Fans deserve clarity with cancellation details still cloudy
LINCOLN — Well, I can tell you about other teams.
Penn State and Michigan State were lucky, but they have good quarterbacks. Ohio State looked like the 1983 Huskers for a day. Iowa’s defensive line is stingy. Michigan’s offensive line looked awful from what I could tell, and I could tell quite a bit, seeing as UM’s game against Notre Dame played on the giant screens inside Memorial Stadium during a 2-hour, 40-minute lightning delay.
That delay eventually became a cancellation — the first weather cancellation in school history — and so the one thing the Rewind can’t do is recap a Nebraska game that didn’t happen. Coach Scott Frost looked awfully dialed in for his first playcall, too.
What we can discuss, though, is whether a cancellation could have been avoided. NU plays seven home games per year. Each event is like trying to mobilize an army. One of the seven is likely lost to time unless the Huskers find a team — and pay them what’d probably be good money — to come in Oct. 27 or sometime in December. Neither situation is ideal.
Ideal would have been playing the game against Akron on Saturday morning or afternoon. And, most years, I suspect it would have been played in the morning or afternoon. In Year 2 of the Frost era, Nebraska/Akron doesn’t move the prime-time needle.
But this was Year 1, Game 1, and Fox made a clever play to program Nebraska/Akron directly against the impending blowout that became Alabama/Louisville. The counter-programming might have worked in Fox’s favor, too.
If not for the thunderstorms.
Here’s where the questions begin.
We know that Nebraska had no serious discussions during the week about moving up the kickoff time. Why?
If a game could conceivably be moved from Saturday night to Sunday morning, couldn’t it reasonably be moved up three or four hours, too?
Will Akron get some or all of its $1.17 million payout? If the Zips bailed on a game Nebraska wanted to play Sunday, is there a financial consequence for them? The answer on this matter, according to Nebraska Deputy A.D. Bob Burton, is “to be determined.”
And why, for roughly 10 minutes, did Fox and the Big Ten think a game was being played Sunday morning and communicate as much on a FS1 television crawl? Burton said Nebraska never signed off on a 10:30 start time.
What made Fox and the Big Ten think the game was on? What then made Akron say no?
The most we got Sunday was a statement from Bill Moos citing “logistical challenges.”
Akron athletic director Larry Williams said late Sunday night the Zips would have had to stay in “multiple locations.” This very well could have been dorms on NU’s campus, just a handful of yards apart, as Nebraska was considering that option.
Was it a concern over throwing off its schedule? That’s what one NU media relations staff member seemed to relay to a small group of reporters, but that wasn’t exactly official and instead of saying Akron by name, he said “one team.”
The media relation folks — quite helpful all night — were stuck trying to vaguely relay and explain things that normally come from athletic directors and university administrators who answer reporters’ questions.
Often, there were no firm, final answers.
Those will eventually have to come from Moos, the man in charge. My assumption — based on Moos’ consistency and thoughtfulness with the press since arriving from Washington State — was that he’d come up to the press box Saturday night and explain to the media, and thus the fans, how things went down. That’s what Iowa State’s Jamie Pollard did in canceling ISU’s game with South Dakota State. Later, Pollard sent out a message on social media, too.
Moos was not available. On Sunday, he sent out a statement.
He also had Burton, his chief of staff, answer questions. Burton did a good job, but he can’t answer why Akron said no because he wasn’t in the meeting with Akron Athletic Director Larry Williams. Moos was.
Husker fans who packed the house — rarely has a pregame atmosphere felt more alive at Memorial Stadium — may want clarity.
“One would think with 90,000 devoted fans in the stadium and a national TV audience that at the very least there should have been an immediate news release or press conference explaining the situation going forward — even if final answers were not yet available,” wrote Ron Ames on my Facebook page. “What options were considered and what are the options going forward — our fan base deserved some answers before now.” Nebraska’s options going forward look like this:
» NU can attempt to schedule a game with a team on or before Oct. 27 — its bye week — that doesn’t have a 12-game schedule. Weather, or some other act of God, could cancel another team’s game in later weeks. It’s not likely, but it can happen.
