Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Fans Savor, Celebrate Victory For Frost, Huskers

By Brian Rosenthal

Nebraska led by more than three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, yet few of the 89,272 fans at Memorial Stadium had departed on a sun-splashed October afternoon.

They stayed until the end, ready to savor and celebrate the first victory of the Scott Frost coaching era, no matter how long the wait.

“I can’t thank the fans enough,” Frost said. “Our fans have been supportive this whole way, and that is one of the main reasons why I wanted to be back here.”

Nebraska, in its most complete performance of the season, defeated Minnesota 53-28 in a game that seemed easy, then wasn’t, then was again.

Bottom line: The Huskers have finally reached the win column under Frost, the former Husker player and native Nebraska who endured a cold dump of the Gatorade bucket at game’s end.

He called it “inappropriate,” but also managed a smile.

“First of all, it was cold. I took it like a man, I saw it coming,” Frost said, understanding his players’ excitement.

But …

“There’s going to be a day around here when we’re not celebrating one win,” Frost said, “and we’ll keep working toward that.”

True freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez echoed those words, again offering a stunning reminder he’s all of 18 years old – not just because of what he’s doing on the field, but because of his reaction off it.

“It feels good; the hard work paid off there,” Martinez said. “But, we just need to stay level-headed here, put things in perspective. We haven’t arrived yet. As good as this feels, we need to feel more of this going forward.”

Nebraska (1-6, 1-4 Big Ten Conference) bolted to a 28-0 lead, then had to step on the gas again after Minnesota (3-4, 0-4) pulled within 28-22 late in the third quarter.

That his Huskers responded in kind told Frost his team learned its lesson after losing a 31-21 lead in last week’s overtime loss to Northwestern.

“One of the things we talked about,” Frost said, “is when you’re in that situation, ‘What are you thinking?’ I asked each one of them what were you thinking. Were you thinking we were going to get this done? Let’s go end this? Or were you thinking, ‘Oh no, what might happen?’

“We want our guys to play with a desire to excel and no fear of failure all the time. We can’t be worried about that. I think our team responded to that situation better today than it has since I’ve been here.”

Martinez is a large reason why. He compiled 401 yards of total offense, including a career-high 125 rushing yards, and completed his first 11 passes en route to a 25-of-29 performance with three touchdowns.

Those are senior numbers,” Frost said. “Those aren’t 18-year-old numbers.”

Martinez recorded his fourth straight game with at least 300 yards of total offense.

“I saw from Martinez exactly what you saw from Martinez,” Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said. “I think he’s one of the better players in the country already.

“He knew he could come in here and play and start and create his legacy, and what he’s going to leave at Nebraska football. He’s a running back that’s an incredible quarterback. He’s so fast, he’s so quick; he’s bigger than you think, and he can hurt you.”

Martinez led a balanced attack that featured three players with more than 100 yards rushing. Senior Devine Ozigbo and freshman Maurice Washington joined Martinez in cracking the century mark.

“This team has kept an immensely positive attitude, especially with the things that we’ve gone through; that’s kind of surprising,” said Ozigbo, who ran 12 times for 152 yards, his third time in four games with at least 150 rushing yards.

“But to finally get a positive result, all that work, all that fighting through the losses, fighting through the downs is paying off. Practice on Monday should be exciting. Things like that give us a spark.”

It’s the fifth time in school history Nebraska has produced three 100-yard rushers in one game, and the first time since a 2010 victory at Washington.

“I think everything was working on the ground,” Martinez said. “When you have three different guys who are running it, including myself, it makes it tough on the defense and how they are going to stop us.

“If they want to bring an extra guy in the box, then we’ll throw it out there. That’s what is so great about this offense, it’s having a lot of options. Our O-Line was playing great today. I think they are incredibly underrated, the job they've done, the yards we’ve put up, and we translated those yards into points today.”

Still, Minnesota, playing with backup quarterback Tanner Morgan in the second half, made life a bit queasy for Nebraska. The Gophers were within 28-22 late in the third quarter, when Nebraska responded by scoring in four plays, the last a 35-yard touchdown pass from Martinez to senior receiver Stanley Morgan Jr.

“We just came out there today and we weren’t taking losing for an answer,” said Morgan, who caught a career-high 10 passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns. “We weren’t going to take that ‘L’ today. Not today. It’s a certain point where you just have got to go out there and get that win. That’s what we felt today, and I felt the team was great.”

Barrett Pickering kicked a 32-yard field goal, and Morgan hauled in a 67-yard touchdown pass, as Nebraska rebuilt its lead to 46-22.

By that point, the Memorial Stadium crowd knew victory was in hand, and wasn’t about to depart and miss a monumental moment for Frost.

“We’ve got as good fans as there is in the country,” Frost said. “They’re loyal, they’re supportive … I almost teared up running off the field. That was a special moment.”

Frost was relieved as much as he was overjoyed in his first career victory as Nebraska’s head coach.

“This is overdue,” Frost said. “Our guys have deserved and played well enough to win some other ones, and we found some of the most unbelievable ways to lose games that I’ve ever seen. This leaves me shaking my head, but sometimes when you break through the dam, the flood waters come.”

Reach Brian at brosenthal@huskers.com or follow him on Twitter@GBRosenthal.

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