As hate week continues to slowly drudge on, I thought I would try something different. As many of you know, I spend most of my days and online time, firing back at idiots and morons as they bombard my ears, cell phone and e-mail box with propaganda that would make Joseph Goebbels roll his eyes. However, instead of bashing the defenseless and ignorant, I thought I’d try the opposite approach this season. But where the hell do you find rational Husker fan right in the middle of the asylum? This is often as easy living in Nebraska as it is trying to find a PETA member at a Glen Beck book signing.
Since I couldn’t find anybody remotely close to fitting that description, I went to the next best thing. For my own sanity, I had to find out just why in the hell Husker fans would be so confident this week, after really accomplishing nothing but a spectacular choke job this season. I wanted to see if I could figure out the reasoning as to just why a fan base isn’t “scared at all” of playing in Columbia this Thursday, even though their team has been outscored by nearly 23 points per game over the past 3 trips. I wanted to see just how in the hell a fan base could be so delusional, so completely removed from reality they they’ve completely removed themselves from reality, less than two seasons removed from a spectacular nuclear destruction.
I need to warn you now. What you are about to read is scary and disturbing. The words on your screen were not doctored by me in any way, and the content is solely the pot-fueled dementia of those who spoke it. If men who can actually put thoughts together and write with thought and proper grammar can say things like this…just imagine what the average toothless yokel sounds like who I deal with every day.
Seriously, a big thanks to Mike and the guys over at Corn Nation for taking the time to answer my questions. Remember kids....these are these sane ones.
Q – I’ve heard from a lot of Husker fans that this game “means more to Missouri” than it does to Nebraska. Given Missouri’s recent success over the past couple years…in blowout fashion, do you feel this truly the case? Just how big of a game is this to Nebraska?
JLew: I don't feel that this game means more to Missouri than it does to Nebraska. I think last year with Missouri trying to end the losing streak it meant more to them than NU, but this year with MU, NU, and KU trying to win the North this game means the same to both teams. This is MU's chance to show that they are for real though. Illinios really has not looked too impressive, and the games against Bowling Green and Nevada were closer than I think you'd want. Nebraska has an idea of where it's at based on how it played against VaTech. Some things to work on, but they did some very good things against a pretty good team in a very hostile environment.
Husker Mike: I don't know about that; I think it means about equal to both teams. If Mizzou wins, that shows that 2007 and 2008 weren't just the result of a freakish coincidence between recruiting luck by Gary Pinkel and Nebraska sucked courtesy of Bill Callahan. If Nebraska wins, it's the next step on the road to relevance.
Q – Most Missouri fans have only seen Zach Robinson uhhh...Lee, one time on TV against Va Tech, and he was extremely erratic. Granted it was a great Hokies defense, but why should Mizzou fans be concerned?
JLew: You'd better not underestimate him. Strongest arm that NU has had, or probably will have for quite some time. He got rattled in Blacksburg, but we can hope he has learned from that experience. I think he'll be better in Columbia, Blacksburg is a much tougher environment, first road start, very tough defense to go against. He brings in a 65% completion rate, has managed to not make the big mistake, his 2 INTs against the Hokies didn't cost NU the game, the last one was an end of the game one.
Husker Mike: Did you see how Jacory Harris did against that Hokie defense? Let's be honest, Zac Lee didn't play well in Blacksburg, but it was his first road start. If you think that the Tiger defense is just as good as Virginia Tech's, then I wouldn't be the least bit worried about Zac Lee. (Mostly because you've got MUCH bigger problems than that.)
Q – That being said, do you feel Cody Green should be a more active part of the offense? Or is he just not ready yet?
CornBlight: He’s not ready. He could perhaps run some zone read, limited plays, but he’s not capable of running the full offense and won’t be this year.
JLew: No. He'll be allowed to play more as he learns the offense. It's Lee's team. NU does not need a QB controversy, nor should it have one.
Husker Mike: Absolutely not. Green has looked dynamite at times in garbage time against lower level competition. But he's also mishandled snaps and misread plays. When he's ready, he might see some action, but for now, he's still learning, and the risk of putting him in is much higher than the reward.
Q – Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Mizzou is going to try and put 53 (or more) guys in the box to try and shut down Roy Helu. Despite the focus, is Helu still the key to a Husker victory?
