LINCOLN — That noise you may have heard at 6:11 p.m. Saturday was the entire state of Nebraska letting out a sigh of relief.
After nearly a calendar year, the Nebraska football team was back on the winning side of the ledger.
It brings to mind the noted philosopher Jethro Bodine from “The Beverly Hillbillies.” In one episode, Jethro wanted to be an artist. But, he said, to be a great artist you had to suffer, because all artists had to suffer to be great.
If great football teams have to suffer too, maybe this Huskers team has a chance, because there has been a bunch of suffering going on in the past year.
In late October of 2017, the Huskers beat Purdue. Almost a full year later, they won again with a 53-28 victory over Minnesota Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
There’s been 10 games worth of suffering in between. Some were close — see Colorado, Troy and Northwestern — and some weren’t — see Minnesota and Iowa last year, Michigan this season.
As much as the fans were suffering, the players and coaches were hurting even more. When Scott Frost took the job early in December of 2017, there’s no way he thought he’d have to wait until the second half of October for his first win.
“It’s long overdue,” Frost said with a smile after the game. “This is what it’s supposed to feel like.”
Frost brought the game ball, which defensive coordinator Erik Chinander presented to him in the locker room, to the post game press conference.
Frost was also doused with Gatorade after the game.
“That was an inappropriate Gatorade shower,” Frost said with another big smile. “First of all, it was cold. I took it like a man. I saw it coming, but I’m glad the guys were so excited. They deserve to be excited. There’s going to be a day around here when we’re not celebrating one win, and we’ll keep working toward that.”
But it wasn’t easy, certainly as easy as the final score would indicate. There were some tense moments in the second half after Minnesota cut a 28-0 deficit to 28-22 with 7:22 left in the third quarter.
Oh no. Here we go again.
But not this time. This time the Huskers responded, both on offense and defense.
Two of the big stars — and there are a plethora of stars on the offense — came through when Adrian Martinez hit Stanley Morgan Jr. for a 35-yard scoring play.
And then the defense had its shot to make a play, and it did — although it took awhile.
Minnesota had a chance to cut into the lead early in the fourth, but a fourth-down pass was broken up in the end zone by Dicaprio Bootle.
That set things up for Nebraska’s most impressive drive of the season when the Huskers drove from their own 3 to the Minnesota 15 to set up a Barret Pickering field goal to give them a little breathing room.
But the Gophers were right down there knocking on the door a minute later. This time, senior linebacker Dedrick Young picked off a pass that was tipped by Bootle for a touchback.
Finally. Several times this season — and especially last week against Northwestern — the Huskers just needed to make a couple of plays to win. This time they made more than a couple.
“I said it at the beginning of the week, this team should be 5-1 or 4-2, they’ve lost in some real strange oddity type situations,” Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said of the Huskers. “They’re very dangerous on offense, which everybody got a chance to see.”
We’re getting to see what the Huskers can be under Frost. This will be a team that can score points by the bunches, but it’s not going to be a dominating defensive team. The Huskers will have to score in the 30s and 40s to have a chance to win game in and game out.
But pile up the points and get a couple of key stops on defense and the wins will take care of themselves.
“Our defense had its moments again, kind of like last week, but they got a couple of stops when it mattered. Really that’s what a defense is,” Frost said. “There’s good offenses in this league. You’re going to give up some plays, but if you can find a way to make one or two plays and make a stop it changes the game.”
The first win is in the books. The suffering is, at least for now, over.
Bob Hamar is sports editor for The Independent.