Ordinarily, I try to show a little sympathy when it comes to writing this new column. I don’t know if I was reasonable with Michigan and UCLA, but I tried. In actuality, it could have been a lot more harsh.
I’m not sure I can extend that sympathy to Nebraska fans. I live in a part of the country where there are a lot of Cornhuskers fans. I don’t get you, Nebraska.
It’s a program that prides itself on the days when Tom Osborne was on the sidelines and the whole “Blackshirt Defense” thing was chic.
Well today, we’re probably going to make it very painful for you Nebraska fans. You play Rutgers this weekend. You lost to Northern Illinois last weekend, so you’re probably feeling a little vulnerable.
This retrospective of ugly home losses probably won’t help.
For this edition, we’re focusing on the worst losses post-Tom Osbourne era. So we have losses from Frank Solich, Bill Callahan and Bo Pelini. This list doesn’t include anything from the current coaching staff. I’m sure you’d like to argue The Worst comes from the present era, but I digress.
Let’s rip some Band-Aids off, shall we?
5. Kansas State Wildcats- 2003
Remember that 2003 Kansas State team with Ell Roberson and Darren Sproles? That team was so fun to watch. I loved watching Sproles during his days at Kansas State. Fun times! Fun times!
Both men combined for 230 of Kansas State’s 248 rushing yards in a 38-9 victory at Memorial Stadium.
The offense that day struggled for the Huskers. Jammal Lord completed 8-of-26 passes for 98 yards. His only touchdown came in the second quarter on a six-yard pass to Mark Leflore.
That game proved to be the difference. Kansas State would eventually go on to win the Big 12 North division and then knocked off an undefeated Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game. The Wildcats lost the Fiesta Bowl to Ohio State.
I wonder how much of that Fiesta Bowl apparel does Bill Snyder still wears on a daily basis.
As for the Huskers, they finished the regular season 9-3 and fired Frank Solich. Bo Pelini coached the team in their bowl game. A sign for the future, no?
4. Missouri Tigers- 2008
Nebraska came into this game losing to Virginia Tech the previous week. They would go on to lose two more in a row, including the week after at Texas Tech. This loss to Missouri was the worst out of the three.
Up 31-10 at halftime, the Tigers outscored Nebraska 21-0 in the third quarter. The game was less than ideal for first-year coach Bo Pelini.
Nebraska would pull it together after the losing streak, losing once during the remainder of the season and defeating Clemson in the Gator Bowl to finish…9-4.
Missouri struggled, yet still won the Big 12 North, losing to Oklahoma. They’d defeat Northwestern in the Alamo Bowl.
3. Oklahoma State Cowboys- 2007
This was not a good game for the famed Blackshirt defense. Nebraska gave up 317 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. Dantrelle Savage had 212 of those yards.
Nebraska lost 45-14. They didn’t even score until early in the fourth quarter. That’s how close to a shutout the Huskers were.
I can’t say the offense was bad because Nebraska did get 206 yards (on 50 carries). However, the Huskers turned the ball over three times.
It’s worth pointing out that Nebraska started the season with a 4-1 record. So they were in pretty good shape. However, they lost in a blowout on the road to Missouri that season and would go on a five-game losing streak.
They gave up 76 in a loss at Kansas. I knew I should have done this column on road games. Oh well, I can do it some other time.
It’s rare for the Huskers to have a sub-.500 season, let alone two. They finished 5-7 in 2007 and 5-6 in 2004, both of those seasons coming with Bill Callahan at the helm. And granted, they’ve had one in recent years with Mike Riley.
Before Callahan, that rarely happened. You have to go all the way back to 1961, pre-dating Osborne.
As you can imagine, Callahan was fired and Pelini was brought in to be the coach.
2. Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles- 2004
We time travel back briefly to the first season for Callahan as head coach at Nebraska. The Huskers lost that day 21-17.
Sometimes, you can play better than the other team, or at least gain more yards and not win. Nebraska outgained Southern Miss 476-239. So what happened? Turnovers can make a huge difference. Nebraska turned it over five times in the loss. FIVE!
The Huskers led 17-9 with 10 minutes left in the third quarter. Southern Miss began its comeback with a Naton Stewart pick six in the final seconds of the quarter. The Golden Eagles missed the opportunity to tie with the two-point conversion, but Nebraska’s lead was only two points heading into the final quarter of play.
The go-ahead score came with less than eight minutes to go when Dustin Almond completed a 46-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Young. That would be enough for the Golden Eagles to get the win.
Southern Miss would go on to become bowl eligible and win the New Orleans Bowl over Texas. As previously mentioned, Nebraska went 5-6.
This loss was bad, but it wasn’t No. 1. This next game, however…
1. Iowa State Cyclones- 2009
I’m just going to leave this here for a few moments…
Okay, got that out of my system.
This game was close. Iowa State won it 9-7. The go-ahead touchdown was scored with less than seven minutes until halftime.
How bad was it for Nebraska? They turned it over eight times. EIGHT! If you don’t believe me, see for yourself.
Eight turnovers. I cannot emphasize this enough. And what makes this worse is that it happened in front of 85,000-plus screaming (presumably in agony) fans.
The loss dropped the Huskers to a 4-3 record, hurting their chances of a major bowl. However, Nebraska pulled it together, won the Alamo Bowl and finished 10-4 on the season (9-4 in the regular season, if you will).
I realize you’re all still mad about the Big 12 title game. Maybe I can cover that another time. You’ve probably suffered enough.
Note: Much thanks to the wonderful folks at Sports Reference for having all of this helpful information.