Nebraska football is set to begin spring practice on February 28. It will be an important 15 practices for the Huskers, who haven’t won a conference title since 1999 or had a winning record since 2016.
This winter, head coach Scott Frost renegotiated his contract to take less money, overhauled his offensive staff, brought in two transfer quarterbacks, and hired a special teams coordinator. Still, positive vibes are hard to come by in Husker Nation.
Can Frost bring the once-proud program back to prominence? Can he lead them to a winning record? Or even just a bowl game?
These are complicated questions without straightforward answers. Why?
Because Nebraska football is cursed.
And everyone knows curses aren’t easy to break.
Black Friday 2001 in Boulder
It started on November 23, 2001, the day after Thanksgiving. A cold, dreary day in Boulder, Colorado.
Nebraska fans call it “Black Friday.”
I sat on the couch in my parents’ living room eating Thanksgiving leftovers. Alone. For the whole game. My dad was busy with other things at kickoff. He knew better than to watch after Bobby Purify scored from 39 yards out three minutes into the game. I didn’t.
My stomach twisted and flipped. But this wasn’t turkey leftovers.
Colorado hadn’t beaten Nebraska since 1990. The Buffs took out 11 years of frustration on Nebraska that day. They basically only ran two plays all game: a counter handoff to either Purify or Chris Brown and play-action to the tight end. It was maddening. (Brown just ran for another touchdown, by the way.)
Four hours later, after the sun had fallen behind the Flatirons, the scoreboard read “Colorado 62, Nebraska 36.”
Darkness had set in on Boulder. And the Nebraska football program.
The Colorado faithful went crazy. They deserved to. But they weren’t the only fanbase celebrating that day. It was the entire Big 12. Heck, all of college football.
The Big Red Giant was slain.
Looking back, it was a glorious win for the Colorado football program. But it wasn’t the beginning of a dynasty.
For Nebraska football? It was the beginning of the end.
The beginning of the curse.
Cursed for Three Decades of Football Dominance
The football gods poured out their wrath after a run of excellence from 1970-2000 in which the Huskers were the winningest team in college football. No team won more than the Huskers’ five national titles during that span.
The past twenty autumns have been a microcosm of Black Friday 2001. Agony, heartbreak, and humiliation, with bits of hope woven in between as fans shouted, “We’re back!”
But even the good moments were shadows without substance. Football joy has eluded us Husker fans for two decades
My brain tells me that Nebraska has lost football games because of blocking, tackling, passing, throwing, game management, missed field goals, and shanked punts.
Curses aren’t real. Right?
I don’t know. Ask the Cubs, the Bills, Kirk Cousins, or Drake.
According to curse experts (yes, this is a thing) everyone knows that the worst thing about a curse is that cursed people usually don’t know it. This is a huge problem as you can imagine. Everyone knows the first step to breaking a curse is admitting you are cursed. Nebraska can’t admit it because Nebraska doesn’t know it. And that means they haven’t used my plan to break it (more on that below).
But even if Nebraska did know they were cursed, coaches can’t acknowledge it publicly. That’s bad for team morale and reporters would go wild on Twitter. Players can’t acknowledge it either. Unless they only want NIL deals with Hot Topic.
Fans, though? We have no shame. And saying you root for a cursed team is way better than rooting for a bad one.
Scientific Reasons That Prove Nebraska Is Cursed
Now consider this tiny sampling of ridiculousness from the past 20 seasons:
- In 2002, the first season after Black Friday, Nebraska finished 7-7, highlighted by a 40-7 loss to unranked Penn State. Nebraska’s first non-winning season since 1961. Cursed.
- Frank Solich won nine games in 2003. He was fired. Cursed.
- In 2004, Bill Callahan’s first year, Nebraska lost to Texas Tech 70-10 for the worst loss in school history. Then in 2007, Callahan’s final year, Nebraska gave up the most points it ever has in a game against Kansas, losing 76-39. KANSAS. Cursed.
- The 2009 Big 12 Championship game against Texas. One second. Cursed.
- In 2010, their last year in the Big 12, Nebraska played for the conference title against rival Oklahoma. At one point, Nebraska led 17-0. They lost 23-20. Cursed.
- Bo Pelini won nine games in 2014. He was fired. Cursed.
- In 2015, then-coach Mike Riley decided not to recruit Joe Burrow, a Husker legacy. Burrow went on to win the Heisman and a national title at LSU. Oh, and he played in a Super Bowl in his second year in the NFL. Cursed.
- A lightning storm cancelled Scott Frost’s first game in 2018. Cursed.
- In 2020, everyone not named Ohio State refused to play football and mocked Nebraska because the Huskers…checks notes…simply wanted to play football. Cursed.
- The 2021 team takes the cake. Nebraska set the NCAA record for most losses by single digits (nine) and most losses by one score (eight). They lost in the most absurd ways. Analysts and fans have dubbed them “the best 3-9 team in the history of college football.” Hang the banner. Who does this except a cursed team? Answer: no one. The ultimate cursed team.
This is science, people. You can’t argue with science. Nebraska football is cursed.
How Can Nebraska Break the Curse?
Curses can be broken and for Nebraska, there are two, and only two, options for the 2022 season.
The first option is that Nebraska begins to win actual football games. The problem with this strategy is that winning (particularly the most meaningful games) is difficult and often impossible because, well, the curse. By definition, that’s what a curse does.
The second option is to perform a curse-breaking ritual at a new moon, ideally on a football field at the 50-yard line. This is my preferred strategy given that option one is unlikely. A ritual is also suggested by the curse experts (yes, I looked it up). For just one cursed individual, submersion in a salt bath along with reciting a prayer is the recommended solution.
But we’re talking about a team. Actually, 20 years’ worth of teams. Baths and salts and prayers seem to miss the gravity of the situation.
I have a better plan.
The Plan to Break the Curse
Nebraska’s first game of 2022 is in Dublin against Northwestern on Saturday, August 27. Can you guess what also happens that day at 9:17 AM in Dublin?
A new moon.
Absolute freakin’ fate.
Skip the salt bath. The ritual of choice must be a sacrifice – something significant to Nebraska but also something that’s been a hindrance to progress.
Bad Herbie is the only choice for the sacrifice.
However, I also recommend sacrificing ‘Lil Red. In 1993, Nebraska introduced ‘Lil Red, a blowup mascot that wears onesie overalls and a sideways hat. That was a terrific year and in the middle of Nebraska’s heyday so it doesn’t qualify as a cursed season. However, that season ended with an Orange Bowl loss to Florida State – a cursed game because of garbage officiating. A simple pin prick to Red’s bib should do.
Now we come to the single most important question. Who should perform the sacrifice? The only answer is Solich, who coached the 2001 team when the curse began, and the 2000 Huskers. Who did Solich defeat in 2000 to finish the final non-cursed Nebraska football season?
Northwestern. (Your mind is blown, I know.)
But wait. In Solich’s final year (2003), the Huskers went 9-3. The exact opposite record of the 2021 team that perfectly embodied the characteristics, statistics, and just plain dumb luck of a cursed team.
This, my friends, is the circle of life. It’s the only way to end the curse.
See you in Dublin on August 27.
Let’s hope Frank can make it.