The Gator Bowl Recap
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Things are what they are...
Compared to Clemson, the Nebraska Cornhuskers had a little bit better record in a little bit better conference and won the 2009 Gator Bowl by a little bit, 26-21...You can dissect this game anyway you want, but in the end, that is pretty much what happened in Jacksonville, Florida on New Years Day. I am exhausted and tired, and have perhaps had one too many holiday drinks, but I will do my best to tell you how the Gator Bowl went down through the eyes of a die-hard Tiger...
This 2008 season has been a roller-coaster ride if you are a Clemson fan, and the Gator Bowl outcome seems to fit. I am glad I can sit down and type this, rather than annoy the hell out of some unfortunate soul's ear. The Gator Bowl we witnessed today was a college football fan's delight, and despite the outcome I am glad I was able to gather with friends and family and watch this game that kept us all high-fiving for a good 4 hours. It ended with pain, but somehow, deep inside, I was glad to be a part of it. I have been fortunate to become friends with many Nebraska fans over the last several weeks and despite the loss, I can think of no better group to share a bowl game with.
In the beginning, it seemed as if CU had a point to prove. CJ Spiller had several runs on returns that had him living up to the hype that he sometimes could do without. James Davis would follow Spiller's runs with bruising runs of 5, 6 and 7 yards of his own. The running game seemed to be developing well for CU, and the defense was playing lights-out. After a scoreless first quarter, the second quarter went the same way. If you were a Nebraska fan, big plays on D were abound. If you were a CU fan, the same.
When two teams match up this evenly, every play is tense, and this game had one after another. The second quarter ran deep and it looked as if the game would go tied at nothing-nothing into the half. But then Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel tipped a Nebraska handoff and took it to the house for a touchdown. CU had the momoentum, but it was short-lived as minutes later Nebraska countered with a field goal.
With just seconds left until halftime, a gut-wrenching exchange of turnovers left Clemson with the ball at the Nebraska 25 yard-line. When Cullen Harper hit wr Aaron Kaelly on a touchdown pass to put Clemson up 14-3 at the break, things were all good in TigerLand, but the realization of a hard second half battle were real.
Nebraska struck quickly in the 3rd quarter when senior Joe Ganz(19 of 36 for 236 yards and 2 scores with 1 int) hit Nate Swift on a 17-yard pass to make the score 14-10, Clemson. Nebraska had success throughout the game with mid range passes to tall wide-recievers, and Ganz played a fantastic finale for his Huskers. The celebration in HuskerLand didn't last long, though, as two minutes later Clemson receiver Jacoby Ford hauled in a Harper pass in the endzone for a 21-10 Clemson lead. From then on, all the scoring belonged to those wearing white and red.
A touchdown and three field goals later, Nebraska has their xxx bowl victory in xxxx years of playing ball. Alex Henery, the Nebraska field-goal kicker that made a 57-yarder to beat Colorado several weeks ago, and is an All-American caliber kicker, added to his ongoing illustrative Nebraska career by making 3 straight field-goals of 28, 28 and 22 yards to close the scoring on this game.
As I drove back from my friends house following the game, I didn't really know what to think as a Clemson fan. We played a quality opponent from a conference that can probably say is the top conference in non-professional football right now, and played a game that was entertaining and could have at any point gone either way. However, being a person, and a team ,and a university that strives for nothing, like our opponent today, short of national titles and winning EVERY game, I type this with a weight on my shoulders.
Yes, I am the "Top Fan", and I try to be neutral to all teams. But by being "The Top Fan", I am declaring that I am extremely passionate about a certain one team, and that team is Clemson. My passion for them has never been stronger than it is right now. I, along with everyone that reads this throughout the TigerNation, knows that losing any game sucks.
But the fact is that we ran into a team today that is scarily like ourselves, and with a purpose equally as driven as ours. The Nebraska Cornhuskers and the Clemson Tigers share a spirit that is good to see this day in age. The two teams went at it for nearly four hours in a hard-nosed, tough game. And in the end, one team came out a few points ahead. But overall, in the big picture, things are going to be different in Nebraska and Clemson now. Both teams know the cost and beauty in winning, and a game like this was a winner for all involved.
I hate Clemson lost this game. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. But I can rest easy because in Dabo Swinney being our Head Coach, I know he hates it worse than I do. Go Tigers. Go Huskers. Great game!
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