Before I begin my review of Saturday's 52-7 win over the Fordham Rams, I want to take time to offer thanks.
I got emotional before the game Saturday. Not just because Nebraska was playing its home opener. But when I saw the Cornhusker Marching Band on the field and 86,000 red-clad Husker fans yelling "Husker!" "Power!" and when I saw the Tunnel Walk ceremony, I got a lump in my throat.
Husker football is back and more importantly, all the pageantry that makes up the game of college football is back. I'll never take any of that for granted ever again.
On with the game.
The worry going into Saturday's Fordham game was that the Huskers might not be able to get up for it. Some feared Nebraska might just be a bit bored with the idea of playing an outmanned FCS team like the Rams.
And yes for the first quarter and a half, the Huskers did look uninterested. But eventually just about everything Nebraska could have hoped for in that game happened.
The Huskers wanted (and expected) a blowout game and they got it. The newer Husker players also got to experience what it's like to play in front of 86,000 Husker fans on a near perfect September afternoon.
And with a big third-quarter lead, the Huskers got the opportunity to play a ton of kids (88 in all) on national TV and with live ammo. And no one (so far as I know) was seriously hurt for Nebraska. This was a great win for Husker Pride Worldwide. And yes, I know it was just Fordham, but the game was on the schedule and Nebraska took charge midway through the second quarter and never looked back. And the Rams got out of town with a $500,000 paycheck in their back pocket.
Not a bad day's work.
The temptation in the aftermath of a game like Saturday's is to focus on all that was bad about the Husker performance. And there were things to nitpick, but the good things far outweighed the bad.
Next up is Buffalo of the Mid-American Conference. The Bulls went 6-1 in last year's COVID-shortened season. And they opened the '21 season Saturday with a 69-7 win over FCS Wagner University. Lance Leipold, who built the Bulls' program, left Buffalo this spring to coach at Kansas of the Big 12 Conference. Leipold, who was a Husker assistant ('01-'03), took four of his Buffalo assistants with him to Kansas: Brian Borland (DC), Scott Fuchs (O-line), Andy Kotelnicki (OC) and Jim Lebrowski (QB).
So what does this mean for Nebraska this Saturday? We probably won't know for sure until Saturday night. Last year over a span of seven games, the Bulls averaged over 287 yards rushing (2nd in the nation) and 191 passing yards for almost 480 yards of total offense per game.
But no one on Lance Leipold's staff remains on this year's Buffalo staff. And to complicate matters, 10 Bull players entered this year's transfer portal including two key players, Jr. Mike Novitsky (C) and Sr. Eddie Wilson (DT), who followed Leipold and his staff to Kansas.
This year's team is led by quarterback Kyle Vantrease, 6'3" 215 lbs., who Saturday completed almost 79% of his passes (15-19) in the win over Wagner. (And since he's been the starter, the Bulls have gone 12-3 and have averaged 39 points per game - not including Saturday's win.) The Bulls also had 569 yards of total offense Saturday. The Bulls' leading rusher this season will likely be Kevin Marks Jr. Marks' running back partner from last year, Jaret Patterson (1,072 yards), opted to enter the NFL draft this spring and now plays for the Washington "Team." So the Bulls' running game may be less potent than it was in 2020.
It's going to be a tall task for the Huskers to have a big enough lead to give playing time to the non-starters this Saturday. Let's just hope for a Husker win. Any kind of win would be just fine.