The barrier of cheerleaders meant to funnel Nebraska players and coaches off the field didn’t stand a chance against Mick Stoltenberg. The barrier broke around him like water around a rock as he pumped his hands in the air toward the fans in north stadium.
I don’t think he even noticed. Or he didn’t care.
Instead of walking back toward the tunnel into the warm locker room, Stoltenberg ignored the blowing snow and the falling temperatures. He took the fans in one last time.
Yesterday was Mick Stoltenberg’s last game in Memorial Stadium. It surely was a memorable one.
He is the member of a Nebraska defense largely seen as the weak-link of this Nebraska team.
Not on Saturday.
On Saturday it was the Blackshirt defense and the leg of Barret Pickering that lead Nebraska to a 6-9 win over Michigan State. It was the first time Nebraska has won a football game without scoring a touchdown since 1937. In that game Nebraska beat Kansas 3-0. Yesterday was that kind of day.
Not to go unnoticed was the play of other seniors like Antonio Reed and Trey Neal. Both made huge plays throughout the game. Trey Neal appeared to be all over the field during those important moments in the fourth quarter. Antonio Reed forced two fumbles. One of those fumbles was because of a hit that blindsided Michigan State Quarterback Rocky Lombardi.
That looked like it hurt.
Scott Frost singled out the play of Tanner Farmer and Jerald Foster after the game. The two senior offensive linemen were members of a group, like the defense, which was much maligned at the beginning of the season.
Then don’t forget about Stanley Morgan who broke the school record for most completions and Devine Ozigbo went over 1,000 yards rushing in the season. He was the first Nebraska running back to rush for over 1,000 yards since 2014.
And on this cold snowy day it was the seniors that made all the difference.
Scott Frost was not asked about it after the game, but from where I was standing it appeared to me that Coach Frost was still emotional when he approached the podium. This was not his first win in Memorial Stadium, nor is it his first win as the Nebraska football coach. But it was obvious this game mattered just a little bit more.
When asked what he was going to do to the game ball Frost said, “I didn’t ask for the ball, somebody came up and handed it to me. I probably won’t give it back to Equipment.”
Perhaps the game ball is meant for the seniors. They sure earned it.
Nebraska found itself in a fistfight for the first time in the Scott Frost era on Saturday.
The Huskers took some punches, a bunch of punches actually, but responded with some of its own and Nebraska won. In the overall scheme of things that will probably mean more than all of the 40-something-point games the Huskers have had of late and will have more often in the very near future.
But in this one the Huskers’ best weapon was dulled by a combination of another ruthless Michigan State run defense, swirling winds and freezing temperatures. Gray, blustery and 17 degrees is the Spartans’ natural habitat, an environment that seemed custom built for derailing Nebraska’s offense.
And it did.
On a day when Barret Pickering scored all of Nebraska’s points in the 9-6 win over Michigan State, the freshman kicker was quick to divert too much attention away from himself.
“I’d like to mention the Sadlers and the Foltzes,” Pickering said at the post-game press conference. “Today was about them, this was a game for them and definitely I’d like to [dedicate] my performance to Mike and Sam out there.
“It means a lot that I go out there and represent them well.”
Nebraska began the Scott Frost era 0-6. People jumped off the bandwagon. The Huskers looked outmatched in a loss to Michigan and beaten down after a loss to Northwestern. But they never broke.
The “special” feeling around the team has a lot to do with the promise. There’s youth everywhere and Nebraska’s offense entered Saturday’s home finale against Michigan State performing at elite levels with a true freshman quarterback. Foster thinks this offense will be a top-10 outfit next season.
You have to climb in your DeLorean and go back to 1937 to find the last time Nebraska football won a game without scoring a touchdown.
But here was Scott Frost's offense – fresh off seven games with more than 450 yards in a row – having met its match against a stout defense and unfriendly weather, sometimes looking like a car without four-wheel drive you might have found on a Lincoln street Saturday night.
Barret Pickering grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, where snow football is merely something heard about and rarely experienced.
He'd never kicked in the snow. Ever.
Michigan State placekicker Matt Coghlin and Nebraska kicker Barret Pickering would be the only players on their respective teams put points on the scoreboard in a Saturday afternoon game dominated by field goals.
If you were part of the Memorial Stadium crowd on another frigid, windswept Saturday — cheers to you.
If you were a Nebraska football fan watching from afar, I wish you could've heard the roars.
People tend to enjoy a good street fight in the snow.
It’s not just for small talk when it comes to Nebraska football. A big theme this Husker season, wouldn’t you say? It was definitely the case again Saturday.
However, if you were not thrilled about another 11 a.m. kickoff, please note that it was actually warmer at Memorial Stadium at 11 a.m. than it was at 2:30 p.m. Another bright spot, of course, on a really cold and windy and snowy day was the 9-6 final score, with the home team topping Michigan State.
In the cold and the wind and the snow, conditions that would send even the heartier among us in search of cover, Luke Gifford was in no rush to find
The bad moments for Antonio Reed this season, much like they were for the rest of this Nebraska team, were covered in pure, white snow by the end of Nebraska's bloody-nose win over Michigan State on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
First, Barret Pickering made a 36-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter that cut Nebraska’s deficit to three points Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
Ozigbo on #Huskers' defense: "It was fun to see the defense play the way they've been capable."— Brandon Cavanaugh (@eightlaces) November 17, 2018
Nebraska's defense has broken up 57 passes this year. All of last season they had just 28 as a defense.— Sean Callahan (@Sean_Callahan) November 17, 2018
This was the first time Michigan State and Nebraska met since Mike Sadler and Sam Foltz passed away and all the points scored were kicks— Maddie Schultz (@maddieleigh98) November 17, 2018
By The Way. Pickering Had Himself a Day
Pickering begins his time at the podium thanking Sam Foltz and Mike Sadler for inspiring him.— Christopher Heady (@heady_chris) November 17, 2018
Martinez said his roommate, kicker Barret Pickering, got carried around in the locker room.— Brian Christopherson (@Husker247BC) November 17, 2018
Pickering called referred to the wind as "the breeze."— Brian Rosenthal (@GBRosenthal) November 17, 2018
Today was the first time in Pickering’s life he’s kicked in the snow.— Christopher Heady (@heady_chris) November 17, 2018
Pickering, by the way, said he didn't even know there was a bad snap on the game-winning field goal until Ober came to him and apologized.— Brian Rosenthal (@GBRosenthal) November 17, 2018
Good effort young man. Good effort. pic.twitter.com/Z1JnKpZuM8— CornNation (@CornNation) November 17, 2018