Carl Pelini marched off the field, advanced a few steps into the dark tunnel. Then he turned back toward the euphoric Texas celebration at midfield.
His emotions burst.
“You should be ashamed to accept that trophy!” the NU defensive coordinator yelled, pointing at the Longhorns.
“You outta be ashamed to accept that trophy!” he screamed again, then again.
Seconds later, his younger brother erupted, too.
Bo Pelini had played it cool walking off the field, telling Texas coaches to go win a national title.
But he heard about a conflict at the threshold of the tunnel. Seemed a Texas fan and somebody from NU had exchanged words.
Bo marched toward the scene. Who was it? Bo wanted to engage the Texas fan.
Told nothing happened, he went back toward the locker room, where he saw Marc Boehm, NU assistant athletic director.
“Marc, I want to see (Big 12 head of officiating) Walt Anderson in there right (expletive) now!” Pelini shouted.
“BCS!” Pelini said as he entered the locker room. “That's why they make that call!”
Nebraska lost another heartbreaker to Texas Saturday. You saw it. Felt it. What you didn't feel were the post-game aftershocks reverberating through the concrete tunnels of Cowboys Stadium.
It hit hardest the Pelinis, who nearly orchestrated a monumental upset.
The reason why they didn't, according to Bo's and Carl's immediate reactions, was the officials' decision to add one second to the game clock after Colt McCoy's last throw out of bounds.
Originally, the clock expired, sending a flood of Nebraska players onto the field. But a review changed that call, led to Texas' game-winning kick and sent the Pelinis into madness.
According to Dan Beebe, Big 12 commissioner, officials did the right thing.
According to Walt Anderson, officials did the right thing. Where was the clock when the ball hit something out of bounds?
“There was a second left,” Anderson said.
But nothing or nobody could convince Bo Pelini.
“I want an explanation!” Pelini yelled outside his locker room.
Standing in that tunnel quietly watching him: Harvey Perlman, Paul Meyers, Eric Crouch.
“Get Coach Osborne down here!” Pelini said. “Can you go get Coach Osborne?”
Minutes later, Athletic Director Tom Osborne walked slowly toward the locker room in black trench coat. He entered the double doors to meet Pelini.
From outside the doors, one word could be heard loudest: “Cheaters!”
Then Osborne strode back to the field, where Texas was wrapping up its trophy presentation. En route to midfield, Osborne said to a World-Herald reporter: “Where is Dan Beebe?''
Beebe was standing at the 40-yard line talking to Assistant Commissioner Ed Stewart, a former Nebraska All-America linebacker.
As Osborne reached Beebe, the commissioner extended his hand. But Osborne didn't shake it. Osborne pointed at Beebe and said, “Would you go see Bo? Right now?''
By then, Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman had come on to the field. Perlman and Osborne walked with Beebe off the field and down a stadium tunnel.
The three exchanged no words on the walk. Down the tunnel, Osborne walked three steps in front of Beebe and Perlman walked to Beebe's right.
As Osborne walked, The World-Herald asked if Nebraska would appeal any part of the game. His answer: “I don't know.''
Beebe went immediately to the post-game press conference and waited for Pelini.
Pelini lightened up a bit during the question-and-answer session. He even cracked a joke. But when he left, Osborne called to him.
“Bo! Bo! Dan Beebe's here.”
Beebe suggested he and Pelini talk in private. They walked into a quiet area near some shiny SUVs, 100 feet from anyone else. Yet Bo and the occasional curse word could still be heard.
Osborne watched the meeting with Pelini's brother, Vince.
Time ran out, Vince told him. They took it from us, Vince said.
Osborne, whose facial expression never changed, calmed him: “I've been on both ends.”
Pelini's meeting with Beebe lasted just a couple of minutes.
Beebe wouldn't reveal the details of his conversation with Pelini — “That's between he and me” — but Beebe said he understood why Pelini was upset.
At that point, Beebe hadn't seen the controversial play, but he'd been on the phone with Big 12 staff, who said officials got it right by adding one second to the game clock.
“I'll be more comfortable when I can see it,” Beebe said.
Any concern the call is perceived as conspiratorial?
No, Beebe said. From the reports he'd heard, “there was time when the ball hit the ground.”
By that time, Carl Pelini had cooled off. He stood outside the locker room, back against a wall, heaping praise on his defense like never before.
“They played like champions. And they are champions.”
A reporter asked Carl what this one felt like, to lose in that way.
“I only had one emotion,” he said. “Anger.”
--World-Herald Staff Writer Lee Barfknecht contributed to this report.
• Video: Postgame press conference: