Say this for 2016 if you’re a Nebraska football fan:
At least it’s been consistent.
Colder than a witch’s armpit. But consistent.
Jordan Westerkamp won’t play in the Music City Bowl, Cornhuskers coach Mike Riley announced after practice Thursday afternoon, because of a knee injury, robbing the Big Red of its No. 1 receiver for a game for which the status of its No. 1 quarterback, Tommy Armstrong Jr., is still murky.
Westerkamp is out for the bowl game and Tommy is still not practicing. pic.twitter.com/2fNoFi32RK
— Laura Ann (@IwannabeaSPALE) December 15, 2016
But this being 2016, the Westerkamp news didn’t stop there. Once the knife was good and in, it got twisted. Riley revealed that the senior tore up his meniscus doing non-contact work. And the prognosis is probably three months on the shelf, as a best-case.
So long, East-West Shrine Game.
Fare thee well, NFL Combine.
Wasn’t behind the back…
— Chad Carlson (@ccarlsonin) September 18, 2016
— Athletic Recruiting (@ncsa) September 8, 2014
The 6-foot Chicago native with the Spider-Man hands appeared for the last time in a Huskers uniform at Kinnick Stadium on Nov. 25, in a 40-10 loss to Iowa in a game Nebraskans would prefer redacted from the course of written history. Westerkamp — “Westy,” as the locals affectionately call him — snagged 4 grabs for 50 yards against the Hawkeyes, and that, although we didn’t know it at the time, was pretty much that.
When the song ended, the wideout was 6 yards shy of moving to No. 2 on the Big Red’s all-time receiving yardage list and 14 catches (167) behind leader Kenny Bell (181) at No. 2 on Nebraska’s all-time catch list.
Westy had caught a pass in 36 straight contests, which means he’ll finish his college days one game shy of tying the great Johnny Rodgers for No. 1 all-time. Because 2016 does not give a damn how getting that close just breaks your heart.
Jordan Westerkamp prior to the Iowa game: ‘It’s been a tough year for us with injuries, but that’s just kind of how football is’#Huskers
— Josh Planos (@JPlanos) December 15, 2016
In short, no one deserved that kind of anticlimax less. But there it is, the autumn in a nutshell, another log to chuck onto the flaming pile of what-ifs, another chapter in an awful, recurring theme.
Nebraska Football 2016: We’ll Never Know.
Maybe if Tommy Armstrong Jr. isn’t knocked unconscious, that trip to Columbus starts to feel like more of a fight.
Maybe if No. 4 can run — legitimately run — on two healthy legs in Iowa City, the Hawkeyes don’t turn Black Friday into Mardi Gras.
Maybe if targets Brandon Reilly, Alonzo Moore and Westerkamp could’ve seen more of the field at the same time, a decent offense teeters toward great.
Maybe if tackle Nick Gates isn’t playing at 60 percent of his optimum health over the final month, the running game feels more like a weapon and less like a throw of the dice.
Maybe if Westerkamp doesn’t miss two games with back problems and Nashville with that dang knee, he’s plastered his name all over the top of the Huskers’ all-time receiving charts.
We’ll never know. And in a season in which the callous and flinty waltzed arm in arm with pinches of glory, never letting go, that’s the cruelest question of all.