Stryker: The season opener that provided no closure

Categories: 2018 Football
lightning at the game
Lightning forced a halt to the game just after kickoff, then continued into the night.

The long wait for the start of the Scott Frost era seemed to have ended — and then it didn’t.

The Akron game will be remembered as the night the football team put in a lot less work than the event management staff.

Frost led his team onto the field with the crowd at a fever pitch, the Cornhuskers won the toss and elected to receive, and the months-long countdown to kickoff was consummated. But after the Akron placekicker booted the ball through tne end zone for a touchback, the start of the Frost era was delayed by a lightning, which eventually turned into a severe thunderstorm with high winds.

Many in the full house — I presume it will count as Nebraska’s 362nd consecutive sellout — stayed for more nearly two hours after the game was stopped. They hung on even as the weather continued to deteriorate. But it was fruitless. There was never more than 10 minutes between lightning strikes inside the 8-mile “halo,” which governs decisions about organized sporting events these days.

The stadium seats were about half full, when a 9:08 p.m. announcement of an impending severe thunderstorm with high winds cleared out the place. About 15 minutes after that, the empty stadium was thrashed by heavy rain and high winds as the new LED lighting system performed flawlessly.

At 9:55 there came another announcement — the game was cancelled, with word that any announcements about rescheduling would be made at a later date. If you still have your ticket, you should hold onto it.

We are left to wonder what sort of high-level discussions were held before that announcement, with tens of thousands of fans hanging on in hopes they could somehow watch Nebraska’s season opener, while relentlessly bad weather slammed the window of opportunity shut. Lincoln hotels, bars and restaurants had a big payday, but the Husker fans who shelled out that money were deprived of the game they’d anticipated so long. There were no good solutions to be had as the minutes ticked away on Saturday night.

Press box scuttlebutt indicated that Akron had no place to stay overnight and had a plane chartered in Omaha, although with lightning flashing around eastern Nebraska almost nonstop with very little letup forecast, it would’ve been hard to predict when that plane could safely take off. Sunday’s forecast was for more thunderstorms.

If the game is not rescheduled, it could do significant damage to NU’s bowl chances. I wonder what would happen if Nebraska is 5-6 after the Iowa game? The only time it could possibly be rescheduled is on conference championship weekend. I don’t think there have been many December games played in Memorial Stadium.

So Adrian Martinez will get his first collegiate snap a week later than expected, when Nebraska hosts a Colorado team which is 1-0 after thrashing Colorado State. Frost will earn his salary this week getting his players ready after their huge anticlimatic moment.

On the positive side, it’s likely Nebraska goes into the Colorado game with no injuries, and the Buffs will still be using UCF film from 2017 as they try to figure out the Nebraska offense. On the negative side, if the old football cliche about a team improving the most between its first and second game holds up, the Buffs will have a big advantage.

Saturday night against Akron was expectede to be one of NU’s best recruiting nights of the season. How Frost and his staff handled the unexpected could make a notable difference in who signs with the Huskers’ 2019 class. Did the disappointment of no ballgame dominate the evening? Or were Frost and his coaches able to think on their feet and spend more time with the recruits than originally planned, while still keeping their team hydrated, focused and ready to return to the field? How did the new staff respond to the unprecedented circumstances, and how will they respond this week?

On a rare football Saturday that ended with no closure for Husker Nation, there are nothing but questions until a week from now.

A longtime Husker fan, sportswriter and history buff, Tad Stryker started writing for this website in 2008. You can email him at [email protected]