NU-OU, A Rivalry Renewed
As I was watching the Nebraska-Oklahoma game from South Stadium last Saturday, I noticed Memorial Stadium had a very different feel to it. There were a couple of reasons for this, 1) Oklahoma was in town, and for Nebraska fans this is our true rival, and 2) there were about 3,000 active military personnel and countless other veterans in the stadium to celebrate Veterans Day Weekend.
Had you told me, going into the season that when NU-OU played that each would be 5-3 and struggling to regain legitimacy in a season that started with each having such high aspirations, I would’ve thought you were crazy. Nebraska had slumped in October in year 2 of the Pelini Era much like they did in year 1, losing to Texas Tech and Iowa State at home. OU had an injury plagued September and had never fully recovered, not only losing star players like Sam Bradford and Jermaine Gresham, but also losing to BYU, Miami, and Texas. This was not the dream match-up that most fans predicted.
Then game-time came, and if you were in the stadium, it felt different. There was not the nervous energy that I felt before big games like USC and Virginia Tech. There was a general feeling of respect towards OU, but also a sense in the stands that this game could make or break the 2009 season. There were 4 games when I was a student that matched the intensity of the crowd last Saturday: 1) USC, 2007- the loudest I have ever heard Memorial Stadium, 2) 2006, Texas- unbelievably loud the entire game, 3) 2008, CU- after Alex Henery’s record field goal, and 4) 2008, Virginia Tech- first big game of the Pelini Era. Now, I would say the 2009 OU game moves into 3rd place for me. The crowd brought the noise every single play of the game for the first time in a long time, and Bo definitely took notice.
“That crowd is always good, but the stadium just didn’t have that juice,” Pelini said. “I felt an extra bit of juice in that stadium on Saturday night. You could feel it. Sometimes I don’t think the crowd realizes how big an impact they can have on a football team and the whole aura of what’s going on and give us that extra juice. You go into a game and sometimes the crowd feels like they should win this game and sometimes you feel that.”
With the crowd rocking the 86 year foundation of Memorial Stadium, the defense went to work. Everyone knew this would be a defensive game on both sides, but this was OLD SCHOOL football. This game was won in the trenches. The Blackshirts played the best overall game I have seen them play since 2001, when then No. 2 Nebraska beat then No. 1 OU. It was magical to see the defense working together. With that, the Nick Verlaney game-ball of the week goes to fellow Bellevue East grad, Matt O’Hanlon. His 3 interceptions tied the school record along with 12 tackles led the Blackshirts against a very potent OU attack. This game was one that the 1923 team, who knew what it was like to fight in some of WWI’s greatest trenches, would have been proud of. Both defenses did not relent all game. Both O-lines got beat up. Both coaches strategized. Classic stuff, right? Absolutely. And a HUGE win for Bo Pelini, whos team got walloped by the very same team last year 62-28. Is Nebraska “back” because of this win? No. We will not be “back” for a couple of years, but what you see in front of your very eyes is a foundation that is now fully built. To take a defense with mostly inexperienced players and players from the worst defense in Nebraska history and make these “misfits” play an almost flawless game is unheard of. Not to mention taking them from being ranked 111th in total Defense to 11th is absurd. #2 scoring defense behind Florida. Not one win or loss does a season make, but beating OU or Texas is always a big statement win….lets see what unfolds.
Fun fact: Nebraska is the only school to have won the Nagurski Defensive Player of the Week 3 times in one season: Suh, Crick, O’Hanlon.
Fun fact 2: 1998 was the last time OU failed to score a touchdown.
Time to address Veterans Day. First off, please tell those active service members and veterans thank you, not only today, but anytime you see them. They are real, everyday heroes, and should be respected and honored like it (how Vietnam Vets are treated with disrespect is beyond me, but I digress). I know countless people that are close friends or family of mine that are active or vets, and I cant tell you how proud of them I am of the way they carry themselves every day.
Please say a prayer or send a good thought to those currently fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Bush White House sent these guys into a war they did not understand and now we are forced to liberate 2 unstable nations on the brink of collapse. Unfortunate, yes. But you will not hear any of these heroes complain, they are selfless men and women of honor, who are in this for as long as it takes to leave that part of the world a better place. If they succeed, mark it down as one of the great upsets in the history of the world. Not even Alexander the Great could conquer present day Middle East…..its like trying to fight in Russia during the winter, many have tried and failed. Fortunately, people like Missouri Senator Kit Bond are advocating “Smart Power” to help the soldiers gain an upper hand. Again, everyone has their views on the war and politics, but at some point we have to give the soldiers the means to fight an effective war.
Memorial Stadium was named in honor of all those Nebraskans who have died in our Nations Wars. One facade reads: “Their Lives they held their countrys trust; They kept its faith; They died its heroes.”
The most famous inscription on the stadium reads: “Not the victory but the action; Not the goal but the game; In the deed the glory.” The troops who were present for the OU game last Saturday lived up to both of those inscriptions.
God Bless our Troops. (check out this video!)
Video of the week comes from Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCaTpFwcC9o