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H U S K E R    D A N

Unless you were captured by space aliens and have been living on the planet Xzergnog for the past nine months, you know there have been some changes to the Husker football program. BIG changes.

In just a few days, the start of a brand new era of Husker football will begin-the 2004 Bill Callahan era. Gone is six year head coach Frank Solich, eight assistants, including the offensive and defensive coordinators. The option offense (gasp!) has gone bye-bye; there's a new strength and conditioning coach, and the walk-on program as we've known it for decades, has also been overhauled.

Not since 1962 has there been such wholesale change at Nebraska. To be sure, the coaching transitions in '73 and '98 went smoothly, largely because the assistant coaching staffs remained in tact.

But this fall, Husker fans will need a program to keep track of all the new coaches. Ex-Oakland Raiders and first year Nebraska head football coach Bill Callahan brings with him not only a new staff and a brand new offense, but an entirely new vision for the Husker football program. The coach even talks openly (gasp!) about the pursuit of a national championship. What a concept.

It's true that talk is cheap, especially in August, before the Huskers face road games at Pittsburgh, K-State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Throw in home games with Southern Mississippi and Missouri and the Huskers will need more than just talk to get them through a demanding season.

There are ample reasons for the Huskers to not be considered as contenders for the Big 12 North division this year-new coaches, a new offense, a thin O-line, an untested quarterback crew and an inexperienced offensive backfield. But don't tell the Husker players and coaches that. Not this year. Not with this coaching staff. Not with this defense and not with the potential of the new offense. And the Huskers just might have a schedule that is favorable to them and could be catching the BTN at the right time. Here's a look:

WESTERN ILLINOIS: (W) September 4th
This will be as competitive as the Spring Game. A perfect home opener to break in the new Husker offense.
This could be a very tough game for the inexperienced Huskers, but Coach Callahan and the Blackshirts will be prepared.
@PITTSBURGH: (W) September 18th
This is not the Panther team of recent years. This is a winnable game for the Huskers and should help the them recruit in the eastern states.
KANSAS: (W) October 2nd
The Jayhawks' schedule is a nightmare. It will be tough for Coach Mangino to build on the
modest momentum of last year's 6-7 bowl team. Relax Kansas fans, Bill Self will bring the first aid kit.
@TEXAS TECH: (W) October 9th
This is another road game that will be critical for the Huskers to win if they expect to take the BTN. There might not be any gimmies in the Big 12 this year, so the Huskers must take care of business in Lubbock.
BAYLOR: (W) October 16th
Okay, so maybe there is one gimmie in the Big 12 this year. The Bears will continue to hibernate for another year.
@KANSAS STATE: (W) October 23rd
Like Christmas, there is no-Ell this year (groan). The 'Cats host the Sooners the week before they play the Huskers. Remember, last year without Ell, the Wildcats lost at home to Marshall U. It's true the Huskers haven't won at Manhattan since Osborne was at the helm, but the Wildcats will need more than Sproles to win this game.
MISSOURI: (W) October 30th
The Tigers have Heisman contender Brad Smith returning, but losses in their O-line, defensive problems and a poor road record make Missouri beatable, especially in front of 80,000 screaming Husker fans in Lincoln.
@IOWA STATE: (W) November 6th
This is a crucial year for Coach Dan McCarney. The Cyclones are optimistic, but do they have the talent to compete in the BTN?
@OKLAHOMA: (L) November 13th
Bo Pelini may get his Steve Pederson revenge. Husker fans are hoping that if the Huskers do lose the game, that NU will at least be competitive.
COLORADO: (W) November 20th
Note: Things are going to get worse for the Buffaloes. Look for a possible coaching change after this year in Boulder.

