No empirical data can confirm this fact, but it is true nonetheless: Nebraska, as a whole, is happier when hope surrounds Husker football.
Saturday’s sold-out spring game provided ample proof of that.
What the world saw was more than 86,000 people attending a scrimmage. Yes, that’s certainly the most visible evidence that swept over social media and drew praise from national reporters in town to cover the first “game” of the Scott Frost era.
But what Nebraskans didn’t see, for a change, was complaints about the coaching staff, administration or players that dominated talk radio – and made several appearances in letters to the editor on this very page – last fall.
Unity and optimism seem to have universally replaced the negative feelings that have lingered for 15 years among certain fans since former NU Athletic Director Steve Pederson’s fateful, largely unpopular decision to fire Frank Solich.
No doubt part of the newfound unity stems from a return to what’s comfortable. Nebraska fans saw a native son at the helm, two former Huskers on the coaching staff, walk-ons play an important role and a quarterback lead all rushers.
Saturday was, by all accounts, a feel-good spring game. For perspective, we turn to the immortal words of Allen Iverson: “We’re talking about practice. We ain’t talking about the game.”
Championships aren’t going to be won or lost at a scrimmage. Saturday’s showcase was important as the culmination of spring practice under a new staff in a game-like situation, even if the annual April contest is as much as a celebration of the everyday fan with its more affordable tickets and generally festive attitude.
And fans surveyed Saturday by the Journal Star seemed to indicate a healthy, cautious optimism.
Nobody predicted Nebraska, in Frost’s first year, to run the table against a daunting schedule that features the most difficult conference contests on the road. The vast majority of those who spoke with reporters forecast an improvement of a few wins over last season’s dismal 4-8 record – a reasonable expectation clearly colored with anticipation.
Returning to the heights Husker football occupied in Frost’s playing days at Nebraska will no doubt be difficult. The glory days of the mid-1990s won’t return overnight. And, for once, those in attendance seemed to understand that this is a process.
They seemed downright cheerful to have a reason to hope. In that regard, seeing fans on the same page was a welcome relief.
Now, they just need to agree on the song to which Husker players enter the field before the game.