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Nebraska Declension Narrative

I’m not sure I have enough room for this.

Iowa v Nebraska Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images

Nebraska was riding high at the end of the Devaney/Osborne era.

The Huskers are now coming off of consecutive 4-8 campaigns. How did we get here? Here are some bullet points (I actually left out a lot of stuff).

Buckle up.


  • Nebraska adopts Lil’ Red as a mascot, beginning with the 1994 season. Nebraska wins three national championships in the next five years. This inflated monstrosity scares small children, and torments my dreams. “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Good question. Clearly, this thing was the harbinger of disaster. BRT insists “no declension narrative can be complete without [Lil’ Red].” Preach, sister. Preach.


  • Nebraska wins a share of the national championship. Tom Osborne retires, and Frank Solich takes over as his hand-picked successor.

1998 (9-4, Solich)

  • Nebraska defeats Louisiana Tech 56-27 in the first game under Solich. LaTech receiver Troy Edwards sets the NCAA all-division record for receiving yards in a game with 405 on 21 receptions, including touchdown catches of 94, 80, and 52 yards.
  • Nebraska loses at home to Major Applewhite and unranked Texas, 20-16. This loss snaps a 47 game home unbeaten streak.
  • Nebraska loses to Kansas State in Manhattan, 40-30. This snaps a 29 game winning streak against the Wildcats.
  • Nebraska defeats Colorado 16-14 on a balmy Black Friday in Lincoln. The team eked out this ninth win to keep the nine-win streak alive.
  • Nebraska loses to Arizona 23-20 in the Holiday Bowl to finish 9-4.

1999 (12-1, Solich)

  • Nebraska fumbles away an undefeated season at Texas. Two fumbles in the red zone lead to a 24-20 Husker defeat.
  • Nebraska gets some payback by defeating Texas 22-6 in the Big 12 CCG. This, ladies and gentlemen, is Nebraska’s most recent conference championship.

2000 (10-2, Solich)

  • Top-ranked Nebraska travels to Norman to face third-ranked Oklahoma. Oklahoma slaps the Huskers with a 31-14 loss. Oklahoma goes on to win the national championship.
  • Nebraska loses to Kansas State, 29-28. It is Nebraska’s second straight loss in Manhattan.

2001 (11-2, Solich)

Black 41 Flash Reverse Pass

  • Second-ranked Nebraska defeats Oklahoma in Lincoln, 20-10. In retrospect, this was the last bit of methane left in the dead cow that was the Husker dynasty.
  • Nebraska gets demolished by Colorado in Boulder. 62-36. Nebraska fails to reach the conference championship game, but gets to play for the national championship anyway. Which leads us to...
  • Miami walks past Nebraska in the Rose Bowl, 37-14. It was not that close.
  • Heisman winner Eric Crouch graduates.

2002 (7-7, Solich)

  • Nebraska loses at Penn State, 40-7. Richie Incognito gets thrown out of the game for fighting at the end of the third quarter.
  • Nebraska loses to Iowa State in Ames, 36-14. It is the first loss to the Cyclones since 1977.
  • Nebraska loses to Oklahoma State in Stillwater, 24-21. It is the first loss to the Cowboys since 1961 (there was a tie in 1973).
  • Nebraska loses to Texas again.
  • Nebraska ends the season with three consecutive losses: 49-13 versus Kansas State; 28-13 to Colorado, and 27-23 to Ole Miss in the Independence Bowl. Nebraska finishes the season 7-7. This snaps the nine-win season streak, and it is the first non-winning season since 1961.

2003 (9-3, Solich; 1-0, Pelini)

  • Nebraska loses to Missouri, 41-24. This is Nebraska’s first loss to Missouri since 1978. It is the first loss at Faurot Field since 1973.
  • Texas beats Nebraska, 31-7.
  • Kansas State defeats Nebraska in Lincoln, 38-9.
  • Nebraska defeats Colorado in Boulder to secure nine wins.
  • Frank Solich is fired. Athletic Director Steve Pederson pulls the trigger while Tom Osborne is fly fishing in New Zealand.

