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Callahan's season of hard knocks ends in another lopsided loss

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) -- All eyes in Nebraska now look toward Tom Osborne's office -- to see if Bill Callahan could possibly emerge from his upcoming meeting with Nebraska's athletic director with his job still in hand.

If he does, it would be an even bigger shock than what Nebraska fans have witnessed this season -- the unseemly disintegration of a program that no longer resembles Big Red.

The final chapter was written Friday when Callahan, with one last chance to make a good impression, instead suffered another loss by a video game score -- 65-51 to Colorado, which now has a shot at a bowl bid that could have gone to the Cornhuskers.

"Am I shocked? I'm definitely shocked," defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said when asked how he felt looking at the scoreboard and seeing another big, ugly number up there.

Cody Hawkins threw for 241 yards and Hugh Charles ran for 169 yards and three scores to lift the Buffs (6-6, 4-4 Big 12) to the break-even mark in an up-and-down season that includes a victory over Oklahoma and a loss to Iowa State.

Colorado scored 34 straight points in the second half to take control of the game.

Sadly for the Huskers (5-7, 2-6), this wasn't anything new. This was the sixth time they've allowed 40 or more points this season, the second time they've been lit up for 60-plus this month.

They go home with the conference's worst defense -- so much for the Blackshirts -- and only their second losing record since 1962, both of which have come during Callahan's four seasons in Lincoln.

Next comes the coach's long-awaited meeting, scheduled for Saturday, with Osborne, the interim athletic director who never would have let a debacle like this unfold while he was coach.

"I'm not talking about anything," Osborne told The Associated Press as he exited the locker room after shaking a few players' hands. "I have to go to an event right now."

Callahan, who last week schooled his players on the realities of change in big-time college football, also shed little light on his future.

"I don't know what to expect," he said. "I'm just going to wake up tomorrow and deal with whatever we have to deal with and we'll go on. Coach Osborne has a lot of things that he would like to talk about, so let's get on and visit about it."

For a while, it looked like Callahan might be able to head into the meeting on a two-game winning streak.

Nebraska rolled through the first half. The Cornhuskers scored 73 points in their last game, a win over Kansas State, and led 35-24 at halftime of this one after piling up 393 yards against a Buffs defense that has had its own problems lately.

In the third quarter, though, some poor sideline management shifted the momentum.

Leading by 11 and facing third-and-2 from its own 19, Nebraska got nailed with consecutive 5-yard penalties -- once for illegal substitution and once for delay of game. That made it third-and-12, and on that play, Huskers quarterback Joe Ganz threw the ball straight to Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith, who returned it 31 yards for a touchdown.

On Nebraska's next offensive play, Ganz underthrew Nate Swift, who batted the ball in the air to be intercepted by Lionel Harris. Four plays later, Charles ran 7 yards to put Colorado ahead 38-35.

Nebraska's next drive ended in a blocked punt, which led to another CU touchdown. A few minutes after that, Colorado scored again and an 11-point Nebraska lead had become a 16-point deficit.

"I've never in my four years here seen a comeback like that," Colorado linebacker Jordon Dizon said. "Not only a comeback, but that kind of margin of win."

Ganz threw another pick late in the fourth quarter -- this one batted up by receiver Maurice Purify, which led to a 51-yard interception return by Cha'pelle Brown and Charles' third score for a 58-35 lead.

That was 34 straight points, five straight touchdowns, and when the Buffs answered a garbage Nebraska touchdown with one of their own, they broke 60 for the first time since that 62-36 blowout over Nebraska in 2001 that led to their last Big 12 title.

The feat seemed monumental back then. Now, it really doesn't. Only three weeks ago, Kansas beat Nebraska 76-39.

"Things happen," Suh said. "Mistakes happen and things aren't done about the mistakes and teams capitalize on those to win the game."

Ganz finished with 484 yards passing for the Huskers and holds plenty of promise for whoever coaches him next year. Purify had 11 catches for 136 yards and three scores but also had his share of drops and bobbles that cost the Huskers.

Of course, offense hasn't been Nebraska's problem this year.

The defense surrendered 518 yards, which was 45 yards above its average.

Callahan said the second-half meltdown had nothing to do with his job status.

"I don't think they were thinking of that in the second half at any stretch," he said. "You just want to do your best. I don't think kids are affected by those things that go on. They are a resilient group."

Who will coach them next year?

Like Callahan, the assistant coaches left saying they had no idea about their futures.

"The whole year's been upsetting, so this is no different," receivers coach Ted Gilmore said. "I'll go home, I'll be with my family. That's all I control. All I can do is try to do my job. Like I tell my kids every day: 'Put your name on your work.' That's what I try to live by."