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Steven M. Sipple: NU, Texas get nods in league races
Steven M. Sipple: NU, Texas get nods in league races

LAWRENCE, Kan. — So, Kansas blasts Nebraska 76-39 on Saturday. Yes, 76-39. That score will elicit double takes around the nation as it scrolls across the television screen.

That’s right, 76-39. You can’t stress that score (76-39) enough because, if you bleed Husker red, it’s yet another reminder (76-39) of how far a proud program has fallen.

Did I mention 76-39?

“Honestly, it feels like quicksand,” said Husker junior wide receiver Todd Peterson. “We’re in it right now.”

You saw hurt in the eyes of Nebraska players; this type of game should’ve never happened to them. Yes, Kansas is undefeated, but this was not Thomas Lott and Billy Sims and Elvis Peacock the Huskers were defending Saturday. This was a Jayhawk team that might be even better next season, considering the 16 juniors and 10 sophomores on KU’s two-deep depth chart.

This was a Kansas team that had scored 19 points in each of its last two wins.

So, I wonder what Nebraska’s next group of coaches will use to try to defend Kansas next season?

If there were any shreds of doubt remaining about the future of Nebraska head coach Bill Callahan and his staff, they disappeared into the clear blue sky of a gorgeous fall Saturday, swept into the heavens amid a startling offensive onslaught by Kansas (and to a lesser degree, Nebraska) that must have been somewhat embarrassing to Big 12 Conference officials.

Does this type of score ever occur in any other of the so-called power conferences?

I used to watch this type of stuff when they played indoor football in Lincoln.

At any rate, does Tom Osborne really have any evaluating left to do in regard to Callahan and his staff? The Nebraska interim athletic director likely will remain true to his word and wait until the end of the season to “evaluate” Callahan and Co. Only then will Osborne announce a decision about their future.

The suspense is killing everyone, I’m sure.

Waiting until at least Nov. 23 — the merciful end to Nebraska’s brutal season — is a respectful way for Osborne to handle it. He’s a man of his word. But how much respect does this coaching staff deserve at this point?

To be sure, 76-39 starts the mind racing at the speed of light. Who heads Osborne’s list of candidates? Bo Pelini endured some rugged Saturdays as Nebraska’s defensive coordinator in 2003. The Huskers lost 41-24 to Missouri, 31-7 to Texas, and 38-9 to Kansas State. But those defensive letdowns didn’t approach the ridiculousness that transpired Saturday.

I’m guessing I’m like a lot of people in that I kept watching the clock and scoreboard, wondering if Kansas might score 90. Yes, 90.

Nebraska’s talent on defense isn’t great right now, but it isn’t this bad. After all, the Huskers last week pushed the kings of recruiting, Texas, to the limit before falling 28-25 in Austin. So, what happened against Kansas?

“I don’t really have any answers,” Nebraska defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove said. “I’m sick about it. Just sick about it.”

Perhaps the obvious answer for Nebraska is Pelini. It’s impossible to say exactly what Osborne is thinking right now. But it’s easy to say Pelini would never allow this level of atrocity to occur on defense. This was a Chernobyl-like meltdown.

In a sense, Pelini, 40, the current Louisiana State defensive coordinator, represents the best of both worlds as a potential hire. He’s not a complete Husker insider, what with his array of experiences in the NFL and college, but he would hire no fewer than three assistant coaches with deep roots in the NU program, and perhaps more.

But maybe Osborne has someone else in mind (Turner Gill, anyone?). Whatever. That’s essentially the only question left at this point: To whom does Osborne turn?

What’s left to say about Nebraska’s current situation?

I guess you would have to say Nebraska reached a new low Saturday, for what it’s worth. I guess for posterity you have to note that Kansas’ 76 points are the most the Huskers have allowed in a game, and the Jayhawks’ 48 points are the most NU has allowed in a first half.

But you know what? This stuff doesn’t feel so strange anymore, watching Nebraska get annihilated on another Saturday. It’s becoming a regular occurrence. For objective observers, the novelty’s gone. Now, there’s mostly sadness.

For opponents, the thrill of beating Nebraska is gone, or should be gone.

For Nebraska? Well, Nebraska football is gone, at least the program that became such a proud and consistent force during the last four decades. That part is gone. Maybe we already knew that. Maybe we knew that Sept. 15 against Southern California (49-31), or Sept. 22 against Ball State (the Cardinals gained 610 yards), or Oct. 6 against Missouri (41-6), or Oct. 13 against Oklahoma State (45-14). The mind numbs.

Maybe Nebraska football as we knew it left us Nov. 23, 2001, when Colorado prevailed 62-36. That’s a score you don’t forget if you bleed Husker red. So is 76-39.

Someday, Nebraska football will return. But that day seemed years away Saturday.

Alas, one other question comes to mind: Could it get worse than this?

Don’t answer that. I don’t want to know.

Reach Steven M. Sipple at 473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.

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