Huskers Reach Pivotal Point In Season

Thursday, October 11th 2007, 6:00 pm
By: News On 6

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ The halfway point of the season looks to be the pivotal point for Nebraska.

The Cornhuskers (4-2, 1-1 Big 12) figure if they're going to stay in the Big 12 North race, they must win home games against Oklahoma State on Saturday and against Texas A&M on Oct. 20.

``They are huge,'' quarterback Sam Keller said of the games. ``We need to start over and get back on the right foot. Everything is wide open. Things are going really weird this season as far as games and what is happening, but we have to take care of our business. We are fortunate to have these next two games at home to right this ship.''

Oklahoma State (3-3, 1-1) has won two of its past three meetings with Nebraska but is winless in Lincoln since 1960. The Cowboys are 1-12 in their past 13 true road games.

Opponents don't have the same fear of playing in Memorial Stadium that they once did. The Huskers were pushed by undistinguished opponents in Ball State and Iowa State in their past two home games. With their defense struggling, the Huskers are considered vulnerable to any opponent left on the schedule.

After last week's 41-6 loss at Missouri, Nebraska fourth-year coach Bill Callahan is scrambling to salvage the season and the direction of his program.

``Of course it's a big game for us. No question,'' he said. ``We need to do everything in our power to find ways to win this football game. That's all we're focused on.''

Nebraska was a powerhouse in the late 1980s when current OSU coach Mike Gundy was setting passing records for the Cowboys. Gundy declined to discuss the Huskers' fall.

``I'll say this: I have a lot of respect for the history of Nebraska football, and I think Callahan's a good football coach,'' Gundy said. ``There's no question about that. Other than that, I would never respond to somebody else's football program _ Nebraska or anybody else's.''

Nebraska has surrendered the first score in each of its six games. The Huskers were down 14-0 just over 10 minutes into the game against Missouri.

Oklahoma State has scored first in three of its six games this year and led Texas A&M 17-0 last week before losing 24-23.

``When you get down a couple quick touchdowns, that really opens up what an (opposing) offense can do,'' linebacker Bo Ruud said. ``You never want to get off to a start like that. It will be important to get a good start and get things rolling and get the defense in a groove, getting stops and getting on and off the field.''

The Husker defense has been on the field an inordinate amount of time the past two weeks. Iowa State ran 102 offensive plays against them, and Missouri got off 85 snaps.

The Tigers made first downs on 10 of 15 third-down situations and finished with 32 first downs, the most ever by a Nebraska opponent. Missouri also rolled up 606 total yards.

``It's a critical situation to where we need to come out and not let this last game affect what's going to happen in this next game,'' defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said.

Keller said the Huskers must forget what happened in Columbia, Mo.

``Missouri was just a train wreck,'' he said. ``Our backs are a little bit against the wall. We had a horrible performance and we have to respond. You cannot respond by feeling pressure. You cannot respond by feeling sorry for yourself.''

Callahan said he refuses to give up on his team or believe that, perhaps, the Huskers just aren't that good.

``I keep hope alive and keep looking forward to a positive performance because I know we're capable of doing that,'' he said.