It all looked so wonderfully familiar.
The squinted eye. The ball cap. The way he jogged onto the playing field.
Nebraska football fans of a certain age remember Tom Osborne's gait. The long stride, his long arms pumping, eyes fixed ahead.
If they don't remember, they were reminded Saturday, a day we'll long remember.
In Osborne's final home football game as a coach and administrator, 16th-ranked Nebraska gave the Hall-of-Famer a proper send-off. It was a send-off he could surely appreciate, for the Huskers' 38-14 triumph against Minnesota included ample evidence that Bo Pelini's program is maturing and perhaps even prepared to capture a conference title.
While you're at it, imagine Osborne and the coach he hired in late 2007 strolling out of the locker room side by side, just ahead of the team, then leading the players onto the field. Imagine the home crowd erupting. It all happened on a dreamy autumn afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
Talk about goose bumps.
Pelini asked Osborne to do it.
"He was reluctant," the Nebraska coach said. "I thought it was the way it should be. I told him it would mean a lot to me and the football team."
Not to mention thousands of others.
"I think the fans wanted to see him walk out of there one last time," Pelini said.
Osborne and his family were honored on the field at halftime. The HuskerVision crew put together several stirring videos. A slew of icons praised Osborne with videotaped messages. Jim Delany. Clarence Thomas. Dave Rimington. Barry Switzer. Barry Alvarez. Bill Snyder.
Osborne appeared on the big screen and offered thanks on behalf of his family, closing with, "We'll leave with many great memories of autumn afternoons in this stadium."
This was yet another one.
This felt familiar. Nebraska steamrolling an inferior opponent. The Huskers taking control 38-0 after three quarters, and sending in backups so they could make some memories of their own, especially the seniors. A total of 29 seniors were honored before their final home game and while it was a special day, this team's eyes are fixed ahead on a grand prize -- a Big Ten championship.
Nebraska (9-2, 6-1 Big Ten) is a victory Friday at Iowa from winning the Legends Division. The Huskers look like a league-championship outfit. Since that debacle Oct. 6 at Ohio State, NU has won five straight games against mostly rugged competition (I still regard Michigan State as rugged), including three wins with stirring comebacks that at once confounded and thrilled Big Red's fervent fan base.
Those fans wanted something more convincing against Minnesota (6-5, 2-5), and Nebraska delivered. It was indeed impressive. A win against the Gophers is no gimme. They're a middle-of-the-pack Big Team, a bowl-eligible squad that packs some punch. That the Huskers easily prevailed indicates they're a legitimate national top-15 squad -- yes, even without Rex Burkhead, the heart and soul of the offense. Think about that for a moment.
Think about Nebraska holding Minnesota to 102 yards of total offense through three quarters. The Gophers had only 43 rushing yards on 19 carries entering the final period.
"That's probably as well as we've played the run all year," said Husker defensive coordinator John Papuchis.
Think about Minnesota converting only one of 13 third-down chances. Gophers coach Jerry Kill gave the Blackshirts perhaps the ultimate compliment -- at least in Pelini's eyes (wink, wink).
"They play Southeast Conference defense," Kill said. "They're going to play cover-1 and get guys in the box and you're going to have to beat them in one-on-one coverage.
"We had a lot of balls dropped. But it wasn't like (Husker defenders) weren't on people. They made it tough for you to catch the ball -- a very physical group back in the secondary."
Nebraska opponents are now completing a mere 45.5 percent of their passes this season, the lowest rate in the nation.
Husker quarterback Taylor Martinez, after his sterling 21-for-29 passing day (for 308 yards and two touchdowns), saw his season completion rate jump a point to 63.6. He led an attack that put up 444 yards against a Gopher defense that had been allowing 336.8 to rank 25th nationally. The Husker junior is dialed-in, as if he's on a mission. His detractors have been rendered mute.
Nebraska's diverse offense -- thanks in large part to a group of talented and savvy, young wide receivers -- looks as if it could soon become one of the nation's best. Pity defensive coordinators. It's an offense Osborne surely appreciates.
This is a team Osborne surely appreciates.
Saturday was a day Nebraska fans will long appreciate, a day when they could thank an icon.
Thanks to Pelini, Osborne led the Huskers out of that tunnel one last time, his long legs in fine form, particularly for a 75-year-old.
"I just think it was the right thing," Pelini said. "I'm glad he did it."
So are the rest of us.