Russ Batenhorst Darn right it was loud after Hail Mary


Some things are inevitable. They can’t be helped. As someone within the borders of the state of Nebraska who at least once a week subjects themselves to having writings appear in public, I believe I’m required by state law to discuss, at least in part, the topic of the week.

So, here goes.

Yeah, I was there. I was one of the lucky ones to see it in person. I’d like to say I was one of the announced group of more than 91,000 to see it, but by the time it happened, the number was a bit smaller.

It was close, though. There were thoughts of heading for the stairwell or the aisles behind the walls or anywhere to get to my next destination quicker, but I resisted.

Something told me that when it’s just close, there’s always a chance. So I stayed. And for years, I’ll be able to say I saw it.

The catch. The throw. The Hail Mary. Geronimo. The Miracle on 10th Street. The Job Saver. The Play.

Call it what you want. I saw Ron Kellogg throw a football absolutely as far as he was capable of throwing it and the state’s latest hero, Jordan Westerkamp, catch it. I was pretty sure I saw him catch it in the end zone, so I jumped and yelled and high-fived just like everyone else.

But — and come to find out I must have been channeling my inner Bo Pelini — I still wasn’t sure. I knew there’d be a review. I told the people next to me that I sure hope this doesn’t get overturned, but I’ve seen defeat snatched from the jaws of victory at this same address enough times to know that cruel underbellies can be exposed.

But not this time. Not this particular Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, where — for those of you just waking up from a weeklong nap — the Nebraska football team scored on the last, unlikely play of the game to beat Northwestern and patch together frail hopes of the faithful for another week.

For an 11-year span that included the 1980s, I worked as a sports reporter on local TV. During that time, I missed but one or two Nebraska home football games. Since that time, I’ve been at a handful of games. One, maybe two, a season.

This year, the pace has picked up, but that’s because I have much stronger interest in someone wearing a band uniform as opposed to a football uniform. But it’s nice watching the guys play football to fill time before and after the halftime show.

I’ve stood on the field with a camera on my shoulder dodging oranges thrown from the crowd as Scott Strasburger intercepted a pass to ice a win over Oklahoma. The crowd was loud then.

I was there when the crowd chanted for “defense” late in another Big Eight-clinching win over the Sooners. It was loud then.

Even later, as a fan in the stands, I saw the pass back to Eric Crouch for a touchdown in — here’s those guys again — a win over Oklahoma. It was loud then.

Other memories are blurs, but there were plenty of times it was too loud to hear the person next to you.

I mention that because much has been made of the roar that followed Saturday’s heroics. The stadium is larger now, so even with the early defectors, there were likely more people there. So, yes, it was loud.

Louder than after big plays in the past? Who cares!

This was the roar that will be long remembered. I think I liked this one best, though, because this was spontaneous.

Admit it, you didn’t think they had a plug nickel of a chance of scoring a touchdown on that last play. Forty-nine yards out, four seconds to go. A desperation heave to the end zone. That play never works.

That’s why this roar was different. From quiet desperation, to silent anticipation, to complete exhilaration — all in four seconds. This is what elation, relief, disbelief and elation again sound like all wrapped into one.

A huge crowd will remember it for a long time, while thousands of others swear they’ll never leave a close game early again.



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