MANHATTAN, Kan. — Maybe it was frustration, a little too much purple, or the reality of the worst loss since 1968 that made Nebraska center John Garrison say it. His teammates didn't believe it.
In the fallout of Saturday's 49-13 mauling at No. 11 Kansas State, the Husker captain questioned the heart of a team that will go down in the books as the first in the scarlet and cream to lose five games since 1961.
"It's pretty obvious that by the end of the game, the score, that they flat out wanted it more," Garrison said. "The heart of this team ... I question it after this game. It's disappointing, it's not Nebraska football, and it's not this team, either.
"Nobody on this team has ever won at Manhattan, and if that's not motivation for you, you shouldn't be playing."
In the days leading up to this game, the Huskers, mathematically out of the Big 12 race, said there was still plenty to play for in a season that spiraled to 7-5 and 3-4 on Saturday.
The offensive line seemed to be clicking. The defense was holding its own, for the most part, since last month's win at Texas A&M that was supposed to be a turning point in the season.
Then along came the Wildcats.
Besides handing Nebraska its worst whipping in 34 years, Kansas State:
Held the nation's third-ranked rushing team to 97 yards on the ground. "That's a joke," Garrison said.
Poured it on with 21 points in the fourth quarter, and left the starters-including star quarterback Ell Roberson-in until the end.
Assured Nebraska of its worst season since the Bill Jennings era in '61, when the Huskers were 3-6-1.
After the 52,221 purple crazies shouted for more, NU rover Philip Bland called it "the worst feeling I've ever had in my life." As bad as it got, Bland and defensive captain Chris Kelsay refused to believe that the Huskers gave up.
"I didn't see it," Bland said. "I can tell you that on defense it wasn't like, 'Oh we're rolling over, this sucks, or I can't wait to get home.' As much as you guys want to hear that, give this loss some reason, there was none of that.
"The bottom line was that they made more plays than us. We had a chance to make the game closer than it was and just didn't get it done."
Ahh, the chances. There were many in a game that had 23 flags, three K-State fumbles and a couple of bizarre plays. The Huskers were actually in this one deep into the third quarter, when back-to-back Wildcat fumbles put the Huskers in position to cut it to a five-point game.
But Josh Brown's 28-yard field goal attempt bounced off the right upright, and Roberson marched the 'Cats 80 yards for a touchdown in a huge momentum swing that made it K-State 28, Nebraska 13, with 7:15 left in the third quarter.
Brown, who nailed a 48-yarder in the first half, called the miss "embarrassing." Another huge opportunity slipped away at the start of the fourth quarter, when Jammal Lord found a wide-open David Horne with nothing but green in front of him. The true freshman dropped the ball, and the Huskers' chances for an upset faded into a purple haze.
NU linebacker Scott Shanle said it almost seemed as if the Huskers regressed Saturday, back to the bad-news days of Penn State and Iowa State. This one seemed to hurt more for the Huskers, as a couple of players appeared to be on the verge of tears.
"This is a hard one to swallow," Brown said. "The knot in my throat has gotten bigger and bigger after every loss. If you would've told me we were going to be like this at the beginning of the season, I would've asked you if you'd ran into a wall or if you were on drugs. Because this is not what's supposed to happen.
"It's definitely uncharacteristic of us. We have not played traditional football."
Roberson made things especially tough for the defense. The junior quarterback finished with 228 yards rushing and had 139 by the end of the first quarter. He dazzled fans with a 91-yard touchdown run near the end of the first quarter, and gave the 'Cats an early 14-0 lead.
Nebraska gave up 415 yards on the ground, and at times looked rather discombobulated. But NU Defensive Coordinator Craig Bohl didn't question the effort Saturday, and neither did Coach Frank Solich, who said the Huskers ran into "a very good football team."
Those words could also describe Colorado, the last team on the regular-season schedule. The Buffs come to Lincoln on Nov. 29, then a trip to Shreveport and the Independence Bowl seems likely.
Will the Huskers find their heart? Was it ever lost?
"There is a point when you look up at the scoreboard and you're down 80 or 90 points or whatever it was and it's really difficult to deal with," Bland said. "Maybe that's where he got that from.
"We don't have heartless people on or team. We don't have people who don't care. Its tough to hear your own teammates say that. That's tough."
|Yards per carry||7.3||2.4|
Nebraska is 78-15 all-time against Kansas 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|
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