In 1972, "I Can See Clearly Now" was a No. 1 hit, not a commercial jingle. Tom Osborne was an assistant football coach, not a Congressman. And Nebraska -- hold onto your corn crop -- gained more yards using the forward pass than it did on the ground.
Yes, smash-mouth football is something of a way of life on the prairie. In each of the past 31 seasons, the Cornhuskers have gained more rushing yards than passing yards. The results weren't all that terrible: 14 conference championships, three national titles.
So what did Athletic Director Steve Pederson do after he fired former coach Frank Solich? He hired Bill Callahan, a West Coast guy known for the West Coast offense. Talk about an overhaul.
"I can't guarantee that the ball will be flying through the air 60 times a game," Callahan said the day he was hired.
Yet he couldn't guarantee it wouldn't, either. Enter College Football Culture Shock. Every September, the nation is dotted with fans sitting anxiously on the edge of their metal bleachers, wondering how New Coach Wonderboy is going to mess with the brand of football they know and love.
"It's really a pretty tough task," Wake Forest Coach Jim Grobe said. "I think the key is being patient."
Patience in Winston-Salem, N.C., is one thing. In Lincoln, Neb.? Nowhere is this massive retooling project more prevalent than at Nebraska, where Callahan is slowly, carefully trying to get Cornhuskers fans to accept his offense, in which a short passing game is featured, though -- Callahan stresses -- it's balanced with the run.
The results thus far: A win over Western Illinois, a loss to Southern Mississippi and more than a little angst in Lincoln.
"When people look at the box score," Callahan said this week, "they're going to say, 'Oh boy, Nebraska. They made this transition. They went from the option to the forward pass, and all of a sudden they abandoned the run and they're just throwing the ball all over the place.' That's not true."
Not entirely true. The Cornhuskers are averaging 36.5 passes a game. The school record for a season: 32.8.
Nebraska isn't alone. Notre Dame has had very mixed results with the West Coast offense. Auburn is trying it, too, with a big test against LSU today. Wake Forest and Navy have tried versions of a ground-oriented, option attack.
Wherever the transition, though, there's an adjustment period.
"It takes some time to develop," Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen said. "I think it took us some time. It's something that you work on every day to continue to improve and develop. The more they understand, the better they'll be."
-- Barry Svrluga