This weekend's 76-39 loss in Lawrence, Kan., was not just an embarrassment to a once-proud college football program, it was a disgrace.
Nebraska entered the game as winners of 37 of their last 38 meetings with Kansas. And though KU came into the contest undefeated and slated as 20-point favorites, there were at least some football fans who felt Nebraska could pull off the upset.
On message boards like www.huskersillustrated.com and comment sections to articles found on this very site, several college football enthusiasts across the country gave the Huskers a chance. Sure, Kansas had a nice start to the year. But this was Nebraska. And Nebraska just doesn't lose to Kansas. Not then, not now, not ever.
Well, history be damned. The better college football team won on Saturday — and they did so handily.
Playing in front of a Memorial Stadium record crowd of 51,910, Kansas scored on 10 — yes, 10 — straight possessions. The Jayhawks closed out the first half with seven scores in seven drives. Then, Kansas started the second half by punching it in the end zone the first three times it touched the ball.
The scoreboard read 76-39 at the end of the game, but the contest wasn't really even that close. Kansas had those 76 points with 11 minutes remaining in the game. If Mark Mangino wanted to put on his Bill Belichick hat (or hooded sweatshirt, if you will), KU could've scored 100. Easily.
Think about it: 76-39. In a game that was nationally televised for the whole country to see.
This, folks, is the nadir for Nebraska football.
Just how did it get to this point, though? So bad, so quickly. A year ago, Nebraska was a competent bowl team, sending a handful to the pros in April's draft. Less than two months ago, a record-setting crowd packed Memorial Stadium to see the 2-0 Huskers take on then-No. 1 USC in a nationally televised Saturday night battle.
Since that 49-31 loss, though, it's been one disappointment after another — a near-disastrous defeat at home to Ball State, a 41-6 non-effort against Missouri, a 45-14 joke vs. Oklahoma State, an equally disturbing 36-14 loss to Texas A&M, last week's fourth-quarter collapse in Austin, and now this.
That final score — 76-39 — will scar Huskers fans for quite some time. It could end up being the epitaph on the Bill Callahan era's tombstone.
The other shoe has to drop. The early October decision to fire AD Steve Pederson is now looking more and more like a "cut off your nose to spite your face" maneuver. A year removed from a 6-2 record in the Big 12 and a Cotton Bowl appearance, Bill Callahan needs to be removed from the sidelines.
If this were a young Huskers team on the cusp of a rebuilding phase, a season like this would almost be tolerable.
The bulk of the playmakers on offense are seniors, Callahan's clearly lost any ability to motivate his squad on game day, and the defense has made more than a few offenses look much better than they were. Arizona State transfer Sam Keller wasn't supposed to come to Nebraska as a building block for the future. A fifth-year senior, he was supposed to be the finishing piece — the signal caller set to lead Nebraska on a potential championship run. This NU team wasn't built for 2009 or 2010 — 2007 was the target date.
Entering the season, the buzz was this: "Veteran squad, in a coach's fourth year, armed with "his" guys — expected to challenge for the Big 12 title."
And yet, here we are, in early November, and that same squad is sub .500, likely not going to a bowl game, and losers of five straight. Saturday's 76 points allowed were the most Nebraska had ever given up in the program's 117-year history.
It's no great revelation to say Callahan has lost this team.
But 76 points? Well, that's simply not acceptable.
Firing Bill Callahan after the Oklahoma State game back in October might have been a bit rash, perhaps premature. It was early in the year, and the season was still relatively young.
Firing Bill Callahan after Saturday's loss is understandable, almost necessary. Why wait? Blow it up now. When Pederson hired Callahan back in 2003, his vision was an NFL franchise playing in Lincoln. What the Huskers fans have now is a JV squad lucky to win another game. Tom Osborne's already hinted that a new coaching staff will be coming in next season. Nip that in the bud this week.
Two more games of this lingering "doom and gloom" and brooding lame-duck environment is almost unfair to those faithful diehards. Heck, it's unfair to the players.
There have been no highlights for Nebraska football fans this season. After 76-39, it's time to put an end to the Bill Callahan era. Dig the grave and start stenciling in that tombstone.
In the meantime, there's always ESPN Classic games on re-run for Nebraska fans to enjoy.
At least in those, the opponents don't put up 76 points.