Nebraska Linebacker Trev Alberts and his roommate, kicker Byron Bennett, live with this pet boa constrictor named Sam. A fat, ugly, red-tailed creature, Sam lies in the middle of their trailer home and sleeps, except when it's feeding time. Then, slowly and unpleasantly, he devours everything that's put before him. "He doesn't really have a purpose," says Alberts, "except to eat every couple of days."
The 1993 Cornhuskers are kind of like that. There they sit, square in the middle of the national championship picture, swallowing everything that's smaller than they are. It may take a forklift to remove Nebraska from title contention, considering its 300-pound offensive tackles and a heavy-hitting defense led by Alberts, a senior whose career-sack yardage nearly equals the length of two football fields.
Last Saturday at Colorado the Huskers simply choked the life out of the Buffaloes. It was an ugly performance, but as Alberts says, "We like it that way." The 21-17 win made Nebraska, at 8-0, the only team in the Big Eight with an unblemished record and one of six unbeaten and untied teams left in Division I-A, with only Kansas, Iowa State and Oklahoma remaining on its schedule.
Not that the Huskers' record has earned them much respect. After all, how many teams win a game 49-7 and drop in the polls? That's what happened two weeks ago, when Nebraska fell from fifth to sixth in the Associated Press rankings after crushing Missouri. That poll plainly dissed the Huskers, who are used to being overlooked but not insulted.
The pollsters have had reason to be skeptical. For all the Huskers' regular-season success—they have won at least nine games a season for 24 straight years—they have beaten only one Top 10 team ( Colorado 52-7 in 1992) in the last five seasons and haven't won a bowl game in six years. In fact, in their last five postseason appearances, the Huskers were thrashed, twice by Florida State, twice by Miami and once by Georgia Tech.
Nebraska's reply to the slight in the AP poll was to win again. Alberts exemplified the team's determination, leading a defense that squeezed Colorado mercilessly in the second half. After intermission the Huskers denied the Buffaloes a first down until less than eight minutes remained in the game; they intercepted quarterback Kordell Stewart twice; and they sacked Stewart once, for a 10-yard loss. "It was just a matter of respect," Alberts said.
Alberts is a 6'4", 240-pound projected first-round draft pick. He also is a typical Husker, an obedient square with a close-cropped haircut in the shape of a veal chop. His father got him the trailer home back in Cedar Falls, Iowa, where his family farms 300 acres of corn and soybeans.
Bennett, a talkative little guy from Dallas who has scored more points than any other kicker in Nebraska history, likes to tease Alberts about his toughness. "I take credit for Trev," says Bennett. "I get him ready for games. I beat him around the trailer, let him watch some TV and then put him to bed at 11 with a Happy Meal."
Alberts has a soft spot for Bennett, which is the reason he tolerates Sam, who belongs to the kicker. In truth, Alberts is a little afraid of Sam. Recently the snake busted out of his 15-gallon tank, and Alberts had to hunt the thing down by himself. "He about had a heart attack," says Bennett.
Bennett occasionally lets Sam roam in his closet, wriggling through his laundry. "He lets him crawl around in his clothes" says Alberts, horrified.