Head coach, Bill Callahan has said over and over throughout the season that he's all about fast starts. Get out of the gate quickly, get up on the opponent early and dictate the game rather than having it dictated to you.
That particular strategy went out the window as Iowa State starting QB, Bret Beyer hit two passes of over 30 yards, moving Iowa State deep in Nebraska territory, the Cyclones capitalizing on both possessions, scoring a field goal and a touchdown, taking a 10-0 lead.
At that point, some would hearken back to the Kansas State game as Nebraska got down early and while they fought back valiantly for a half, it was in vain as the Huskers eventually fell to the Wildcats 45-21.
For the Huskers, it was déjà vu all over again as Iowa State beats Nebraska 34-27.
The defense that played so well against Missouri was sieve-like, allowing the worst offense in the conference over 200 yards passing in the first half, starting wide-receiver, Todd Blythe going off, catching 8 balls for 188 yards.
Conversely, Nebraska's offense was anemic, Joe Dailey's struggles continuing as he threw the ball 26 times in the first half, scoring once with an acrobatic catch by fullback, Steve Kriewald, but only hitting 9 out of the other 25.
The second half saw a better NU offense, but only marginally as Dailey hit 8 more passes, but missed another 16 and while he only threw one interception, it came late in the game, Nebraska down by 7, that pick sealing it for the Cyclones.
The story of the game wasn't the offense though. In truth, the offense was fairly consistent. No passing game, Ross with over 100 yards rushing and NU struggling on 3rd down, going 6 for 18 on the day.
No, the story had to be two units that last week shined and this week did anything but.
The defense that had so much passion last week, the one that some thought was the key to this team turning the corner, well, the blackshirts were back all right, back to being just bad. And, the special teams went from being at least opportunistic against Missouri to tragic, Sandro DeAngelis missing two field goals and having one extra point blocked. The only bright side was the always dependable, Sam Koch, who averaged 44.5 yards per punt.
For head coach, Bill Callahan, one reason he attributed to the demise of the "D" at least, was the fact that the mindset they brought last week evidently didn't make the bus to Ames. "We did not match the early passion and precision of this football team." Callahan said of his team's mentality compared to Iowa State's. "We felt that we came up here to play a game that could put us in position to win a championship."
That "passion" Callahan credited Iowa State for having and his team for not having, but while he was able to see that it wasn't there, even the head coach was confused as to how it could be there one week and the next, all but gone. "I really felt that we would come out and demonstrate that passion we summoned up last week." He said. "Going on the road, you've got to bring your "A"-game and you've got to bring your defense and you've got to play well."
On the day, the defense gave up to Iowa State 470 yards, ISU starting QB, Bret Myer throwing for 345 yards on just 17 completions and Iowa State had three scoring drives of 80 yards or more.
"It seems like everything he threw up was complete." Callahan said of Bret Myer's performance. "They have some big-bodied wide receivers and we got mismatched on there with a size disadvantage and they took advantage of it."
Todd Blythe led all receivers with his aforementioned performance, but wide receiver, Jon Davis, who hails from Nebraska burned the Huskers as well, catching 4 balls for 103 yards, his long being a 77-yarder in the second half that basically broke the back of the Big Red.
The good news for Nebraska, if you are inclined to look for some, is that while many might call this game reminiscent of games played this year, Nebraska almost did something they haven't done all year.
Down by three scores, NU traded touchdowns with ISU in the second half, got a couple of stops and closed the margin to a touchdown with approximately three minutes to go. The conclusion was obviously not what the head coach wanted, but he admired the effort of the team just to get back to a point where they had a chance. "They never gave up." Callahan said. "Our kids fought back in the second half, but it was too late."
That's not the only thing that is too late.
It has almost been comical this year as Nebraska has lost one convincing game after another, yet they still had a chance at winning the northern division title. Even coming into this game, Nebraska actually had the lead in the north, needing a victory over Iowa State to all but cement their trip to Kansas City.
The only trip they have now looming is the quiet bus ride back to Lincoln, a team that should have long ago been desperate, now lies despondent thinking of what might have been.
It is perhaps what some expected with so many new faces on the coaching staff. Whether that's true or not, where Nebraska is right now isn't where most ever thought they would be. "It's frustrating." Callahan said. "But, that's why we are in this business, to try and remedy that and try and get back on a positive note."
Nebraska falls to 5-4 overall and just when you are down, they face the best team they will see all year, Oklahoma looming on the horizon.