“Not the victory but the action: Not the goal but the game: In the deed the glory”.
We flew out to Omaha last weekend for a Labor Day family gathering. It was a sweet way to spend the last muggy days of summer. It was also an amazing opportunity to witness the dawn of a new era in Cornhuskers football.
Given head coach Mike Riley’s connection to Oregon, and Nebraska’s opponent on opening day—BYU for the first time in school history—it was simply too epic a game to pass up. We had to be there!
As we parked the car and started to amble lazily toward Memorial Stadium, the heat was oppressive. My aunt and uncle from Texas and my mom from Florida were handling it just fine, but we don’t do 93 degrees and humid in Oregon.
Thankfully, our seats ended up being directly underneath the luxury suites, and therefore in the shade throughout. Had the seats been 20 rows closer to the field, our view would have been remarkably improved, but I’m not sure we would have traded it for the direct heat of the sun.
The game was closely fought, with dramatic momentum swings. There were plenty of bad calls, bad decisions, botched kicks, missed tackles and more. There was also a team finding its way under new coaches and many new starters. I was confident going in that no matter what happened on the field, Nebraska would keep its composure—something the team could not do for 11 years. I have to say the mood was somewhat somber, down by 10 to BYU at the half as we were. Nervousness was in the air, along with a hot stiff Great Plains wind.
What happened next pleased me. The Huskers reeled off 14 unanswered points to take the lead. The game was ours to win, and a win looked promising as we drove the ball toward the North end zone with the clock expiring in the 4th. Sadly, we failed to get a crucial first down on that last drive.
BYU has always been a quarterback school, and it’s a QB school now. That their second string QB (recently returned from a LDS mission in Chile) would throw a “Hail Mary” pass into the end zone with one second left on the clock and deliver the game to the Cougars, was too improbable to seriously contemplate. That’s why I couldn’t quickly compute the real ending of the game. I saw the 6’6″ monster catch the ball and fall backward into the end zone. But it didn’t make sense that BYU could do this, to Nebraska, on this day, in Lincoln.
How do we move on from the punch in the gut that the “boys” from Provo delivered? Personally, I believe in Mike Riley’s leadership and coaching ability. I saw things from the Huskers last Saturday that I have not seen in a long time. Riley is calm, cool and collected, and he’s intensely focused on winning. He’s actually the perfect mirror for Nebraskans. We’re also relatively calm, cool and collected and intensely focused on winning.