If you were new to town, maybe dropped in from outer space, and were to have walked into Memorial Stadium last Saturday morning and look around you’d have sworn a winner played there. A big winner. A national championship contender, maybe even the intergalactic championship contender.
Which, if you were from outer space would probably matter a great deal to you.
It’s all still there. The impressive stadium, filled to the rafters and beyond, all the markers of past greatness including the retired numbers of great players, a display honoring past conference champions, the ongoing attendance sellout streak and even the academic all-America count up.
If you looked at the Saturday paper, or even better yet the Sunday paper, you would see pages of coverage of the football team housed in Memorial Stadium. And if you didn’t read the actual words you’d think, man, these guys cover a winner. Maybe the intergalactic champions someday.
As for the Grey Lady of Vine Street all looks the same, except for the continuing added seating (cha-ching!), as it did in 1971 or 1995. What’s different is the team on the field and the coaching and administration of the program. That has changed dramatically.
It’s frustrating because we are talking about college-aged kids on the football team and you know, for the most part, they always give their best effort. And many of these kids are Nebraska natives and within that group are several Huskerland kids, players I interviewed during their high school days. These are kids I pull for, both as football players and people. Watching them be part of this struggle, and on such a public stage, is painful.
That said, is this the most talented Nebraska team of all time? Hardly. Is it good enough to not get embarrassed by a program like Northern Illinois. I thought so. But maybe I expect too much. You too.
After all, the Huskers are now 3-6 in their last nine games and could easily be 2-7 or worse. Last Saturday’s performance was the worst I can ever remember witnessing in my time following the Huskers; that doesn’t mean they haven’t gotten whipped before but when it happened it was by an Oklahoma or Miami or a program of that standing, not Northern Illinois, for goodness sakes.
Speaking for myself I don’t expect the Huskers to win the national, nor intergalactic, championship every season. But playing good football, winning the games the program should win and beating some teams that might seem to have the upper hand, that seems a minimum requirement for a program of this one’s (fading) stature. None of that seems likely for the rest of 2017 and maybe even beyond that.
There are problems aplenty surrounding the Huskers football program, from the athletic director to the head coach to the assistants to the players. It’s hard to know where to start (the offensive line play seems a good candidate, though) but the bottom line is Nebraska football ain’t what she used to be. And you wonder where the bottom lies because the situation won’t fix itself this season.
Four wins? Could Nebraska be looking at a four-win season? Do some quick math, it’s scary how real that possibility seems as of today. When the fan base is sitting here hoping the Huskers can find a way to beat Rutgers at home you know things are bad, no matter what galaxy you are from.