THIS SHOULD DEFINITELY BE IN THE readme.txt FROM NVIDIA.
I found the problem - you MUST have your motherboard BIOS set to "Plug and Play OS - NO" and "Allocate IRQ to PCT Video - YES" or the driver will cause the problems I outlined above.
Thankfully, in the syslog messages in /var/log/messages the engineers included info to this effect. Everything is now running swimmingly.
Grrr... Linux needs massively better documentation before it will ever compete with windows.