For veteran Nebraska players, Saturday’s 73-7 blowout of Idaho State will soon be forgotten, a footnote in a season that really begins next week with the Big Ten opener against Wisconsin.
For Gretna walk-on Andy Janovich, the game was probably the highlight of his young life.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound true freshman fullback found out Wednesday he was going to play against Idaho State — his first game action of 2012 — and learned about 20 seconds before the first play of the game he was going to start.
“I thought Mike Marrow was going to start but Coach (Ron) Brown said if we ran a pass play I’m going in,” Janovich said. “I ran a route but didn’t get the pass. Ever since I was a little kid I wanted to do this, now I’m getting a chance.”
Janovich finished with three carries for 6 yards and was the lead blocker for much of a 385-yard rushing day for the Huskers.
“I was a little nervous. I had some butterflies,” he admitted after the game. “I’ve been waiting (to play) for a long time. I feel good now.”
Janovich laughed when someone asked him how it felt to be surrounded by a dozen reporters.
“Just like Gretna,” he said with a smile.
He was kidding.
“I was so excited out there,” Janovich said. “I was really pumped to go out, get a hat on somebody and get a few carries.”
Janovich had a storied athletic career at Gretna as a two-way all-state player and as a wrestler, going 99-0 his junior and senior years combined, with two Class B state titles. He opted to walk on at Nebraska instead of accepting a scholarship from Nebraska-Kearney.
Janovich said he played slow and tentative when he first joined the Huskers this summer.
“I was trying to think my way through plays,” Janovich said. “Now I’m trying to run through plays as fast as I can, even if I make a mistake or don’t block the right guy. The coaches have confidence in me. That makes me feel really good and then I don’t second-guess myself.”
Janovich’s improvement was noted by the coaching staff, which led to Brown delivering the good news Wednesday: No redshirt, you're playing.
“I wasn’t sure where we were going to go with Andy in terms of ‘should he play this year, should he not?’” Brown said. “But as I looked at it and watched his progress in practice, he’s an excellent athlete. He’s an unusual athlete at fullback. He can run, he’s fast, he can catch the ball, he can block and he’s a smart kid.”
Janovich did have some adversity Saturday, losing a fumble on a handoff from backup quarterback Ron Kellogg in the second half.
“He (Janovich) got a little wide on his first step and that caused the quarterback not to be able to reach him,” Brown said. “The ball hit his hip and it was out. Some of it (Janovich playing) was just getting his feet wet. It was good to see him go out there and get after it. He’ll make it interesting at fullback.”
Janovich will compete with Marrow and C.J. Zimmerer for more playing time as the Huskers head into Big Ten play.
“This summer, I worked as hard as I could to prove something to everybody, to show that I can be just as good as anybody else,” Janovich said.