Friday, December 13, 2002
Nebraska can win, but it won't be easy …
By Brent Musburger
Special to ABC Sports Online
Emotion (coupled with zero turnovers) is the most powerful and meaningful force in any level of football -- Pop Warner, high school, college or professional.
That's why Nebraska has a chance -- slim, but a chance nevertheless -- to shock the world and upset Miami in the Rose Bowl Presented by AT&T on Jan. 3 (ABC, 8 p.m. ET).
A victory would earn the Cornhuskers an everlasting corner in the BCS Computers' Hall of Fame. And perhaps the plaque honoring Nebraska should feature the dreaded blue screen of death. A loss by the Huskers would simply confirm what fans in 49 states and Puerto Rico believe anyway -- that the entire BCS system should be sent to the bottom of the nearest ocean.
Yes, sweet controversy. Nothing in sports sells quite like it. If you don't believe that, try to get a ticket to next year's Colorado-Nebraska game in Lincoln. Or the Florida-Florida State game in Tallahassee.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Back to Pasadena and the only unbeaten team still standing, the vaunted Miami Hurricanes. There is still this nagging doubt. These are the same Hurricanes who came within an immaculate kneecap of losing a game at Boston College. Instead, the 'Canes scored a late touchdown off the ricochet interception, and followed that up by blowing the tires off of Syracuse and Washington. Maybe these 'Canes are indeed Destiny's Darlings.
One thing is certain about this Miami team: The 'Canes will not step off the team plane in southern California wearing Army fatigues like they did back in 1987 when they traveled to the Arizona desert and lost a heartbreaker to Penn State for a national championship. That's when coach Jimmy Johnson kept ordering his quarterback, Vinny Testavarde, to throw the football because Jimmy didn't appreciate the fact that Testaverde was already in the advanced stages of color blindness.
The 'Canes' good ol' bag man in those days -- rapper Luther Campbell -- is still waiting for Alonzo Highsmith or Mel Bratton to carry the damn ball down close to the goal line. Instead, the aforementioned Testaverde tossed up turnover No. 7. End of game. Another title to JoePa. But I date myself.
Here's how Nebraska can make a fashion statement on Jan. 3 for Bib Overalls.
1. Show up at the Rose Bowl with someone other than QB Eric Crouch, the Heisman Trophy winner.
On the Friday after Thanksgiving, the Huskers proved conclusively against Colorado that tackling a ball carrier is completely foreign to this year's defense. Linebackers and safeties will appreciate the fact that they won't be arrested in California if they tackle a Miami running back before he reaches the end zone.
2. Hold onto the damn football. It's not that heavy.
Two critical fumbles against the Buffaloes helped doom the Huskers in the eyes of everyone except those who are blinded by computer screens.
3. Don't fall on your butt when it's fourth-and-1 at midfield.
As graceful as Crouch may be, his stumbling, bumbling slip on fourth-and-1 in the early stages of the Colorado massacre set up another 50-yard dive play by the Buffaloes.
Believe me, if Nebraska accomplishes all of the above, the Huskers have a chance to stay in the game against a team that is favored by 10 points.
But before all of you in Husker Nation decide to stop off in Las Vegas for a little rest and relaxation and easy money, here are two sobering thoughts which may save you from going bankrupt on the night of Jan. 3.
1. Miami running back Clinton Portis.
|Keyuo Craver will be tested in man-to-man coverage.|
He wears No. 28. He is every bit as good as Colorado's Chris Brown. In fact, he's faster. Surely, you remember Chris. He is still wiping corncobs off his thigh pads. I lost track, but I think he scored six times.
But back to Portis … He played high school ball in Gainesville, close by the watch of Steve Spurrier. Besides football, Portis was a track star. Every spring, he ran a leg of the 4 x 100 meter relay team. Oh yeah, I almost forgot. They set the Florida state record one day -- 40.8. He also high jumped 6-6 and long jumped 22-8. And if you like numbers, he averaged eight yards per carry on the gridiron.
To his everlasting regret, Spurrier thought Portis would make a dandy defensive back. Hello, Miami!
2. Safety Edward Reed.
He wears No. 20. As good as you thought Oklahoma's Roy Williams was that day in Lincoln, this kid Reed is every bit as good. He's now a senior, he's already earned his degree and I predict that starting next year, he'll be as good and tough as a safety you all remember in Lincoln -- a Chicago Bear by the name of Mike Brown.
But let's rewind to four years ago. Miami was playing UCLA, and the Bruins were driving towards a date in the national championship game against Tennessee. Reed, only a freshman, jarred the ball loose from a Bruin wide receiver and the 'Canes marched down the field for the winning touchdown.
This is also the same Edward Reed who stripped the ball from his own lineman and ran the distance for the clinching touchdown this fall against Boston College.
If I had to win one college football game, and I was drafting players from the current crop, Edward Reed would be the first player I select.
One final thought for all you Nebraska fans and players -- General George Armstrong Custer never received a second chance at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. You did. Now make the most of it. But like I said, this won't be easy.
Brent Musburger is a play-by-play announcer for ABC's coverage of college football. He writes a column every week for ABC Sports Online.
|Clinton Portis has been at his best during Miami's biggest games.|