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New Huskers Coach Is His Own Man

August 30, 1998

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ Just before his first game as Nebraska’s coach, Frank Solich went out and scored a touchdown for the home fans.

As Solich was leading the Cornhuskers from the locker room, the video system at Memorial Stadium displayed a Nebraska highlight clip: Solich returning a kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown in a 1964 game against Oklahoma State.

``Frankie Solich is going to take it all the way back,″ the announcer boomed, prompting cheers as Solich marched the Huskers from the tunnel.

Nebraska capitalized on the pre-game momentum and made Solich a winner in his debut, beating scrappy Louisiana Tech 56-27 in the Eddie Robinson Football Classic.

Although Solich _ wearing a red shirt, tan slacks and a cap _ was dressed like former coach Tom Osborne, he quickly distinguished himself from the stoic man who led the Huskers for 25 years before retiring in January.

With less than a minute off the clock, Nebraska quarterback Bobby Newcombe connected with Sheldon Jackson on a 46-yard touchdown pass to complete a precisely executed three-play drive.

On the sidelines, Solich did something very un-Osborne-like: he shouted, pumped his fist and then reached out to shake Newcombe’s hand. Osborne often rewarded his players with a nod and an encouraging word.

The 5-foot-8 Solich, unlike the 6-5 Osborne, often was hard to spot on the sidelines. Many times, Solich was lost in a sea of red jerseys or hidden behind a yardstick.

Although Solich never got as animated as, say, Colorado’s Rick Neuheisel, he wasn’t as shy as Osborne about showing his emotions.

After Nebraska held Louisiana Tech on downs midway through the first quarter, Solich was slapping backsides as Nebraska’s linemen returned to the bench.

With the Bulldogs driving late in the first half, Solich yelled at the officials and pointed when the 25-second play clock expired. Other times, he paced like a caged animal _ five yards one direction, five yards back.

Solich’s playbook even showed a little diversity. He regularly stepped away from Osborne’s physical triple-option attack, letting Newcombe throw. The highly regarded sophomore completed 9-of-10 for 168 yards and one TD.

Osborne didn’t attend the game, citing a speaking engagement. In the weeks leading to the season opener, Osborne had repeatedly said he didn’t want to overshadow Solich’s debut.

Afterward, Solich was swarmed by photographers as he shook hands with Louisiana Tech Gary Crowton. Then he broke away from the crowd and jogged to the locker room, one victory under his belt.

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