CornBlight: He may not be THE key, but he’s a big key. Helu has been beautiful to watch this season. He’s been elusive, explosive and more than Husker fans could expect. If Missouri can stop the running game, things certainly get much more interesting.
JLew: The key? I don't think so. The Nebraska offense has been very balanced in it's attack. I think that if MU takes away the running game, then it's up to the WRs and Lee to make plays. Ark St and Louisiana Lafayetee both tried to load up the box, so it's not like this is a new problem.
Husker Mike: Good luck with that. The Sun Belt teams tried that, and Zac Lee hurt them badly in the passing game. Granted, Mizzou's defense should be better than those defenses. If anything, you might consider trying to shut down the passing game and hope that Helu can't carry the load the whole game.
Q – A lot of Husker fans have completely written off Mizzou’s home field advantage, mostly due to the Huskers’ performance at a hostile Lane Stadium in Blacksburg. Do you feel the venom and noise of the crowd will have any impact on the outcome, considering it’s an 8:15 start?
CornBlight: The Huskers have struggled with false start and procedure penalties since the start of the season. They should have those issues cleaned up, especially after the noise level at Virginia Tech. I don’t expect that crowd noise will be an issue, but that’s a little simple, isn’t it?
JLew: How much of the crowd will be passed out from moonshine, and how many will be out hunting raccoon or opossums? NU knows what it's like to play in front of a hostile crowd, against a ranked team, on national TV. Will the home crowd help? Probably, but it's not like NU's worried about the crowd in this game. If NU can start fast, or if Missouri continues to start slow, I'm wondering how long the crowd will even stay in the game. These are the same fans that couldn't be bothered to show up for the B12 title game last year, which was in Kansas City. Not a real devote following, and it will not compare to what NU has seen already.
Husker Mike: Hate to break it to you, but Faurot Field doesn't show up on anybody's list of tough places to play. Yeah, Tiger fans will be yelling and screaming their hearts out, but with the track and berms adding extra space between the stands and the field, it won't be louder than Blacksburg.
Q – One matchup getting very little attention is Missouri’s receivers against a young and banged up Husker defensive backfield. Carl Pelini will obviously want to rattle and rush Blaine Gabbert…leaving DB’s potentially on an island. How concerned should Carl be of Gabbert’s arm and the big play threat of Danario Alexander and Jerrod Perry?
CornBlight: Husker defensive backs are playing very well, one blown play at Virginia Tech withstanding. I don’t think leaving our cornerbacks in man-to-man is that big a concern, because it will allow more pressure on Gabbert – see the next answer.
JLew: Banged up? We lost Thenarse who wasn't going to play much anyway. The bye week comes at a good time, so unless someone is hurt more than I expect the secondary will be fine. I would also look for Nu to try and generate pressure using only it's front 4. NU should be able to control what little running game Missouri will try, and if they can get to Gabbert with only the front 4, it will be a long day for him.
Husker Mike: From what I've heard, Larry Asante should be fine, so I'm not sure which starter is "banged up". But yes, Danario Alexander scares me the most of any Tiger. He's a big play receiver who's finally healthy.
Q – Last year in Lincoln, despite Mike Eckler’s “Secret plan”…Mizzou’s offensive line completely dominated the line of scrimmage. This year, all of the hype surrounds Suh, Allen and the NU front four. Considering that Mizzou has “struggled” with the running game in ’09 so far, is it safe for Carl Pelini to leave the front four intact, and play nickel or even dime against Gabbert? Or do they release linebackers and blitz?
CornBlight: Look for Nebraska to shut down Missouri’s run game and force them to throw, and then look for blitzes from the corners to put pressure on Gabbert if the front four isn’t getting there. I’d guess Nebraska will play nickel for most of the game.
JLew: I have no idea. Probably going to a nickle? Wait, what's with the "struggled"? They have struggled, they are 58th in the country with 3.8 yards per attempt. Nevada was blowing the line up at the point of attack.
Husker Mike: That "secret plan" might have been good in theory, but the Huskers weren't ready to execute it...and it showed. That game proved to Bo Pelini that Nebraska's problems weren't schematic, but rather simple fundamentals and they needed to take baby steps to become better. Now, this team is much more confident and Pelini can mix and match it up a little more.
