No, seriously. I get it.
Perspective is for down the road. Now is the moment of our emotional release. Now -- less than 12 hours after a loss that can perhaps be best construed as a metaphorical kick in the junk -- is not the time to reflect on what we've learned.
But it's times that these that call for perspective the most.
As I drove home from the Faurot Field press box at 1 a.m. this morning, my mind was a torrent of thoughts, inclinations, and ruminations. My intent was to arrive home and immediately begin weaving together a poetic diatribe about the lessons learned Thursday night. But, for now, I lack answers, which is why I must settle for perspective.
And my perspective is this:
From a macro standpoint, there's little we can learn from what transpired Thursday night.
What we saw Thursday night was what happens when the game we call football is stripped of its "beautiful" paradigm and rebuilt as a battle of wills. Victory or defeat, there was simply no cosmetic beauty to be taken out of this game. For all the X's and O's in the world, Thursday night was about four quarters of execution, four quarters of minimizing mistakes, and four quarters of willing yourself to victory against any obstacle. In the end, Nebraska's will won out.
But what does this mean for the two programs? The only fair answer is that we can't really say. It was a game played in sub-optimal conditions where both teams played sub-optimally. What the game revealed is each team's character in dealing with adversity. One team had traveled to one of the toughest environments in the country and dealt with a gut wrenching heartbreaker in non-conference to a top ten team. The other had managed to overcome adversity at home against a MAC school. Although the margin of victory was 15, anyone who watched the game knew the true margin was much closer, and that response to adversity that was likely gained by one team in Blacksburg could very well have been the difference Thursday night. This is not to say that I'm implying Missouri had a lack of heart, will, or ability to deal with adversity. In fact, we saw more fight (even if it didn't come to fruition) in the Tigers against Nebraska than we saw in some of Missouri's losses last season combined. Showing fight is no excuse or reparation for losing, and it's not meant to be any form of consolation. It is what it is, and what it is is a promising sight from a young team that could have been jaded by early success.
Perhaps what is making reality so hard to understand is the incredible surreality of Thursday night. It was the odd sounds of silence from the audio system. It was the sound of "Entry Fanfare" without the announcer welcoming the Big M of the Midwest during Marching Mizzou's pregame. It was the constant sheet of rain sheathing the lights. It was the rain stopping in time for Nebraska to mount its furious rally. If it was a dream sequence for a motion picture, it was too poorly crafted and too much of a cliché. But this surreality was reality on Thursday.
There are so many things we still can't answer. This was not a judgment game for either team. This was a game that would easily classify into territory that Missouri basketball coach Mike Anderson would call "Survive and Advance." So many people -- many of us included -- wanted this game to be a grandiose statement that would serve as a "State of the Programs" address to the nation. For one team, it was supposed to be a statement that the nouveau riche power was not going away. For the other, it was supposed to be a statement that the traditional power was ready to reclaim what had been lost. Neither of these statements were made on Thursday.
The only statement that was made on Thursday was that Nebraska scored more points than Missouri. The Huskers now sit at 1-0 in conference and hold a potentially massive tiebreaker over Missouri. The Tigers sit at 0-1 in conference with a rough two-week stretch still looming. While the outlooks have changed for these programs this year, their trajectories have not. This game did not define Nebraska as "better than Missouri" as a program or do anything to establish superiority or inferiority. I should stress that I'm not intending to pull a Matt Leinart circa '06 Rose Bowl and say "I still think we're a better team" after a loss. We must tip our hats to Nebraska for pulling out a victory where Missouri could not. We must respect what is building in Lincoln. But as so many people try to turn Thursday night's result into a major referendum about the two teams and the two programs, we must stress the only real lesson that can be learned:
No more, no less.