You know the moment of which I speak. Fearless Leader described one of his own in his incredible pre-season piece today. While I'm not interested in trying to jump toward his level of prose (mainly because I have to save what little gift I've got for Sunday mornings), I am DEFINITELY interested in the moments that make for indelible memories. I'll share one of mine after the jump. Would love to see yours in the comments.
I was 9 years old on January 2, 1984, and had just become the epitome of a young man growing up in Nebraska. While I had known about Cornhusker football prior to that year, the combination of becoming an actual sports fan and the offensive lunacy of Mike Rozier, Irving Fryar and Turner Gill swept me up into the craziness of being a college football fanatic. We kicked something like four field goals all season that year, and the feeling was the Orange Bowl would be just another blowout on the way to Dr. Tom's first national title. As 9 year-old me discovered, however, life can sometimes be cruel.
I had no idea that Orange Bowl was the first of many "so close" moments over the next ten years. Four years of Barry Switzer and Sooner Magic from '84-'87. Losing at Colorado in '86. Whatever the hell happened in Ames in '92 (Marv Seiler is a Time Lord: I have no other explanation as to how the slowest option quarterback in history can run for 77yards on a third down triple option play). Worst of all, a seven year bowl losing streak by the time 1994 rolled around.
My mother often opined that we had no idea how we were spoiled growing up. She was right of course, but that doesn't make a lick of difference to a kid who's grieving yet another loss to Oklahoma, another bowl game where your heroes look sluggish and stupid against the prancing nancies of the South. Watching Tommie Frazier outplay Charlie Ward in the '94 Orange Bowl, only to lose when Byron Bennett hooked a field goal right at us in the Cornhusker Marching Band, was the epitome of everything the past eleven years had taught me: no matter how close we got, it wouldn't happen.
Until it did. And the moment I knew came in the middle of the 4th quarter the next year against Miami. Nebraska was down 17-9, and had been sputtering on offense under Brook Berringer. But the defense had started to bury Frank Costa, including a safety where Donta Jones steamrolled a freshman tackle and flattened Costa right in front of the band. Warren Sapp had been yapping less and less as the game rolled on, and as we looked out at the field during a TV timeout, I could see something good was about to happen: the entire Miami front seven were kneeling, taking oxygen and trying to recover, while on the other side of the ball the Nebraska offensive linemen were screaming, pounding each other on the back and getting more and more worked up.
Our section leader, "Kahuna," groaned: "We're going to lose to these motherfuckers AGAIN." I pointed to the field and said, "No - look at Sapp and those guys. They're done. We're gonna win this thing if we can hold the ball." And we did. Tommie Frazier re-entered the game and pulled off some magical option work. Cory Schlesinger ran the two most famous trap plays in Nebraska history. And in the end, Terry Connealy and the Blackshirts just kept pounding Frank Costa into the sand.
I can remember looking out at that scene like it was yesterday: the dingy white Hurricane uniforms, shoulders heaving, Brenden Stai and Zach Weigert slapping helmets, Tommie Frazier being utterly cool under pressure. I've never been so certain about an outcome without any basis in reality as I was when I saw that TV timeout. What's even better is it wasn't the last great moment of those incredible seasons - just the one I remember best.