The television camera found Bill Callahan right after Nebraska’s wild 7-6 win Saturday, and the Husker coach wore a pleasant smile. It was nice to see, if only because he’s going to need to retain a sense of humor as he tries to mold his offense into something resembling a potent West Coast attack.

Callahan is regarded in coaching circles as an offensive guru. If he can get this offense clicking by early October, he’s Harry Houdini with a headset.

As we speak, Nebraska’s averaging 271.3 yards per game. The Huskers haven’t averaged fewer than 300 yards since averaging 279.9 in 1968, back when a clean-cut kid named O.J. Simpson was running roughshod over college defenses.

Last week, I said it was too soon for fans to panic about Nebraska’s offense. OK, I erred egregiously. If you’re a Husker fan and you witnessed Saturday’s scrum, you’ve probably already bypassed panic in favor of pain-numbing acceptance that NU rolling up 400 yards per game is about as likely as sustained peace in the Mideast.

Perhaps seething Big Red fans can find it within themselves to accept Nebraska’s offensive offense for what it is, knowing that the strength of the Husker defense, along with ample potential on special teams and a manageable schedule, give the 3-0 Huskers a legitimate chance to earn a bowl bid and perhaps even a Big 12 North title.

What a country.

We assume Nebraska’s offense will improve at some point. The question: How much?

The guess here: Not much.

Nebraska possesses too few weapons. That became painfully clear against Pitt. “Painfully” because diminutive I-back Cory Ross endured a terrific pounding. How long will he last getting 25-plus touches a game? He’s easily the offense’s most reliable weapon, perhaps its only consistent weapon. But how far can Ross carry an offense?

Meanwhile, the luster of quarterback Zac Taylor’s magical performance in the Red-White Spring Game has long since faded, leading us to a harsh reality:

Nebraska needs to develop more talent that’s fit for a West Coast system before this offense can produce consistently.

Just ask Jay Norvell.

Following Saturday’s game, the Nebraska offensive coordinator said these Huskers will “have to be the kind of team that finds a way to win. That’s what we’ve got to do on offense. Until we get some established guys at the skill positions that are playmakers, we’ve just got to find ways to get first downs and score points.”

That’s saying a mouthful. Indeed, he set the tone for what to expect the remainder of the season. In short, not a lot.

Perhaps Norvell feels there are players in the system who will develop into consistent playmakers in time (Harrison Beck, Marlon Lucky, Cody Glenn, Chris Brooks, et al). Or maybe he feels additional work on the recruiting trail is necessary. That’d be just wonderful — another offseason of recruiting Web sites guaranteeing “can’t-miss” prospects coming to Big Red’s rescue.

It’s too early to write off Callahan’s offense ever working at Nebraska. But it’s not too early to wonder.

Whatever. Husker fans are grumbling. They booed Saturday after Taylor threw short on third-and-long. They want to witness progress. At this point, they see an offense that lacks an identity, that lacks a few trusted bread-and-butter plays. It’s an offense that tantalizes with flashes of athleticism before retreating into survival mode.

On Saturday, you saw what happens when Nebraska’s defense doesn’t produce points.

Survival mode? Well, Taylor on at least three occasions threw passes in third-and-long situations to receivers running routes that had no prayer of making first-down yardage. Callahan said the plays were called “to get the ball out of Zac’s hands a little quicker.” Huh?

Taylor displays toughness by waiting in the pocket until the last possible second. At times, though, he waits too long. He’s absorbing too many hits (Pitt sacked him four times). He’s gritty, but not mobile. He’s got a good arm, not a great one. His limitations become more apparent by the game.

In Taylor’s defense, he plays behind a line that’s been shaky. He never complains. He’s a strong leader, a great kid, a gamer. But this offense needs powerful, agile, pocket-protecting tackles. And last week we learned beyond a shadow of a doubt that Nebraska’s tackle play has been suspect at best. Indeed, offensive line coach Dennis Wagner essentially called out Seppo Evwaraye and Cornealius Fuamatu-Thomas, saying they weren’t getting the job done.

Wagner did say his three inside linemen — center Kurt Mann and guards Greg Austin and Brandon Koch — were performing well.

So, what’s the answer? Perhaps you continue to lean on Ross and use a conservative, ball-control attack that attempts to grind out first downs and avoid turnovers (of course, this is dependent on improved tackle play). In essence, you defer to your defense. In this scenario, Ross will need assistance, so perhaps Glenn can be summoned more often. He showed live legs and a powerful burst against Pitt.

I make this suggestion understanding Nebraska has averaged only 3.5 yards per carry against three defenses that are mediocre at best.

Hey, there are no easy answers for the 2005 Husker offense.

As Norvell suggested, it must simply find ways to win, to do whatever it takes.

As opposed to taking what it wants.

Wink, wink.

Reach Steven M. Sipple at 473-7440 or