NORMAN, Okla. — The start Saturday night defied explanation, and afterwards only Bo Pelini was around to offer one.
The Nebraska coach sat alone behind a table calling his defense lousy and saying he was embarrassed and not used to anything like the 62-28 beating his team had just taken from Oklahoma.
His players wouldn’t be talking about how the Huskers fell behind 28-0 in less than six minutes, trailed 35-0 after the first quarter and never recovered before 85,212 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
“They’re not available. Is that enough said?” Pelini said, his voice rising. “It’s over. I’m the voice tonight.”
Who knows what words might have been uttered before NU players left behind one of the biggest messes in recent seasons filled with them. Sure, things got ugly at Colorado in 2001, Texas Tech in 2004 and Kansas in 2007, not to mention embarrassing at home last season against Southern California and Oklahoma State.
In none of those games, however, was hope sapped so quickly and ruthlessly as on this warm November night.
“I’ve never been quite a part of one that started off that bad,” Pelini said. “It takes the wind out of your sails. It really does.”
After allowing a quick Oklahoma score, Nebraska might have deflated itself by telegraphing a pass that OU cornerback Dominique Franks intercepted and returned 18 yards for a 14-0 lead.
Senior quarterback Joe Ganz took the Huskers’ first snap, turned and fired toward Todd Peterson. A play they run regularly. Unfortunately for NU, it was a play Oklahoma knew was coming.
Franks jumped the route, was barely brushed as NU receiver Nate Swift tried to pick him and caught the pass as if it were intended for him.
The play had no chance, and neither did Nebraska.
“It was a play we worked on all week, and we knew coming in with that formation what the call was going to be,” Franks said. “Instead of getting the hit, I got the interception for the touchdown.”
Nebraska committed turnovers on the second play of each of its following two possessions, with tight end Dreu Young fumbling and Ganz being intercepted by Lendy Holmes. The Sooners turned both short fields into touchdowns and led 28-0.
With 9:27 left in the first quarter.
“We just came out firing with everybody,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “I just thought our guys were really focused, and we couldn’t have executed much better in all parts of the game.”
After two Nebraska punts, No. 4-ranked Oklahoma then delivered the last strike in the first 35-point quarter ever hung on the Huskers.
It capped a 10-play, 97-yard drive, the Sooners’ longest of the year. Chris Brown finished it with a 39-yard run and 1-yard touchdown reception from Sam Bradford with four seconds left in the quarter.
“It’s disappointing, I mean, I can’t tell you,” Pelini said. “I’m embarrassed. I’m just not used to this. I take responsibility.”
Nobody else was around to talk, and Pelini became testy when pressed on why players were shut off to the news media for the first time in decades.
“If you don’t like it, tough,” he said. “Ask me the questions you’d ask the players.”
So reporters inquired about Oklahoma having three returns of 40 or more yards against NU’s kickoff coverage: “It wasn’t good enough,” Pelini said.
About if he could believe his eyes in the first quarter: “The snowball started rolling on us, and we didn’t do anything to get it stopped.”
About Franks’ interception and if the Sooners anticipated one of NU’s bread-and-butter calls: “Obviously,” he said.
As if the 35-0 hole weren’t bad enough, Oklahoma (8-1, 4-1 Big 12) had immediate answers for both Husker touchdowns in the second quarter. The 49 points matched the most allowed in a half by the Huskers. They also gave up 49 in the second half at Texas Tech in 2004.
Nebraska (5-4, 2-3) came out of halftime with a touchdown, only to see Oklahoma again answer to make the lead 56-21.
All the momentum that Nebraska had built in recent weeks disappeared with its 12th straight loss to a Top 10 team, including its third this season. The Huskers fell out of a three-way tie for the Big 12 North lead with Missouri and Kansas, which had won earlier Saturday.
“We didn’t play well,” Pelini said. “You can go right down the line of things that hurt us.”
Oklahoma got its 500 yards as usual. Scored 45 points for the seventh time in nine games. Left Pelini with some damage to assess with three important games remaining.
“I feel strongly that this team will respond the right way, I really do,” Pelini said. “One thing I can say is we’re not a football team that points fingers at each other. We’re not a team that is divisive.
“I told them, the only way I know how to go about things in situations like this is to roll up your sleeves and keep working. That’s all we’re going to do.”
|Yards per carry||4.8||5.8|
Nebraska is 38-45 all-time against Oklahoma.
|Western Michigan||Aug. 30|
|San Jose State||Sept. 6|
|New Mexico State||Sept. 13|
|Virginia Tech||Sept. 27|
|Texas Tech||Oct. 11|
|Iowa State||Oct. 18|
|Kansas State||Nov. 15|
Nebraska has played 18 games on Nov. 1. See them all »
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