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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Huskers Earn Our Respect, If Not Our Love

Bernie Lincicome Chicago Tribune

The bowl alliance works, and I hope it is proud of itself. It has given us a national college football champion, without dispute, only don’t expect us to love it.

The choice between Florida and Nebraska was like picking the least noxious bully, two industrial-strength football programs, without appeal or charm, full of faults and misdemeanors, not counting one charge of attempted murder.

What either of these teams has to do with the spirit and mission of higher education is as mystifying as Steve Spurrier’s smirk.

But there they were, two undefeated collections of students and athletes, sometimes even the same person, deserving each other, trading grunts for the glory of friends, alumni, corporate piggybacking and greater nachos.

And when it was over, Nebraska had become the first uncontested back-to-back national champion in 40 years.

“There wasn’t the excitement of the last one,” Nebraska coach Tom Osborne said. “I think the players expected to win. It wasn’t ho-hum, just more matter-of-fact.”

The only fact that matters is 62-24.

This one crossed all the T’s and dotted all the I’s and most of them were in the “Tostitos” logos that festooned the stadium. Without one mention of salsa.

Nebraska played like it had been in title games before, which it had, just last year - a win over Miami - and the year before - a loss to Florida State.

“I always wanted to come back to Florida and play each of the teams for the national championship,” said quarterback Tommie Frazier, who is from Sarasota. “I came back and got two of the three.”

Florida played with its thumb in its mouth, space between its ears and its shoes tied together. The postmodern attack of Spurrier was no match for the same offense they’ve been running in Lincoln for generations.

Nebraska was so overpowering that it took a knee inside 30 seconds at the 3-yard line rather than further humiliate Florida, an act of kindness not lost on Spurrier, often accused of running up scores.

“We’ve been on the good end of some of these big scores,” said Spurrier. “Now we’re on the bad end and we probably deserved every bit of it.”

Nebraska is one bit of ballhandling away from being the single wing, not that Frazier and cohort Lawrence Phillips couldn’t make it look like the offense of the future. Strange how the most primitive attack can appear modern when it has superior athletes.

Nebraska center Aaron Graham had said, “We have the chance to go down in the books as one of the greatest teams ever. Until you play in a national championship game, you can’t prepare for a national championship game.”

A great team, sure, in the way that Ma Barker was a devoted parent. You can’t tell the Nebraska players without a rap sheet.

You’d like to know which one may be the thief, which one may be the masher, which one the abuser, which the attempted murderer, and which one had the loaded handgun.

For security, I expected every substitute to be frisked, or at least to run onto the field through a metal detector. Osborne would point out that Nebraska had trouble with only “six players in 4-1/2 years” instead of four in three months.

“We have 150 young men labeled and bothered by those six guys,” Osborne said.

They weren’t bothered at all by the most notable of them. They were hugging and thanking running back Phillips, who turned the game into his own court plea, no contest.

We give you again, Nebraska, national champions. Coming soon to a post office wall near you.

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