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Huskers got ‘all dressed up for nothing.’ Now eager for real opener

September 5, 2018

LINCOLN — Sunday wasn’t all that different from usual for the Nebraska football team. Players came for meals and watched some film on Colorado. Coaches schemed and spent time with visiting recruits.

The only hole in the routine? No game tape of themselves to watch from the night before.

Senior Peyton Newell compared the canceled season opener to the feeling of being put in timeout as a kid. Classmate Luke Gifford called it a “buzzkill.” Quarterback Adrian Martinez described the disappointment of his entire family flying in from California only to see persistent thunderstorms wipe out the game.

“I get to be mad on Sunday,” senior offensive lineman Jerald Foster said, “and I need to be ready on Monday.”

The Huskers were more than ready for their first workout of the new week by all accounts. They began preparation for Colorado — their old Big Seven, Big Eight and Big 12 rival — with a practice that coach Scott Frost said was one of the best Mondays he’s ever seen a team have. It was the best he’s seen Martinez perform in any practice since the true freshman arrived in the spring.

During a brisk Labor Day press conference that lasted barely 12 minutes, Frost said Colorado’s spread offense and aggressive 3-4 defense share many traits with what Nebraska wants to do. But while the Buffs won’t have any film of the Huskers to study, Nebraska doesn’t own any game experience entering its toughest nonconference tilt against a Power Five school that rolled to a 45-13 win over Colorado State last weekend.

“The challenge is you don’t get the benefit of your first game going into the second one,” Frost said. “Most coaches will say you improve the most between Game One and Game Two. We don’t get the benefit of that, so we’re going to have to make up for it in practice.”

As impressed as Frost was by his players Monday, he was equally effusive about their composure as thunderstorms raged around Memorial Stadium on Saturday night.

The coach counted six times he addressed the team during the delay:

1. Stay ready and relax.

2. Take your shoes and pads off because this could take a while.

3. We don’t know what’s going to happen.

4. This game might not go tonight.

5. This game might play Sunday.

6. This game will likely play Sunday, so go get some sleep and be back at 6 a.m. for breakfast.

And finally a text message: No game.

“We got all dressed up for nothing,” Frost said. “... A couple guys were yelling out, ‘Let’s just play in the Hawks (Center),’ which would have been epic but probably not safe.”

Frost — who dryly called the Tunnel Walk “the best part of the night” — said his coaching staff joked about being snake-bitten by Mother Nature. Hurricanes forced cancellations in each of their two seasons at UCF. Then Saturday marked the first weather-related wipeout of a football game in Nebraska history.

Martinez said he didn’t need the dress rehearsal of sorts that was forced on the team. He felt he was ready. He liked the first play call and slumped a bit when officials ran onto the field to stop what would have been his first collegiate snap.

“You could just say it was gonna be a good one,” Martinez said of the play. “We felt pretty good about it.”

Now Nebraska is crafting a new plan for a new foe. What has already been a long offseason stretches another week and marks the longest layoff between football games (288 days) since going 301 days between the 1968 and 1969 seasons.

Players said — knock on wood — they’re ready to get past the kickoff this time.

“It kind of was a bizarre weekend for us,” senior Mick Stoltenberg said. “It was good to just kind of get back to the work and stop thinking about all that. We’re glad to be on to a new thing, put all that behind us.”

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