WACO, Texas — A minute before Saturday’s game, two Huskers leapt into the air and did some sort of festive body bump that ended with a stylish handshake.
This would go without mention if it weren’t for the fact the two Huskers were quarterbacks Cody Green and Zac Lee.
And with that final pregame show of support, the true freshman Green readied to take the field for his first start as “The Man” at Nebraska.
“It felt good. It felt real good,” the 18-year-old said. “It’s every young kid’s dream to start for the college team your freshman year. It was one of those moments I’ll remember forever.”
It’s better remembered when you win, which the Huskers did, 20-10 against Baylor, before a half-full Floyd Casey Stadium that had more red in it than green and gold.
Certainly Green’s dream didn’t include him throwing an interception that was returned 45 yards for a touchdown.
But so goes growing up on the big stage.
“Got to have a memory like a goldfish, really,” Green said of his third-quarter pick that allowed Baylor to cut the Huskers’ lead to 10 points.
One of the first guys to support him after that bad throw? The guy he replaced.
“I’ve got to give it to Zac. I’ve got to give it to the rest of the guys that helped me out with it too,” Green said. “They just circled around me and pretty much said, ‘Hey, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. We got your back. Just go out there and play your game. We’re going to play ours.’”
Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said he couldn’t wait to get Green in the film room Sunday and go over the good and the bad.
“It’ll be huge,” Watson said. “It will give him a chance to see what he experienced and see it from a different perspective, through film, which is always a great teacher. When the bullets are flying, you’re listening, but sometimes those wires aren’t hitting right. But they will. He’s a good football player. He’s got football in him.”
Green has plenty of good things early. Nebraska scored on each of its first three offensive possessions.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound native of Dayton, Texas, immediately showed what he brings to the offense: the ability to run and a want to run.
On his first series, facing a third-and-5 from the NU 33-yard line, Green tucked the ball and ran for 10 yards.
Later on the drive, he bulled ahead for 6 yards on third down to the Baylor 28 that better positioned Alex Henery for a 45-yard field goal.
Green’s first drive as a starter: 11 plays, 44 yards, 3 points.
But his best play of the game came a couple series later when he threw a beautiful 45-yard pass to Niles Paul that put the ball at the Baylor 1. True freshman running back Dontrayevous Robinson scored two plays later.
That made it 20-0 with 9:28 left in the first half. Nebraska did not score again.
“In the second half … we kind of went out there and just shot blanks,” Green said. “We’re lucky enough that our defense came up big enough in the second half for us. But you know those games like that you really can’t go out and throw a blank in the second half. We just have to go back and go to work.”
Green completed 12 of 21 passes for 128 yards and the one interception. He rushed eight times for 43 yards.
He became just the second true freshman to start at quarterback for Nebraska. The other was Tommie Frazier, who also won his first start, on the road, by 10 points.
Green said he thought he played “really good” in the first half. As for the second half?
“It could have really turned ugly for us,” he said.
After his interception, Green fumbled in the fourth quarter at the Baylor 26, a play after the Husker defense had forced a turnover.
The Huskers finished with just 273 yards of offense — three less than Baylor — and 104 of those yards came in the second half.
Watson said he simplified the game plan for the new starter. And while he felt the quarterback had some “rough spots,” he applauded the way Green competed.
Is Green the starter going forward?
“I think mine and Bo’s approach every week is to let those guys hammer it out in practice,” Watson said. “I think Cody’s done a really nice job and he’s giving us some things in the run game. With our tailback situation that’s important right now.”
Green said he just has to keep going out to practice every day “showing them what I got.”
If Lee is his competitor during the week, Green said he’s still a close friend.
“We’re both helping each other,” Green said. “And I told him before the game, ‘Heck, I’m going to need you now more than ever before.’”
Reach Brian Christopherson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 473-7439.