Mick Stoltenberg has a clear-cut top memory when it comes to the Nebraska-Colorado rivalry.
The year is 2008, Colorado is in Lincoln down two with a minute left near midfield. A win gets the Buffs bowl eligible. Then Ndamukong Suh happened. A Cody Hawkins pass gets knocked into the air at the line of scrimmage, Suh picks it off and returns it 30 yards for a touchdown. Colorado misses out on postseason festivities. That’s No. 1 in Stoltenberg’s mind.
He has others. When asked Monday morning at the team’s weekly press conference, the senior defensive tackle listed Alex Henery’s game-winning 57-yard field goal, too. Everyone that knows Nebraska knows Nebraska-Colorado.
“I’ve got great memories of it,” head coach Scott Frost said. “It was the type of game where even if one is quite a bit better than the other it was always going to be close, physical and a hard-fought game.”
Frost doesn’t feel like he needs to bring the past up to get his guys ready for the present, though. Not with everything going on. The Huskers just had the Frost era delayed one Tunnel Walk and one kickoff into it. They’re ready to play regardless of who is on the other sideline.
“I get Saturday,” offensive lineman Jerald Foster said about his mindset this weekend, “I get to be mad on Sunday and I need to be ready on Monday.”
And Nebraska was ready to go on Monday.
“We had one of the best Mondays I’ve ever seen a team have today,” Frost said. “We’re on the right track.”
Aside from the fact the team didn’t have tape of a previous game to watch, Sunday was mostly the same for the Huskers as they turn the page from a disappointing Saturday to a new week and prep for Colorado. There were still recruits on visits, so coaches met with them. There was still tape of Colorado, so coaches watched that and built a gameplan.
“The challenge is you don’t get the benefit of your first game going into your 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.
“I suppose we get a little bit of an advantage that they don’t have a game to look at. They have all our stuff from other places to look at and that’s a lot of stuff but I’m sure they’re not going to know what we’re leaning towards running or know as much about our personnel. I don’t think that’s as much of an advantage as having a game under your belt.”
Quarterback Adrian Martinez said the team’s energy in practice was high. “Offense, defense, we were firing on all cylinders,” he said. He added that everything starts during the team’s warm-up. Frost has said before team stretch isn’t just running through the motions now, it’s something that needs to be attacked. When the Huskers do that, Martinez says “it sets the tone for a good day and we had a good day today.”
The Huskers haven’t watched a ton of film on Colorado but they will in the coming days. Still, most of the guys that met with the media were aware of what the Buffs did in their season-opener.
On Friday, Colorado rolled over in-state rival Colorado State 45-13. From the final 5:54 of the first quarter through the end of the game, Colorado outscored the Rams 31-6. Quarterback Steven Montez had more touchdowns (four) than incompletions (three) and topped 300 yards. The Buffs had a 100-yard rusher and a 200-yard receiver.
“Colorado looked good in all three phases last week,” Frost said. “I think they’re coached very well. You don’t see them out of position. They’ve got a middle linebacker that made a bunch of plays, some really good guys in the secondary, some guys up front. I think schematically they do some really good things on offense.”
In most instances, you’d think that kind of demolition would make the team’s next opponent stop and take notice. Foster said it just makes the Huskers more anxious to get on the field with them.
“I think those are just little things that make you want to play them even more,” he said. “When a team shows themselves as a really good opponent, I think that just makes it more fun to go against them.”
The difference between CU and Akron is Colorado doesn’t just bring offensive similarities to the table, it looks a little like the Huskers on defense too. Frost said it, Martinez said it. The odd-man fronts the Huskers will see Saturday won’t be new; they’ve seen them from defensive coordinator Erik Chinander for months.
“That’s going to help as we’re trying to get everything installed and have guys understanding blocking schemes and the Xs and Os of everything,” Frost said.
Maybe there’s an extra layer added to this whole thing with the new season-opener being a Power Five opponent. Foster was asked if that presents any unique challenges; he said a little yes and a little no.
“I’m not going to take anything away from them, but if we come at them the same way, with the same intensity and understanding of the game, then I feel great about us,” he said. “We have a really good team.”
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.