“The player development is the main thing I like (about Michigan),” Williams said. “You can see that they develop their players. They get them in the gym and they work them hard. And their hard work pays off.”
In the last 5 years, I've made it to every Big Ten school (and ND) for an away Michigan Football game. As you’ll see, the Nebraska trip was quite unique. I hope Nebraska fans that visit Ann Arbor leave with an equally positive experience when they visit us.
Putting aside the Wolverines for a moment, the Nebraska football community is no doubt the most prideful, classy, hospitable and kind (in my observation anyway) of all B1G teams. While they don't have a decades-long history of matchups with other B1G football programs, I don't think they would change much if they did. They would still be a great example of how a fanbase is supposed to support its football program and welcome visiting fans.
Below are examples of how they do things:
- Checking in to the hotel (Fairfield Inn – not fancy), the hotel manager offered to give us his number in case we got lost while exploring downtown Lincoln. (Come On Man, I Have A Smartphone)
- Friday night, while at dinner, several groups of people stopped at our table, welcoming us to Lincoln and wishing us luck the next day for the game.
- After dinner, at a campus bar, students went out of their way to welcome us to Lincoln and say "Good luck tomorrow" with a smile. (This is when I start thinking Where Am I?)
- On the walk back to the hotel Friday night, a group of ladies stopped us on the sidewalk and said greeting visiting fans is always a highlight for them and it is "like seeing a celebrity". (Now thinking: Is This Just A Well-Executed Prank?)
- Saturday before the game, we walked all around the stadium and nearby tailgates for about 7 hours. This part deserves sub-bullets:
o About 75% of tailgate parties we walked by asked us to stop and chat with them. 50% offered us food or beverage.
o One tailgate we decided to stop at was run by Tommie Frazier. Yes that Tommie Frazier. His name is on the stadium. Not knowing who he was (all he said was "I used to play here"), we talked to him for about 15 minutes, discussing the ongoing stadium renovations, where various campus/athletic buildings were located, where the best tailgates are, etc. The only reason I know that he wasn't just another guy with a tailgate is because as we were saying goodbye, the Nebraska gymnastics coach walked up and said Tommie's name aloud.
o Another tailgate lot we walked through had all the party buses and RVs in it. A converted school bus stood out as a great piece of fandom and as we were walking by, the door flung open and we were invited inside to drink beer and watch the early games. We sat there for about an hour, totally spontaneously, and shared stories about how both teams think they would have demolished the other if they had played against each other in 1997.
o The last tailgate lot we walked through ended up being about a 3 hour stop. Our plans to go to a bar for pregame dinner were abandoned. One guy demanded we have a blue jello shot with him from the batch that he made in honor of Michigan. A few parking spots away we did several shot-skis. We accepted invitations to eat food from several different grills and slowcookers. All the discussions taking place in these three hours were about football and beer. No taunting or yelling or animosity or complaining of any kind. I never heard a negative remark about either team or their corresponding players. I was in a sea of red and I wanted more. (Is This Real Life?)
- During the game, a Nebraska fan sitting opposite the aisle from us bought us a Runza (a baked pastry filled with meat) from the vendor walking the aisles (yes they have those). He didn't speak a word to us the whole game except when he said "Welcome to Lincoln, this [Runza] is for you" while indicating it was a local delicacy of sorts. It was delicious. (I Didn't Know I Wanted That, But He Did)
- After the game, our section was among the last to file out due to the gate location, and the Nebraska fans walking down the steps with us were interested to know if we enjoyed our time in their city despite the ugly game. We said yes, and they wished us safe travels home.
It got to the point where the sincerity and hospitality were equal parts overwhelming and humbling. I highly recommend you visit this place. I'm still wondering if everybody that visits has such a great experience or if I was just lucky. Either way, this is how Football Saturday should be. I'll likely cheer for Nebraska whenever doing so doesn't conflict with cheering interests that are advantageous for Michigan.
Brian's alter-ego/literary device paid me a visit prior to the game. Here's a transcript of our discussion.
Who do we play this week?
The corn guys, from out west.
You mean Iowa?
No, the other corn team, the one that wears red and white and is famous for their huge offensive lines.
Oh, Wisconsin. Gotcha.
No, no, NU.
The team that recently joined the conference.
Oh yeah, we are Penn Shhhtate.
No, think of the other one, that has a less than stellar academic reputation.
Of course, Michigan State!
No, the guys with the black shirt defense.
I give up.
So the point of all that is it's my way of saying that we are still learning about Nebraska. Obviously, there is the corn. The telecast showed us one of their mascot things making corn angels (like snow angels, but with corn) and wandering through a corn maze.* It's quite obvious why Nebraskans are so taken with Nebraska football, it's because that is their only respite from all that corn.
Growing up, I learned about all the great football rivalries, with Michigan-Ohio State topping them all. Nebraska-Oklahoma was next, right up there with USC-UCLA and Auburn-Alabama. Then, the Big 8 became the Big 12 and they tried to start a new rivalry with Colorado. That didn't work out because Colorado is a tire fire. Nebraska then joined the Big 10 and were rivalried up with Iowa (corn vs. corn! It's cornageddon!)
