Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Nebraska Executive Game

After squandering a 21-7 lead, if Billy C would have blown today's game against A&M, it would have been a loss of Solich-esque proportions. Instead, a huge comeback capped by the only way it could happen -- an underthrown pass to the best receiver to come to Nebraska since Irving Fryar in Maurice Purify -- has Coach Bill Callahan on the verge of joining the executive game. In three weeks -- no matter if they shit the bed the day after Thanksgiving at home against Colorado, that game is now nothing more than a tune up -- the Corn will travel to Arrowhead Stadium, to play for the Big 12 Championship against Texas. And really for the first time since Nebraska lucked into playing in a National Championship game they had no business playing in back in January 2002, there are legitimate smiles in what Stevie P by way of the Red Sox calls "Husker Nation." Finally, a huge win against a very good team ON THE ROAD.

And knocking at the door to get into the Executive Card game is one Billy C, who's taken his share of hard knocks from yours truly and a host of others (and God I hope I can can only continue to find ways to make fun of the guy). Understand, here's the current list of the Nebraska Football Executive Card Game:
  • Bob Devaney: Forever the Godfather, the reason anyone ever got so passionate and dedicated to Husker football in the first place. A permanent seat, our Marlon Brando.
  • Tom Osborne: Even outdid the "Bob-father", winning 3 National Championships, and was thisclose to winning two more (the two point conversion in the 1984 Orange Bowl and the failed kick against FSU in the 1994 Orange Bowl). Another permanent seat.
  • Frank Solich: Christopher Moltisanti to Osborne's Tony Soprano, the heir apparent who didn't live up to the billing. But he did win a Big 12 Championship and played for a National Title while coaching a Heisman Trophy winner. He can be booted from the game at any time however...
  • Johnny Rodgers, Mike Rozier, Eric Crouch: Heisman Trophy winners get a lifetime pass here, even though Crouch's win looks more and more like Gino Torretta's with each passing year. Rodgers and Rozier will forever be two of the greatest to ever wear the Scarlett and Cream, and can play all night in this game.
  • Tommie Frazier: Somebody else who gets a lifetime pass, even though he lost a Heisman that was most deservedly his to Eddie George. Won back to back National Championships and is still considered one of the greatest college quarterbacks of all-time.
  • Grant Wistrom: And not just because the game needs a bouncer. Wistrom was the defensive leader for three national champions, and won his share of hardware. It's doubtful Nebraska wins two of those three without him, and you need a defensive representative at the table.

And guess who's now able to knock on the door? That's right. Our kicking boy Bill Callahan. But understand, time at the table means he's got to somehow beat Texas in KC, which would get him into a BCS game in only his third year at Nebraska. And if he wins a BCS game, that means that the 2007 Corn start the season as a top 10 team, even though they've got a schedule that includes USC, Oklahoma State, Texas A & M and trips to Texas and Kansas. That's looking way too far ahead. Let's just focus on now.

My guess is that the time of November 12 - December 1 will be spent planning for the Texas rematch, now that the Colorado game is meaningless (no matter how much Billy C is going to spin it, and God knows he's going to). Billy C with time on his hands was able to properly prepare for a decent Michigan team -- who could be playing for a National Championship this year -- and beat them in last year's Alamo Bowl.

Now of course, Billy C could disappoint Husker faithful in two weeks and lose at home to CU, then get slaughtered by an improved Texas team in KC, and then even lose a Holiday Bowl or Cotton Bowl to a team the most certainly should win. And if that happens, all of a sudden this year's team has six losses, which is completely unacceptable. But for the next two weeks at least, Callahan can go knock on that door at room 523 at the Cornhusker Hotel and ask Wistrom if he can buy in for some chips at the executive game. The other boys might tell Billy C that he's not ready to play in their high stakes game yet, which is fine. But after today's game where I guess the greatest compliment you can give the Huskers is they didn't wind up giving a road win away, Callahan earns the right to at least knock on the door for the executive game.

Don't bother listening to what the media pundits have said in the past. Today was FINALLY a statement win for Callahan. Proof FINALLY that the West Coast Offense was worth it (Taylor and Purify on the game winning drive proved that alone). Nothing in the past three years -- not the win at Boulder in 2005, not the Alamo Bowl victory, not the Missouri game of last week -- is as big as Billy C's Houdini act today. A game that could have been one of the worst in recent memory wound up being the biggest of the Callahan Era. And that alone at least gets him to sneak a peek at the Executive Table.

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