5 Thoughts - 2009 Gator Bowl
Clemson RB C.J. Spiller
Clemson RB C.J. Spiller
Posted Jan 1, 2009

Nebraska beats Clemson 26-21 ... 5 Thoughts on the 2009 Gator Bowl

2009 Gator Bowl

Nebraska 26 ... Clemson 21

GAME RECAP: Nebraska rallies for the win 
- 2009 CFN Gator Bowl Preview 
2009 Gator Bowl Player Profiles, Histories, & More

1. Bo Pelini still has ground to make up in the Big 12, but a come-from-behind victory on New Year’s Day is a gigantic step in the right direction. After missing the postseason a year ago, the Huskers needed to show the rest of the nation that it was making progress in Pelini’s debut. Mission accomplished for a program that’s been known to recruit well outside of the region. There were even glimpses of the old Blackshirts, getting to Cullen Harper five times and limiting the tandem of James Davis and C.J. Spiller to just 43 yards rushing on 19 carries. It’s a start. A good start. - Richard Cirminiello

2. For all of you playoff proponents out there, this Gator Bowl is your slam-dunk argument as to why you can have your cake and eat it too. This was a great game, a fun game, stuck in the glut of the New Year's Day A.M. that included the Capital One Bowl, the Outback, the NHL thing in Wrigley, and overlapped with the start time of the Rose Bowl, and it was still a well attended event and it was still worth the watch. Everyone tries to make the bowl season out to be an either-or situation. Either you have a playoff and eliminate the bowls, or you have to keep things as is. You can still have bigger, better bowls that everyone will care about, 99.9% of all college football fans outside of Lincoln and Clemson would rather watch the Rose Bowl than the Gator, yet you can still have the other bowls (and most would rather watch this year's Gator again than the Rose). Explain, exactly, why there can't be an eight team playoff and still have a Gator Bowl between name-brand teams like Nebraska and Clemson in a meaningful battle that will get college football fans buzzing. This just in, all bowl games outside of the BCS Championship Game don't really matter in the overall scheme of life. That doesn't mean they're not fun and they shouldn't be abolished. Keep the big games everyone wants to see, the Rose, Orange, Fiesta and Sugar, for an eight team playoff, and then there will still be a nice trickle down effect with great games for the other bowls to put together.
- Pete Fiutak 

3. Ndamukong Suh. As tough to pronounce as he is to block. The junior defensive tackle has already announced that he plans to be back in Lincoln in 2009, which is terrific news for the Husker program. In one of the most impressive performances by an interior lineman in the bowl season, he led Nebraska with eight tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks, and a blocked kick. Built like a prototypical tackle, he moves like an end, which was too much for a Clemson offensive line that had trouble in pass protection throughout the year. Run around Suh? Few opponents were able to do it this season.
- Richard Cirminiello

4. The aftermath of a bowl game is a very good time to assess conferences, programs, and NFL draft prospects for top players. Sometimes, though--even in a second-tier bowl such as this one--a great play stands out so much that it has to take top billing. One of those plays occurred in this game, as a dramatic mano-a-mano showdown played a big part in deciding the outcome in Jacksonville.
Down by only five points with 1:43 left, and facing second-and-goal from the Nebraska 10, Clemson was oh-so-close to taking the lead. Tiger quarterback Cullen Harper had just converted a fourth-and-4 to keep his teams hopes alive, but he'd have to make one more big play to carry his team over the top. He rolled right as he was flushed out of the pocket on this significant second-down snap. Blitzing Husker cornerback Eric Hagg found an angle, but it still seemed that Harper would at least be able to buy enough time to throw the ball away and fight for another down. Hagg got a hold of Harper's ankle, but nothing more. Usually, quarterbacks or other ball carriers are able to shake loose. But something inside Hagg's body wouldn't allow him to let go. He found enough leverage to spin Harper to the turf for a 16-yard loss to the 26. In one dramatic moment, the kind of snapshot that's worth a portrait (like Alabama's Barry Krauss stopping Penn State's Mike Guman at the goal line in the 1979 Sugar Bowl), Eric Hagg's defeat of Cullen Harper enabled Nebraska to avenge a loss to orange-clad Clemson in the 1982 Orange Bowl. - Matthew Zemek
5. The most controversial replay call of this game came when the booth ruled that backup Nebraska quarterback Patrick Witt did not fumble midway through the fourth quarter, a decision which preserved the Huskers' two-point lead at the time. The call was debatable to a certain extent, but it's worth making a key point about the ruling, and the way the play was examined.
The CBS production truck did a nice job of using rewind and fast-forward frames to help the booth (ESPN could learn a lot from the way CBS offered review-friendly technology today), but what the CBS crew didn't quite do was identify the precise moment when Witt's knee hit the ground. The CBS truck chose to freeze the frame at a point when Witt's knee had firmly hit the ground, but not at the point when Witt's knee originally touched the ground. That might seem like a fine distinction, but that's precisely the point. The bang-bang call was so close, and so important to the game's outcome, that such nitpicking was necessary. If the CBS truck had frozen the frame just a split-second earlier, when Witt's knee initially touched the turf, viewers would have been able to see that the ball had not begun to come loose.
The booth got it right.
CBS had good technology and good production values.
Next time, though, a production truck needs to identify the moment when a knee begins to touch the ground, not the moment when a knee skids or bounces. - Matthew Zemek