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November 03, 2010

So long, Big Red

It's going to feel a little strange when Nebraska plays Iowa State in Ames on Saturday. Because it most likely will be the very last time we see the Cornhuskers at Jack Trice Stadium.

That's too bad, and I say that even though the games with Nebraska usually have turned out  badly for Iowa State. They've been playing each other since 1896 and this will be the 105th game between the two rivals, though it's hard to call the series a rivalry because it's so lopsided. Iowa State has won only 18 of those games.

Still, the Cornhuskers always have been an attraction when they showed up. They had such tradition and such good players. No matter how much you'd read about Turner Gill, Mike Rozier, Roger Craig, Ahman Green, Tommie Frazier, Eric Crouch and, the best name of all, I.M. Hipp, and no matter how often you watched them on TV, it was much more interesting to see them in person.

Besides, the Nebraska helmets always were good for a joke, you know, the one about the big red "N" standing for Nowledge.

The few times Iowa State did manage to beat Nebraska made it all the more satisfying for the Cyclones. Heck, in most cases, it made their season. To this day, the most memorable play I've ever seen from the Cyclones came against Nebraska. It was the 1992 game and if the name Marv Seiler pops to mind, we're thinking alike.

Iowa State prevailed 19-10 in a game it had no business winning. Nebraska was ranked seventh in the country and coming off routs of Colorado (52-7) and Kansas (49-7), both nationally ranked. Iowa State was 3-6 and a 28-point underdog.

The Cyclones led 12-10 early in the fourth quarter after four Ty Stewart field goals, but it seemed inevitable that Nebraska would get serious, score a couple of quick touchdowns and put it away. That was Seiler, a fifth-year senior making the first start of his career at quarterback, became an unlikely hero. From his own 20, Seiler kept the ball on an option to the right, found daylight as he turned upfield and headed for the far-off end zone.

Marvelous Marv went 78 yards before safety Tyrone Byrd dragged him down 2 yards short of a touchdown. Byrd caught Seiler about 20 yards earlier and tried to strip the ball as he rode him. Then, it was like Byrd realized, "Hey, I better bring this guy down before he scores."

Fullback Chris Ulrich did score on the next play, but it  wouldn't have mattered if he hadn't. Seiler's run had dissipated whatever wind was left in Nebraska's sails.

After Saturday, Nebraska can start a new rivalry in this state. The Cornhuskers are leaving the Big 12 for what they perceive as greener pastures in the Big Ten and they'll play Iowa every year. It'll be fun to see how that matchup develops over the years.

Any Iowa future Iowa State-Nebraska game would have to come in a bowl. At least, that's the only time they should meet.  Scheduling Nebraska as a non-conference opponent would be absolutely foolish. With the Cyclones playing nine conference games starting next season and Iowa on the schedule for the foreseeable future, ISU needs to fill those other slots with schools that have directions or hyphens in their name. Nebraska-Omaha is fine. Nebraska is not.

And here's another piece of advice for Iowa State administrators: Don't even think about scheduling Utah again.



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