Going out with a bang
As much as Nebraska officials have dismissed any ill will toward everything burnt orange, a pair of pleas this week showed the emotion Texas will face Saturday.
Football coach Bo Pelini and athletic director Tom Osborne each directed messages to Husker Nation. The short version: stay classy, Lincoln.
The reminder to a fan base considered one of the most fair-minded in college football spoke volumes. They really, really don't care for the Longhorns in Nebraska.
"It's a state pride thing along with Nebraska leaving the Big 12 after this year," said Jeremy Clements, the assistant general manger at Brewsky's Food & Spirits, a popular sports bar on Cornhusker Highway in Lincoln. "Everybody who is a Nebraska fan wants them to not only win but win big."
Blame Texas' 8-1 record against Nebraska in the Big 12 era. Or Texas' controversial conference title game victory. Then factor in the cloak-and-dagger conference realignment this summer.
Suffice to say, Saturday's game looms far larger than a visit last month by South Dakota State.
Dale Jensen, a major Nebraska athletic and academic donor, said the hatred angle has been overblown. He acknowledged last season's game still resonates.
"It isn't to the point where it's a single issue," Jensen said. "Hey, we're trying to win the Big 12 and see how far we go towards a national championship. ...
"We remember last year and it's obviously bigger than a normal game, but it's not like it's an obsession."
This week, Nebraska players talked about the bitter aftertaste from last year's Big 12 title game. As the Cornhuskers began celebrating an upset following a Colt McCoy incompletion, officials put one second back on the Cowboys Stadium clock. Hunter Lawrence drilled a 46-yard field goal as time expired for the 13-12 victory.
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini vented at Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe afterwards.
"It was a gut-wrenching moment," Texas tailback Fozzy Whittaker said. "Turn the tables and Nebraska played a hard game, they played their hearts out, the last play was the one that didn't go in their direction.
"I feel this coming weekend is going to be fuel to the fire."
Nebraska defensive tackle Jared Crick offered a brief moment of candor this week.
"Yeah, the feeling after that game was a taste in our mouths we'll never get rid of," Crick said. "Maybe this week we can get some retribution, but we're not really thinking of it like that."
Last year's loss was just the most recent indignity suffered by Nebraska against Texas. The Longhorns have three Big 12 wins in Lincoln, more than any conference team.
As a reminder, an Omaha sports talk radio station Wednesday continuously replayed Brent Musburger's call of "Roll Left." Over and over, Texas quarterback James Brown burning Nebraska on fourth down in the 1996 Big 12 title game.
That was just the tip of the iceberg.
Texas threatened copyright action on an Omaha firm marketing a T-shirt featuring ":01" and an upside-down Longhorn head, the Austin American-Statesman reported. Fans were paying an average of $383 for tickets on StubHub. Osborne deleted a reference to "Beat Texas" in a preseason slogan.
"I think it's a healthy anticipation," Osborne said. "I don't see people here being negative or having animosity toward Texas, at all."
But shortly before Nebraska decided to leave the Big 12 for the Big Ten, Osborne told a Nebraska newspaper he was concerned about the conference's center of gravity shifting toward Texas.
Texas coach Mack Brown said his school has no dislike of Nebraska. He still fondly remembers Nebraska fans cheering Ricky Williams in 1998.
"I don't understand it. I don't feel it. I don't hear it," Brown said. "It's absolutely not in our building."
2:30 p.m. Saturday (Ch. 8)