Colorado (1-0) at Nebraska (0-0)
Saturday, 2:30 p.m., Memorial Stadium
ABC-TV (Bob Wischusen, Brock Huard, Allison Williams)
WHAT’S AT STAKE: Finally, at long last, the Scott Frost era begins. Of course, we thought the same things last week, and Mother Nature had other plans. Severe storms first delayed, then canceled Nebraska’s game against Akron. Or maybe Mother Nature just wanted to add a little pizazz to Frost’s first game as head coach. “I think it’s only right the season opener, the Scott Frost era, begins against CU,” Nebraska sophomore safety JoJo Domann said. Many Husker fans probably feel that sentiment, as Nebraska meets its former conference foe for the first time since 2010. The teams play again in Boulder next season. Colorado is coming off a 45-13 victory over Colorado State in its season opener, and while Frost would prefer to have a game to match, he can’t complain with what he’s seen in practice this week. “Our practice this week was way better than last week, and you’d expect that if we had the experience of the game,” Frost said. “We didn’t get the experience of the game, but I think the level of our team rose despite that, so I was thrilled to see that happen.”
KEY STATISTIC: Colorado averaged 9.17 yards per play in its victory over Colorado State. That’s the first time in 14 years the Buffaloes have averaged more than 8 yards per play against an FBS competition (North Texas, 8.14).
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Frost was convinced quarterback Adrian Martinez (2) was confident and ready to make his long-awaited debut last Saturday, and the delay to the season’s start has apparently done nothing to change that. Frost said Martinez had his best practice ever on Monday. “Just the way he was ripping the ball, making decision, getting it out, running,” Frost said. “It was the best I’ve seen him look.” … Colorado sophomore inside linebacker Nate Landman (53) made the most of his 53 snaps from scrimmage in the Buffs’ season opener against Colorado State. He was in on 14 tackles (four solo), with two third-down stops and a tackle for no gain. Landman also broke up a pass and collected his third interception.
WHEN NEBRASKA HAS THE BALL: This should go without saying, but we’ll say it, anyway: Adrian Martinez can’t do it all. Yes, all eyes will be on the true freshman quarterback and his playmaking ability. But Nebraska coaches know they’ll have to count on the rest of their skill players, too, particularly the veterans, like wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. and running back Devine Ozigbo. “We have to run the football,” Nebraska offensive coordinator Troy Walters said. “We can’t have a freshman quarterback drop back 40, 50 times with the amount of guys they play and the pressures they are going bring. We’ve got to be able to establish the run game.” Either Ozigbo or junior college transfer Greg Bell will start at running back, but freshmen Maurice Washington and Miles Jones will see action, too, as coaches plan to rotate running backs. And when Martinez does throw the ball? “When the ball is thrown, we’ve got to make plays,” Walters said.
WHEN COLORADO HAS THE BALL: The Buffaloes aired it out against Colorado State, and scored early and often. Colorado scored just 84 seconds into the game, led 14-0 and never looked back. Nebraska’s defense will need to make life far less comfortable for junior quarterback Steven Montez than what he experienced against Colorado State. Montez was 22-of-25 passing for 338 yards and four touchdowns, and not sacked once. Montez burned CSU with a variety of short passes against a deep zone defense, but he is capable of airing it long, too. Leviska Shenalut caught 11 passes for 211 yards — he caught seven passes all last season – and K.D. Nixon had six catches for 112 yards, so Nebraska’s secondary, including cornerbacks Lamar Jackson and Dicaprio Bootle, will have stiff challenges. In addition to a 300-yard passer and a 200-yard receiver against CSU, the Buffs also had a 100-yard rusher in senior Travon McMillian.
NEBRASKA WINS IF …. The Huskers channel their energy and emotions in the appropriate manner and limit the miscues expected in a season opener. A frenzied Memorial Stadium crowd can play its part, too, making life on the road difficult for a Colorado team that had little problems moving the ball in its opener. If Nebraska can first stop the run, and run the ball itself, while limiting mistakes, the Scott Frost debut should be a happy one.
BY THE NUMBERS
Consecutive sellouts at Memorial Stadium. Because last week’s game was canceled and didn’t count, neither did the sellout. So the streak picks up with the game against Colorado.
Regular-season games, since 1983, Nebraska has played against Pac-12 teams that were in the conference at that time. The Huskers are 23-9 in those games.
Career starts in a season opener by a true freshman Nebraska quarterback. That changes when Adrian Martinez goes under center to take the first snap of the Huskers’ 2018 season.