1.) Nebraska will have a winning season and will go to a bowl game.
2.) Bill Callahan will be nominated as Big 12 Coach of the Year.
3.) Courtney Grixby will return at least one punt/and or kickoff for a touchdown this season.
4.) Fabian Washington, Matt Herian and Josh Bullocks will earn All Big 12 honors.
5..) Darren Sproles will win the Heisman.
6.) Sooner freshman running back Adrian Peterson and Husker receiver Terrence Nunn will be nominated as the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year.
7.) Sooner quarterback and 2003 Heisman winner, Jason White will not be the starter by season's end.
8.) Most of Dave Humm's single season passing records at NU will be broken.
9.) Joe Dailey will surprise a lot of people with his ability to run the West Coast Offense.
10.) Jordan Adams (Ryan Goodman?) and Joe Dailey will see playing time.
11) Cory Ross will have at least 600 yards rushing and 400 yards receiving.
12.) Bill Callahan's name will be mentioned as a candidate for at least one head coaching job in the NFL.
13.) Bo Ruud will break Jerry Murtaugh's career record of 342 tackles.
14.) The Huskers string of consecutive sellouts will extend to 268.
15.) The Huskers will have at least 14 oral commitments for the '05 recruiting class by the end of October.
16.) Jim Rose (Husker radio play-by-play man), will find a way to sneak in 50 cent words such as ignominious, fulgent, churlish and bucolic during his Husker broadcasts this season.
17.) There will be at least one sports writer who, at the first shaky performance of the West Coast Offense, will write an article longing for the days of the Husker option game.
18.) Combined, Husker quarterbacks will throw the ball with a 65% completion rate.
19.) Frank Solich will land a coaching job.
20.) Tom Osborne will announce his plans to run for governor of Nebraska.
21.) The amount of Husker A.D. Steve Pederson's hate mail will drop dramatically.
22.) Bo Pelini will get the revenge he wants against the Huskers and Steve Pederson in Norman this November.
23.) Bo Pelini will be up for another head coaching job in D-1 (Iowa State, Colorado?) after the season ends.
24.) Bob Stoops' name will be mentioned as a candidate for at least one head coaching position in the NFL.
25.) Nebraska's defense will be better than last year.
26.) Nebraska's offense will be better than last year-a LOT better.
27.) Husker Dan will be at the Sidetrack in Lincoln before the Western Illinois game.
28.) Husker Dan will continue to write his column.
29.) And some of you will actually continue to read his stupid column.

Dear Husker Dan:
You really blew it when you said that Bob Stoops has won only one Big 12 championship. He won it twice-2000 and 2002.
Anna Bawllick
Ardmore, OK
Dear Anna: You readers are great. You also know Husker Dan's penchant for making intentional errors, just to see if all of you are paying attention...Yeah, that's the ticket. Thanks for writing.
Dear Husker Dan:
I read your "Trivia" test and beg to differ with you regarding the last time the Huskers played Pitt. It was in 1958, not '57. And your reference to the Huskers "Wild Bill Callahan" was spelled incorrectly. "Wild Bill's" last name is spelled Callihan. Also, it's Lyell Bremser, not Lyle. Also, you said "Ture or False" and you should have used "versus" and not verses.
Joe H.
Denver, CO
Dear Joe:
Regarding Pitt: You are right, but that's not what the question was. It was about when the Huskers last played the Panthers at Pittsburgh. They last played there in 1957. As far as your point about Callahan, I found conflicting information. In the 1971 book "Go Big Red, The Road to No. 1" written by Howard Silber, James Denney and Hollis J. Limprecht, the name is listed several times as Callahan. However, in the Husker press guide, his name is spelled with an "i". Alos...er also, regarding the "Ture or False", Lyell vs Lyle and verses vs versus: The sharp, dedicated, experienced and talented editor Husker Dan had last year at huskerpedia would NEVER have allowed such oversights to happen... :) Thanks for writing.
Dear Husker Dan:
Dude! I just read your Trivia Test. What are you, like 80? Why don't you make a test that someone who was born after air was invented and give us young guys a chance to get some of these answers?
Oliver Kloezhoff
Riley, KS
Dear Ollie (aka You Little Whipper-Snapper):
I'm not 80...yet. The purpose of my Trivia test is to show how much I know about Husker football and how little you know... Just kidding. I think it's good to know there have been great players, coaches and teams waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay before, let's say, (gasp!) Jammal Lord and Frank Solich. Thanks for writing. Now, if I can just find my walker...
Dear Husker Dan:
Your trivia question #32 should have mentioned that the Huskers also had an unbeaten and unscored upon team in 1902.
Matt M.
Eureka, CA
Dear Matt: Once again, you caught my intentional error...Thanks for writing.
Dear Husker Dan:
I really liked your recent (August) version of "You Might Be A Husker Fan If..." I'd like to add one more to your list:
*You live in Colorado, wear red constantly, and remind your poor, addled Buff friends not to worry about scandals and "let the (Ralphie) chips fall where they may".
David D.
Denver, CO
Dear David: Good one! Thanks for writing.
Mrs. Husker Dan and I stopped this summer at the Sapp Brothers truck stop in Ogallala, Nebraska. There was a Husker tee-shirt for sale that said:
Nebraska Football Is:
"Unbeat a-ball"
"Unstop a-ball"
"Unbelieve a-ball"
Fred Kotrous was a passionate Husker fan. He grew up in tough times during the 20s and 30s on a farm in rural northeastern Nebraska. Early in his life, he developed a love for football, even dreamed of playing the game one day. But the country was in the midst of the Great Depression and there just wasn't any money for frivolous things like footballs. So young Freddie got creative and made one by sewing together parts from old innertubes. He and his brothers would play for hours and when he got bigger, Freddie got his chance to play varsity football for the Verdigre High School Hawks.

