LINCOLN — Ell Roberson stood on the 50-yard line, staring at Jammal Lord, and you knew things were going to get ugly Saturday because it was only warmups and smack had already filled the cold autumn air.
It got way uglier for Nebraska.
Coaches jawed, Roberson taunted and mothers cried as the Huskers limped out of Senior Day with their worst home loss in 45 years, a 38-9 Kansas State rout Saturday before a stunned 78,014 at Memorial Stadium.
Half the stadium was empty as Lord took his final exit, quietly heading for the tunnel while the Wildcats waved towels and danced around him. Earlier in the week, the maligned Nebraska quarterback declined to comment on whether he'd miss playing at Memorial Stadium, but it was obvious after Saturday's scene that Lord couldn't have found the exit fast enough.
He walked out of the postgame press conference with an arm around his mother, Claudia, who was crying. K-State hadn't won in Lincoln since 1968, and no matter how bad things have looked for the Huskers through the past couple of years, they could always count on the comfy confines of home.
Not on Saturday. Roberson passed, juked and flung his fists in the air. He helped the 'Cats pile on 31 second-half points. And in a week that was filled with questions about Frank Solich's job security, the sixth-year Nebraska coach was asked if his team was embarrassed.
"No," Solich said. "I'm never embarrassed with my football team when I think they've played hard."
"Peeved" may have been a better word to describe some of Nebraska's coaches, especially after K-State's Bill Snyder kept his offensive starters in until the end of the game. As Snyder and NU Defensive Coordinator Bo Pelini crossed paths during the postgame handshakes, Pelini expressed his displeasure to the man in purple. The coaches exchanged words.
Pelini said Snyder ran up the score.
"You saw the game," Pelini said. "You make your deductions."
Maybe the 9-3 and 5-2 Wildcats were trying to make a statement that they're ready for prime time and Nebraska isn't. The game was dubbed as the fight for the Big 12 North title, and Roberson, sensing its magnitude, never stopped talking.
He called Lord "one crazy cat" on Tuesday and said the NU quarterback was all talk. He exchanged words with Lord in warmups and even during the coin toss. He backed it up with 403 yards of total offense.
After the game, Lord was asked what Roberson said.
"A whole lot of nothing," Lord said.
For a while, the sentimentalists believed that this would finally be Lord's day. Luck appeared to be smiling on him in the second quarter, when he was wrapped up by K-State end Thomas Houchin on third and 4 but somehow managed to heave a prayer into the left corner of the end zone. Mark LeFlore was there, all alone, and caught it.
The Huskers were tied at 7 at halftime, and a classic battle seemed to be brewing.
One play may have changed everything. On third and 7 at the NU 27, Lord went back to pass on the first series of the second half. He was blindsided by Bryan Hickman, and the ball went flying in the air.
KSU's Andrew Shull caught it, and four plays later, K-State punched in a touchdown on a pretty 11-yard Roberson run.
The 'Cats scored on their next three possessions, and when Roberson hit James Terry for a 63-yard touchdown pass with 14:30 to play, it was game over for Nebraska.
"It just seemed like everything was going their way," NU right tackle Dan Vili Waldrop said. "Punts, defense, offense, they were getting everything. And it just seemed like the wall was in front of us."
The wall kept getting bigger for Lord, who missed wide-open receivers on three deep passes when the game was still close.
He finished 8 of 26 with two interceptions. He was sacked twice and held to 51 yards in the second half.
And the Huskers, who looked unstoppable in their first six home games, were outyarded 561-293.
"The third quarter was disastrous," Solich said, "and the fourth quarter didn't get any better."
The Huskers found themselves answering questions late Saturday about finishing off the season for pride. But there may be more at stake than that when they close out the regular season in two weeks at Colorado. They're 8-3 and will go to a bowl, but an uneasiness hung over the quiet stadium as the purple people celebrated and Solich bolted for the locker room.
Did the blowout turn up the heat on Solich? It was hard to tell from the look on the face of Steve Pederson, Nebraska's athletic director, as he stood near the end zone in the closing minutes. Pederson has said he won't comment on coaches' status in-season.
This season just got a lot more intense.
"You can't sit and worry about what happened," NU linebacker Demorrio Williams said. "You have to bounce back and play. We have to keep this team together."
|Yards per carry||4.7||4.8|
Nebraska is 78-15 all-time against Kansas State.
|Oklahoma State||Aug. 30|
|Utah State||Sept. 6|
|Penn State||Sept. 13|
|Southern Miss||Sept. 25|
|Troy (formerly Troy State)||Oct. 4|
|Texas A&M||Oct. 18|
|Iowa State||Oct. 25|
|Kansas State||Nov. 15|
|Michigan State||Dec. 29|
Nebraska has played 16 games on Nov. 15. See them all »
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