LAWRENCE, Kan. — Bill Jennings lived out his days and died five years ago in this college town, his record of coaching futility largely forgotten during a golden age of Nebraska football that followed Jennings' 1961 firing.
Bill Callahan's 2007 Huskers are slipping to depths not reached by Husker teams since Jennings was coach, so it was somewhat fitting here Saturday that perhaps the lowest of the lows happened at Kansas.
The eighth-ranked Jayhawks obliterated NU 76-39, posting the highest point total ever against NU by scoring touchdowns on 10 consecutive drives.
"Shock, embarrassment, surprise," senior left tackle Carl Nicks said. "I don't even know how to describe what we're feeling."
The Huskers (4-6, 1-5 Big 12) lost a fifth consecutive game for the first time since 1958. That team, coached by Jennings, rebounded with a win after an early November defeat to KU.
All that appears left this season are a home sendoff Saturday against Kansas State and a post-Thanksgiving trip to Colorado.
Barring some bizarre turn of events, there will be no bowl game for the Huskers. Not after Kansas (9-0, 5-0) extended its dream season by accumulating 572 yards against the Blackshirts, including 354 passing from sophomore QB Todd Reesing.
Reesing gouged the Nebraska defense for six touchdown throws at KU's Memorial Stadium, and senior fullback Brandon McAnderson ran for four scores and 119 yards.
The Jayhawks, before a stadium-record crowd of 51,910, scored 48 points in the first half — the most ever against Nebraska. Even the NU radio guy couldn't survive this mess: Play-by-play man Jim Rose missed the game for personal reasons.
"I'm not the type of person to come up here and give you excuses for something that's gone bad," Callahan said. "And I'm not going to start right now. I love our players. I love our coaches. We're doing the best we can. It's not what we wanted."
In the aftermath, the realization of big changes to come seemed more imminent than ever, even among Nebraska coaches and players.
And Callahan, now 0-7 against the Top 10 and 14-17 in conference play, sounded at a loss.
"We're trying to do everything we can," the fourth-year coach said. "Really, there's no other option in terms of coaching changes or things of that nature. We don't have any options at this point.
"We're just going to keep working, coaching and motivating. That's our job, and that's what we're doing every day when we come to work. This is tough, not only on coaches, but more importantly on players. We're going to do everything in our power to help these kids come out of this."
Interim Athletic Director Tom Osborne, the man charged with fixing the situation, watched the rout from above. Osborne slid into the locker room after the game, shared a private conversation with Callahan and quietly left.
"The coaching staff is the reason that most of us are here," freshman cornerback Anthony Blue said. "If there are any changes, it would hurt."
For a few minutes Saturday, things appeared OK.
Kansas went three-and-out — Nebraska's first such defensive stop on an opponent's opening possession all year. Freshman Prince Amukamara nearly blocked a Kyle Tucker punt, and the Huskers converted three third downs on a 36-yard touchdown drive, capped by quarterback Joe Ganz's 3-yard run.
The Jayhawks answered immediately, but Ganz hit I-back Marlon Lucky on a 62-yard outlet pass to put Nebraska on top 14-7.
The hot start marked the first time in 20 games, dating to a 56-0 win over Troy last year, that NU found the end zone on its first two possessions. When Kansas came back with a 50-yard march, tying it on McAnderson's 2-yard TD run, signs pointed to a shootout.
But Ganz, making his debut start in place of the injured Sam Keller, could not sustain the offensive energy.
Nebraska failed to produce a single yard on seven straight plays over three possessions. Meanwhile, the Jayhawks kept right on rolling. They scored to take the lead for good on Reesing's 26-yard strike to running back Jake Sharp with 1:00 to play in the first quarter. Sharp beat linebacker Steve Octavien down the sideline to make the catch.
With NU trailing 28-14, Ganz hit Maurice Purify for 60 yards and then for a 19-yard touchdown as Purify outmuscled All-Big 12 cornerback Aqib Talib in the end zone.
Ganz finished 25 of 50 for 405 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions.
Kansas earned just its second win over Nebraska in 39 years, and the 76 points ranked as the Jayhawks' most ever in a conference game. It was their third-highest total ever, in fact, behind the 86 scored against South Dakota State in 1947 and 83 against Washington (Mo.) in 1923.
"This is one of those games that you're never going to forget," Reesing said.
NU cut the Kansas lead to 48-31 early in the third quarter on Purify's one-handed, 15-yard TD grab over Talib. The Huskers then turned it over on four straight possessions.
Ganz threw three interceptions, and I-back Quentin Castille fumbled. KU capitalized with drives 23 and 30 yards to reach 69 points late in the third quarter.
"It's bad, man," senior cornerback Andre Jones said. "I really have no answers, other than that it's just bad. I love my team, and I'm not getting ready to point the fingers. If that's the case, we'll lose the next two games, too.
"When it comes to adversity, we have to stick together and learn to keep competing. What this game is doing is preparing us for life. You've just got to take it under the chin and keep moving."
|Yards per carry||4.4||3.4|
Nebraska is 91-23 all-time against Kansas.
|Wake Forest||Sept. 8|
|Ball State||Sept. 22|
|Iowa State||Sept. 29|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 13|
|Texas A&M||Oct. 20|
|Kansas State||Nov. 10|
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