There were breakdowns in all three phases that helped Nebraska down the previously unbeaten and now 20th-ranked Cowboys 51-41 in Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday.
There was also a stellar effort by the Nebraska offense, and a rather surprising game plan from Husker offensive coordinator Shawn Watson that virtually from the beginning had the Huskers and redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez throwing the ball all over the field.
It was a method of moving the ball Nebraska had shown little success with in its previous six games. They had averaged just 143.5 yards a game passing and had a season high of 247 yards in their opener with Western Kentucky.
Martinez reportedly had thrown well all through August and into the season in practice but did not show a Saturday performance like that until the game with the Cowboys where he connected on 23-of-35 passes for 323 yards and five touchdowns.
"We didn't do a good job scheme-wise on defense and we didn't do a good job of tackling the quarterback when we had a chance," said Gundy bluntly.
The game was also impacted in a huge manner on special teams as Nebraska was held to two yards on a Roy Helu run and two incompletions on its first three plays of the game. Standout Husker specialist Alex Henery came out to punt and rolled to his right as if to "rugby" punt and then seeing no containment took off for a 27-yard gain, a first down, and Nebraska's longest run from scrimmage on the day. The Huskers offense came back out and finished an 80-yard drive and took a 7-0 lead.
Later in the first quarter, after Dan Bailey hit his second field goal to make the score 7-6, Nebraska return specialist Niles Paul fielded a kickoff in the left corner of the west end zone and went up the near sideline before cutting to the middle on the other end in completing a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. It was the third kickoff return for a touchdown allowed by the Cowboys this season.
"The first one (punt) was a coaching error, and we can't blame our players for that," said Gundy. "That was our fault. On the kickoff return there were two guys that could have made the tackle and didn't. We have to be better than that."
As mentioned the call was short because there weren't that many questions. Gundy said the offensive line played "okay." He said they were not great and they got a holding penalty late in the game that bothered him. "They competed well and gave us effort," he added.
He also felt that the players would be fine and would come back ready to correct mistakes and start working on Kansas State. He explained that they had meetings tonight (Sunday) with the players and would go over video and make corrections in a short workout.
"The approach we have is that we have to prepare and get ready to compete," he said. "We kind of have a rule around here that you can't have a long hangover with a win or a long hangover with a loss. After tonight they'll have Monday off and then we have to come back Tuesday with a fresh mind ready to work physically and mentally."
There really is no choice, college football moves fast. Fans can lament and linger in the victory or the frustration of a loss like the one Saturday but the coaches and players have to move on or the misery becomes a regular companion.
Gundy added that redshirt freshman defensive end Andrew Hudson would be okay after a scary situation regarding the helmet to helmet hit he took on Saturday, and that the Big 12 Conference was likely aware of the collision as Gundy was asked if he was going to point it out to the league's attention.
Tonight the Cowboys start the process of moving on past their first loss. If this team handles this emotion the way they have the others then they should be fine. Gundy said it would be a focal point for him all week, both the mental and the physical preparation for the trip to Kansas State.