Adrian Martinez hasn't forgotten what happened the last time they met
We can thank former Colorado head coach Bill McCartney for what the Nebraska-Colorado series has evolved into. Taking a page from the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry, he chose the Cornhuskers, the Buffaloes' then-Big Eight neighbors, as their Team Who Must Not Be Named. From that point, the meetings between the teams have been filled with animosity and downright hatred.
As a small sampling, Buffalo fans celebrated the tears of a young Husker fan watching in the stands while their team made Nebraska look inept during 2001's 62-36 drubbing in Boulder. The entire Colorado student section was ejected in 2005 for throwing debris onto Folsom Field during a 30-3 loss to the Big Red.
Then there was last year. Regardless of a final 5-7 record in 2018 and the subsequent firing of Mike McIntyre, one thing will never change: Colorado dealt Scott Frost a loss in his first game as Nebraska's head coach (with an assist from Mother Nature).
Quarterback Steven Montez and wide receiver Laviska Shenalut Jr., arguably the nation's best wide receiver, brutalized the Blackshirts following a canceled season opener versus Akron. Montez orchestrated the Buffalo offense almost flawlessly, going 33-of-50 passing for 351 yards and three touchdowns. Shenault hauled in 10 of those completions for 177 yards with his lone scoring snag being the eventual game-winner.
Last season's matchup went beyond the scoreboard, though. Then-freshman linebacker Jacob Callier decided to take matters into his own hands when it came to nullifying Adrian Martinez by wrenching his leg following a play. This put Martinez on the shelf for a few games and while no, Nebraska likely doesn't beat Michigan a few weeks later, they probably don't lose to Troy and start the season 0-6.
Did Colorado's player intentionally hurt Nebraska QB Adrian Martinez?— Kevin Sjuts (@kevinsjuts) September 10, 2018
Frost: "You guys will see the video. I can't speculate what intentions were, so everybody is going to have to make their own conclusion."
So here you go. pic.twitter.com/uLpMvqtm26
Ultimately, the Pac-12 decided "no harm, no foul," which goes against the whole "Martinez being injured" thing, but the damage had been done.
Frost was asked about the game during this week's press conference, and if there's one thing that matches his dry sense of humor, it's his masterful use of coachspeak. "They have a new coaching staff that has proven they can do a good job. This year is different, this team is different, their coaching staff is different, their team is different. But anytime Nebraska plays Colorado, there’s a little extra juice on both sides."
While Frost isn't going to give the Buffaloes more fuel for the fire, new Colorado head coach Mel Tucker decided to take a different approach before the season even began.
Back in July, Tucker was expanding on his frustration that several in-state prospects didn't view a scholarship offer from Colorado as anything to write home about. In fact, several have been funneled into Nebraska's program.
"There are kids right now that you (ask), "Well, who are your top guys?" And they'll say, 'Nebraska.' And you look and say, 'Well, what has Nebraska done?' But in their mind, that's like way, way better than CU."
Tucker may have meant it in present tense or the fact that the Huskers haven't won a championship of any kind since the new millennium rolled over. But these recruits see something in Frost's Nebraska that they don't in Tucker's Colorado.
While Frost may not publicly announce any disdain for the Buffaloes, his players aren't afraid to do so. Following the closer-than-anticipated 35-21 victory over South Alabama, Littleton, Colorado native Eric Lee didn't mince words.
"I had last year's game circled on my schedule and I have this year's game circled on my schedule. I'm just excited to go back out there and take CU down."
Husker co-captain and fellow Blackshirt Darrion Daniels hasn't spent his career in Lincoln but his feelings echo that of teammates. "My coach don't like them, so I don't like them. My teammates got some beef with them, I got a beef with them," Daniels said.
If Colorado players have similar feelings, they're keeping it to themselves.
Wide receiver K.D. Nixon addressed the game following the Buffaloes' win over Colorado State in traditional fashion. "We never worry about our opponent, you know it's a big rivalry but hey, only we can beat ourselves."
Shenault could've easily come out and gone on at length about shredding the Blackshirts secondary. Like his teammate, he gave a standard response. "They get to come in our house this time. It's a big rivalry, everyone knows that so it's going to be fun to able to go out there and put on and hopefully the team comes together and plays a good game."
Regardless of what's said before kickoff on Saturday, the body language by Colorado players before and throughout the game will tell the tale. Expect plenty of pushing, jawing, and maybe even a minor brawl. Either the Buffaloes go 2-0 versus Frost or Nebraska gives their new head coach his first loss. However the tilt plays out, it won’t be pretty.