On Saturday, November 10th, 2007, the "Game That Used to be Great" will take place in Lincoln, Neb. You remember that game. It gave us moments such as this...
Ahh, memory lane is a fun place.
But anyway, moving back to the present. I have no doubt that, in the next few days, Bill Callahan will actually be asked about the upcoming game this weekend, rather than his own job security. When he is asked such a left-field question, I predict we will hear something like this:
"We're developing a game plan to stop the pass rush of linebacker Antwon Moore. He's got some real quickness getting into the backfield, and we'll have to deal with that. Also, that big guy in the middle, uhh, Steve Cline, we'll have to work hard to move him around if we want to run. What was that? Huh? Really? They're both injured? Well, I guess it's back to the drawing board."
Most years I would say it is a disadvantage to go into Nebraska's Memorial Stadium to play a game. But this year, the home fans may hate their own players more than the other team. Well, maybe not. We are K-State, after all.
So anyway, later this week, the K-State football team will roll north on U.S.-77. At 11:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, the two teams will get together. Here is how I see it going...
Josh Freeman is heartily booed by most of the crowd as he takes the field for the first time in Memorial Stadium. However, a few Nebraska fans don't boo him, and actually make their way down to the field to pick up an autograph. While they're down near the field, they walk by the Huskers, as they feel it is their duty to remind those players that they have been so pathetic this year that they don't deserve to wear that illustrious "N" on the side of their helmets.
The only Husker player to survive such torment is now-starting quarterback Joe Ganz. In pregame drills, Ganz will throw for 200 yards, which is impressive, considering most of the snaps come from about the 20 yard line. Equally as impressive, he throws four interceptions to defenders who are merely walking through pre-game drills.
Both teams retire to the locker room for final instructions, only to reemerge and, for the first time in college football history, both teams are booed as they take the field.
Very much like last week, an orgy of points are scored early in this game. On the opening kickoff, James Johnson will fumble the ball and Nebraska will pick it up and run it in for a touchdown. On the ensuing kickoff, Johnson again receives--there is a strong wind such that stud kicker Adi Kunalic is not able to boot touchbacks--but this time romps 94 yards, untouched, for the tying score. After 20 seconds, the score is tied, 7-7.
For the rest of the quarter, the teams trade possessions, and scores. When K-State has the ball, Freeman throws to Jordy Nelson on every passing play, because he is covered by one of Nebraska's fourth-string linebackers. In a classic example of Nebraska defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove's 'bend-but-don't-break' scheme, Cosgrove considers it sufficient to allow Nelson to catch the ball as long as there are two players standing right next to him, ready to make the immediate tackle. Sometimes his players execute the tackle, and sometimes they don't. Nelson finishes the first quarter with 13 receptions for 190 yards. Not-so-mysteriously, however, K-State is forced to settle for field goals every trip down the field, scoring only 22 points (kickoff return TD plus five field goals) in the quarter.
On the other side, Nebraska finds it is very easy to run the ball. With Cline out, K-State's front three averages about 240 pounds, meaning Josh Freeman may become an option at nose tackle. Marlon Lucky, Quentin Castille and Roy Helu gash the K-State defense for 210 rushing yards in the first quarter, contributing to two Husker touchdowns. At the end of the quarter, the score stands at K-State 22, Nebraska 21. The home crowd finds itself placated, and momentarily leaves its own players alone.
For K-State, the second quarter brings more of the same: lots of completed passes to Jordy Nelson, lots of field goals. In the middle of the second quarter, on his eighth field-goal attempt of the day, kicker Brooks Rossman strains a leg muscle and is unable to continue playing. That's okay, though, because it allows Ron Prince to go for it on every fourth-down play in the red zone. At one point, Prince pulls out the wide receiver-pass play, and Jordy Nelson throws his third touchdown pass of the season. On the sideline, Cosgrove slaps his head and screams, "I can't believe Prince ran that play! I'd have figured after running it 47 times this season, he'd never figure it would work again!" A fan passing by the Nebraska sideline hurls a box of Valentino's pizza at Cosgrove's noggin, narrowly missing.
Meanwhile, the Huskers move away from running the ball on offense as Bill Callahan grows increasingly impatient with the slow pace of scoring only once every three plays, and can't believe his offense is only averaging 22.5 yards per carry. Plus, he feels like he's "preparing Ganz for next year" as he firmly believes he will still be the Husker coach in 2008. While the pass-happy approach has moderate success, producing a touchdown and a field goal, it also results in an interception and many vicious hits on Ganz, some of which are actually be legal.
The crowd starts to grow restless with the newfangled passing attack, but the Huskers score just enough to keep the masses at bay. At halftime, the score stands at K-State 39, Nebraska 31.
Fans of both teams break out their flasks, and realize that they didn't bring nearly enough booze to get through the game.
The K-State offense begins to look thoroughly inept as the Husker defenders finally start to realize that Josh Freeman doesn't even look at his other receivers on the field. Pretty soon, Nebraska's players, against Cosgrove's orders, start rushing two, and the other nine players chase Nelson around the field. This results in two interceptions--which lead directly to points--but also results in two touchdowns for K-State, as passes into the masses around Nelson are tipped and Deon Murphy happens to run by at an opportune time and takes them in for scores. It could have been three touchdowns, but Murphy drops one of them. Those are the only points scored by the Wildcat offense in the quarter, because they continue the proud tradition of getting stuffed at the opponent's five yard line.
Late in the quarter, the home crowd starts to come apart at the seams. Callahan continues with the pass-heavy attack, believing his team is falling behind and must throw to catch up, despite still averaging more than 20 yards per carry rushing the ball. It all comes to a head late in the quarter when, on consecutive possessions, Callahan has Ganz drop back into his own end zone and throws swing passes. K-State defenders throw the receiver for a safety both times. Approximately 5,000 people have gathered behind the Husker bench to unkindly remind their players that they don't deserve to have an "N" on the side of their helmets. Maurice Purify has to be physically restrained from attacking particularly abusive Alpha Tau Omega.
After three, it's K-State 57, Nebraska 52.
On K-State's first drive of the final stanza, Josh Freeman connects with Deon Murphy for a 45-yard touchdown pass. The Husker players have continued to blanket Nelson, and Freeman, while turning to avoid the pass rush, has to take his eyes off Nelson for a second, and when he looks back up, sees Murphy standing all by himself on the far corner of the field.
As Murphy goes in for the touchdown, Freeman makes a kissing motion with his hand and then slaps his hindquarters while looking at Bill Callahan, giving him the classic "kiss-my-pitoot" sign. Just as he does so, the Nebraska fans rush the field, and the TV and radio announcers are sure that they are going after Freeman, thinking he made the gesture at them. However, they run right past Freeman--one stops to ask for his autograph--and proceed toward Cosgrove. The red horde has finally had enough bad defense. Callahan manages to avoid the initial scrum and runs for the fence behind his players' bench. Once he gets there, he makes a throat-slashing gesture, trying to get the fans to stop and leave his friend "Coz" alone. When that fails, he loses his cool and screams, "You're all a bunch of f*cking hillbillies! You all need to get a f*cking life! This is the dumbest team I've ever had, and I used to coach in OAKLAND! I hate you all and I hate that crusty old f*ck that used to coach here! I'm going back to California to get away from you goddamned farmers!"
Needless to say, Callahan does not make it back to California.
In the aftermath, the game is declared a forfeit as the field is unusable after the melee. Ron Prince comments after the game that it was a great win for his program, and has contributed to their "callousness" for going into tough environments.