Published Wednesday, January 23, 2013 AT 11:21 AM / Updated at 12:24 AM
Mad Chatter, Jan. 23
Dirk Chatelain Omaha World-Herald

Well, we finally have an explanation for Santino Panico.

Bill Callahan’s pet punt returner averaged 3.1 yards per return in 2004. What’s more shocking than that number is Callahan giving him 22 chances to improve it! Obviously, it was SABOTAGE, which — by the way — has to be one of the coolest-sounding words in the English language.

The accusations by Tim Brown and Jerry Rice are almost as stunning as the bombshell that dropped last Wednesday on Manti Te’o. If you’re Jerry Jones, who reportedly promoted Callahan to play-caller, this is not exactly the headline you want to see on ESPN.com: “Callahan denies sabotaging Super Bowl”.

Is this Billy C’s karma for “f-ing hillbillies” and kicking a field goal down 30-0 and “crusty old f&%$” and throat-slashing and “our goals are still in front of us” and “one game, one season” and keeping Coz and feeding Beau Davis to the wolves? Maybe. But as much as Nebraska fans might find glee in Callahan’s embarrassment, the charges seem pretty ridiculous.

Was Callahan over his head as the Raiders’ head coach? Certainly. Did he change the game plan two days before the biggest game in sports and fail to change the line calls from the previous year, when Jon Gruden was coach? Sure.

But good grief, that doesn’t mean he sabotaged a Super Bowl. (Even Lance Armstrong isn’t that evil). Brown and Rice have presented no evidence to think otherwise — Brown showed solid cornerback technique this morning, backpedaling away from his comments.

Tuesday afternoon, as I listened to the charges against Callahan, I thought back on all the great times we had together…

When he resorted to his note card to remember the line: “There is no place like Nebraska.” When he called the Iowa State coach Gene “Chicketts.” When he said Nebraska’s running game had shown “flashes of being consistent.” The way he used to omit the “r” from frustrated — he sure was fustrated a lot. His obsession with recruiting rankings. For a moment, I felt the slightest smidgen of empathy for Callahan.

Then I remembered Santino.

>> The Devaney Center sure is going out in style, isn’t it. The only basketball team intimidated by Nebraska’s home court this year is Nebraska. The Huskers have been flat-out awful there.

Last night’s loss to Illinois was no surprise — if you’ve followed the program the past 10 years, you’ve come to expect two steps back following one step forward — but getting blown out by the struggling Illini represents one of the worst performances of the season.

Can NU give fans one big win at Devaney before they turn the old shop into a volleyball palace? I have my doubts. Big Ten contenders Ohio State, Michigan State and Minnesota are still coming, but if the Red Zoners wants to rush the floor one more time, they should probably do it Saturday night against Northwestern.

>> Remember what I said about Wisconsin helping Creighton’s credibility with the selection committee? Well, since last week’s win over Indiana, the Badgers have lost to Iowa and Michigan State. If the Jays don’t win the Valley, they’re probably looking at a 5 or 6 seed. That Wichita game on March 2 gets bigger by the day.

>> I love Brad Stevens. (And I’d love to see Creighton sign a home-and-home with Butler). Pat Forde talks to Stevens about his reaction to the last-second shot Saturday night.

>> Dennis Dodd examines college football attendance and wonders if the sport has peaked. Very interesting.

>> Lane Kiffin fired Marvin Sanders after just one year at USC, according to reports. Kiffin hasn’t specified why.

>> Bret Bielema should probably find something better to do than pick fights with Wisconsin fans on Twitter.

>> A fabled Packers reporter criticizes the fans at Lambeau.

>> There’s a reason I link Dan Wetzel’s work in the Chatter on a weekly basis. This column on the Harbaughs helping their dad recruit to Western Kentucky is another great piece.

>> Les Carpenter explores the cold relationship between Roger Goodell and New Orleans, site of the Super Bowl.

>> Another revelation on concussions that may change the way we look at football.

>> Retired Celtic Brian Scalabrine may have seemed like an Average Joe playing in the NBA. Turns out, he wasn’t.

>> Does Atlanta suffer from a championship curse? It’s no Cleveland, but the postseason disappointment is getting pretty bad.

>> So it’s probably time to change my preseason Western Conference pick. I was wrong on the Lakers. But I’m fascinated by their demise. Kobe Bryant shared his fustrations with Adrian Wojnarowski.

>> Finally, one year after his death, a beautiful look at what Joe Paterno left behind in State College — his house at 803 McKee Street. Read it.

About Dirk Chatelain

Dirk Chatelain is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and covers Nebraska football and general assignments. You can follow Dirk on Twitter (@dirkchatelain) or email him at dchatelain@owh.com