AMES, Iowa. — Now what?
That's the question about this Nebraska football team after another embarrassing performance on the road.
After waiting two long weeks for a shot at redemption following a 33-point loss at Penn State, the Nos. 19 and 20 Huskers lost 36-14 to Iowa State in their Big 12 opener before 51,888 at Jack Trice Stadium.
The program now has descended into a realm unfamiliar to a generation of Husker fans. Nebraska lost its conference opener for the first time since 1974, and it lost back-to-back regular-season games for the first time since 1976.
When the national ratings are released today, the 3-2 Huskers probably will be out of the Top 25 for the first time since 1981.
"As a player, as a captain of this football team, I am embarrassed," rush end Chris Kelsay said. "This team is setting all sorts of records, and not exactly the kind that we want to set."
The situation, Coach Frank Solich said, has become critical.
"We'll either splinter apart," he said, "or we'll come together. There's probably no middle ground."
Nebraska's problems against the 5-1 Cyclones largely were self-inflicted. The Huskers were penalized 10 times for 75 yards, and they committed five turnovers. ISU converted three of those turnovers into 17 points.
The Nos. 19 and 21 Cyclones merit credit for shutting down a conference-leading rushing attack that figured to power through a defense that ranked 10th in the Big 12 against the run.
The Huskers managed only 81 yards on the ground, their lowest output in four seasons and 175 yards under their average, and finished with a season-low 273 total yards.
"The rushing game was inept," said Solich, 1-8 in road games against ranked opponents.
Meanwhile, the Cyclones, who rank in the middle of the conference in rushing, amassed 192 yards on the ground. Michael Wagner accounted for 107.
The Cyclones' ability to run made quarterback Seneca Wallace more dangerous. The Heisman Trophy candidate got off to a slow start but finished 19 of 32 for 220 yards and a touchdown. He was intercepted twice.
Wallace, who ran for two scores, averaged 7.1 yards a carry while running for 50.
NU Defensive Coordinator Craig Bohl, whose unit has surrendered 175 points in its past four losses, said he was satisfied with his players' effort.
"We did not have a lot of busts," Bohl said. "There weren't guys out there not knowing what they were doing. Iowa State had a nice misdirection play that they had a couple of runs that got us off-balance early. I thought our guys adjusted.
"The issues of the day came down to they had a great player (Wallace) who made plays and we had an opportunity to make some plays. We didn't get it done. And we had way too many penalties."
I-back Josh Davis fumbled on the first series of the game, and ISU turned it into a 23-yard field goal by Adam Benike, who made three of four attempts for the day.
Quarterback Jammal Lord fumbled late in the first quarter, and Hiawatha Rutland scored 10 plays later from 2 yards out for a 10-0 ISU lead.
Early in the fourth, Lord was intercepted by Brandon Brown, and Wallace ran in from 7 yards for a 33-14 advantage.
There were perhaps only two highlights for NU.
In the second quarter, freshman split end Ross Pilkington caught a play-action pass from Lord and won a footrace for a 90-yard touchdown, the Huskers' longest pass play since 1965.
In the third, Aaron Terpening blocked a Tony Yelk punt to set up Judd Davies' 2-yard touchdown run on the next play.
But the Huskers would get no closer than within 12 points after halftime.
The Cyclones, who held a 15-minute possession advantage, never gave the Huskers a chance to find a rhythm.
Solich said he had second thoughts about his play-calling in the first quarter, when the Huskers ran on nine of their 11 plays.
"Probably early in the game there should have been a little more of a mixture as far as calls," he said,"to throw them off a little bit."
But the Huskers' problems run deeper than offensive play-calling. The coach said he's seeking improvement "across the board."
Strongside linebacker Scott Shanle said the team must stick together.
"If we fold, the results of that are not going to be pretty," he said. "We know that, because 3-2 doesn't look too pretty to us right now. We don't want it to be worse."
|Yards per carry||3.7||2.7|
Nebraska is 86-17 all-time against Iowa 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 14 games on Sept. 28. See them all »
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