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5 Cards in this Set

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LINCOLN - The end of an era was quiet, almost frozen, with grown men welling up with tears and fans hanging over the rafters, trying to figure out what to do.

For the first time in 36 years, Nebraska is a football team with nowhere to go after Friday's 26-20 loss to Colorado on a cold, gloomy day at Memorial Stadium.

Gone is the bowl streak, the NCAA's longest, that stood since 1969.

Gone are the 42 years without a losing season.

"To the fans, I want to say I'm sorry we let you down," said NU linebacker Chad Sievers, who fought back tears as one of the last of the school's cherished records fell Saturday. (Only one remains: consecutive stadium sellouts - 268, dating to Nov. 3, 1962.)
To the young kids, I want to say keep battling. It's going to get better. It's going to get better."

As the 5-6 season was sealed, a strapping 17-year-old quarterback recruit named Harrison Beck stared into the corner of the south end zone, where Colorado was dancing and singing the school fight song. Beck, a hotshot Florida star who committed to NU this summer, is affectionately referred to by Husker fans as "The Future."

The past was hard enough to stomach Friday. In three short years, a program that was feared everywhere dropped to everyday status. First came the end of the 33-year run in the polls in 2002. Then the nine-win season streak fell.

But the bowl run was something Nebraskans still had, one last bragging right, one last record. It was all but over with 11:07 left in the second quarter, when Bobby Purify reversed field and scampered in for a 9-yard touchdown that put the Buffs up 17-0.
Most of the sellout crowd stuck around until the end, even when it looked hopeless, even when the Buffs went into the fourth quarter with a 19-point lead. Maybe they wanted to see history.

Turner Gill, a former Nebraska quarterback and a longtime assistant, said he never thought he'd see the day when the bowl streak ended. But times have changed, he said.

"It kind of stinks," said Nebraska fan J.J. Thomsen, who made a dash for the exits with seven minutes to go. "It's frustrating, but the sun will come up tomorrow and we'll play football again next year.

"I'm going home to take care of my horses. That'll be easier."

Through all the highs and lows of 2004, Nebraska fans seemed to stay behind first-year Coach Bill Callahan, who inherited a team that went 10-3 but finished with the worst record since 1961. One fan held up a sign that read, "ABC - Always Behind Callahan."

Callahan said progress, and implementing a new offense, takes time. After the game, he wasn't in the mood to talk about the streak.

"I have no comment on that," Callahan said. "I really don't. We did the best we could today. It was one game today, one season. . . .
Gill severs last link to NU glory
LINCOLN - He didn't want to answer questions. Didn't want to make a fuss.

Turner Gill spent 17 years at Nebraska and four minutes on his farewell speech.

In a hastily called press conference Friday afternoon, Gill announced he was leaving Nebraska to pursue his dream of becoming a head football coach. The 42-year-old receivers coach, the last link to the Tom Osborne era, gathered his players together Friday afternoon to say goodbye, then stood at a podium an hour later to make it official.

The former icewater-in-the-veins quarterback, who rarely showed emotion as a player or a coach, paused midway through his speech, shuffled some papers, then turned his back as he wept. Gill said he's leaving with no job offer, just a leap of faith and a dream of running his own program.

"You've got to know Turner," Osborne said. "He's a very spiritual person. He just felt called to do it this way."

And so ends another era of sorts in Nebraska football. One week after the Huskers failed to earn a bowl trip for the first time in 36 years, the last assistant of Osborne's exited into uncertainty. Gill was one of two assistants Bill Callahan retained when he became head coach in January. The other - tight ends coach Scott Downing - was hired by Frank Solich in 2003.
It's sad," Osborne said, "and yet on the other hand, this marks, what, 42 years of continuity? Every player we've had during that 42-year period could turn on the TV or come visit practice and there was somebody they could relate to, somebody they knew. Now, almost totally, that's gone.

"In a way it's sad, but in another way it's really nice we had that for 42 years. Most places change coaches every three or four years."

Gill said he leaves "on good terms with everyone," including Callahan and Nebraska Athletic Director Steve Pederson. He said both Callahan and Pederson tried to persuade him to stay.

But Gill said he has pondered being a head coach for years. After Solich was fired last winter, Gill was one of two assistants to apply for the job. Pederson said he went with Callahan because of his experience in the NFL.

Callahan was visibly affected by Friday's news and was somber as Gill stood at the podium. Gill said he spent long hours praying over the decision.

He lost his composure when he got to the part of the speech about the players. He stepped away from the podium for about 45 seconds, wiped his eye and continued.

"Leaving the players is the hardest part," Gill said. "I would like for them and the rest of the players to know that I love them and I will always believe in them.

"I am confident there is a great future for this team and this staff. I hope the best for all of them."

Gill was Nebraska's starting quarterback from 1981 to '83 and led the Huskers to a 28-2 record and three Big Eight titles. His '83 squad finished 12-1 and missed a two-point conversion for the national championship against Miami.

Gill took that experience to the sidelines at Nebraska, where he coached quarterbacks Tommie Frazier, Scott Frost and 2001 Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch. The Huskers won three national championships with Gill as quarterbacks coach in the 1990s.

Former NU assistant Ron Brown, a close friend, said Gill was at peace with the decision because "God called him to leave."

"I think it's something he thought about and prayed about really hard," Brown said. "I don't think he's capable of making rash decisions. He's always been very deliberate in his decisions."

Gill declined to say which jobs he would pursue, but the market appears to be active. Fifteen Division I coaches have been fired or resigned since mid-November. With Tyrone Willingham's ouster at Notre Dame earlier this week, there are only two black head coaches in Division I-A.

"I think he's had enough experience in coaching now to put it all together," Osborne said. "You just have to have the right connections at the right time."