Huskers Still Trying To make Bowl Bid

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- Bowl eligibility used to be taken for granted at Nebraska. Those days are a distant memory.

The Cornhuskers (4-4, 1-3 Big 12) must win two of their last four games to be eligible for a postseason bid. Just reaching the .500 mark doesn't guarantee an invitation, so the Huskers probably need to win three games.

That's asking a lot for a team whose defense has given up 6.6 yards per play during a three-game losing streak in which the Huskers were outscored 122-34.

Now consider that the Huskers play three of their next four games on the road, starting Saturday at No. 17 Texas (6-2, 2-2).

"We've got to keep upbeat and positive. There's nothing you can do otherwise," coach Bill Callahan said Monday. "You can't go into the tank mentally. We can't give up and point fingers. You rally your kids and help them through it."

This is the third time in four seasons under Callahan that the Huskers have lost three straight. Losing at Texas would give Nebraska four straight defeats for the first time since 1961.

The Cornhuskers already have lost three home games in a season for the first time since 1968 -- the year folks in Omaha began a petition drive calling for the ouster of Bob Devaney.

Devaney survived and ended up coaching the Huskers to two national titles before retiring and turning over the program to Tom Osborne in 1973.

Callahan is under more pressure than Devaney was four decades ago. Osborne, who won 255 games and three national titles in 25 seasons, returned last week as interim athletic director after the firing of Steve Pederson.

It will be Osborne who decides whether Callahan is back next year, and he's made no secret of the fact he's disappointed with the fall of the program he helped build.

Callahan has said he won't resign -- not when he stands to collect more than $3 million from a potential contract buyout. Osborne has said his decision won't be affected by the prospect of having to pay Callahan millions to go away.

Callahan said he and his staff will keep coaching hard. He tweaked his game-day routine for Texas A&M by inviting offensive coordinator Shawn Watson to join him on the sidelines and help with the play-calling. Callahan spent additional time monitoring the goings-on of the defense -- "putting in my 2 cents," he said.

"We understand we can be a better football team, and we're doing everything we can to get these kids to play better," Callahan said. "They're receptive in that regard, and we try to hang together and stay tight-knit and put out the best product that we can."

Callahan said the one thing the Huskers must do to enhance their chances of winning is to defend the run better.

Nebraska, on track to have its worst defense in program history, is 105th out of 119 major-college teams in total defense at 457.4 yards a game. The Huskers are allowing an average of 227.4 rushing yards, fifth most in the nation.

Last week Texas A&M quarterback Stephen McGee ran for 167 yards and running back Jorvorskie Lane added 130.

The week before, Oklahoma State's Dantrell Savage gashed the Huskers for 212.

And the week before that, Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel ran for 72 and passed for 401.

Texas' top rusher is Jamaal Charles, who is averaging 90 yards a game but hasn't run for more than 79 in four Big 12 contests.

Callahan said the Huskers must correct fundamental breakdowns and become better at making adjustments.

"We'll keep grinding on that end," he said.


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