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Pregame Guesses: Nebraska Cornhuskers Edition

A comparison between the '88 UCLA Nebraska game and the '13 match-up.

Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE


(This week's video is Streets of Laredo by Marty Robbins. I was going to go with something off of Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska or maybe something by Korn (get it?). But I went with Streets of Laredo for reasons I'm about to explain.)

I assume some of you have read "Bang the Drum Slowly" by Mark Harris. I've read it a few times now. If you haven't read the book (you should), you might have seen the film which starred Robert DeNiro and Michael Moriarty.

For those unfamiliar, I'll tell you a bit about it.

The book is set during a fictional pennant race in some fictional major league and centers on the New York Mammoths. The story is told by ace pitcher Henry Wiggen aka "Author" (because he had written a book -- "Bang the Drum Slowly" is actually a sequel to Harris' "The Southpaw," the first book to feature Wiggen). To make a long story short, Wiggen (played by Moriarty) befriends the teams back-up catcher Bruce Pearson (DeNiro) and gets the club to keep him around instead of releasing him. Pearson is a bit of a country bumpkin and an easy target for his teammates. He thinks Wiggen's name is "Arthur." What the other players don't know -- but soon find out -- is that Pearson is very sick. As his teammates learn of his illness, they start treating him differently, like a buddy. In the end, Pearson is too sick to play in the World Series and Wiggen ends up a pall bearer at his funeral.

The last line of the book is considered one of the best last lines of all time. Wiggen the narrator says, "From here on in I rag nobody." The title comes from the Robbins' song, which contains the lyric, "bang the drum slowly." There is a scene in both the book and the movie where one of the players sings the song during a rain delay.

Nick Pasquale wasn't sick or dying when he was hit by a car last weekend. His death came as a complete surprise to everyone. But since I heard about it, I've been reminiscing about Harris' book and it's central point: That you never know what's going to happen and we should treat each other with love, kindness and respect because you never know how much time you or anyone else has left.

I'm going to make a confession: I didn't know who Nick Pasquale was before last weekend. I'm not fan enough to know the names of all the walk-ons, though maybe that should change. Maybe I should take the time to learn the names of the kids who represent my team and my school, putting in long hours with no chance at glory for love of game and the Blue and Gold. Maybe knowing their names is the least I can do. I promise to try.

But I know Nick Pasquale's name now and I'll never forget it.

I think the toughest parts of the week for me were seeing clips and pictures of Nick's father. My own kids are about the same age as Nick and I literally can't imagine how I would feel in his shoes. My younger son went to a music festival last weekend and -- as all kids do, as I did when I was young -- he came home a few hours later than expected. When he got home, I was mad. He didn't get it. It was just a few hours, what was the big deal? He couldn't understand. He doesn't know what it's like to wait by the window, getting anxious every time you hear a car in the distance or headlights coming around the corner. He doesn't know what it's like not to know if the next car is your kid, or a police officer with some news he's sorry to bring you.

If there are any students reading this -- do me a favor. Call your parents today, just let them know you're doing okay. It doesn't have to be a long conversation, just touch base. Someday you'll understand how much that call meant to them.

Matt Darby (via ballers102032)


We've got a game tomorrow, against the University of Nebraska.

The video above is from the Nebraska-UCLA game in 1988. It was September 10 and I was in the Rose Bowl with my future (and present, btw) wife. It was one of those ridiculously hot day/nights in Pasadena -- simply sweltering. In the video, strong safety Matt Darby simply unloads on a Nebraska in a game that we led 28-0 at one point. It's hard to explain now what that hit meant, though those of you who were following the team then will know what I mean.

We had some really good teams in the 80s, but we struggled against the really big, strong, physical teams like the Big 8's Oklahoma and Nebraska. In 1987, Nebraska blew our doors out in Lincoln. But not in '88. In 1988 we finally beat up on one of the big boys and that Darby hit was a one play metaphor for what we thought was our arrival (finally) on the big stage of college football.

You have to remember, this was the team that won its first seven games and was at one point ranked #1 in the nation. Let me write that again: We were 7-0 and ranked #1 in the nation. Troy Aikman was our quarterback. In all honesty, we had the best talent in the country that year, on top of having by far the best quarterback in the nation, our defense was simply loaded with future NFL talent.

But somehow we managed to lose to Washington State at home (the details are simply too painful to recount, though I will tell you we had a late game goal to goal situation and managed to not score) and then lost to Rodney Peete and SC and finished the regular season 10-2. It's the most disappointing 10-2 of my lifetime. (1998 was bad, but we had no defense that year; we were just unstoppable on offense. In '88, we had the best roster in the country, that team should have won every game.)

Now, we go into Nebraska 25 years after Matt Darby (and by the way, weren't the uniforms great in '88?) made that hit faced with another statement game. Just like a quarter century ago, beating Nebraska would make a statement that we are, at the very least, a force to be reckoned with. For the moment at least, we'd be players in the game. But a loss, well, you do the math ...

Maybe it's because the events of the past week have put the game in perspective for me, but I'm surprisingly calm and copacetic about Saturday. I should be nervous, excited. I'm not. Oh, don't worry, I'm really looking forward to watching it, but I've not spent much time dwelling on the various what-ifs. I'm just ready and I suspect the team is, too.

I really believe we're going to go in and win this game. I feel we're better than we were last year and Nebraska is not as good as they were last year. It's not my intent to knock the Huskers, I totally respect them as a team and as a program. I'm just giving you my opinion.

I think we're looking at a close, hard fought game. I just think we're a little stronger on defense and a bit more athletic on offense. I feel like we've got the claim ticket, we just need to pick up the package.

And with that, here are your Pregame Guesses, Nebraska Cornhuskers edition:

  1. Which quarterback, Brett Hundley or Taylor Martinez will have more total yards in the game?
  2. Name a Bruin who will record an interception.
  3. The over-under is 70. Do you like the over or the under?