LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Even though it’s been eight years since former conference mates Colorado and Nebraska played, some things never change. The Buffaloes talk up a big rivalry with their neighbors to the east and the Cornhuskers give it tepid acknowledgement.
In advance of the game at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, and in a nod to nostalgia, Colorado (1-0) invited former coach Bill McCartney to stir the pot.
“I would rather be dead than red,” the 78-year-old McCartney said at the team’s weekly news conference.
Current coach Mike MacIntyre said people around his program have been looking forward to the Nebraska game since last season. Highlights of CU-NU games have been playing on televisions in the Buffs’ football complex. Players have gotten history lessons from running backs coach Darian Hagan, who was 2-0-1 against the Huskers as starting quarterback from 1989-91.
“I have heard from everybody around the Champions Center that it is a crazy rivalry,” tailback Travon McMillian said. “We don’t know much about it because it has been so long since Colorado and Nebraska have played, but we are taking this game really seriously.”
Nebraska coach Scott Frost channeled Tom Osborne and placed no more importance on this game than any other. It will be the Huskers’ opener after last week’s game against Akron was canceled because of inclement weather.
Asked if he planned to motivate his charges with rivalry talk, Frost said, “No, I don’t think so. There’s enough going on with what happened last weekend, with this being our first game now. We don’t need to probably talk much about a Colorado rivalry. But I’ve got great memories of it.”
Frost was 2-0 against the Buffs as the Huskers’ QB in 1996-97.
Nebraska beat Colorado 45-17 in Lincoln in 2010, the teams’ last meeting before the Huskers went to the Big Ten and the Buffs to the Pac-12. The Huskers have won three straight and five of six against the Buffs and lead the series 49-18-2.
“These young men here understand the Nebraska rivalry,” McIntyre said. “There is a little added energy for sure. There’s a little added intensity. You wish you could say you line up with the same intensity in all 12 games, but you don’t, there’s a percentage difference.”
COACH MAC COMES BACK
McCartney took over a program in 1982 that had won just seven games over the previous three seasons. To create a rallying point for his moribund team, McCartney stoked a rivalry, more contrived than organic, with Nebraska. Osborne, the Huskers’ coach, never played along with him. Nebraska considered Oklahoma its biggest game.
McCartney, who retired in 1994, was in mid-1980s form this week.
“Seriously, here is what you have to understand about Nebraska,” he said. “Here we have CU, CSU, Air Force and the Broncos. You know what they got? Nothing. Just that team ... There is nothing else there for them to do. When they get up every day, that is the only option they have is to get behind that big red thing.
“We have to beat them. That’s the only thing they understand. If you beat them, they’ll salute. If you don’t, you will hear about it. We don’t want to hear about it, especially from their media. They don’t stop.”
SETTING THE STAGE
This will be the 70th all-time meeting between the teams and first of four non-conference matchups between 2018 and 2024. They were conference rivals for more than 60 years in the Big Seven, Big Eight and Big 12. Nebraska and Colorado combined to win the final eight Big Eight championships from 1988-95.
LET’S TRY THIS AGAIN
Adrian Martinez will be the first true freshman to start at quarterback for Nebraska in an opener. The Akron game was called off right after the opening kickoff, just before Martinez would have taken his first snap. He wouldn’t divulge the play call. “You can just say it was going to be a good one,” he said. “We felt pretty confident about it.”
MONTEZ THE MAN
Colorado’s Steven Montez had the highest completion percentage in the country last week, hitting on 88 percent of his passes (22 of 25) for 338 yards and four touchdowns against Colorado State. Last year he passed for 2,975 yards, just missing the third 3,000-yard passing season in program history.
Nebraska’s 135-man roster includes 50 newcomers who were not on last year’s team, including 38 true freshmen and 12 transfers.