Saturday, October 24, 2015
Although I was “always” going to be waking up today at or before 07:30, the dogs started barking around 06:45, which woke me up. I am perfectly fine with that! To my left, I saw the window looking out on my sparse neighborhood, as far as the eye could see. I bounded out of bed with surprising energy for having only slept for 6.5 hours the previous night.
Equipping Under Armour, khaki pants, and my Nebraska/Northwestern polo shirt, I walked downstairs. Mom was very excited to wish me “Good morning!” since these times are now few and far between. Being back at my parents’ house for any stint, whether a weekend or three weeks, reminds me of simpler times and the innocence of childhood. It is fun nonetheless!
Mom was making waffles and beef bacon for breakfast, and I also read the newspaper. Nothing of the news particularly stuck out, but I wasn’t focusing too much on the reading. Come to think of it, reading the newspaper first thing in the morning with breakfast has somewhat faded from my routine, since I have not managed to subscribe to any papers while in Menomonie, or in Chicago, since my paper was often missing.
Eventually, Casey, Levi, Dad, and Ken all came to the kitchen as well for breakfast. Though the specific conversations blend together in my mind, it was still fun to be around all of them, and nobody was having an apparently-bad day thus far. (Not like I should actually be pessimistic in that way.) The food tasted good, as I also enjoyed jasmine tea to drink.
At 09:00-ish, we made leaving noises, packing six people into the five-person Salsamobile. (Levi took the unsecured trunk area.) We drove on 70th Street toward Highway 2, rolling down said highway. This trip always reminds me of going to school, but this time without KLIR (101.1 Columbus) playing in the background, and with the sun actually up. It’s also the route that I have taken many a time toward synagogue and sometimes to UNL.
We went to pick up Chris, a family friend, and split up the people in the vehicles. One of the neighborhood streets had barricades on various points to slow down through traffic–a few other streets in this vicinity are under road con/de-struction right now. Winter has not hit yet in Lincoln, but some of these projects look like they might be curtailed for the season soon, leaving torn up roads for longer-lasting detours.
As we approached campus, memories of the zoo, the Windstream building, and Lincoln Poultry came up. For the middle of these, we were relating the prior affiliations of the building after I recalled the picture with the truck that said “Keep on downloadin'” on the Windstream building in 2005. That building used to be Alltel, and before that, Aliant Communications, and before that, it was Lincoln Telephone and Telegraph forever. The 1996-7 telephone books in Lincoln were by LT&T, but how time changes… and phone books too!
We turned onto 10th Street, and the Sea of Red was evident on both sidewalks of this wide road. We naturally got stopped at every red light and had to contend with the slow-moving traffic. Levi even voluntarily got out of the car at 10th and P, in order to walk faster than how the car was going. After a few minutes, we got past this traffic jam, and headed to the parking garage right next to the stadium. Our new spot is right on the rooftop, which means a few extra stairs to walk up and down now and after the game. I’m fine with that!
There didn’t seem to be a lot of purple walking around the stadium. Still, being a dual fan, any time I saw a person in purple or Northwestern gear, I would approach them and give a “Go ‘Cats!” with the Wildcat claw gesture. A few of them recognized me, but as usual, I am that celebrity figure who cannot reciprocate. At least, for my “celebrity” status among the athletic department there, I don’t need a bodyguard or security entourage!
The Northwestern football semi-truck was on the south side of the stadium, and Mom and I got a picture in front of it. As we continued walking, it was fun recalling memories of Manter Hall and RUTE, of Avery Hall and the Math Resource Center, and continuing to look for familiar faces dressed in both red and purple. Around the corner, we passed the U-turn in front of East Stadium, and quickly arrived at the Norfolk Iron and Metal tailgate party.
It was great to see Aunt Betti, Uncle Dick, Evan, and Amy again. Although I had seen the former two last week, I still don’t see my family members often enough. I enjoyed some root beer, candy, and a donut… but struggled to hold on to the cold former item, spilling it. Casey and Levi joked, “Noah, we’re cutting you off!” Pretty funny, I would say. As it turns out, Chuck Hagel was also in the nearby vicinity, and this got into a conversation about security people and how Nebraska is a much lower-risk place. (Of course, I may have to redact these last two sentences later…)
We spent a little time at the tailgate chatting with people, eating, and just having some fun. After that, we walked the long way around the stadium, hoping to catch the Pride of All Nebraska marching into the stadium. No can do–we were way too late for that given only about 35 minutes pre-game at this point. We all split up, since Casey & Chris, Ken & Brandon, Mom & Dad, and Levi & I all had tickets in different sections through different gates. Entering Gate 2 with Levi, the ticket-checker said to me, “Welcome back!” Even though it has been a long time since I have been full time at Nebraska, I am glad that I still get a warm welcome back. Nebraska people are some of the nicest you will see.
