Commentary: It’s quite simple: Callahan can’t coach
Head coach's ineptitude on full display during Cornhuskers' Cotton Bowl loss
Dallas ? As Nebraska coach Bill Callahan spoke in the postgame news-conference tent immediately following the Cotton Bowl on Monday, police sirens whined in the background, coming closer and closer.
Some Cornhusker fan, I figured, must have turned the coach in for malfeasance and total incompetence, and they were coming to take him away.
Then again, if he’d really been smart, the disgruntled fan would have made that call before the game.
Callahan spent most of Monday’s AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic making Al Davis look like a genius for firing him as the Raiders’ head coach three years ago. Nebraska couldn’t overcome Callahan’s repeated bad calls, and Auburn prevailed, 17-14, in a game that wasn’t nearly as exciting as it sounds.
Somebody had to win it after Callahan refused to let his Cornhuskers take “yes” for an answer.
Most incriminating on Callahan’s resume Monday was a “what’s-he-doing?” second-quarter fake punt attempt that totally blew up in his face and a fourth-quarter snub of a potentially game-tying 47-yard field goal with just 3:48 to play.
Those were just the lowlights, straight out of a “Three Stooges” episode. The game was littered with questionable calls by Callahan, whose Huskers dominated the first half, only to spend intermission scratching their heads at a 14-14 scoreboard.
Finally realizing that Callahan was simply glad to be here and had no intention of actually playing to win the game, the ninth-ranked Tigers woke up long enough to make some defensive adjustments. After that, all it took to put the Cornhuskers away was a simple 42-yard third-quarter field goal.
It didn’t have to be this way.
A CFL scout – and Auburn grad – sitting beside me in the press box predicted that Nebraska would win by two touchdowns, “maybe three.” Don’t let the final score fool you. The scout knew what he talking about.
What he couldn’t predict was how Callahan’s ineptitude would keep Auburn in the game.
The Tigers had countered Nebraska’s game-opening 80-yard march, capped by Zac Taylor’s 13-yard pass to Nate Swift. Karibi Dede’s interception of a deflected Taylor pass and 52-yard return set up a nine-yard TD pass from Brandon Cox to Carl Stewart.
That was followed by Callahan’s brain-lock in the second quarter. But if that call seemed strange, he had a worse one yet to come.
Trailing 17-14 in the fourth quarter, Nebraska recovered an Auburn fumble, giving the Huskers a golden opportunity at the Auburn 42.
They punched it as deep as the Auburn 27 before being shoved back to the 30, where they faced a fourth-and-11 with 1:36 to play. It would have been a 47-yard field-goal attempt into a slight north wind for Jordan Congdon, whose longest of the season was only 41 yards.
Congdon never made it onto the field. Taylor tried to hit Frantz Hardy on the right sideline, but the ball sailed far too high. It wasn’t even close.
If Cotton Bowl officials had handed out an MVP ballot, instead of just offensive and defensive players of the game, I’d have had to pencil Callahan in on mine.
Auburn couldn’t have done this without him.