gophers in Minneapolis as well as three big home losses to boot, including blowing a 21-3 lead to UCLA.

All the injuries and all the turnovers seemed to drain Husker Nation of its energy.

Welcome to Jacksonville. A Georgia football team licking their chops at the mere thought of another Cornhusker feast on New Year's day.

And who could blame them?

But then the rains came. Then Bulldog players started pushing Husker defensive end Randy Gregory after the whistle. That's when Big Red stood tall. That's when Big Red rallied together and literally said they weren't going to take it anymore.

Okay I'll say it. This team, this program and these players needed a punch or two in the mouth. They needed the bully on the other side of the field to take a swing or two at them. In short, they needed to get pissed off.

Did this program suddenly wake up? Time will tell.

Aurora's own Andrew Rodriguez played in his 40th Husker game and made his 21st start along the offensive line.

He and his teammates didn't disappoint.

A-Rod and Co. managed only 14 first downs along with 307 total yards, yet performed consistently and without many mistakes. They came up with perhaps the most spectacular play of the entire bowl season, the 99.9 yard third quarter bomb from Tommy Armstrong to Quincy Enunwa.

Take that, you 'Dogs.

This young Blackshirt defense was consistently behind the eight ball once again, like so many times this season, yet turned Georgia away twice in a row, two times when it looked as if their lead would evaporate during the final minutes and seconds.

A win for the Huskers, and a win for the Big Ten.

Nebraska was consistently overlooked from everything I saw on the ESPN TV bowl preview shows. In fact, a couple weeks ago the panel of broadcasters didn't even mention Big Red during the Gator Bowl segment, instead pointing out how Georgia lost their starting quarterback, along with all of their injuries this season.

Hello? Does any of this sound familiar to Husker fans?

I'm certainly going to miss big ol' number 63 on fall Saturdays. I'm going to miss talking to him after games. I'm going to miss him looking me in the eye, offering a firm handshake. Was it really four and a half years ago when he made his Husker debut as a true freshman against Western Kentucky, when Taylor Martinez burst onto the scene?

I'm going to miss Andrew, going to miss watching him block against smaller defensive ends trying to get past him. I'm going to miss seeing him come out of the tunnel, and talking to him as he walked off the field.

But I'm excited for next season, excited for the solid foundation he and his fellow seniors have left.

I'm hopeful this program now has the mindset to take that next step.

I'm hopeful next year's Huskers will come out swinging.

DAVE BRADLEY  can be reached at advertising@

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