As I stood on the sidelines viewing the Kansas State offense as they took to the field, I heard a rather disgruntled roar from the crowd as they saw Allen Webb take the field. No Dylan Meier surely meant that the Wildcats would be in for a sad day indeed.
Irony abounded as Webb excelled, running and yes, passing his Cats to a resounding 45-21 victory over NU.
The story here, however, wasn't Webb and his mighty full-game debut or even Darren Sproles and his 135-yard performance against NU.
No, it was NU itself or the lack of NU to perhaps put it better. "I thought we would play better today." Head coach, Bill Callahan said. "We just didn't play to our capabilities and to our expectation level."
"I was concerned about our start."
The start, in hindsight could be considered almost prophetic as the Huskers got down early 14-0, before answering with a score of their own. That trend only continued as Kansas State scored next, NU answering, the Wildcats scoring, NU answering once more and after that, as they say, the wheels for the Huskers officially fell off. "It slipped away from us." Callahan said of the fourth quarter collapse that saw NU turn the ball over three consecutive times. "It got tough. We didn't make the plays we needed to make."
Many of the plays or lack thereof will be attributed to the defense and rightly so. One had to have lost count at some point in the game of not how many plays KSU was making, but the ones Nebraska wasn't. Players in position or out of position, getting up-field or across it, when opportunities arose to get players down, it was the Huskers that went down for the count.
"Our defense didn't play well." Callahan said. "We've got to go back to practice and get better. And, find ways and methods and drills and techniques, everything that you can possibly accumulate in your coaching repertoire to find ways to make tackles."
"The bottom line is, you've got to make a tackle. You've got to make a play."
Probably the most frustrating part of the game, at least defensively speaking was the fact that while the rumors abound about the possibility of Dylan Meier starting at the QB position, Callahan and company never prepared for that in mind. "We knew coming in that he (Allen Webb) was an option QB." He said. "We prepared for it the entirety of the whole week It's nothing we didn't expect. It's nothing we didn't work on.."
"We just weren't capable of making the plays today."
On the offense side, the turnovers told an obvious tale, NU's self-inflicted wounds once again reeling their ugly head. And, for Joe Dailey coming off a record-setting performance, confidence as probably high as it will have been all year, failed one more time to "get it done" against a team capable of stopping them.
For Dailey, he made no excuses as Callahan said there were no excuses for his own performance, Dailey took much of the blame himself. "It's really on us." He said of the offensive collapse. "It has nothing to do with coach. He had the game plan, he sold it to us, we bought into it, we loved it and it just came down to not being able to execute it."
It's hard for anyone, even the coaches themselves to totally explain how a game like this takes place. From all appearances, it would seem that from a preparation standpoint, this Nebraska team saw exactly what the coaches said they were going to see.
So, when it all still goes so wrong, the blame-begins as to whether it's the players, the coaches or both.
What the numbers say that in 2 out of the last 3 games, Nebraska sat on the cusp of beating an opponent on the road, only to look up the scoreboard to see what can only be called a humiliating defeat.
For a team who's entire season seems to rest perhaps on the next day, much less the next game, the steps back up will probably come only in the smallest of increments right now.
It's about trying to get back up. "We just have to keep marching on." Callahan said. "We've got find ways to make the plays we are capable of making."
"I offer no excuses. Just understand that. There are no excuses, none whatsoever. I take total accountability for what has transpired out there on the field, total."
Callahan will do that most certainly as that is his charge as head coach, but few will doubt that when it comes to losses, this one wasn't about one coach or one player or a few on either side. As total as the head coach is in taking the blame, such will it be in who gets blamed for at least the next week to come.
Now, the Missouri game looms not as a conference game or even a game with division implications. It's a game where most and most definitely Nebraska themselves finds out just what kind of team they are or if they are a team at all.