He soon became a devoted Husker fan. On a cold New Year's Day in 1941, Freddie and his brothers LeRoy and Frank, walked several miles from their farm west of Verdigre to a local hangout in town just so they could listen to the radio broadcast of the Huskers and Stanford University in the Rose Bowl game. Uncle Freddie (he was my mother's brother) even made a scrapbook that included pictures and write-ups about the game.

He attended Husker home games whenever he could find tickets and when he couldn't, he would catch the Huskers on radio or TV. He liked to turn down the volume on his TV and listen to radio broadcasts by Lyell Bremser and Kent Pavelka.

He would get angry when the Huskers didn't do well (he once threw the remote at the TV in disgust). And to make sure he was doing everything he could to help the Huskers when they were in struggling on TV, he would get up from his living room chair during the game, come back wearing a new Husker outfit and in doing so, was sure he could change the Huskers' luck.

He and his wife, my Aunt Norma, had 7 children and 14 grandchildren. When his grandkids were born, he bought everyone of them a brand new Big Red Husker outfit. He wanted to make sure they would grow up to be Husker fans.

His daughter, Becky, likes to tell the story about the day he showed up for his granddaughter Tina's wedding. He hadn't seen Becky for quite awhile and his first words to her didn't have anything to do with her or the wedding. Instead, it was, "Did you hear that Bob Devaney died?"

Uncle Freddie was looking forward to the coming Husker season. He wasn't sure if the new West Coast Offense would work (he preferred the Husker power running game). He was also was anxious to see if the new coaching staff would be able to keep up the Huskers' winning tradition. But no matter what, he planned to keep on cheering for his Huskers this fall.

But several weeks ago, Uncle Freddie developed a bad cough that he couldn't seem to shake. At first, the doctors thought it was just a chest cold, but he didn't seem to be getting any better. Further tests were ordered. Tragically, the results showed that he had an advanced stage of lung cancer and to make matters worse, the doctors said that it had spread to his liver.

Earlier this August, about a month shy of his 80th birthday and just weeks before the start of the 2004 Husker football season, Uncle Freddie lost his battle with cancer.

In fitting tribute to his love for the Huskers, he was buried wearing his favorite red Husker sweater, his Big Red socks, his bluejeans and with his old Husker jacket lying beside him. During the church service honoring Uncle Freddie, several of his grandchildren came down the aisle, one by one, bringing objects that had been of importance to their grandfather. James, Uncle Freddie's 4 1/2 year old grandson and the first one down the aisle, carried a Husker football helmet to represent his granddad's love for the Big Red.

Uncle Freddie farmed for many years and was a loyal Cornhusker fan most of his life, so it was fitting that he was buried on a hilltop, not more than a couple of first downs from a large corn field. Although he won't be able to root for the Huskers in person this fall , he will be with his Huskers in spirit, cheering on the Big Red and occasionally tossing, when necessary, a perfectly good remote control at his heavenly TV screen.

You may email Husker Dan at huskerdan@cox.net. To view all of Husker Dan's past columns click here.