Nebraska opening against Ohio State? Not a coincidence, Huskers coach Scott Frost says

Bill Rabinowitz
Buckeye Xtra
Nebraska coach Scott Frost said Ohio State played the most significant role in the return of Big Ten football this fall.

Along with Iowa, Ohio State and Nebraska were the programs that were most outspoken about trying to resurrect a fall football season after the Big Ten announced its postponement.

Eight Nebraska players even sued the Big Ten to pressure the conference to overturn its decision, which it eventually did. So some eyebrows were raised when the conference pitted Nebraska against the Buckeyes in Columbus for Saturday’s season opener.

Count Cornhuskers coach Scott Frost among those expressing little surprise.

“No, I don't think it was a coincidence,” he said with a chuckle on a Zoom call Monday.

Fifth-ranked Ohio State is a three-touchdown favorite over the Huskers, who haven’t beaten the Buckeyes since 2011.

But Frost isn’t complaining about having to face the Buckeyes. He’s just happy to have a season, and he said he’s grateful that Ohio State helped lead the charge to reinstate the season.

“It's strange where you find allies in certain things, and I think we had an ally in Ohio State to try to get the season played,” Frost said. “I don't think it would have gotten done without (OSU team physician) Dr. (Jim) Borchers there, without (coach) Ryan Day continuing to push it and (athletic director) Gene Smith continuing to push it.

“We certainly fought for it, too. We fought because we thought it was the right thing to do – to have football. Our kids wanted to play and we thought we could do it in a safe manner.”

He said that he and Day talked frequently during the summer as they worked together to salvage a season.

“I think we probably developed a little closer relationship through this,” he said. “I've got to give most of the credit for this (reinstatement) to Ohio State. We might have been one of the sounding gongs in this, saying we want to play. I don't think it would have gotten done without their doctor taking the lead and figuring out a way to present it to the presidents to get football back.”

Frost is in his third year coaching at his alma mater. The Huskers expected to improve significantly last year but finished 5-7. After Nebraska nearly pulled off an upset against Ohio State two years ago before falling 36-31, the Buckeyes led 38-0 at halftime in 2019 in a 48-7 win.

“I thought we did a really good job of keeping the game close last year for about five minutes,” Frost said dryly.

He also said that junior Adrian Martinez had retained his starting job at quarterback after a close battle with redshirt freshman Luke McCaffrey.

“I don't know how much separation there is,” Frost said. “I think we have two first-string quarterbacks. That's the way we feel about them.”

Prime time in Happy Valley

Ohio State will face Penn State in prime time on Halloween.

The second game of the Buckeyes’ season is scheduled to kick off at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 31 and be televised on ABC, the school said.

Game times and TV assignments were announced Monday across the Big Ten for the league’s Week 2 slate of games.

The late kickoff between the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions continues their recent tradition of prime-time matchups held in Happy Valley.

But unlike in previous years, there will be no hostile “White Out” crowd to greet Ohio State as no fans are permitted to attend Big Ten games this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Buckeyes were upset by Penn State in 2016 amid a rabid evening atmosphere, but they have won the past three games against their Big Ten East foe, including a 28-17 victory last season in Columbus.

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch

Dispatch reporter Joey Kaufman contributed to this story.