Scott Frost finally cracked a smile several minutes into his postgame news conference.
He admitted he was still too hung up on the mistakes his Nebraska football team made in a breezy, 52-7 victory over FCS Fordham. He said he’s “obsessed” with getting them fixed. He talked about his senior defenders, his backup quarterback, a naked bootleg gone awry on the second snap of the game that nearly turned into an ugly turnover.
Then the Sea of Red entered the conversation. Yeah, the sellout streak was in jeopardy. Sure, there was a smattering of empty seats around Memorial Stadium.
Mostly, though, there was nothing but good things to say about the announced crowd of 85,938. This place, of course, hasn’t been able to host fans for a game since Nov. 29, 2019.
“Gosh, that felt good,” Frost said. “Just walking out to the tunnel. Even in pregame with the stands half full, that was special. I got a chance to walk through the tunnel at the end of the game with my wife and my son, and RJ was giving fans high fives. We missed the fans and I know they missed being here.
“This was a dismal place without them, so can’t wait until next week.”
Folks streamed toward their seats until well after kickoff thanks in part to the early kickoff time, a gloomy morning here and a crash on I-80 that snarled traffic headed toward Stadium Drive.
But then the sun came out, the Husker offense hit its stride and it all felt like a celebration.
“Them coming back was huge,” redshirt freshman inside linebacker Nick Henrich said. “They always bring the best energy in college football. It's amazing. It's what we played for.”
Even with concerns about COVID-19 still persisting around the country and masks required in certain parts of Memorial Stadium — although not in the outdoor areas like the bleachers — it felt like a return to normalcy to see the wave make its way around the stadium or hear the volume swell when Fordham found itself in third-and-long.
“There’s no fans like the people here,” USC transfer running back Markese Stepp said. “I haven’t seen a fan base like this, like, ever. At our games (at USC), we’d have maybe about 40 (thousand) on a regular basis.
“The fan base here is just insane.”
Martinez called jogging off the field after the game and interacting with fans — something he hadn’t done following a Memorial Stadium win since Lane McCallum slipped a game-winning field goal through outstretched Northwestern arms on Oct. 5, 2019 — “a special moment.”
“I always appreciate that support and I know it’s not like that everywhere,” Martinez said. “It isn’t. And it’s something to be thankful for, which I am. It’s part of what makes Nebraska so great.”