Q – If Mizzou wins this game, Nebraska will have lost 5 of their last 7 to the Tigers and will have gone a full decade without winning in Columbia. Do you ever see a point where Husker fans will actually acknowledge that Missouri is a true modern rival?
CornBlight: No. It’ll simply become like the relationship we have with Colorado. We’ll deny everything. Part of it is because we’re stubborn, and part because it’s fun denying another fan base recognition of their team’s success against us.
JLew: Why does every team want to be NU's rival? CU does, KSU wanted to for a while, I'm sure KU is jumping up and down to get noticed. So no, not until Nebraska gets back to where it wants to be, and MU continues to get better. If MU and NU become the Texas and OU of the North then I could see it happening. But 5 of 7? Come on that's nothing.
Husker Mike: Well, Colorado thought they were pretty good for most of the 90's, and still never earned "rival" status from Husker fans. Kansas State was solid for about 10 years from the mid 90's until 2003, and never got it either. True rivalries take decades to build. For now, you'll have to settle for "competitive intense matchup".
Q – How long will Husker fans give Bo Pelini if he keeps failing to beat top tier teams? Granted, he’s not getting blown out at home by 30 points like his predecessor and even Bill Callahan beat a ranked team in a bowl game, but sooner or later, people are going to want better results. Where is that line drawn? And at what point would the Turner Gill bandwagon leave the station?
CornBlight: It’s a little early to be thinking about that, but I guess I can speculate. I don’t see Pelini ever putting the program into a position where he has losing seasons. Given that he has Tom Osborne’s blessing, Osborne will have to permanently retire before Pelini is removed. I’d guess you’re looking at least five years down the road.
JLew: How long? You do realize that this is his second year right? He's still playing with another coaches players, and I think he's still learning how to be a head football coach. The team has shown improvement, and that's what the fans want right now. He's also backed by TO, and the media loves him, even though he spends most of the time growling at them. He's good for the foreseeable future. Turner Gill should have moved programs last year, I think he's stuck at Buffalo for a while now.
Husker Mike: We survived four years of Bill Callahan, and it only took one season for Bo Pelini to exceed any of Callahan's seasons. Eventually, we'll get there, but Nebraska can't get into the revolving door of coaches.
Q – Mizzou fans have heard the warnings that Nebraska is “back” for going on 5 seasons now. Why is this year any different than the hype we’ve heard in the past? Why should we be afraid?
CornBlight: I hate the “back” stuff, I truly do. We’ll be “back” when it’s no longer a question or emphasis of discussion. Missouri fans should be worried because the defense looks more like a Blackshirt defense with each game. They’re good enough to compete with any offense in the Big 12 so they’ll keep us in every game.
JLew: You shouldn't. People should stop saying Nebraska is back. Corn Nation has been saying this all year. This should be a good game against 2 ranked teams why can't be leave it at that?
Husker Mike: You didn't hear that from any of us. "Back" to Nebraska means that Nebraska is playing at an Oklahoma, Florida, Texas, or USC level. Nebraska ain't there now, and even if Nebraska wins on Thursday, Nebraska won't be there. Like CB says...Nebraska will be "back" when people stop asking the question because it's no longer a question.
Q – Do you think Husker fans realize how much most Mizzou fans hate them? Or does that come with the territory of being a “traditional” program?
CornBlight: It comes with the nature of being a traditional powerhouse that’s trying to find itself again. I hear the same thing from other teams throughout the Big 12, especially those left over from the Big Eight. Sorry.
JLew: You hate us? I didn't notice. I live in Manhattan, KS. You know what happens when I wear my Nebraska gear? People tell me how much they hate Nebraska. Same thing happens at KU, I've watched ISU fans burn NU fans in Ames. I know enough not to go to Bolder for a game. I don't venture down south has much, but I assume that they hate us for various things as well. You think you're unique with your hate? Hell there's a I hate Nebraska club. They meet Thurs. nights at the Y. They have shirts. Join the club.
Husker Mike: That's fine. We don't hate you unless you act like a$$clowns. We get it, though, and we know the reason why. You know it too, deep down. And we know why you won't admit it either.