LINCOLN — Maybe the heat wasn’t on and the beds weren’t made, Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos joked Wednesday, but Nebraska had a plan to house the Akron football team in its dorms Saturday night after thunderstorms canceled the game that evening. The Huskers had lined up a catered meal from a local hotel, too, in advance of a Sunday morning kickoff.
Akron Athletic Director Larry Williams declined the offer. The Zips went home, and both teams are left searching for a 12th game to put on their schedules this season.
That 12th game might just turn out to be a rain check.
Moos said he and Williams “kind of left it verbally that we’d like to play the game” on Dec. 1 so long as Nebraska and Akron don’t qualify for their respective conference title games.
“That’s a loose end out there,” Moos said in his first public comments since the cancellation. “That’s an option.”
Another option is to schedule an opponent for its Oct. 27 bye week. Moos said his staff is in the early stages of exploring the options — mostly FCS teams — for that day.
So it’s premature, Moos said, to nail down when NU might play its 12th game. Nebraska wants to play one, though, and it wants to play at home. Moos hasn’t talked to Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard, whose team also had a game canceled Saturday night, about a neutral-site contest. But getting a game on the schedule could be important to Nebraska’s postseason goals.
“We do want to be bowl eligible, we do want to extend the season, get the practices and all that that come with preparing for a bowl game,” Moos said.
As Moos spoke, Nebraska simultaneously sent out an email to ticket holders about reissuing new game tickets should a 12th game arise. Nebraska doesn’t issue refunds — that disclaimer is on the ticket — and only season ticket holders and single-game buyers through Huskers.com would get reissued tickets. Fans who bought tickets through a third-party vendor would have to contact those vendors for refunds.
NU also hasn’t written any checks to Akron for the $1.17 million payout that isn’t due until March. Moos said Nebraska will “for sure” cover Akron’s expenses, but whether NU pays the full amount may depend on whether Akron and the Huskers end up playing.
“They want to play the game,” Moos said of Akron. “And the (payout) is important, as I understand. To me that would be the most solid option.”
Moos, a former athletic director at the FCS level, said he’s “sensitive” to Akron’s situation and understands how guaranteed payouts help a smaller program’s budget. When he was at Montana, a game payout from Oregon helped fund several athletic programs.
He’s also sensitive to Nebraska’s reputation among teams the Huskers may want to schedule in the future. Should NU withhold all but expenses from Akron, it’d send a message Moos doesn’t want. But if Nebraska schedules a 12th opponent other than Akron, it would likely also have to pay that team a guarantee.
“Nebraska will do things with class,” Moos said. He offered no firm numbers or timeline on payout negotiations, which would become moot if Nebraska and Akron play.
NU wanted to play Sunday morning, Moos said. Trying to move up the game time Saturday would have been logistically difficult, and Moos said the Huskers had barely finished all of their stadium improvements by game day. Nebraska’s staff did hustle to come up with options for staging the game Sunday morning, and Fox Sports found a broadcast window. Husker players, which stay in a hotel the night before home games, would have been allowed by coaches to sleep in their own beds.
Akron just had to find its own accommodations. Moos said Williams initially thought it wouldn’t be a problem, but there were no hotel blocks in Omaha or Lincoln big enough that would accommodate the team without using multiple locations.
So Nebraska offered its dorms. Roughly a couple football fields away on campus, one dorm hall — Harper — had two open floors.
“We couldn’t get everybody into one,” Moos said. “It was just not a practical option for them, all things considered.”
Williams told ESPN on Wednesday the dorm option was not “commercially reasonable.”
“Think about it, would Nebraska sleep in the dorms at Michigan?” Williams said to ESPN. He said Akron players were willing to sleep on the floor or bus to play the game, but administrators had a responsibility to look out for their best interest.
As the drama unfolded Saturday night, reporters and fans were relatively in the dark as to the details. Moos did not make himself available for interviews after the cancellation came at 10:28 p.m. Should a similar situation arise in the future, Moos said he’ll hold an impromptu press conference in the press box to give updates.
Still, Moos was in a jovial mood Wednesday. Now Nebraska gets to have two “Scott Frost debuts” with Saturday’s new opener against Colorado. The thunderstorms Saturday night also forced Husker fans into the concourses, where the food options were too hard to resist.
“We had one of the biggest concession days we ever had,” Moos said. “We were out of everything. There were no Runzas left, no pizza. (Fans) were making the best of it.”
No ticket refunds for cancellation, but Huskers will reissue tickets if another game is scheduled
Husker fans who bought tickets through Nebraska athletics for the canceled Akron game are in luck if another game is scheduled.
The Nebraska athletic department said here’s what will happen if another game is scheduled during the 2018 season : The Nebraska athletic ticket office will provide new tickets to the replacement game to season ticket holders and single-game ticket buyers who purchased Akron tickets through Nebraska athletics.
Athletic Director Bill Moos said Wednesday he is exploring options to replace the canceled game. Playing Akron, he said, is a possibility.