We sauntered up the nearest ramp, which led to Sections 18-20, rows 68-Umpteen. It was quite a bit of back and forth up a relatively constant incline (ha–would be a good “thinking” problem for my trig class–approximate the length of the ramp!) The fortuitous thing: our tickets were in Row 68, meaning that we had a LOT more leg room, for being in a front row! But, I misread the section we were in, and when I got to what I thought was 19/68/10-11, it was actually 20/68/10-11. Whoops! That was embarrassing.
One section over, our seats were unoccupied, so Levi and I prepared to sit down… until I looked up and saw one of my high school friends, Sarah R., and her dad, Steve. I excitedly bounded up the stairs a few rows to greet them, and had largely “won the game” of familiar faces by a long shot. The band was preparing to take the field at this point, so I returned to my seat to enjoy the Pregame Spectacular by the Pride of All Nebraska.
The show consisted of all of the usual favorites, with “There Is No Place Like Nebraska,” “Go U Northwestern” (the second half of the song), the national anthem and a flyover, “Mr. Touchdown USA,” “March of the Cornhuskers,” “March Grandioso,” and finally “Hail Varsity.” At the end of “March of the Cornhuskers,” the formation was the state of Nebraska, rather than a circle with an “N” like it was when I was there. I like the change!
Today, some of the recent national championship teams from the last 20 years of Nebraska athletics were honored, including an introduction of the Tunnel Walk for the 1995 football team. This was followed by the Tunnel Walk for the 2015 team, and despite the current 3-4 record for the Huskers, it was still loud and spirited in the stadium. Hope springs eternal at the beginning of each Nebraska game, even though things may be waning a little bit after all of the heartbreaking losses that the Huskers have suffered this year.
The game kicked off at 11:00-ish, after the jumping up and down to “Can You Feel It!” Northwestern went three-and-out after receiving the ball, and the Huskers piled up yards on the first drive. Still, the Wildcats defense tightened up and held the Huskers to three points. On Northwestern’s next drive, a few ineffectual running plays were followed by a 68-yard quarterback scamper, to set up a touchdown after three attempts from the 3-yard line. This made it Northwestern 7, Nebraska 3.
Northwestern’s defense seemed to be playing like how it did in Games 1-5, and Nebraska’s offense was still questionable. After a drive stalled for the Huskers, a punt was fair-caught at the 3(!) yard line, and one play later, it was 7-5 in favor of the visitors as Thorson took a safety. Throughout the rest of the quarter, however, each offense bumbled about, though Nebraska did pick up some yards.
Come the middle of the second quarter, Nebraska was again driving, but quarterback Armstrong was in trouble, and threw the ball to avoid a sack. Instead, VanHoose of Northwestern snagged the pass and ran it back the other way–Northwestern 14, Nebraska 5. Though there was unrest among some of the fans, they continued to cheer, and the Huskers got back to within 2 after a good drive. But Northwestern, for once, put together a One Minute Drill to take a 17-12 lead into the break.
I enjoyed the halftime show, as Northwestern took the field to play selections from The Wizard of Oz. However, it was hard to make out their formations, and the HuskerVision was no help in that matter. They sounded good, and I could hear them a lot better than what I often heard at halftime at Ryan Field. The Pride of All Nebraska also performed: “karaoke hits” including Don’t Stop Believin’, 500 Miles (I’m Gonna Be), Livin’ on a Prayer, and Sweet Caroline. That was fun too.
From both teams, long drives marked the third quarter, as neither defense managed to escape the field. Northwestern’s defense at least twice shot themselves in the foot with pass interference or personal fouls, and Nebraska’s offense ran itself into the powerful walls of the ‘Cats rather than testing Northwestern through the air. Still, the Huskers led 19-17, before the longest Wildcats drive of the day made it NU 20-19 UNL.
Back and forth we go in the fourth quarter, as both teams found ways to continue to make the game interesting. The Huskers started it off with a field goal with the wind, so it was 22-20 in favor of the home team. The road team’s response: a drive with several key third down conversions, ending in a bomb pass to the super-back Vitale, making it 27-22 in favor of the ‘Cats. The Huskers came up empty on offense, and Northwestern added a field goal.
Big Red was not finished, however, and marched down the field to make it 28-30. But the two-pointer missed, requiring that Nebraska get a stop on defense. They were close, but Northwestern’s clock management and scrambles (plus a Nebraska defensive foul) made it so that the Wildcats ran out the last 4.5 minutes, and won the game.
