LINCOLN — On a last-gasp drive in the final home game of the season, Nebraska I-back Dahrran Diedrick looked up and saw a mass exodus for the doors.
In a year that has had so many firsts for all the wrong reasons, here came another one-apathy at Memorial Stadium.
"I guess they wanted to beat the traffic," Diedrick said after the Huskers limped out of the 2002 regular season with a 28-13 loss to No. 13 Colorado on Senior Day.
Maybe they're resting up for what promises to be an interesting couple of weeks before the bowl game. Nebraska fell to 7-6 Friday, its worst record since 1961, and there will be no nine-win season for the first time in 34 years.
What is expected, though, are changes in the coaching staff. Coach Frank Solich wouldn't talk about that late Friday, saying only that the team will meet Monday to "cover several issues."
When asked if changes were looming, Solich said: "I will address that as we come out of this weekend. Right now, what I am answering are questions dealing with this game."
Here's what is known: Before 77,804 fans Friday, Nebraska dropped to 3-5 in the Big 12, lost its second home game of the season for the first time since 1980, and sealed a late-December trip to a lower-tier bowl.
Unlike last year's 62-36 stomping in Boulder, this one wasn't decided until the final minutes, when the Buffs punched in their final touchdown after a David Horne fumble on the NU 30-yard line.
The celebration was on for 9-3 and 7-1 Colorado, which is headed to next Saturday's Big 12 championship game. Gloom swept over the stadium for the Huskers.
"This is the toughest loss I've ever taken in any level of any sport that I've ever played," said Diedrick, who ran for a team-high 96 yards on 13 carries. "Everybody put their heart into it."
It looked as if this was going to be a charmed day for Nebraska early in the third quarter, when Solich uncharacteristically jumped up and down on the sidelines after walk-on Dale Endorf's 49-yard field goal gave the Huskers a 13-7 lead.
Endorf had never kicked in a Division I-A game before Friday, hadn't even been on the radar screen before Josh Brown's arrest last week on suspicion of driving under the influence. The fates were smiling on the Huskers, right?
Colorado marched downfield for an 80-yard touchdown drive. Then Nebraska went backward on its next drive. What followed was the momentum sapper, a 52-yard touchdown drive that put the Buffs up 21-13 with 3:23 to go in the third quarter.
In the end, it was the Huskers' offense that couldn't convert when it counted. After rolling up 251 yards in the first half, the Huskers managed just 83 in the final two quarters.
Nebraska quarterback Jammal Lord took much of the heat, drawing boos from the crowd when he was dropped for a loss on three straight plays.
"I was out of my element, out of my game," Lord said, "and I hurt the team again today."
Colorado managed to move the chains without star running back Chris Brown, who sat out with a bruised sternum. The Buffs didn't even have the full services of second-stringer Bobby Purify, who sprained an ankle.
Enter Brian Calhoun. The true freshman, a fourth-string I-back, said he knew little about the Nebraska-Colorado rivalry. But he ran for 137 yards on 20 carries, and turned the game, really, when he broke a 35-yard run with the Buffs clinging to a 14-13 lead late in the third quarter.
Four plays later, Colorado was in the end zone again, and the crowd fell silent.
Solich praised his team's effort, and, considering the distractions, it's a wonder the Huskers hung in this one. First there were the rumors about coaching changes. Then came Brown's arrest and suspension.
"If you let that stuff get to your head, if you read all the press, good or bad, that's difficult," NU rover Philip Bland said. "The best thing our team has done is we stuck together and stuck by our coaches.
"I'll be the first one to tell you that Coach (NU Defensive Coordinator Craig) Bohl coached a great game tonight. It's just one of those things where they made more plays than we did."
Nebraska did have its share of big plays. There was Lord's 80-yard touchdown strike to freshman Matt Herian early in the second quarter, and Endorf's unbelievable field goal.
But there also were those little miscues again that have haunted the Huskers. Like Richie Incognito's personal-foul penalty that moved Nebraska 15 yards back on a drive that started on the CU 17 in the third quarter.
As the seniors lumbered out of the stadium to find their families, Bland was asked what happened in this roller-coaster season that made more history on Friday.
"If I was a writer, and I could write a book on it, I'd make a lot of money," he said. "But to be completely honest with you, I cannot even begin to fathom that question and give a response that makes sense.
"We fought, we didn't give up. ... It was just one of those deals that it was a really tough year. A tough year for everyone."
|Yards per carry||4.8||4.7|
Nebraska is 49-20 all-time against Colorado.
|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 Nov. 29. See them all »
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