They handed out just about everything — balloons, campaign stickers, you name it — outside of Memorial Stadium before the Huskers' 56-17 victory against Western Illinois on Saturday.

Turns out, what everyone really needed was an airsick bag.

What a night for Bill Callahan, Joe Dailey and NU's new flying circus.

What a night for place-kicker Sandro DeAngelis, who matched his 2003 point total with six extra points in the first half. He was entering the game at a dizzying pace.

"You know what?" he said. "The time I got messed up was when I was tying my shoe, and I hear the crowd roaring, and Willie Amos is strutting into the end zone. That was the only time, but that one got called back."

What a night for center Kurt Mann, who got high marks for his effort as the fill-in for suspended junior Richie Incognito despite committing the holding penalty that brought back that long Amos touchdown catch in the first quarter.

Unfortunately, all 77,741 fans in attendance knew Mann was the guilty party. Under a new NCAA rule, officials have to announce the number when a player commits an infraction. What a thrill for Mann, huh?

"I don't have any comment on that," he said with a sheepish grin. "It wouldn't have been as bad if we hadn't scored on it."

What a night for No. 2 quarterback Ryan Goodman, who has a nifty 100 passer rating after one game (he was 1-for-1). Goodman, also a Husker wrestler, was amazed by the fans, particularly when the team walked The Walk from the east loop to the locker room.

"I've never experienced anything like that," he said. "It's just a whole different thing."

What a night for Callahan, who made good on his promise to "take what we want" from the Western Illinois defense. Callahan's West Coast offense cleaned out the store before a Leatherneck could dial 911.

What made it tough for the head coach was waiting all day for the 6:10 p.m. kickoff.

"I want to get on the sideline and start the game," said Callahan, when asked about his emotions during the tunnel walk. "It's just overwhelming. I would love to get caught up in the emotion of it all, but I just really wanted to stay focused on what we had to do."

Athletic director Steve Pederson saw the focus from just down the sideline.

"He's as focused a coach as I've ever seen. He was focused coming through the walk when the team arrived at the stadium and focused in the tunnel. You could see it. He's a competitor."

Sounds like it's time to talk contract extension.

No comment from the AD.

"He's doing a terrific job," Pederson said.

And he knows the job has just begun. There are special-teams issues that need fixing. There were a few issues on the offensive line in picking up blitzes.

It won't be as easy against Southern Miss next week.

"I know next week," Callahan said, "we have a greater challenge ahead of us."

Reach John Mabry at 473-7320 or jmabry@journalstar.com.