NORMAN, Okla. Barrett Ruud was escaping, leaving flying oranges and a depressing Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium scoreboard in his rear-view mirror.
Then, he suddenly stopped. A familiar voice was calling.
The Nebraska senior linebacker reversed field like there was one more ballcarrier to tackle. He ran to meet the voice at the 5-yard-line.
It wasn't right to leave without hugging Bo Pelini, the man he had given so much to a year ago.
Pelini who coached the Husker defense last season and even served as NU's interim coach at the Alamo Bowl patted Ruud's shoulder pads and whispered something into his ear.
The Oklahoma co-defensive coordinator committed the same act to many other Huskers after the No. 2-ranked Sooners' 30-3 win Saturday night, even sharing a consoling moment with NU quarterback Joe Dailey.
"Obviously, I have a lot of strong feelings towards those men over on that other side," Pelini said. "But what was said? That's pretty personal."
Pretty personal is what Pelini could have made this game. He, after all, was the popular choice among many Nebraskans to take over the Huskers' head coaching position after Frank Solich was let go last year.
Instead, Nebraska athletic director Steve Pederson hired Bill Callahan, who then told Pelini he was going to go another route and hire another defensive coordinator n Kevin Cosgrove.
Under the new regime, the Huskers are 5-5, which sure would be an easy record for Pelini to take shots at.
NU was 10-3 last year, and certainly never gave up 70 points in a single game as this team did to Texas Tech with many of the same cast of characters on defense.
When asked if this Nebraska team is underachieving at 5-5, Pelini said: "That's not for me to say. I don't know. I have a lot of respect for the guys over there as football players and as men. That's for the powers-to-be to make the decision, not me."
He was pressed again. C'mon, Bo. Has Nebraska's talent fallen so far in just one year?
"You know," said Pelini, taking a very long pause to choose his words with care, "you deal with the cards you're dealt with. There's a lot of good football players over on that football team. For me to stand here and say that they're not talented football players, that'd be lying.
"They played tremendous for me. And the things that they did they fought. I'm not going to sit here and say they're not talented football players. I'd be lying to you."
To say Nebraska players didn't fight Saturday would also be a lie. But the Husker offense simply had no answer for Pelini's defense. And Nebraska's Blackshirts found out why Oklahoma quarterback Jason White won the Heisman Trophy a year ago.
White carved up the Nebraska defense, completing 16-of-19 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns to lead OU to a 23-0 halftime lead. At one point in the second half, the senior broke his own school record by connecting on 18-straight throws. By game's end, he missed on just six of 35 passes.
"As far as taking care of the ball and making good decisions, this is the best stretch that I've had," said White, who seemed to gain an advantage in this year's Heisman race over teammate Adrian Peterson.
The true-freshman running back Peterson played with a dinged shoulder and managed 67 yards on 15 carries, which may not read shiny enough in the box score today for many Hesiman voters.
But OU hardly needed Peterson. White and Pelini's boys made sure this thing was never in doubt.
The Huskers managed 274 yards, but didn't get on the scoreboard until a 39-yard field goal by David Dyches at the final gun. The kick was met with a chorus of boos and a field full of oranges thrown by angry Oklahoma fans with sights on the Orange Bowl.
How upset was Pelini about losing the shutout?
"Not one bit. We played well. We shut them out until the last second of the game. We dominated," Pelini said.
OU head coach Bob Stoops also didn't have a problem with Nebraska's three points.
Stoops had been throwing the football even with a 30-point lead late in the game. He said he reluctantly did it for style points since the Sooners are in a mad chase against Auburn to be second in the BCS rankings and earn a slot in the Orange Bowl national title game.
"In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have done that," Stoops said.
But in hindsight, hiring that Pelini guy was a pretty good idea.
Stoops praised his new defensive coach for his game plan against the Huskers.
After the win, Pelini refused to succumb to reporters who wanted him to say it was tough playing his former players. Instead, he said preparing for Nebraska was just like preparing for everyone else.
"I have a job to do and I did it. I moved on from (Nebraska)," Pelini said. "You know, you can't just eliminate the feelings you have for the players, but at the same time, I'm here. I feel fortunate to be here. I'm having a great experience here at Oklahoma.
"It's another time, another place."
Reach Brian Christopherson at 473-7438 or firstname.lastname@example.org.