Solich cool on hot day

BY JOHN MABRY
Lincoln Journal Star Sports Editor

Tom Osborne was nowhere to be found.

And you know what? It was OK.

The Huskers won Saturday. And they won with Frank Solich as their head coach.

All along, Solich has said things wouldn't be changing much with him in charge.

Wrong.

I don't think Osborne ever raced out of the tunnel the way Solich came tearing out of there Saturday. The former Husker fullback looked like a running back again, carrying the hopes of a state.

"That might be the fastest I've run in a long time," Solich said.

To call his first game as NU's head coach a masterpiece would be a bit of an overstatement, though it did have the look of a Picasso — strangely appealing to the eye without all of the pieces in the right place.

Still, after 3½ hours of dizzying offense, the Huskers came away with a 56-27 victory over Louisiana Tech and a 1-0 record.

Shortly before kickoff, just after the final walk-through, NU's assistant coaches came up to Solich one by one and offered their support. There were handshakes and hugs all around.

"It was not as traumatic as the last game of Tom's career," secondary coach George Darlington said, "but it was certainly traumatic from the standpoint that we didn't want Frank to get off on a bad foot.

"The last thing you wanted to do was start off with a loss in his first game."

Receivers coach Ron Brown was by Solich's side for much of the game and was extremely impressed with his leadership.

"I told him as we closed the game that I thought he did a great job. I really thought he had a great handle on the game. He really seemed to be in a groove. His play-calling was very crisp, timely.

"I thought he called a great game and was very well-prepared."

Brown said everyone on the staff realized what kind of heat was on the new boss to succeed right from the start.

"Here's a guy who's under tremendous pressure, filling some great shoes," Brown said. "I mean this was the biggest (opener) we've had in 25 years. I thought he responded well to the pressure and called an excellent game.

"When you're doing the double-duty of coaching and coordinating the offense, that's a huge job. And he handled it very well."

From the press box, quarterbacks coach Turner Gill had the same opinion of the man who used to send in the plays from upstairs.

"He was cool, collected and in control of everything," Gill said.

Fullback Willie Miller said Solich didn't get carried away in his pre-game speech. All business.

"He just said go out there and play Nebraska football," Miller said. "Play tough, hard-nosed, and wear them out."

It was fitting that Solich gave the ball to Joel Makovicka, a team captain and fellow fullback, on the game's first carry.

Makovicka returned the favor by giving the ball to Solich when the game was over.

"I think it was really emotional for him," Makovicka said. "We presented him with the game ball as a team and told him that we hope there's 13 more (victories) where that came from this year and many more in the future."

You can bet the new coach is thinking about the "many more" part already. How many more no one knows.

"I feel relieved that we've got one down," he said. "The players handled (the pressure) tremendously well, and that made it easier for me to handle it."

They also sent their coach home with a perfect record.

"I'll get some rest tonight," he said.

Web posted August 30, 1998


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