Heartbreak is modern-day realization for Husker fans

My mind was moving a lot faster than my body was as I walked from the south end zone of Tom Osborne Field toward the interview room following another Husker heartbreak Saturday afternoon.
Nebraska led Northwestern 24-17 late in the game as the Huskers had a chance to go up by 10, chose to punt, and allowed the Wildcats to tie the game and force overtime.
Overtime was real simple. Northwestern is good inside the red zone, Nebraska isn’t.
Ballgame.
One thing I couldn’t shake out of my mind was something friend and collegue Dave Bradley wrote a week ago.
“I used to think as a Husker football fan that I was entitled to winning seasons, bowl games, conference championships and the occasional national championship. When I grew up, Husker football was king. It was the crown jewel of college football. Players from around the country wanted to come here to be a part of a winning tradition.”
I was only 5 years old when the ’97 Huskers won Nebraska’s last national championship. I understand and appreciate Nebraska’s storied history, but most of my Husker recollection begins with the 2000 season.
Counting the 2000 season up until the loss to Northwestern last Saturday, the Huskers sport a 150-80 record.
The older generation had Tommy Frazier to hold on to. My guy was Eric Crouch.
My favorite play in my lifetime continues to be and probably will always be the Black 41 flash reverse pass against Oklahoma in 2001.
Crouch handed the ball off to Thunder Collins from their own 36-yard line, who pitched it to Mike Stuntz going back across the field to the left, who threw it to a wide open Crouch, running it in to extend Nebraska’s lead over Oklahoma 20-10 in a No. 1 vs No. 2 matchup.
I also remember the 62-36 beatdown at Colorado a few weeks later. I begged for another shot at the title. Give us a chance.
Little did I understand that Miami was essentially a NFL team and was disappointed again with another heartbreak.
And the breaks just keep on coming.
One of, if not the only football game to make me cry actual tears, was the 2009 Big 12 championship game. We all know what happened.
Ndamukong Suh obliterated the entire Texas offense all night long. If only he wasn’t so good at his job, he might not have gotten to Colt McCoy so fast.
I’ll take it to my grave that there was 0:00 showing on that clock when McCoy’s pass went out of bounds.
How different the last eight years might have been if we win that conference championship over Texas.
Then the Huskers moved to the Big Ten, and what followed were shellackings to Wisconsin, beatdowns at the hands of Ohio State and the unfathomable losses to the likes of Northwestern, Purdue and even Northern Illinois.
I can’t understand what it must have felt like to watch one of the best teams in college football take the field. That 2001 team is as close as I can get.
I sent a text message during the fourth quarter from my south end zone photo perch with the Huskers clinging to a lead. It read, “I feel like a pre-2016 Cubs fan. I’m waiting for something bad to happen.”
Spoiler alert: something bad happened.
Nebraska was yards away from a field goal that would’ve increased the lead to 10 and all but sealed it up.
However, Nebraska tried to throw the ball around the yard and came up with nothing.
Northwestern scored as time ran out to send the game into overtime, leading to some more impressive stats.
Nebraska has played three overtime games in Mike Riley’s tenure. A win over Penn State in 2015, a loss to Wisconsin last year and now this loss to Northwestern.
The Huskers have run nine plays on offense in those games, not including fourth downs. They’ve gained zero yards. ZERO.
Where does the bleeding stop? What is it going to take to start winning the games we used to win?
I’ve sat through my fair share of Nebraska football games -- good and bad. One day, I hope to pen an article about the resurgence of the Huskers and how it means so much more after all these heartbreaks.
When will someday be today?
RICHARD RHODEN can be reached at sports@hamilton.net

 

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