In the grand scheme of things, Saturday’s win over Michigan State will be viewed as just another game, one of four (or five) wins during the first year of the Scott Frost era.
However, for the seniors on the team, it was much more than that. It was one last chance to play the game they love on Tom Osborne Field at Memorial Stadium, and the seniors played a big part in securing that victory.
“Seniors stepped up big today,” Frost said. “Antonio [Reed], Tre [Neal], Jerald [Foster] and Tanner [Farmer] on the offensive line, Stanley [Morgan Jr.] broke a record today — awesome to see, he deserves everything he gets. Just a bunch of guys, Devine [Ozigbo] going over 1,000 yards [on the season], some of these seniors are the guys that are carrying this. I couldn’t be happier for them and the success we’re having at the end.”
As the clock struck zero and the players began making their way off the field, many of the seniors took a few moments before heading bak into the locker room, absorbing the atmosphere after their last game at a place they’ve called home for four or five years (or for one senior, just one year).
Here’s what went through the heads of some of Nebraska’s seniors during those post-game moments.
Running Back Devine Ozigbo
"That was nice,” Ozigbo said. “I was talking to Wyatt [Mazour], it was like a scene out of a movie. I got my last look after the game as a player. I had to take it all in, I saw my brother, hugged him and sprinted into the locker room. It was special. It's hard to explain.”
Outside Linebacker Luke Gifford
“Yeah, I tried to soak it in even these last couple of weeks I’ve been thinking about it and I knew today that I wanted to take it in and even watch the tribute they had going on coming off the field,” Gifford said. “The whole scene, it’s snowing, everyone is still in the stadium going crazy and I’ve dreamt of that since I was a little kid. So I wanted to take in everything that I could, put it in my mind and just remember it. I don’t have any regrets here. I’m excited for the way that we’re leaving this program and it’s been a heck of a ride but we have one more.”
Defensive end Freedom Akinmoladun
“A lot of emotions,” Akinmoladun said. “Last time playing in there, you’ve got to soak everything in while you can. Just looking around, experiencing it one more time before now and just going out there and really appreciating it with my brothers, just enjoying the time that I had here.”
Inside Linebacker Dedrick Young
“It was tough,” Young said. “It was the last time for me going out there and seeing all the great fans, the last time playing with all my brothers, so I just had to take it all in and look around the last time I looked out there.”
Graduate Transfer Safety Tre Neal
“Just kind of taking it all in,” Neal said. “That was my last game out there. I kind of knew that would probably be the last time I’d be out on the field out there so I just kind of looked around and just took in everything so I can remember it, put it in the back of my head for the rest of my life, and then my guys came over and celebrated with me.”
Defensive Lineman Mick Stoltenberg
“It’s kind of hard to explain,” Stoltenberg said. “I feel like this is the type of thing that’s going to hit me after my career’s been over for little while. Just thinking back, this is definitely going to be one of the bright spots. I was kind of just trying to soak it in and hug as many seniors as I could find and talk to as many coaches as I could talk to. I also went out and enjoyed it with my family and everything after the game too. It was a really good day for this program and just personally, everything that’s kind of gone on these past five years, it’s kind of a good cap — last game at Memorial, I really enjoyed that.”
Stoltenberg said the way the game ended — with the defense getting a stop, the offense lining up in victory formation and snow falling from the sky — made it all the more special.
“I was really emotional once we got that last first down and knew the offense kind of sealed it,” Stoltenberg said. “That was just a really great moment for me and all the rest of the seniors. It’s been a long ride and that felt right, kind of the way to end it in Memorial with the snow coming down, the stadium still packed, so that was a great experience and that’s one I’ll never forget.”
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.