In an email to ticket holders, the department also said, “As stated on the back of every printed ticket, the University of Nebraska does not issue refunds.”
Fans who purchased tickets through a third party, such as StubHub and Ticket Express, need to contact that provider with questions on their ticket policies, the email said.
Chad Carr, president of Omaha-based Ticket Express, said fans who bought tickets through his business for the canceled game will receive tickets for a replacement game if one is scheduled. He said his company does not issue refunds.
Officials with StubHub did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Adrian Martinez seems even more relaxed entering actual debut; Husker linemen attack practice
LINCOLN — Scott Frost said he could just tell by watching Adrian Martinez warm up that the true freshman was ready to play.
“He was probably more relaxed than I was,” quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco said Wednesday. “He felt really good. He did.”
And then the rain came, and the true freshman’s first start was postponed. But Verduzco has been impressed with the way Martinez approached this week of practice.
“I think he feels even more relaxed because he’s kinda got that all out of the way,” Verduzco said. “The hotel business, and what we do pregame, and what we do at the hotel, and all that sort of stuff. So I think he feels even more relaxed this week. We’ll find out. We’ll see.”
Nebraska is at a slight advantage with Colorado this week. The Buffs do a lot of similar things on defense that Nebraska has practiced against. Both run a 3-4 scheme. Both bring pressure. Both cover deep balls the same way.
But Verduzco just has to see Martinez play in a game to really evaluate him.
Verduzco also likes what he’s seen from Andrew Bunch and even walk-on true freshman Matt Masker. All three tested well on the playbook test the day before the Akron game — which was somewhat of a surprise.
“(Matt) did a nice job on his game test which kinda caught him a little by surprise because he wasn’t even sure that was going to happen,” Verduzco said.
O-line attacks the week
After Nebraska was sent back into the locker room Saturday, offensive line coach Greg Austin wasn’t sure how his guys would respond.
Turns out they responded well … really well.
“They had a good week of practice last week and they were ready to go Saturday. It was a big letdown,” Austin said. “They came back and they’ve attacked this week like I never expected them to, honestly.”
Senior offensive lineman Tanner Farmer said Monday he’s never felt more prepared for a game than he was for Akron. Austin said he could see that in his guys. And the reason why, he said, is partly in the way the entire team prepares for games. He’s also seen his players, in particular, attack the film room.
They know what to watch for, know what to look at, Austin said, and he’s been impressed with their attention to detail.
Husker coordinator Troy Walters, a former Colorado assistant, is plenty familiar with the Buffs
Troy Walters knows Colorado pretty well. He was a coach on Mike MacIntyre’s staff for three years.
But even though Scott Frost said the offense CU runs is similar to Nebraska’s, Walters said Wednesday it’s actually quite different.
“Here we’re up-paced,” Walters said. “There’s a lot of nuance of this offense that we didn’t do there. Now they’ve got a high-powered offense. Watching the Colorado State game, they’ve got some explosive playmakers, and we do too, so it’s similar in those regards. But in terms of scheme, it’s a lot different.”
Walters called CU’s front seven “stout.” The Buffs run a 3-4 that, in some ways, is similar to the Husker 3-4.
But Nebraska won’t change anything because of that front seven — especially in the run game.
“Going up against our defense every day in fall camp has prepared them for whatever they’re going to see,” Walters said.
Walters said there will be one-on-one matchups for receivers to exploit because of the way Colorado plays. He’s looking forward to his guys taking advantage of that.
“I expect them, when their number is called, to make plays,” Walters said. “JD (Spielman) obviously has done it in big games, Stanley (Morgan) has done it in big games. But I’m excited about Tyjon (Lindsey) and Andre Hunt and Bryan Reimers and (Jaron) Woodyard and (Jaevon) McQuitty — all those guys are gonna play — (and) Mike Williams. So I can’t wait for them to showcase in front of all the fans the hard work they’ve put in.”
Everything Husker fans need to know about the Colorado Buffaloes
A preview of Colorado, the actual first opponent of the Scott Frost era.
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2018 record: 1-0
Offensive yards per play: 9.17 (7th nationally)
Defensive yards per play: 3.74 (19th nationally)
Turnover margin: -1.00 (T-84th nationally)
Penalty yards per game: 44.0 (41st nationally)
Mike MacIntyre (26-38 at Colorado)
MacIntyre rose through the college football world as a defensive coach, making stops at Temple, Ole Miss, the Dallas Cowboys, New York Jets and Duke. He became a head coach in 2010 at San Jose State. After a 1-12 season, San Jose improved to 5-7 his second year and 10-2 in 2012. Colorado snagged him and ushered in a spread offense to keep up with the Pac-12. The new conference hasn’t been too kind to the Buffs and MacIntyre. He is 26-38 in six seasons. In 2016 he led Colorado to its first Pac-12 South Division title. He was the Pac-12 coach of the year that season. But since a 10-2 in 2016, Colorado is 6-9 over its last 15 games.
