Nebraska tailgaters had cornered an area on 4th Street S.E. very near TCF Bank Stadium. Parked nearby were the half-dozen buses and a semi-trailer that had brought the Nebraska band and its equipment from Lincoln.

John Valien, from Omaha, and Greg Kohout and Phil Burlae, both from Lincoln, were in a group of a dozen tailgaters in one group. Asked how they got the tickets, Kohout said he went to when the public sale opened this summer. Burlae said he did the same ... on Tuesday.

"It wasn't a problem getting tickets,'' Valien said. "At face value.''

These three Husker loyalists lived through the decades when Nebraska was a perennial national powerhouse. The sad truth for those fans today is that the Huskers have not been rated in the top 10 at the end of a season since 2001.

What happened?

" Bill Callahan,'' Valien said. "We still haven't recovered completely from hiring Bill Callahan.''

"And Steve Pederson as the athletic director,'' Kohout said. "He was a bigger joke than Callahan.''

Frank Solich was fired after the 2003 season. Pederson hired Callahan, the coach who inherited Jon Gruden's program and took the Oakland Raiders to a Super Bowl.

Callahan lasted four seasons. Tom Osborne came riding back on a white steed to serve as the athletic director and hired Bo Pelini. Things have been better in Huskerland, but they have been far from great. There was a flap earlier this year when a two-year-old tape of Pelini ripping the fans was released by a media homer who was "unhappy'' after the Huskers' home loss to UCLA in September.

"We're not too upset with Bo,'' Valien said. "We'll let him stay for a while.''

So, you're satisfied? "Not really,'' he said. "We're just OK with him, not satisfied. We have to see him win a big game ... a really big game ... to be satisfied.''

What if he loses a game like this (meaning to the Gophers on Saturday)?

"He won't,'' Kohout said. "It will be 42-17, something like that.''

What is the reaction to the fact the Cornhuskers are no longer national contenders ... that's a surprise to see them in the top 10?

"Don't tell us that -- that we're not national contenders,''  Valien said. "We expect to be national contenders. We want more of those black trophies [for national titles]. That's our favorite color.''

"Yeah, and crystal is our favorite stone,'' Burlae said.

UPDATE: The final was not 42-17 or something like that for the Cornhuskers. It was 34-23 for the Gophers. And there's a high probability that the willingness of Nebraska fans to stick with Bo Pelini a while longer waned considerably as 10,000 of them made the long drive back home in full disgust.

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