Fire – now that’s a word that has been thrown around a lot this year in the literal sense. Blazes ranging from California to Colorado. Forests and fields evaporating in clouds of smoke and ashes. No, not even Husker Country has been immune. Sometimes life has a way of bringing challenges that require preparation and patience to recover from.
There is another kind of fire that is much more welcome, especially here in Husker Nation. It’s the kind of fire that burns in the belly of every Big Red fan from the time the sun comes up every morning on Saturday in the fall and spreads like a wild blaze across the state until kickoff that afternoon. It burns brightly for roughly 3 hours, and sometimes depending on the result of the day, long into the night.
Today brings another Saturday in September for the Cornhuskers, and it comes along with the Idaho State Bengals. A scrimmage. A laugher. A Big Red scoring bonanza with the third string playing in the third quarter. One can almost feel the post-game printing press firing up already. There’s really no need for the crowd to bring its loudest roar for this one, right? The funny thing is, I thought the same thing a few years back when I took my seat at Memorial Stadium. The cupcake, scoring bonanza opponent at that time was South Dakota State.
First was the pride. Then the roughly 80,000 or so strong of a groaning unison began. Looks of shock soon followed. The crowd did eventually rise to the occasion during crunch time, and finally a collective “phew” when the Huskers luckily slipped away with a win.
The point is that Idaho State is going to bring every drop of sweat, tears, and blood onto this field today. A smaller school doesn’t mean lesser pride, even if this game does turn out to be just a nice paycheck for the university. You don’t have to take my word for it, just ask Arkansas if UL-Monroe didn’t look like a mild speed bump on the way to the Alabama matchup the same as this one does to the path to Wisconsin. While beating Nebraska won’t bring Idaho State any closer to a BCS bid, the rush of that victory will far surpass that. What David doesn’t like sizing up a Goliath?
Last week against Arkansas State, when the team needed it most in Bo’s absence, the coaching staff brought fire. The team responded to that fire after a turnover on the 15-yard line. 3 and out. Not a single yard gained. After that series, Memorial Stadium captured the full blaze, and noise came spilling out of the television as I was jumping around as wildly as Papuchis. It wasn’t a 57-yard field goal by Alex Henery, nor was it a game winning touchdown by Burkhead to cap a 28-point comeback. It was just a simple defensive stop, but it was a stop full of emotion and tenacity that filled that whole stadium for the first time all day.
Emotion that I felt was missing in the first half. After a 4th down stop, and a touchdown on the next drive, I saw fans in the stadium with scowls so tight you would have thought their brand new vehicle had been keyed in the parking lot. It’s one thing if it’s one or two people, you can’t please everyone, but there weren’t enough collective fingers and toes in the room I was sitting in to measure the amount I witnessed. I honestly couldn’t understand it. Maybe it was different at the stadium, or the ESPN cameras caught a bad angle, but I don’t think my eyes were deceiving me. That and the rumors of booing our own players. In the age of technology and fast media, that can’t be attractive to high-calibur recruits, can it? I’m hoping it’s just rumors, but I digress.
This may sound familiar, but every week before the game I write about “what I’d like to see”. Almost always it’s about the team. What I’d like to see from the offense, defense, special teams, etc. Four weeks into the season now, that’s a given. This week, I’d like to change it up. This week I’m calling out to Husker Nation. I will be attending this game, just like South Dakota State, except this time I plan on bringing the noise. Bringing the fire. That’s what I’d like to see. A Husker Nation that is as proud of this team as they should be no matter whom the opponent may be, because this team has shown a fiery work ethic that deserves credit and recognition.
There’s been a lot of chatter this year that Bo’s shine is starting to wear off. That maybe it’s time to bring a more experienced coach. Well, I’m sure there are many coaches who could bring Nebraska to the top like Husker fans are starving for. However, the volunteers may dwindle when a 10-win per season application isn’t good enough. Bo is doing extremely well for zero previous head coaching experience. I recall it taking a certain Tom Osborne more than 4 years to bring home a national championship.
Sometimes this sport has a way of bringing challenges that require preparation and patience for a team to rise above. The smoke has cleared and the ashes have been cleaned up since 2007, but rebuilding takes time. This isn’t meant as a scorn against a fan base that I’m proudly a part of, but as the Greatest Fans in College Football, we are part of the team and are just as responsible for Nebraska’s success as the coaches and players are. You want the Blackshirts to show more emotion? Lend them some. This is Nebraska, where football is a way of life. There’s plenty of emotion to spare.
Let’s bring the heat.
By Tyler Wanek
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