Column: Curse of the Cornhusker

If you're an MU student, chances are good that you probably weren't alive the last time the Missouri football team beat Nebraska in Columbia.

The last time the Tigers pulled off that feat was in 1973.

Fortunately, that was not the last time MU beat Nebraska. The last time the Tigers came out ahead of the Cornhuskers was in 1978.

Saturday's 51-7 loss to Nebraska was just one in a long line of defeats for Missouri. On Saturday, the Cornhusker's current winning streak against Missouri was pushed to 18.

Eighteen games. Eighteen years. Eighteen losses.

It is easy to feel sorry for Larry Smith and the Tigers. It seems as if one game, for the rest of eternity, is pre-ordained.

In recent years, many columnists (including myself) have searched for possible reasons for Missouri's long-lasting futility. How could one program sustain such a losing streak?

We've blamed it on the now removed Omniturf. From 1985 to 1994, Missouri went 20-38-3 on the green turf that more often resembled a slip and slide. With the turf gone, Missouri seemed destined to turn things around.

Northwestern went to the Rose Bowl last year. Columbia is 6-2. Two paramounts of gridiron embarrassment have managed to turn things around.

What is wrong with Missouri?

Saturday's loss gave MU its sixth loss of the season, and its 13th consecutive losing season.

Obviously, it wasn't the Omniturf.

Maybe it's Nebraska. Nebraska, after all, is intrinsically tied to one of the worst pranks ever pulled on Missouri.

During the 1950s, the sacred "M" in the north part of Memorial Stadium was switched to an "N" the night before a Missouri-Nebraska game. The grounds crew, fortunately, used the help of some local boys to change the "N" back to the usual "M."

At the time, it was most likely seen as a mere prank. But perhaps there was something much more to the prank. The prank came at a crucial time in the Missouri-Nebraska series.

During the '50s, the Tigers won six of the 10 games and started MU's longest winning streak against the Cornhuskers. Perhaps the prank was part of a larger curse that is just now revealing its wrath. The Cornhusker's current 18-game winning streak is the longest of the series for Nebraska.

But, maybe that is too far-fetched.

In a similar situation, the Boston Red Sox blame their futility on Babe Ruth. Ruth, of course, was a member of the last Red Sox team to win the World Series. A year later, he was sold to the New York Yankees.

Perhaps Missouri has been cursed by Warren Powers. Powers, after all, was the last MU coach to beat Nebraska. When he was replaced in 1985, after his first losing season, maybe that was the beginning of the Curse of Powers.

Or maybe it is just that Nebraska is a top-notch powerhouse that will eternally cruise through Missouri and its conference.

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