Type: Spread, pass-heavy
Coordinators: Klayton Adams, Darrin Chiaverini
Think Pac-12 meets the Big Ten of the late 2000s, and you’ve got Colorado in 2018. Nebraska coach Scott Frost even admitted there are a lot of similarities to the Colorado and Nebraska offenses. The Buffs like to spread out defenses, send guys in motion and look for that gaping hole to sprint through.
Unlike Nebraska’s offense, it’s much more pass-oriented. Wide receiver Laviska Shenault caught 11 passes for 211 yards last week. Their leading rusher, Travon McMillian, carried it 10 times for 103 yards and one touchdown.
Coordinators: D.J. Eliot
Nebraska will see three down lineman with overhanging outside linebackers. The Buffs’ 3-4 scheme is fit for the Pac-12 and accentuates its linebackers. It’s not as aggressive at Erik Chinander’s, but not as lax as Bob Diaco’s. Eliot had four linebackers drafted from Kentucky while he was defensive coordinator there from 2013-16.
Colorado doesn’t turn over teams but it keeps them at bay. Colorado finished sixth in the Pac-12 in scoring defense last season, allowing 28.2 points per game. It finished ninth in total defense, giving up 450 yards per game.
Players to watch
Steven Montez, quarterback: He completed 88 percent of his passes (22 of 25) against Colorado State and leads the nation in that category. Montez is a junior dual-threat quarterback who runs Colorado’s offense efficiently. He threw for 2,975 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2017, completing 60.5 percent of his passes. He ran three times for 34 yards and a score against Colorado State.
Laviska Shenault, wide receiver: Shenault caught just seven passes in 2017 but surpassed that easily against Colorado State with 11 receptions for 211 yards — an average of 19.2 yards per catch. The sophomore only had one touchdown but is one of a handful of Colorado receivers who will test Nebraska’s shaky corners.
They said it
“I’d rather be dead than red. This is more important than any other game.” Former Colorado head coach Bill McCartney.
“It’s really tough without any game tape for the situation, but we are going off the assumption that it’s going to be very similar to Central Florida.” MacIntyre on preparing for Nebraska.
596: Colorado amassed 596 total yards in its 45-13 win over Colorado State. That was good for 16th in the country and first in the Pac-12.
6-9: After beginning the 2016 season 10-2 and scoring a spot in the Pac-12 championship game, the Buffs are below .500 over their last 15 games.
18: Nebraska beat Colorado 18 straight times from 1968-85. The Huskers lead the all-time series 49-18-2.
Aug. 31: defeated Colorado State, 45-13
Sept. 8: at Nebraska
Sept. 15: vs. New Hampshire
Sept. 28: vs. UCLA
Oct. 6: vs. Arizona State
Oct. 13: at USC
Oct. 20: at Washington
Oct. 27: vs. Oregon State
Nov. 2: at Arizona
Nov. 10: vs. Washington State
Nov. 17: vs. Utah
Nov. 24: at Cal
» Sophomore Jack Stoll remains atop the Nebraska depth chart at tight end. Redshirt freshmen Austin Allen and Kurt Rafdal are listed as co-No. 2s behind him. Tight ends coach Sean Beckton said there are differences between Rafdal (6-foot-7) and Allen (6-8) despite their similar frames.
“I think Kurt’s a lot more polished as far as a route runner, and I think Austin’s a lot more polished as a blocker right now,” Beckton said. “Both those guys are competing every single day to pull up on their deficiencies and try to even those things out. We’re working on a daily basis to try to pull those guys up to where Jack is. Jack is really playing at a complete level.”
» Running backs coach Ryan Held said recruiting is a “constant evaluation” that can change often, much like assessing an NFL roster. Striking a diversity of age and skill sets at each position is a good place to start.
In Held’s position group, Nebraska has three commits for the 2019 class, including junior college standout Dedrick Mills who committed Tuesday. Nebraska and Thomas Grayson — a running back from Tulsa, Oklahoma — parted ways last month.
“At the end of the day we want to get great football players that’ll help us and fit us,” Held said. “In recruiting, that’s what we’re constantly doing, knowing that it could change based on a lot of scenarios. So we’re always looking at that. But whenever we can find a kid — whether it’s a grad transfer, whether it’s a high school kid, a juco kid — that can help us and it fits our model and what we’re trying to get done, we’re gonna try to go and get guys who will do that.”
» Held said his backs responded well to the Akron cancellation and have performed admirably in workouts this week, particularly in pass protection.
“We definitely improved, to be honest with you, this week even though we didn’t play a game,” Held said. “When we play Saturday (and) bullets are flying from another team, now we can see how we’re going to react against somebody else.”
The Huskers will rotate backs, Held said. Whoever is fresh and best fits what NU wants to do on that series will get the call.
Colorado at Nebraska
When: Pregame – 9:30 a.m. / Kickoff: 2 p.m.
Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln
Radio: 103.1 FM