» Michigan or Ohio State — 2018 opponents who also have Oct. 27 bye weeks — could move their home games with the Huskers to Oct. 27 so Nebraska can schedule some other team on Sept. 22 (Michigan) or Nov. 3 (Ohio State). This seems almost impossible and perhaps unprecedented.
» Nebraska can attempt to schedule a team in December if needs to do so. Again, it’d have to be a team that didn’t have 12 games or an FCS team not headed for the playoffs. Akron would be an option — if Akron doesn’t make its Nov. 30 conference title game. NU may also qualify for its own Dec. 1 Big Ten title game, too.
And would the Huskers even want a 12th game if they had already qualified for a bowl? What’s an extra win do in that scenario?
What if Nebraska does need its sixth win?
As myself, Evan Bland and Chris Heady signed books for Husker fans on Saturday — shameless plug: buy “ Frost: A Husker’s Journey Home ” — we were struck by the modesty of fans’ predictions. Many of them expected six wins. And that almost certainly included a win over Akron, on paper the weakest team on NU’s schedule. I think Nebraska’s better than that — put me down for seven wins after Saturday’s cancellation — but perhaps I’m too swayed by the positivity of the coaches. Colorado, which looked tough in its 45-13 dismantling of Colorado State Friday night, won’t care about nine months of feel-good vibes. It’ll be here to ruin the first game of the Frost era.
Most of the same fans were headed to the game later in the day. One drove in from Houston. Our book editor, Kristine, was taking friends from Germany to their first game. As thousands stood outside the East Stadium cheering Frost’s entrance into the arena, kids sported Frost jerseys and sat on their parents’ shoulders.
I hope they enjoyed the Tunnel Walk. And I hope they get a few more answers soon, too.
On with a truncated Rewind:
5.03: That’s the yards per carry allowed by Ohio State’s defense against Oregon State. That was worst in the Big Ten in week one. Urban Meyer returns to coach the team — at least during the week — Monday. I’m sure he’ll be real nice about that stat.
1.76: Michigan’s yards per carry after one game. That’s worst in the Big Ten. The Wolverines looked extremely overmatched against Notre Dame’s defense.
Five: Sacks by Iowa’s defense, which co-leads the Big Ten after one week. The Hawkeyes’ defense looked stingy as all get-out against Northern Illinois. Then again, the Huskies don’t have the most well-renowned offense. Remember: They beat Nebraska 21-17 last year, needing two pick sixes to do so.
139: Rushing yards for former Husker quarterback AJ Bush at Illinois in a 31-24 win over Kent State. Good for Bush, a hard-working, friendly guy who achieved his dream of starting for a Power Five Conference football team. Sometimes transfer stories have good endings.
186: Rushing yards for Mike Weber at Ohio State. Weber, a junior, rushed for 1,096 yards as a freshman but only 626 last year because freshman JK Dobbins’ emergence. Weber could have transferred, but didn’t, and blasted off 186 yards in the 2018 season opener as a result. Not bad.
» Troy, at home, took it on the chin from Boise State, losing 56-20. The Broncos led 35-7 at halftime. Troy selected Kaleb Barker to start at quarterback, and he played well — 20 of 29, 211 yards, one touchdown — but four turnovers, three of them lost fumbles, doomed the Trojans. Boise had a pretty easy day throwing the ball, too, as Brett Rypien completed 20 of 28 passes for 305 yards and four scores.
» Colorado is no joke even if its rival, Colorado State, looks like it might be. CU piled up 596 yards and rushed for 6.4 yards per carry. CU’s defense held CSU to 2.6 yards per carry. The two receivers to watch: Laviska Shenault and KD Nixon. They combined for 17 catches, 313 yards and two touchdowns.