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BOULDER, Colo. — One couldn’t have blamed Bill Callahan for feeling at least slightly defiant in the wake of Friday’s startling victory. For a large share of two seasons, critics from near and far either questioned his ability to effectively lead Nebraska’s football program or just flat-out said he wouldn’t ever make it work.

Now, on the raucous home field of a bitter rival and on national television, Nebraska arguably played the caliber of game it hadn’t played since a victory against Oklahoma in October 2001 in Lincoln. The Huskers, at long last, clicked in all three phases of the game, leaving their head coach feeling emotional in a way you might not have expected.

Callahan emerged from the locker room after his team’s 30-3 dismantling of rival Colorado fighting back tears. His eyes were misty. His voice cracked. At that moment, one could sense how gut-wrenching the last two seasons have been for Callahan and Co.

“This can catapult us to other things down the line,” said Callahan, who wasn’t necessarily surprised about his team’s complete performance. “I saw improvement coming."

With its sixth win at Folsom Field in its last seven tries, Nebraska finished the regular season 7-4 overall and 4-4 in the Big 12 and provided the most convincing evidence that Callahan’s program may be indeed moving forward.

Nebraska entered as at least a two-touchdown underdog against a Colorado team that needed only a victory on its home field to clinch a spot in next week’s Big 12 championship game in Houston.

The Huskers, however, dominated in a manner that few could’ve anticipated, forging a 16-minute edge in time of possession and outgaining the bamboozled Buffaloes 497 to 212.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Nebraska junior quarterback Zac Taylor. “This is finally the game we’ve been waiting to play. We had a great game all around from start to finish. It just makes it even better that it was at Colorado on their field and it ruined a lot of their opportunities.”

Taylor completed 27 of 43 passes for 392 yards and two touchdowns. His favorite target was Denver native Cory Ross, the diminutive I-back who was held to 13 rushing yards but made up for it with nine receptions for 129 yards and a touchdown.

Five other Nebraska receivers had at least three receptions as Taylor shredded a secondary that was largely responsible for Colorado’s No. 83 national ranking in pass defense. In preparing for the Buffs, Callahan said he saw things the Huskers could exploit.

NU even managed 105 rushing yards against a defense that was ranked No. 2 nationally against the run.

This much is certain: Nebraska took advantage of having a bye last week.

“The thing I saw the last two weeks was our offense clicking on all cylinders,” said Nebraska linebacker Bo Ruud, who had three tackles for losses and forced a fumble. “The defense rallied off the offense; usually, it’s the other way around.”

Nebraska held Colorado (7-4, 5-3) to 104 total yards in the final three quarters after allowing 98 in the opening period. The Buffs eked out 53 rushing yards, including 45 on Hugh Charles’ run on their first play from scrimmage. Charles’ sprint set up CU’s only points, a 33-yard field goal by Mason Crosby.

A crowd of 54,831, third-largest in Folsom Field history, seemed stunned by what was unfolding throughout the afternoon.

“The most obvious thing is that one team responded to the challenge of this game and one team did not,” said Colorado coach Gary Barnett. “My team did not, and I take full responsibility. We got outcoached, outplayed, and my hat goes off to Coach Callahan and the whole Nebraska team.

“They played harder, played smarter, executed well, had good plans, and tackled well.”

This game will be remembered in large part for the way Nebraska took over in the second quarter. The Huskers went up 10-3 on Ross’ 19-yard touchdown reception off a perfectly executed inside screen. He picked up key blocks from guard Brandon Koch and wideout Todd Peterson.

Nebraska linemen Titus Adams and Adam Carriker had a sack and a tackle for loss as Colorado went three-and-out, setting up the Huskers’ five-play, 62-yard touchdown drive. NU’s drive was aided by linebacker Alex Ligon’s personal foul on a third-and-10. The big play was Nate Swift’s 38-yard reception to the Buffs’ 9.

Jordan Congdon’s 30-yard field goal with 4:44 left in the half pushed the lead to 20-3. When Taylor found Swift wide-open over the middle for a 21-yard touchdown strike with 6:30 left in the third quarter, the outcome seemed inevitable.

“That kind of put the icing on the cake,” Taylor said. “We knew they wouldn’t come back from that.”