CU opponent preview: Nebraska takes high hopes in year No. 2 with Scott Frost

Cornhuskers favored by some publications to win Big Ten West

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For the first time since Nov. 17, 2009, the Nebraska Cornhuskers will make their way to Folsom Field for a 2019 regular season game against the Buffs on Sept. 7. The Buffs beat NU last season in Lincoln, 33-28.
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Coming into the 2018 season, there was so much excitement about the beginning of the Scott Frost era at Nebraska that it was almost cruel to Cornhuskers fans that they had to wait an extra week.

Fans packed Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., for the opener against Akron and roared at the open kickoff. But, that was it. Severe weather forced the game to be halted, fans were eventually sent home and the game was never played.

A week later, 89,853 fans poured into the seats for Frost’s actual debut as Nebraska head coach, only to watch former Big 12 rival Colorado steal a 33-28 victory in the waning moments.

It took seven games for the Huskers to get their first win under Frost, a native and former Nebraska quarterback.

This year, there’s a load of hype again, but perhaps with more substance behind it. This month, Buffzone.com is previewing each of Colorado’s opponents, with this installment focusing on Nebraska, which is coming off of back-to-back 4-8 seasons and visits Boulder on Sept. 7.

Despite consecutive losing seasons for the first time since six in a row from 1956-61, Nebraska comes into this year as a legitimate contender to win the Big Ten West division. In fact, Phil Steele, Athlon and Street & Smith’s all project the Cornhuskers as the West winner.

“I know we’re a lot better team than we were a year ago at this time,” Frost told The Athletic recently.

Colorado wide receiver Scotty McKnight, left, catches touchdown pass on Nebraska’s Eric Hagg on Nov. 27, 2009 at Folsom Field.

Part of that is due to Frost. He won a national championship as the Huskers’ quarterback in 1997. He was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Oregon in 2014 when Marcus Mariota won the Heisman Trophy. He then became the head coach at Central Florida in 2016 and took them from 0-12 the year before to 13-0 in 2017.

Frost is a proven winner, but had to change the culture in Lincoln. It didn’t happen overnight, but there’s belief that the Huskers are getting there.

“People are seeing the same things as coach Frost in this program,” linebacker Mohamed Barry told The Athletic. “They see it in themselves. We’re not there yet, but I’m just in love with this team because of the buy-in.”

In addition to the buy-in, Nebraska expects to be better because of quarterback Adrian Martinez.

Now a true sophomore, Martinez made his collegiate debut against CU and, despite the loss, was stellar. He threw for a touchdown and ran for two more against the Buffs. Frost believes Martinez could be one of the best quarterbacks to ever come through Lincoln.

Injured late in the game against CU, Martinez missed most of the next two games, as well. By the second half of the year, he and the Huskers were rolling along. They were one of the most improved teams in the country from September to November. Now, they’re expected to be one of the most improved teams in the country from last year to this year.

“We finished in a good place last year,” Frost said in a recent interview with Rivals.com. “We certainly went through a heck of a lot of pitfalls and bumps to get there. The key for us is to start where we left off, from a culture standpoint, from an attitude standpoint and from a competitive standpoint. We were a good enough team at the end of last year to play with or beat about anybody we played. We need to make sure we start there Game 1.”

Nebraska Cornhuskers
Date with CU: Sept. 7, 1:30 p.m., at Folsom Field in Boulder
Head coach: Scott Frost, 2nd year (4-8; 23-15 career)
Series: Nebraska leads 49-19-2
Cornhuskers in 2018: 4-8, 3-6 in Big Ten
Returning starters: 12 – 7 on offense, 5 on defense

5 offensive players to watch (2018 statistics):
LT Brenden Jaimes, Jr. (21 career starts; HM All-Big Ten last year)
QB Adrian Martinez, So. (224-of-347, 2,617 yards, 17 TD, 8 INT; rushing: 140 att., 629 yards, 8 TD)
WR JD Spielman, Jr. (66 catches, 818 yards, 8 TD)
TE Jack Stoll, Jr. (21 catches, 245 yards, 3 TD)
RB Maurice Washington, So. (77 att., 455 yards, 3 TD; 24 catches, 221 yards, 1 TD)

5 defensive players to watch:
LB Mohamed Barry, Sr. (112 tackles, 11 TFL, 2 sacks)
CB Dicaprio Bootle, Jr. (39 tackles, 15 PBU)
DE Carlos Davis, Sr. (27 tackles, 3 TFL, 5 PBU)
OLB JoJo Domann, Jr. (19 tackles, 1 sack)
DE Ben Stille, Jr. (25 tackles, 5 TFL, 5 sacks)

Notable: Nebraska makes its first trip to Folsom Field since Nov. 27, 2009. The Cornhuskers are 3-1 in their last four trips to Boulder. … After an 0-6 start last season, the Cornhuskers won four of their last six and the two losses came by a combined eight points. Overall, five of the eight losses came by five points or less. … As a true freshman last season, Martinez set a school record with 295.1 yards of offense per game. … Because of legal issues, Washington’s status for this season is unknown. If he plays, he’s expected to start. If not, junior Dedrick Mills could be the man. Mills led Georgia Tech in rushing as a true freshman in 2016 (771 yards, 12 TD)  and rushed for 1,358 yards and 19 TD at Garden City (Kan.) Community College last year. … True freshman Wan’Dale Robinson could be  a factor at running back, as well. … Former CU receivers coach Troy Walters is the offensive coordinator for the Huskers. … Defensively, the Huskers ranked 12th in the Big Ten in points allowed (31.3 per game), rushing yards allowed (195.8) and total yards allowed (433.5). … Sophomore Barret Pickering returns after a solid freshman year kicking the ball (14-for-18 on field goals, 40-of-41 on extra points).