2004 (5-6, Callahan)

  • After a long and rudderless coaching search, Bill Callahan is hired as Nebraska’s new coach.
  • Nebraska loses to Southern Miss, 21-17. In Lincoln.
  • Nebraska loses to Texas Tech, 70-10. As my buddy Rob noted, “say what you will about Frank Solich, but at least he knew how to beat Texas Tech.” Yep.
  • Nebraska loses to Iowa State, Kansas State, and Colorado.
  • Nebraska loses to Oklahoma, 30-3. Nebraska kicks a field goal as time expires to avoid the shutout.
  • Nebraska finishes 5-6. Nebraska stays home in the bowl season for the first time since 1969. This is the first losing season since 1961.

2005 (8-4, Callahan)

  • Nebraska loses to Texas Tech, Missouri, and Texas.
  • Nebraska loses to Kansas, 40-15. This ends a Kansas 36 game losing streak to Nebraska.

2006 (9-5, Callahan)

  • Nebraska loses at USC, 28-10. It wasn’t nearly that close.
  • Nebraska reaches the Big 12 championship game...and loses to Oklahoma, 21-7.

2007 (5-7, Callahan)

  • Game Day comes to town. Nebraska loses to USC, 48-31.
  • Nebraska loses six of its last seven games to finish 5-7: Missouri, 41-6; Oklahoma State, 45-14; Texas A&M, 36-14; Texas, 28-25; KANSAS, 76-39; Colorado, 65-51.
  • In the final three games, Nebraska scored 163 points...yet still went 1-2 (Nebraska beat KSU, 73-31)
  • Steve Pederson fired. Bill Callahan fired.

2008 (9-4, Pelini)

  • Bo Pelini named head coach.
  • Nebraska loses to Virginia Tech in Lincoln, 35-30. Bo Pelini is flagged twice for unsportsmanlike conduct.
  • Nebraska loses to Missouri, 52-17.
  • Nebraska loses to Oklahoma, 62-28.
  • Nebraska defeats a Dabo Swinney-coached Clemson squad in the Gator Bowl to finish 9-4 (not bad).

2009 (10-4, Pelini)

  • Nebraska loses to Virginia Tech on the road, 16-15. A blown coverage sinks Nebraska.
  • Nebraska loses to Iowa State, 9-7, in the fumblepocalypse. Nebraska had more turnovers than points.
  • Nebraska reaches the conference championship game...and loses to Texas, 13-12 (one second). Predictably, Pelini loses his mind.

2010 (10-4, Pelini)

  • Nebraska faces Texas in a game that was extensively promoted by the athletic department. The Huskers lay an egg and lose, 20-13.
  • Nebraska loses to Texas A&M at Kyle Field, 9-6. Pelini can be seen berating injured quarterback Taylor Martinez on the sidelines.
  • Nebraska reaches the conference championship game...and loses to Oklahoma after frittering away a two touchdown lead.
  • Nebraska loses to Washington, 19-7, in the Holiday Bowl.

2011 (9-4, Pelini)

  • Nebraska enters Big Ten Play.
  • In its first conference game, Nebraska loses to Wisconsin, 48-17.
  • Nebraska loses to Northwestern, 28-25. Northwestern sealed the game with a drive that included no pass plays.
  • Nebraska loses to Michigan, 45-17.

2012 (10-4, Pelini)

  • Nebraska is blown out in the Horseshoe, 63-38.
  • Nebraska reaches the conference championship game.
  • /Wisconsin scored again/

2013 (9-4, Pelini)

  • Nebraska fritters away a three touchdown first half lead and loses to UCLA at home, 41-21.
  • Nebraska loses to Minnesota, 34-23.
  • Nebraska loses to Iowa at home on Black Friday, 38-17.

