LINCOLN – Upwards of 20 Nebraska defenders left practice wearing yellow jerseys Tuesday morning in a visible return to a previous Husker tradition.
All defenders not on the scout team are wearing the yellow mesh tops this week, said defensive coordinator Erik Chinander. The staff will hand out Blackshirts next week after the Colorado game while the second-team defense will remain in the new golds.
Chinander said the idea arose from talks with former NU defensive coordinator Charlie McBride, who employed the practice throughout the 1990s. The yellow group then and now are nicknamed “The Killer Bees.”
“We went back to that thing,” Chinander said. “They’re pretty nice jerseys, but some of these guys are already saying, ‘I want to get out of this thing. I want to get into the black.’ So hopefully that’s another little mental reward for getting out of those things and into the black jerseys.”
A handful of players also expressed a liking to the change. Senior safety Aaron Williams said players found them at their lockers Tuesday and heard about the the nod to the past.
“It’s pretty cool,” inside linebacker Collin Miller said. “Just a little tradition going back to the days and feeling like you’re back in the old days playing with the team. I don’t mind them, honestly. I think you see 11 yellow bright jerseys like these flying around, it kind of makes us look faster. It’s pretty fun.”
Safety JoJo Domann learned the Blackshirt tradition in high school, where his team was led by former Nebraskans. The second-team tops should serve as motivation to earn a darker color.
“It’s to entice us to work even harder for the Blackshirt, because if you’re not in black, you’re not in white and red anymore, you’re in yellow,” Domann said. “It makes the Blackshirt that much more wanted.”
Nebraska and Colorado were even rivals until Bob Devaney was hired, prompting Huskers’ dominance
Remember that time Nebraska scored 48 points in one quarter to beat Colorado 69-19?
How about when the Huskers won 18 straight games — all by double digits — against the Buffaloes from 1968-1984 by an average margin of 25.4 points?
Perhaps 2001 rings a bell, when No. 2 NU played No. 14 Colorado and … well, they can’t all be fond memories, right?
But the Huskers have prospered in the overwhelming majority of games with their once rivals to the west, going 49-18-2 in 69 matchups. No. 70 is Saturday in Lincoln.
The beginning makes sense.
“The football team of the university of Nebraska defeated the university of Colorado team today by a score of 23 to 10,” the Nov. 18, 1898 edition of The World-Herald said. “The score stood 6 to 5 in favor of the visitors at the end of the first half.”
And that’s all we wrote. Times have changed and The World-Herald promises more coverage in this Sunday’s newspaper.
The duo met annually from 1902–1905, and again in 1907. Nebraska went 4-1 in those games before the series went on a 41-year hiatus. After joining the Big Six to form the Big Seven in 1948, Colorado consistently got the better of Nebraska, holding a 9-4-1 advantage from 1948-1961.
Things changed in 1962 — maybe not so coincidentally when Bob Devaney was hired as NU’s coach. Nebraska scored 31 unanswered second-half points in Devaney’s debut season to stampede past the Buffaloes and start a 27-year span where NU held a 25-2 advantage.
But the Huskers haven’t always gotten the better of Colorado. The 2001 matchup, which the then-undefeated Huskers lost 62-36, was ranked among the most difficult losses in NU’s history by fans.
“Instead of playing in the Big 12 Conference championship game next week, the Huskers will be home, watching on television,” the late Steven Pivovar wrote in the Nov. 22, 2001, edition of The World-Herald. “The same will be true Jan. 3, when two teams meet in the Rose Bowl to play for the national championship.”
Nebraska ultimately played in the Rose Bowl, but it was still a painful day for NU.
“This is a terrible feeling because we had played so well for 11 games,” Nebraska defensive tackle Jeremy Slechta said after the game. “We had given up so few points all year and to give up 62, it’s disappointing. They played great and we played like crap.”
The Buffaloes have been a thorn in NU’s side three times since, winning 28-13 in 2002, 26-20 in 2004 (to give NU its first losing season since 1961) and 65-51 in 2007. The Huskers won the most recent three matchups — 40-31 in 2008, 28-20 in 2009 and 45-17 in 2010.
» Nebraska is 96-27-5 all time in season-opening games.
» The Huskers currently have five players from Colorado — junior Jacob Weinmaster (Loveland), sophomores Eli Sullivan(Longmont), Jojo Domann (Colorado Springs) and Jack Stoll(Lone Tree), and freshman Tate Wildeman (Legend). Colorado has no scholarship players from Nebraska. NU has had 76 players all time from Colorado, including 20 walk ons. That will be 78 if quarterback Luke McCaffrey and offensive lineman Michael Lynn sign.
» Safety Aaron Williams said he is fully recovered from offseason labrum surgery and ready to make an impact. Injuries limited him to nine games last year, though he still ranked fourth on the team with 48 tackles.
“This is probably the healthiest I’ve felt in probably like a year now,” Williams said. “I’m glad I got that behind me. The biggest thing for me this year is just continue to take care of my body.”
» Chinander said a regular in-season rhythm is “Tough Guy Tuesday.” Defensive coaches script what they believe are the opposing team’s best plays, then have the scout team offense run them against defenders in an alignment that NU doesn’t want to get caught in. More often than not, the scout team ends up celebrating while the defense grows irritated.
“The guys would have to be near perfect to win,” Chinander said. “But (the goal is) teaching them what’s going to happen to them if we don’t get that call executed exactly.”