Chatelain

Devine Ozigbo and the Huskers were blown out again by Ohio State. “There’s not a lot of anything happy, good to say about that one,” NU coach Mike Riley said.

LINCOLN — Somebody make it stop.

For the sake of all those national champions and All-Americans, for the millions who planned 55 years of fall weekends around a football schedule, for the thousands who grew up and grew old on the planks of Memorial Stadium, for the pride and dignity of a state and its flagship university.

Make. It. Stop.

Nebraska football can’t go on like this anymore. Something’s gotta give. Either the program gets better or its fans find something else to love. It’s insane for 90,000 people to show up and get slapped in the face for 3-1/2 hours.

Vegas oddsmakers projected a 24-point win for the road team Saturday, the biggest spread at Memorial Stadium in 60 years. Ohio State covered it in 27 minutes. By halftime, Urban Meyer had coached six quarters against Mike Riley dating back to last November. He’d scored 97 points to Riley’s three.

At 35-0, Husker fans spilled out to Stadium Drive by the thousands. The flood included Travis Weiss, who used his dad’s season tickets to take Amber Cameron on a first date.

“I felt like I took her to the worst movie ever,” Weiss said.

They were still holding hands as they made their way toward downtown. What was the plan for the second half?

“Can’t make out, because it wasn’t a good movie,” Weiss said.

Riley spoiled far more than a love story Saturday night. He surely lost his job, if not Sunday or Monday, then certainly in November. Nebraska fans will tolerate struggles. They won’t tolerate indifference and incompetence. Those are defining characteristics of the 2017 Huskers and their coaching staff.

Saturday night was like descending a flight of stairs in the dark. You swear you’ve reached the bottom when — uh oh — there’s four more steps. Crash.

Where’s the floor for Nebraska?

“I’m a booster. I’m a season-ticket holder. But doggone it, this hurts,” said an Omaha fan named Scott, who hasn’t missed a home game since 1993. “You can’t come into our stadium and run us out of there. C’mon.”

Until a fourth-quarter turnover on downs, Ohio State had scored against the Blackshirts on 16 consecutive possessions — 14 touchdowns and two field goals — dating back to last year’s game. The night was full of stunning stats like that, leaving impossible questions for Husker stakeholders.

You’d be crazy to think that 2-1/2 years is enough time to build a program. Nebraska can’t hit the reset button every few years. At some point, fans have to embrace a complete rebuilding process with all of its headaches and humiliations.

Maybe 10 years ago, the Huskers could hire a new coach and expect to vault back into the top 15. But the program is more Minnesota than Michigan now. Instability produces more instability. Patience is the only path forward.

And yet …

You’d be crazy to think that Nebraska is close to a turnaround. All week, I’ve heard about Nebraska’s recruiting improvements under Riley. How he’s restocking the cupboard following Bo Pelini’s recruiting neglect.

I don’t need reminding that Riley inherited a weak roster. But watch the games, folks. The blue-chippers Nebraska does have — Lamar Jackson, Nick Gates, Jalin Barnett, Marquel Dismuke, Avery Anderson, etc. — aren’t playing like it. And if Riley's underclassmen are so promising, why aren't more of them showing flashes now?

You’re delusional if you think the Huskers are suddenly going to bust out in 2018. So how long do you give Riley to figure this out? Five years? You sure about that?

Go down the list of college football powerhouses. When they hire the right guy, change happens quickly. If not the first two seasons, then definitely in Year 3.

Bob Stoops. Jim Tressel. Urban Meyer. Pete Carroll. Chip Kelly. James Franklin. Chris Petersen. Mark Richt. They jolted the culture. They got results. Nebraska shouldn’t be different.

For 40 years — 1962-2001 — NU didn’t just lead the country in wins, it had 44 more wins than its closest pursuer, Penn State. Don’t tell me they’re no longer capable of competing with Wisconsin and Ohio State.

Start accepting weekly embarrassments and it’s a sure path to long-term mediocrity.

But there are no easy answers here. Out on Stadium Drive, I came upon five guys discussing the future:

“There’s no way he’s back,” Kyle Kruse said. “I think that’s the final straw. Our worry is we have a chance at these four-star and five-star recruits.”

“So Northern Illinois comes in, we had the 29th-ranked recruiting class, they had the 110th-ranked recruiting class,” Taber Randolph said. “Who cares about a recruiting class if our coach can’t coach worth a (expletive).”

“You lose if you do, you lose if you don’t,” Joe Wallace said. “Next year is going to be messed up anyway. They might be 5-7. Maybe.”

“That schedule is stupid hard,” Kruse said.

“You gotta get the big-name coach, man,” Scott Wise said. “Look at what (Jim) Harbaugh did in one year. It’s all about the coaching, I’m telling you.”

“It really is tough when you see (Scott) Frost. He took 0-12, then 6-6, and now just tonight, he’s kicking the (expletive) out of East Carolina,” Kruse said.

“But he’s in Florida,” Wise said. “That’s where all the talent’s at.”

“UCF, 42-14 at halftime,” Matt Nelson said.

“That’s Scotty doing work,” Kruse said.

Those discussions will fill the coffee shops and text chains for the next two weeks. But the real work belongs to Hank Bounds, Ronnie Green and the new Nebraska athletic director.

They don’t need to take Husker football back to 1995. They do need to restore pride and dignity to Memorial Stadium. They need to prevent nights like Saturday from ever happening again.

As the clock expired on the worst home loss since 1949, as Mike Riley walked off the field for perhaps the last time on a game day, Nebraska’s remaining fans were rewarded for their patience.

A clear path to the exits.

Sign up for Big Red Today news alerts

Get a daily Husker news roundup, recruiting updates and breaking news in your inbox.

How would you grade Nebraska's overall performance against Ohio State?

The Huskers lost to the Buckeyes 56-14 on Saturday. How would you grade NU's overall performance?

You voted: