What's Going On At Nebraska These Days?

FAYETTEVILLE - "So far, I can't find the bandwagon, let alone get on it."

Discontented Arkansas fan?

Hardly. Those are few and far between these days.

But the thought here is there could have been enough of those to make a human chain from here to Texarkana had seventh-year Arkansas coach Houston Nutt given in to the courting - and offer -by Nebraska Athletic Director Steve Pederson after the Hogs rocked Missouri 27-14 in the Dec. 31 Independence Bowl.

Who knows what Arkansas would've ended up with?

And what's going on at Nebraska this season?

Not much as that lead quote from a poster on the Lincoln paper's Web site suggests.

Figured it would be interesting to check in and see how the Cornhuskers are doing without Nutt or Frank Solich, the six-year Nebraska coach Pederson fired after last season's 10-3 record and overall mark of 58-19.

Instead of going Nutts (because Arkansas rightly upped the ante to keep Houston, Danny and company), Pederson went crazy, hiring fired 48-year-old Oakland Raiders coach Bill Callahan on Jan. 12.

Callahan took some Raiders staffers and the West Coast offense with him to Lincoln where running - especially from the option - always had been the name of the game. And the Cornhuskers had been pretty doggone good at it, winning five national championships and producing the best Division I record in the 1980s (103-20) and the second-best in the 1990s (108-16).

Nebraska fans didn't seem particularly intrigued by Nutt, and for the most part seemed wary of Callahan, who took Oakland to the Super Bowl in his first season, but was punted after bottoming out at 4-12 in his second.

"I'm here to do a job and get our offense going," Callahan said.

Expectations grew with the corn. Some 60,000 attended Nebraska's spring game, and with 14 starters back, Sports Illustrated got all excited about the new offense, too, ranking the Cornhuskers No. 21.

"The culture here is totally different than last year's culture," said Nebraska quarterback Joe Dailey. "This year, we're all about being faster, about completing our assignments and finishing everything.

"Last year, it was about being stronger than everyone and beating them off the ball and putting the ball in the end zone while running time off the clock."

Lots of Cornhuskers fans wish they could go back in time right about now.

In the opener, Nebraska blew away something called Western Illinois 56-17 despite four interceptions by Dailey and two fumbles.

Last week, reality bit in front of 77,887 stunned fans in Memorial Stadium. Although the Cornhuskers racked up 476 yards, they turned the ball over five times and lost to Southern Miss (which returned only four defensive starters) 21-17.

"We're supposed to be the best," read another post. "Saturday was like watching Wyoming play."

Here's how it ended: Nebraska had a first down on the Southern Miss 12 with 1 minute, 12 seconds remaining. Three incompletions later, the Cornhuskers were penalized five yards for delay of game. On fourth-and-15, Dailey scampered out of bounds after a 10-yard gain.

Talk about bone-headed game management, and it led to Nebraska's first nonconference home loss since 1991.

"I knew we would have our ups and downs this season, but I didn't expect the downs to come so early in the season," wrote another Nebraska fan. "I am about baffled by coach Cal."

That's eleven turnovers in two games for a program that led the country with a plus-1.77 takeaway to turnover ratio last season.

"I left Memorial Stadium wondering if this new-fangled offense is such a good idea considering the type of talent the Huskers have on that side of the ball right now," wrote another poster. "After Saturday's loss, most of the Corngregation is shell-shocked and, I'm sure, is ready to check the Department of Homeland Security's color-coded threat charts.

"If the government didn't have better things to do than take the temperature of the Husker Nation, I'd guess this state of emergency would be an orangish-yellow.

"There's reason to be concerned, but not to panic."

Lots of Nebraska fans are calling Callahan's sets and plays the "Wet Toast Offense" and the "Let's Coast Offense."

Meantime, in these parts, supposedly conservative Arkansas leads the Southeastern Conference in passing (350 yards per game) and is fourth in rushing.

Sure, like Callahan, Nutt is 1-1, counting the 63-13 mashing of New Mexico State and the 22-20 hard-fought heart-breaker to then-No. 7 Texas. But despite incredible youth, his team is miles ahead of Callahan's.

Nebraska and Arkansas were supposed to be in rebuilding modes this year.

Luckily for the Hogs, they're way ahead of schedule because they retained their architect.


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