STILLWATER, Okla. — The underdog coach chuckled, "How about that?" The fans ripped down the goalposts, and a few sullen players from Nebraska stood and watched it all with glazed-over looks.
Sounds like another day on the road for Nebraska.
The Huskers' road woes stretched into another town, another week, as Oklahoma State pulled out a 24-21 upset Saturday and snapped a losing skid in the series that dated back four decades.
How historic was this one? Saturday marked the first time since 1992 that the Huskers lost to a team with a losing record. Even more stunning is this-Nebraska has three losses before November for the first time since the Bill Jennings era in 1961.
Don't blame this one on a hostile environment. A decent number of the seats in Lewis Field were empty as the Cowboys celebrated their first win over NU since 1961. Don't blame it on the off-the-field distractions the Huskers endured this past week with quarterback Jammal Lord's disturbing-the-peace ticket and I-back Thunder Collins' departure.
Coach Frank Solich said that had little to do with the Huskers' third road loss of the season.
Said NU free safety Philip Bland: "I think everybody's got a lot of questions. Everybody's trying to figure out what's going on. This is a game we needed so bad. We've been talking about that all week. It's been almost a year since we won our last road game. We thought this was the game we could break that streak, and it didn't happen."
On a cold and rainy day in Stillwater, some of those same mental breakdowns that haunted the Huskers in losses at Penn State and Iowa State bit them again.
In one crucial sequence late in the third quarter-just after OSU took a 10-7 lead-Nebraska:
Was flagged for a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Fumbled an exchange between Lord and fullback Judd Davies.
Watched the Cowboys march 40 yards in seven plays for a momentum-sapping touchdown.
"There's no excuse," said NU center John Garrison, whose team hasn't won on the road since last November. "It's stupid stuff you learn in Pop Warner football. They're just mental breakdowns, and we're making it unfair for ourselves. We start coasting downhill and we make another hill for ourselves.
"We didn't get physically beaten out there. It was basically us shooting ourselves in the foot."
Twice in his postgame press conference, Solich said his 5-3 and 1-2 team needs "to get on the same page."
The game had defensive battle written all over it at halftime, when the Huskers went into the locker room with a 7-3 lead. OSU Coach Les Miles told his team it was right where it wanted to be.
The Blackshirts, meanwhile, went into the third quarter with a game plan to stop big-play receiver Rashaun Woods.
The Cowboys just gave the ball to Tatum Bell. The tailback ran for a career-high 182 yards on 33 carries and all but squashed any Husker hopes of a comeback late in the fourth quarter when he broke a 22-yard run. A couple of plays later, the Cowboys were up 24-14 with 4:30 to go.
"Defensively, we never really got anything under control in the second half," Solich said. "I'm not even sure if they punted in the second half."
Nebraska did play the game without defensive captain Chris Kelsay, who was out with a hamstring pull. Starting linebacker Barrett Ruud also left the game in the fourth quarter with what appeared to be a concussion, though Nebraska's sports information staff members didn't say what the sophomore linebacker's injury was.
A week after the Blackshirts shut down wonder kid quarterback Brad Smith of Missouri, Oklahoma State (3-4, 1-2) appeared to move the ball at will at times in the second half.
"We're in serious gut-check time right now," Bland said.
At least the Huskers could take solace in looking at the future. True freshman I-back David Horne, who was pulled out of redshirt a couple of weeks ago, became the first back to run for 100 yards in a game this season with a 125-yard performance.
True freshmen Mark LeFlore and Matt Herian also came up with big plays on offense, though none of that seemed to matter with the Huskers late Saturday.
This week, the road gets even harder at Texas A&M.
"I just know this team will bounce back," Garrison said. "Nobody's going to duck and hide. I don't think anybody's going to point anybody out. It's a team deal from top to bottom."
|Yards per carry||4.6||4.8|
Nebraska is 37-5 all-time against Oklahoma State.
|Arizona State||Aug. 24|
|Troy (formerly Troy State)||Aug. 31|
|Utah State||Sept. 7|
|Penn State||Sept. 14|
|Iowa State||Sept. 28|
|McNeese State||Oct. 5|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 19|
|Texas A&M||Oct. 26|
|Kansas State||Nov. 16|
Nebraska has played 15 games on Oct. 19. See them all »
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