Outside the men’s room: Big Red, big game

By Kirk Haaland, Contributor

A shade under 18 years ago, there was the original T-Magic.  Though, he was never actually known by that name it was easily as fitting as it is for Taylor Martinez.  He was also a freshman quarterback for Nebraska; he led his team to huge victories, dazzled fans with his legs, and…lost in Ames.

In the two weeks leading up to the 1992 game in Ames, Tommy Frazier led the Huskers to back-to-back home wins over #8 Colorado and #13 Kansas by a combined score of 101-14.  With the Big Red Machine playing at that level, Jim Walden’s lowly Cyclones would serve as no problem to Nebraska, right?

Up until 2004, I had attended three Iowa State – Nebraska games with the Cyclones winning all of them (my in attendance record has since leveled off to 3-3).  The first of those three Cyclone victories came in 1992.  There was zero reason to think ISU had a chance to win the game but I won the right to go with my dad by beating my brother at “rock, paper, scissors,” so hope was in the air.  Then unknown, Marv Seiler, would be standing in at quarterback for the day, making the chances of victory seem even slimmer.  Not that I knew any different as an eight year old.

That day, that game, and the events that unfolded are still my fondest memories with my father.  And while there are some memories of the game itself, much of what I remember is more about the time I was able to spend with him.  Sporting the snow pants on a cold day when there was no snow and sitting about 15 rows up on the 20-yard line in the northwest corner.

I still remember Marv Seiler popping free on the keeper around the right corner and the crowd eruption that ensued.  It wasn’t until the Cyclones pounded it in for a touchdown that it seemed like a win was even possible.  That pushed the lead to 19-10 in the fourth quarter and the game ended with that score.

I remember watching all of the fans jump the barrier down onto the field and rush to the goalposts.  I couldn’t understand why my dad wouldn’t let me run out there to celebrate with all of our Cyclone friends.  In the end, I talked him into going down on the field to watch the scene that unfolded and congratulate the players.  We walked up the ramp in the northwest corner with many of the players.  I gave high fives and my dad gave the players’ shoulder pads a hard thump as we walked with them.

Then, as my dad was known for, we sat in the car while traffic cleared and listened to Pete.

The 2010 Cyclone football program scoffs at the 1992 Cyclone football program while Nebraska is again a top 10 team.  Maybe this statement of feeling I’m about to make is a little over dramatic but I think it’s true.  I’ve never wanted to win a football game as bad as this one.

First, it’s Nebraska.  While the game isn’t a true rivalry because the results are far too uneven, they are a national program in close proximity.  ISU will always be ramped up to strap on the pads against the Huskers.  Let’s also not forget that condescending Nebraska fans are not fun, to put it mildly.

Second, it’s for bowl eligibility.  Three games remain and one absolutely positively has to be won.  It would be a phenomenal accomplishment for Coach Rhoads in his second season with the daunting schedule.  The schedule will include six teams that will have been ranked in the top ten at one time or another—ridiculous (Iowa, Utah, Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska, and Missouri).  If the Cyclones should reach bowl eligibility it will do so with at least four wins in the Big 12, perhaps five.  That doesn’t happen very often.  The Cyclones won four conference games in 2001, 2002, 2004, and 2005 while winning five in 2000.

Third, it’s potentially and maybe likely the last time that Iowa State will ever (EVER!) even play Nebraska.  Supposedly Nebraska will be really mad to play the game this year as a result of the epic 9-7 loss against the Cyclones last year.  They need to prove how much of a fluke that game was.  Of course, they were really mad at Texas when the Longhorns showed up in Lincoln a few weeks back and that didn’t quite go as planned.  Sending them out of the Big 12 with “scoreboard” in Ames and Lincoln would be an eternal favor to Cyclone fans everywhere.

With an improving defense and an offense that is slowly and steadily becoming more consistent, there should be plenty of reason for optimism in Ames.  Not just this season but for the future of the program as well.  Two comments of note (in my opinion):  Getting to a bowl game is absolutely crucial for the feel of where the program sits as well as the extra practices and if that happens, hang on tight to Coach Rhoads.  I would hate to lose out on a great coach and staff because we had all resigned ourselves to the fact that this is his dream job.  We may be home for him but we can’t operate as if the “home team discount” is a certainty.  Give the man whatever he wants in order to keep him around.

In the words of Mr. Shirley (Clark Griswold’s boss in Christmas Vacation), “Look, uh, sometimes things look good on paper, but lose their luster when you see how it affects real folks…So, Carl, whatever you got last year, add 20 percent.”

While the Cyclones are still very much mathematically alive to win the North, that can’t be the focus at the moment.  However, pull off a stunner this weekend and you have my permission to let your wild imaginations run, well…wild.  Not because fans need to take games “one game at a time” like those within the program do, but because we need to see more proof in the pudding.

Maybe in 18 years there will be a 26-year old mediocre blogger waxing poetic about the 2010 season.  Where not only did the Cyclones topple Nebraska for the final time but they won their final five games to win the Big 12 North’s last crown.  Lord knows if the stars align to make that happen that anything is possible in the final Big 12 Championship game.