By Brian Rosenthal / Huskers.com
For Nebraska fans, the motto ‘Unfinished Business’ will elicit memories of Tommie Frazier mastering the option, a behemoth yet nimble offensive line sending Warren Sapp searching for oxygen and a Blackshirt defense unleashing hit after ferocious hit.
The Huskers’ 24-17 victory over Miami in the Orange Bowl following the 1994 season produced Nebraska’s first football national championship since 1971, and the first of three in four seasons under legendary coach Tom Osborne.
That game also served as the pinnacle to the ‘Unfinished Business’ theme, which took hold following an 18-16 loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl following the 1993 season. Nebraska, heavy underdogs in that game, had led with 1 minute, 16 seconds remaining, but lost grasp of a championship that was oh-so-close.
That offseason, players would put 1:16 on the Memorial Stadium scoreboard clocks during their workouts. Seeing that time served as motivation, almost a battle cry, as the Huskers shed blood, sweat and tears in making certain business wouldn’t go unfinished.
Today, another Nebraska atheltics team is using the ‘Unfinished Business’ motto in hopes of atoning for a close, heartbreaking finish from the previous season.
“Last year, we had these goals,” Nebraska men’s gymnastics captain Connor Adamsick said. “We missed NCAA Finals by two-tenths of a point. We were right there. It was so close.”
Yes, Nebraska, which hasn’t been to the NCAA Finals since 1999, came that close to advancing and vying for its first national championship, which coincidentally, came in 1994.
“I mean, two-tenths is nothing in men’s gymnastics,” Nebraska coach Chuck Chmelka said. “It’s a hop. To lose out on that is tough.”
So senior Coleman Tokar came up with the ‘Unfinished Business’ motto gymnasts would adhere to throughout offseason training. Junior Alex Magsam even sketched an unofficial graphic for T-shirts in which he drew a business tie to replace each ‘i’ in the slogan.
“I thought that was pretty cool,” Chmelka said.
The eighth-year head coach also thinks it’s cool how his team, which has risen to No. 6 in the nation, is keeping its cool. That alone has been the biggest difference between previous seasons and this one.
Consistency and confidence are key in any sport but especially gymnastics, where just a minor error, whether mental or physical in nature, can lead to major chaos.
“In years past, we had some drops – two misses, three misses – and we’d have like 12 or 13 misses. We’d just have meltdowns on events,” Chmelka said. “We haven’t had that. Honestly, I don’t think we’re going to. It’s because of them. It’s nothing I do, it’s them. They just get it. They’re on a mission.”
Adamsick said he noticed an attitude change over the summer.
“In the offseason, we come in, and everyone’s hungry,” Adamsick said. “In the summer, nothing’s required or anything, but almost the entire team is here training, wanting to get better. I think that’s a huge part of it, just the attitude going in.
“The fact we’re that hungry for it, it pushes you through the hard days of practice. Just the motivation level is huge with this team. The camaraderie with all of us is unbelievable.”
Nebraska proved it’s capable of a breakthrough last weekend, when the Huskers collected their first Big Ten victories of the season by defeating Penn State and Iowa at home while scoring a season-high 418.350.
Nebraska hadn’t defeated Iowa in the regular season since 2013, and hadn’t defeated Penn State in the regular season in 1999. What’s more, the Nittany Lions were the ones who'd edged the Huskers in last year’s NCAA Preliminaries.
“Penn State was a big part of the unfinished business,” Adamsick said. “They were the ones who beat us out. So beating them was a lot of fun.
Junior all-arounder Chris Stephenson scored a season-high 83.50, which included a season-high 14.0 on high bar and a career-high 14.60 on parallel bars. The Fishers, Indiana native earned Big Ten Gymnast of the Week for his efforts.
“It was really satisfying to be here at home and just all six events, as a team, everybody kept their heads on their shoulders and kept fighting through a fall here and there,” Stephenson said. “Just really satisfying to never have a meltdown.”
Of course, business is far from finished. Nebraska must face Iowa again, on the road, before concluding the regular season, at home, against Minnesota on March 25.
But Chmelka is confident in the direction his team has taken.
“They’re really determined,” Chmelka said. “They do everything asked in the gym to do the right things in competition. I’m happy for them as much as anything. It’s showing. We’ve just got to keep going. We’ve got to finish strong.”