I think Husker Nation is stunned right now–Nebraska has 5 losses for only the fifth time since 1961. (Yet, they have lost five-plus games in a season five times this millennium: 2002, 2005-07, and this year). The team has lost all five games by a total of 13 points, and all in the fourth quarter, after having blown a lead (no matter how tenuous). The Nebraska-Northwestern games always give me a weird feeling, as I am happy for the victor, but it tears me down the middle.
Levi and I headed over to the Stadium Drive garage, as he said “The best part about football games is seeing the social media afterward.” Indeed, while we waited for the rest of the crew, both of us were checking our phones, looking at the reaction on both the Nebraska and Northwestern sides, as well as neutral opinions via Twitter. There was not as much anger on the Husker side as I expected… as if this year’s program is gravitating toward mediocrity.
We easily got out of the garage, and drove back to Chris’s place, so as to re-meet up with everyone else. The drive home after the game went pretty smoothly, all things considered. I’ll skip the details of said drive, but we got home easily.
The time at home was pretty quick–Mom and I shifted accoutrements–I got into a Huskers volleyball T-shirt and Mom got into a neat Nebraska jacket. We headed off to Southlake Village, where Papa is undergoing some rehab. Mom warned me that he looks a lot different from the last time that I saw him, even though it has only been 4 months. Age can advance quickly.
Thankfully, he seemed pretty alert, and the conversation with him went well. I updated him about how my work is going, as well as some other things. He related to me how growing up was when he was young, and it is just amazing the generational differences that happen. Life is a long story, but it is one of those things that I must keep in mind. Later, Mom said that I have to be able to cede control when I do not have control.
We continued to Sam’s Club, and got some blueberries and blackberries. Mom also got a necklace for Evan and Amy’s new baby. The conversation there dealt with buying gifts for people, and the idea that men are generally harder to shop for. That is true for me, particularly, since I have so few wants.
Then, we went to Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner. While conversing with the table (seven Weiss/Johnsons and one Greenfield), we were also watching some football games (Alabama/Tennessee, Michigan State/Indiana, and Penn State/Maryland). The conversations were not interesting, but I still enjoyed everyone’s presence. The food was tasty, between wings, onion rings, and buffalo chips. Sports-bar type food is some of my favorite, especially on game days.
Mom and I headed off early, because we needed to get to Devaney for the volleyball match. En route, we chatted about changes in Lincoln, personal situations, and all sorts of other things. Let me skip ahead for the walk-around.
We got inside the Devaney Center, and the entrance looked pretty similar to what it used to. Mom explained that the concourse was similar to what it used to be on the north side, but that everything was spruced up. We walked counter-clockwise, and got to the south side. This part of the Center is completely different: they gutted the entrance, and created a full new entryway, which looks great. Fancy lights are hanging from the ceiling, and there’s a picture of the arena, with the bump/set/spike statue near it. We tried and failed to get a good photo.
After some more walking around, we entered the arena. The arena somewhat resembles the old basketball arena, but our side has box seats above us, and the place looks lesser-well-lit. The seating is set up much like the old Coliseum, so I was able to see my old seatmates across the way. The use of HuskerVision rather than the dot-matrix screens made it seem more modern, and the place still held a lot of sound.
To the match! In the first set, it was back and forth. Although the Huskers held a slim lead throughout much of the set, they had a really slow start as the the Badgers got some nice kills. Additionally, Nebraska didn’t help themselves out, as a result of errors, errors, and errors. Still, a tight game Nebraska managed to pull out by a 25-22 margin, and take a 1-0 lead.
The second set, however, started out poorly for the Huskers, as the errors continued, and the defense often seemed out of position. John Cook used both of his timeouts pretty quickly, and the Huskers seemed quite out of sorts. Indeed, the Badgers quickly got past Nebraska, 25-17, to tie the match at 1 set.
Set 3? Once again another bad set for the Huskers which started with a serve into the net. I don’t know what was up with Nebraska this time, as they got confused with their own assignments and the attacks seemed to be predictable. Indeed, the Huskers got skunked again with a 18-25 loss, and were one set away from defeat.
As a result of this, Nebraska seemed to play with a little more fire. Nevertheless, they couldn’t overcome the continued errors that they made, and the set was close throughout. A 18-18 tie became a 18-22 Wisconsin lead, and though Nebraska closed to 20-22, that was near the end. Wisconsin won the set 25-22, and the match 3-1. This was a disappointing match for the Huskers, and a disappointing end of the day for the home teams.
But, life goes on, and the sun indeed rose today over Lincoln. I will cut off the journal here, as the remainder of the night was pretty uneventful. We were all pooped after a long day.
>> TO BE CONTINUED…
Today is the twenty-fifth day of the fourth round of O.C.T.O.B.E.R. That makes three weeks and four days.
Thanksgiving Day: 32 days.
Joint Mathematics Meetings: 73 days.