Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Nebraska/Oklahoma Week, Part 1

The Nebraska/Oklahoma "rivalry" gets the revisit treatment all week long, and of course everyone is pointing out the rich ties between Bob Stoops and both Carl and Bo Pelini. As another World Series winds down (one that might not be over by the time Saturday's NU/OU game becomes final), "Oklahoma Week" becomes one of talk about the rivalry everyone wants it to be, or wishes it once was. Not to gush on sentimentality (and really, the major games have and will continue to be covered to death), but there are some forgotten nuggets in this rivalry that are worth revisiting.

2004 -- Oklahoma 30, Nebraska 3: The last time Nebraska played in Norman, Oklahoma, during a season and era everyone would just as soon forget. And for many reasons. This was the game that to Husker Fan was like watching that hot ex-girlfriend have sex with a guy you know at that moment had everything over year. Yes, Bo Pelini, the guy everyone wanted as Husker Head Dog, was helping coordinate a defense for the Sooners that was hell bent on shutting out Nebraska. This was less than a year after Pelini was passed over (or depending on the story, not even considered) for the Nebraska job, despite openly campaigning for it. Nebraskans wanted Bo, he wanted them, but the guy in charge wanted...well, shit, he really didn't know who he wanted. He certainly didn't want Bo. So he waited until Al Davis fired this short Irish guy who resembled the Bridges Brother who didn't play The Big Lebowski. The one who turned all of the Oakland Raiders against him, but damn if he didn't have the biggest playbook in the world. And oh by the way, he's got Kevin Cosgrove to take care of whatever defense they might need.

Did we mention that Billy C had a Quarterback with little interest or skills in directing this West Coast Offense? But Callahan would make him shovel out the shit anyway?

Oklahoma was a 30-point favorite, and it certainly looked like we'd have a push as Pelini and Company were on their way to a 30-0 shutout with 33-seconds left in the game. The Sooners got tagged with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty as the Huskers were set to run out the clock with the ball deep in their own territory. Why did Oklahoma get a flag? Too many "Hillbillies" were throwing oranges onto the field, which allowed the Corn start at their own 28-yard line instead of their own 13. No big deal, as Joe Dailey and this merry group of misfits couldn't muster up anything against Pelini's game plan.

Then out of nowhere, on a fullback trap play of all things, Steve Kriewald (seriously, Steve Kriewald) busts through for a 48-yard gain. And Callahan gets the Huskers in line as if they were on their way to a game-winning score. He hurried the offense along, called for a run play to get the ball in the center of the field, and made poor Joe Dailey try one last pass attempt to get closer to pay dirt.

And here's where one would get the impression that Callahan had money on this game (and if he did, he could always go to the Pete Rose argument of saying he was betting on his own team and taking the points). As only 1-second remained on the clock, he hurried his kicking team on to the field so that David Dyches could kick a meaningless field goal as time expired.

Vegas went crazy. Husker fan took some bizarre satisfaction in NOT getting shutout by a far superior Oklahoma team. A little "at least we didn't get completely blown out" mentality.

What everyone remembers from this fiasco, of course, was everyone throwing oranges on the field in hopes that the Sooners were Orange Bowl bound (home of the BCS Title Game that year, Oklahoma was 10-0 and ranked 2nd in the BCS poll after the game). Orange fruit flew all over the field, causing confusion to Billy C and his big-ass playbook. I still maintain that Callahan had no clue why anyone, at the end of a football game, would have pause to even think to throw oranges on to a field. Especially in November (remember back to Callahan's first year, he was quite puzzled with many a tradition at the collegiate level).

Noticing the oranges littering the field, Callahan uttered one of his finest quotes as Husker Head Coach to one of his assistants, overheard by many players and media folk.

"Fuckin' Hillbillies."

Legend suggests he actually got close enough to some OU fans and actually said, "You guys are a bunch of fucking hillbillies", but it was the "Fucking Hillbillies" line that became his slogan. In fact, the slick Billy C didn't even deny saying it, and actually APOLOGIZED for using the phrase at the following Tuesday's press conference.

There were Champs Bowl representatives at the game checking the Huskers out for crying out loud. What sort of impression was this for Callahan to leave on these fine citizens?

The two things that somehow sum up the bizarre Bill Callahan era at Nebraska: Hurrying up to kick a meaningless field goal against the coach who would one day replace him; and "Fucking Hillbillies", not so much that he said it, but that he admitted to saying it. Because one year later, the whole world would witness another Callahan incident during the OU/NU game in Lincoln, something he would deny doing for the next three years. But we'll get into that game tomorrow.