Let’s pull out the fluke-o-meter from some Nebraska games of the past.
Let’s start with Colorado last year, when NU needed Alex Henery to make the longest field goal in Husker history to escape defeat.
Or how about at Iowa State in 1992, when NU was 7-1, with its only loss coming against eventual national champion Washington. The Cyclones were 3-6 and down to needing fifth-year senior Marv Seiler to make his first start at quarterback. Tommie Frazier vs. Marv Seiler? Yeah, Iowa State 19, Nebraska 10 seems about right.
What about vs. Colorado in 1988, when, in a scoreless game, Buff running back J.J. Flannigan got free and looked like he would go untouched for a 43-yard touchdown. Somehow, Flannigan fumbled, CU wound up with no points and left Memorial Stadium a 7-0 loser.
For one more you can’t forget about is Oklahoma in 1978, when a good Nebraska team beat one that Barry Switzer has said was his best ever, thanks to the Huskers recovering six of the Sooners’ nine fumbles.
Mention of these quirky results come, of course, on the heels of Saturday’s 9-7 loss to Iowa State — a folly that belongs in the same company because of the school-record eight turnovers the Huskers had. More amazing is the fact that four of the miscues came inside the Cyclone 6-yard line.
But the big difference between this one and the others on the fluke-o-meter is Bo Pelini’s club is nowhere close to being as talented across the board as those other Husker teams. Thus, it stands to reason that Nebraska now faces much more uncertainty trying to convince itself it will be all right.
As always, Pelini will take a close look at the game film before he moves on. This time, though, he’d better pay as much attention, if not more, to what’s going on inside his players’ heads.
“You know any good psychiatrists?” he asked Saturday.
I’m not sure the best around would know where to start.
The last time Nebraska committed eight turnovers (one of only three times it’s ever occurred) came during a 1972 tie against … you guessed it, Iowa State.
How do you explain wide receiver Niles Paul fumbling a third-down reception in the second quarter when the only defender between he and the end zone was the sideline? Poor Paul. He did what he was supposed to and try and make a play (which in this case was doing all he could to stay in bounds). But in doing so, he also lost control of the ball and couldn’t come up with it in the end zone.
That was Nebraska’s third turnover of the half, something not lost on Journal Star colleague Brian Christopherson when a 15-yard reception by Paul on the Huskers’ first possession of the third quarter gave them a first down at the ISU 19.
“I’ll take the three,” he said, suggesting that Nebraska would have been better off kicking a field goal then instead of trying to advance the ball farther.
Unfortunately for the Huskers, he was right. Two plays later, Roy Helu lost his second fumble and another drive was dead.
It was the first of three straight, and five of six in the second half, that ended with turnovers.
“The end result, you’re looking for a way to stem the tide, and for whatever reason that tide never stemmed today,” offensive line coach Barney Cotton said. “We turned it over from the beginning of the game until the end of the game.”
Cotton wore the same disbelieving look as NU fans who’d watched the clock run out and asked themselves: Did we really just lose to Iowa State?
That’s the truth. And in their current mental state, the Huskers might be fragile enough to be put on 24-hour watch.
Reach Curt McKeever at 473-7441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.