2014 (9-3, Pelini; 0-1, Cotton)

  • Nebraska loses to Wisconsin in the snow, 59-24. Melvin Gordon runs for 408 yards, setting an NCAA single game record.
  • Thankfully, Samaje Perine of Oklahoma runs for 427 against Kansas the next week.
  • Nebraska beats Iowa in Iowa City on Black Friday, thanks to the returning skills of Demornay Pierson-El.
  • Bo Pelini is fired.
  • Mike Riley is hired as the next Husker Coach. Nobody is sure why.

2015 (6-7, Riley)

  • Nebraska loses to BYU on a Hail Mary in the home opener.
  • Nebraska loses to Illinois, 14-13.
  • Nebraska loses to Wisconsin, 23-21 (this is a marked improvement).
  • Nebraska loses to Northwestern.
  • Nebraska sails the Good Ship Ryker Fyfe in West Lafayette. The backup commits five turnovers. Nebraska loses to Purdue, 55-45.
  • Nebraska loses to Iowa again.
  • Nebraska reaches a bowl game despite having a losing record. Nebby wins. Foster Farms forever!

2016 (9-4, Riley)

  • Nebraska loses to Wisconsin in overtime, 23-17.
  • Nebraska loses to Ohio State, 62-3. Nebraska was ranked ninth going into the game.
  • Nebraska loses at Iowa, 40-10.

2017 (4-8, Riley)

  • Nebraska loses to Northern Illinois at home, 21-17. AD Shawn Eichorst materializes and voices his support for Coach Riley.
  • Nebraska loses to Wisconsin at home, 38-17. The 1997 championship team had its reunion that game. It was quite the juxtaposition.
  • The next week, Nebraska loses to Ohio State at home, 56-14.
  • Nebraska loses to Northwestern.
  • Somewhere in here, Eichorst gets fired.
  • Nebraska loses to Minnesota, 54-21.
  • Nebraska loses at Penn State, 56-44. It wasn’t that close.
  • Nebraska loses to Iowa at home, 56-14.
  • To the surprise of no-one, Mike Riley is fired. He shows up at the presser, though. What a mensch!
  • Scott Frost named head coach.

2018 (4-8, Frost)

  • God doesn’t want Nebraska to play Akron. The game is canceled due to lightning.
  • Having not played an opener to iron out the kinks, Nebraska commits most every mistake possible and loses at home to Colorado, 33-28. Even worse, Adrian Martinez is hurt and misses the next game.
  • Nebraska loses to Troy at home, 24-19. I’m not kidding, that really happened.
  • Nebraska gets absolutely pulverized by Michigan in the Big House, 56-14.
  • Nebraska loses to Purdue and Wisconsin in successive weeks.
  • Nebraska allows a 99 yard drive in the closing minutes, and finds a way to lose to Northwestern.
  • Nebraska loses to Iowa.

There it is—in 1500 words worth of bullet points—a summary of Nebraska frustration and futility since the Devaney/Osborne era.

I hope some of you choke on it.

I need a shower.

Keep hope alive. GBR.


Most ridiculous/hilarious loss?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Any of the Iowa
    (14 votes)
  • 13%
    2004 Texas Tech, 70-10
    (53 votes)
  • 0%
    2004 Southern Miss, 21-14
    (1 vote)
  • 7%
    2018 Troy, 24-19
    (31 votes)
  • 3%
    2017 Northern Illinois, 21-17
    (14 votes)
  • 4%
    2009 Texas, 13-12
    (16 votes)
  • 25%
    2012 /Wisconsin scored again/
    (102 votes)
  • 6%
    2001 Colorado, 62-36
    (26 votes)
  • 16%
    2009 Iowa State Fumblepocalypse, 9-7
    (66 votes)
  • 3%
    (15 votes)
  • 2%
    2015 Illinois, 14-13
    (8 votes)
  • 6%
    2015 Purdue, 55-45
    (24 votes)
  • 5%
    Other, there are plenty to choose from. Please mention in the comments.
    (23 votes)
393 votes total Vote Now