But you can't force a rivalry. Our biggest rival is Ohio State because of Bo and Woody, and all the history of The Game. However, after two seasons of Nebraska being in the B1G, it's becoming apparent to me at least, that you can add Nebraska to a list that includes Ohio State, MSU, ND, and, in their own minds at least, Illinois. Our division is going to come down to us vs. Nebraska more times than not, if past is prelude. And that means, prepare yourself for another rivalry game.
* Sparties have a bumper sticker that reads, "You call it maize, we call it corn." With Nebraska, it reads, "You call it maize, we call it our entire life." If you will,
Nebraskans: corn :: Native Americans: buffalo.
It's that time of year when people watch horror flicks, like Friday the 13th, Halloween, and Children of the Corn. In that spirit, I present to you another horror flick.
Burst of Impetus
* So we've got this quarterback who is pretty good, maybe you've heard of him, Denard Robinson. Well, he got hurt. Game over.
* Except it wasn't game over if someone could have stepped up and made a play. Returned a kick, made a pick-six, caused a FF on a sack, or just caught a pass from Bellomy, anything. It seems like when Denard went out, the air went out of the bubble.
* 21 players registered in the defensive stats, lead by Kenny Demens with 10 tackles.
* After taking the last two weeks off, Gordon and Kovacs were back in the top 5 for tackles.
* We had 6 TFLs after not getting any against STAEE. Roh definitively proved that he cannot be blocked by a RB, as he picked up the running back, carried him to the QB and sacked both players.
* We had zero QHs. Note to self: Must get MOAR PASS RUSH.
* Dare I say it, Jake Ryan appeared human, with almost as many missed tackles as tackles.
* Denard was on pace for a nice day, 10 carries for 46 yards and 6 of 11 passing for 55.
* In times of trouble, I try to find the silver lining. Bellomy did hit some receivers in their hands, but no one stepped up to help him out. And then he panicked and all heck broke loose. The less said the better.
Bunches of Funchess
* If Gardner is going to continue running backwards and not jumping for jump balls, and Denard is battling some on-going arm issue, it's about time to move Devin back to QB.
* Funchess nor Dileo caught a pass.
* Bellomy threw a pass a little behind Funchess. Another foot to the right and the Belches era* would have started with a TD pass. Instead, all we got was this:
And Justice for Rawls
* For the 2nd week in a row, no Rawls or Hayes. Perhaps I broke this out a season too early.
* Fitz had what is now, unfortunately, his routine day, 15 carries for 38 yards and a long of 9.
* Gallon had a few end arounds for 17 yards.
Norf and Souf
* Gallon doinked a punt return off his helmet, which caused us to start a drive at our own 1. It was a line drive punt, so if he just lets it go, it likely is a touchback.
* Wile missed a 53 yarder, so Gibbons got the next shot at 52 yards. I thought we learned that his range was only 44 yards. Gibbons is the man.
* NU was penalized 8 times for 104 yards. We were hit with only 3 for 44, and yet, I think that was a horribly officiated and replay officiated game.
* Roy Roundtree caught a 55 yard pass that was overruled. I did not see a conclusive replay showing the ball wobbling when it hit the ground.
* But even if Roy's catch was not a catch, by that standard how in hell was Bellomy's first INT not overruled? If the refs are correct, I'm supposed to believe that the ball hit Vincent Smith's hands which are apparently made of stone, causing the ball to deflect six feet in the air? I mean, there's no chance that ball hit the turf? None?
* Last week I complained about the refs not calling pass interference. Forget I said anything. In this game, if you looked cross-eyed at a WR it cost you 15 yards.
* I will credit the refs with nailing Neb twice for helmet shots. One was so egregious that it ripped the N off the NU player's helmet (but according to him, he hit the WR with his shoulder pad.)
I’ll Take Bullets for a Thousand, Alex
* As bad as we played, the first downs were close, 20-18 in favor of Nebraska. Of course, 6 of our first downs came from Nebraska penalties.
* Nebraska's 20 1st downs translated to 326 total yards, we managed 188 total yards. At least we were efficient with our first downs. Why get 20 or 30 yards when you only need 10?
* We won the TOP, 31:36 to 28:24. Yippee. We did control the clock early, and I was expecting that to pay off in the fourth quarter when we should have been able to grind down their defense, but then, you know, Denard got hurt.
* H/T my brother, who really should be writing this instead of me.
Nebraska LB Zaire Anderson tore his ACL and is out for the season. He was one of Nebraska's highly touted JUCOs and was supposed to fill the void at LB after Lavonte David graduated. This coupled with sudden departure of DT Chase Rome raises some question marks for the Huskers on defense.
From the Ed-S-itor: Some of you may have noticed the new ad on the top of the site:
(Don't be fooled by this size; in real life, it's really big!)
Meet the latest sponsor of MGoBlog, Sports Power Weekends. What they do is put together group travel for Michigan's away games (Dallas, Notre Dame, Nebraska, etc.) So instead of doing the driving and the booking and the ticket scrounging you just give these guys about what you'd pay for all of that anyway and they do it for you. They have a limited number of spots based on how many tickets and bus seats there are.
I have images in my mind of busloads of MGoBloggers singing "The Victors" all the way to Sound Bend. I have to take the family caravan to that one, but I'm gonna try to meet up with the bus at some point.
Their message is below. And yes, it's not too late to be
in there for Alabama in one month (ONE MONTH! EEEEEE!!!!!) -S