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Colorado 28, Nebraska 13

Judging by all the signs, a red-clad autumn in the Cornhusker State has inevitably descended into a hazy shade of winter: The leaves are gone from the trees. The mercury has dropped. That biting wind, the one that goes right through you and makes you grit your teeth until your fillings fall out, has returned. And it's time again to get a flu shot -- which, of course, was starkly evident after witnessing Nebraska's sickly performance Friday. Behind a do-just-enough-to-win quarterback and a slobberknocking ground game, CU's Buffaloes put on a clinic, forcing the Cornhuskers to take a swig of their own medicine. A loss is a loss, and they all count the same, but a loss to the Buffs? Oh, doctor, what a bitter pill to swallow.

A few takes:

CHOPPED IN THIRDS: So, here was Dahrran Diedrick, much-maligned all year for turning into a slower version of Dan Alexander, slashing and gashing in a manner befitting his No. 30 jersey. And for the first time since Grant took Richmond, here was the fullback popping off big runs on the vaunted 34 Trap that you just know made Cory Schlesinger bust a toothy grin from his sofa in Detroit. And here was the hot-and-cold defense, holding firm and keeping the (admittedly depleted) Buff attack at bay. Just like old times, eh? Well, there's just one problem with that storyline -- it was only halftime. Lost amid the hand-wringing about all these overvalued streaks coming to end is a very telling number: In its six-pack of losses this year, Nebraska has been outscored 76-24 in the third quarter. To some, that stat is jaw-dropping. But I guess it makes sense that NU, an overcoached team as it is, gets wound even tighter at half and then proceeds to fall flat on its collective face. Perhaps the game's complexion would have been different had Antincognito not racked up yet another personal foul with NU at the CU 15 in the third quarter, but ... ech, it's doubtful. Y'know, this all-too-familiar tendency to melt down in the second half is downright stunning for a bunch who chose the motto "Start Strong, Finish Stronger" at the start of the year. Given the team's predilections with alcohol consumption and their tendency to look a bit wobbly by the end of ballgames, perhaps "Drink Ale, Live Lager" would have been a better slogan (hic).

BRIAN CALHOUN, COME ON DOWN!: You're the next contestant on "Who Wants To Be A Superstar," the game-show sensation that's sweeping the nation and sponsored by Nebraska's Blackshirt defense! In this week's installment of Let's-Take-Someone-Halfway-Decent-And-Make-Them-Look-Like-A-Heisman-Frontrunner, the Blackshirts sportingly allowed a fourth-string freshman prance and dance for 137 yards -- 130 of them in the second half, for Devaney's sake. Calhoun, getting the load of the carries because the Bluff backfield looked like an"ER" rerun, joins past winners like Lane Danielsen of Iowa State (ooh) and Josh Fields of Oklahoma State (ahhh). For his efforts, he'll receive a handsome ring with the score of the game on it and a copy of Gordon Theissen's latest book, "Lessons from Nebraska Football: Jesus Says It's No Big Deal Anymore to Have a Career Day Against Nebraska." Hey, perhaps the Loon is not giving Colorado's offensive line (the same unit that paved the way for 90 whopping yards vs. USC on Sept. 14) enough credit. Old habits die hard, y'know. Still, sorry to poo-poo Eric Bienemy's spastic "Seems Like Old Times" victory lap around Memorial Stadium, but I fail to see what's worth getting all wound up about. The Bluffs didn't do anything special to beat Nebraska. They, and five others this season, really haven't needed to.

DORF ON FOOTBALL: Before Wednesday, if you would have asked the Loon who Dale Endorf was, he probably would have scratched his red-clad noggin and guessed: "Uh, this year's NASCAR points leader?" On Friday, he was happy, not to mention proud, to learn otherwise. The one bright spot in this whole rancid ordeal was the senior walk-on's fiery celebrations after he booted home seven of Nebraska's 13 points. Sad as it was to see Frank Solich jumping up and down and embracing his staff after a mid-game field goal, the Loon still finds it appropriate to kick his game ball right down the middle to Endorf -- a guy who patiently waited his turn by staying healthy enough (and sober enough) to compete in his final game as a Cornhusker. He didn't complain, nor did he question his coaches in the media, or on the sidelines like a certain rover who wears Mike Brown's old jersey and who has a penchant for getting faked out of his jockstrap. Nope, when Dorf's opportunity arose, he went out and competed -- and excelled, by putting everything into each and every play. The subsidized semiprofessionals on scholarship could take a lesson from this guy, don't you think?

THE BOTTOM LINE: This is usually where a smartassed-yet-stoic Red Clad Loon plunks down a peck of positivery, pontificating about perspective and preparing a prognostication about the postseason. But oddly enough, he finds himself wanting in that department. He's even resolved to discontinue the use of the term "Husker Nation," because it really doesn't exist right now. In its place is a splintered plurality of know-it-alls, all of whom are convinced they have a water-tight, surefire fix for the Huskers. The red-clad critical masses, who for years smugly evoked loyalty of assistants and continuity as Big Red cornerstones, are now quick to demand a change. And it's obvious that change will come -- regardless of what bitter knee-jerks, angry reactionaries and Bob Davie's cable guy think. Keeping with this theme of change, perhaps many of us should take our own advice, rather than perpetuating rumors and drawing up fantasy coaching lineups in an obsessive exercise of wishful thinking. Perhaps, horror of horrors, it's time to step back, get a grip and realize that our way of life never has been validated (or, eeeek, invalidated) by what happens when 22 kids run around on a bunch of ground-up Goodyears. Hell, the Soviets used to pass off the Olympics as simulated geopolitical conflicts that proved theirs was the better system, and look where it got them. Hey, it's OK to think that deep down, you're the only Booster of Substance that really matters; Big Red Fever can be one of the most intoxicating, purest joys for a Nebraskan. Decades of winning big has worked magic on the state's collective id, not to mention its ego and superego. But no matter how many season tickets we hold, no matter how many Big Red Whomp-Its we own, no matter how many square feet of our basement "War Rooms" are lined with schmaltzy Cornhusker paraphernalia, in the end one thing stands clear, beer after beer: Win or lose, the only thing we've really ever had invested in this team is our mouths. Let the winter of discontent begin. Nebraska 7, Opponents 6.

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