Snow day, good day for Huskers

It was like something out of a happy-ending movie walking onto the slippery Memorial Stadium turf in the moments after the final whistle of Nebraska’s 9-6 win over Michigan State Saturday.
The steadily increasing snowfall fluttered through the air as if the powers that be shook a snowglobe.
Several Husker players could’ve hurdled me in their ecstatic celebrations, just as Maurice Washington did to a poor Spartan defender in the fourth quarter.
It felt like something different. It felt like something bigger. Have we finally figured out how to win the games we’ve struggled with in the past decade-plus?
Jury may still be out on that, but Saturday was a giant leap forward.
Some may call me a liar while others could call me insane, but the bitter cold conditions never bothered me on Saturday. The game was too much fun.
Aurora native Todd Honas also had a lot of fun throughout the game, noting that he hadn’t played a true football game in the snow until Saturday and just like any other Nebraska kid, was what we all dream of.
“It was. It was the atmosphere every kid dreams of playing in,” Honas said. “The conditions were so awful for throwing the ball so it just came down to guts and who wanted it more up front. That was the most excited I’ve ever seen coach Frost after a game.”
It’s been a special season for Honas, who earned his first playing time as a Husker earlier this season against Troy and has been on and off the field with a variety of special teams, even getting some offensive snaps late against Illinois two weeks ago.  “I felt like all the hard work over the years had paid off,” Honas noted. “In the moment, I was focused on doing my job but looking back on it, it was special for me to represent my hometown on the field.”
It takes a special kind of kid to take on a special teams role. It takes a Nebraska kid who is a walk-on who just wants it more. It takes a dude like Honas is and wants to be.
“I absolutely love special teams,” Honas said. “It is a great way for me to get my foot in the door and contribute to the team. I’m hoping my performance there can lead to a bigger role in the future.”
Boy, not only did the special teams play out of their minds on Saturday, but how good did it feel to see the Blackshirts flex their muscles and throw the bones out there as the snow fluttered about? That’s football, man.
Fellow Aurora graduate Austin Allen was a part of all three of Nebraska’s field goal makes. For those who don’t know, Allen lines up furthest to the right of the kicker in protection.
Although Honas has broken through and earned a chunk of playing time that was more than well deserved, it didn’t come without a few bumps and bruises.
The redshirt sophomore was kept out of the Colorado game after suffering a concussion in fall camp.
Once he cleared those hurdles and earned some playing time in the coming weeks, he hit some more bad luck with a hamstring issue during the Northwestern game.
“I’ve been slowly coming back from that,” he said. “It’s been frustrating but I’ve learned that as a walk-on, availability is just as important as ability so I’m praying for an injury-free season next year.”
Although Honas has had some bad luck on the injury front, he is one of several Huskers who helped lead the turnaround in not only the culture, but performance on the field. Nebraska has gone from an 0-6 team to winning four of its last five and a near upset of Ohio State.
Talking about changing of the culture seems tiring, and maybe that’s because we’ve tried changing it so much over the last decade.
Despite that, however, it’s very important. Every Husker player from Adrian Martinez to Mick Stoltenberg to Allen and Honas have commented in some way about it.
“The wins felt so long overdue but it’s been so remarkable to see how the culture has grown while we were losing,” Honas explained. “We had some guys decide to leave the program and the ones that stayed bonded together. This is the tightest-knit group I’ve seen since I’ve been here in terms of guys genuinely caring about one another. All of that comes from coach Frost and it rubs off on us.”
Senior Day 2018 will be one a lot of people will remember for a long time for many different reasons. Honas knows that what these seniors have done set the guidelines for future Husker teams to live up to.
“I’ll remember the resiliency and foundation our seniors set for us,” Honas said. “Guys like Stanley (Morgan), Jerald (Foster), Mick and Luke (Gifford) never quit and set the standard for us young guys for the years to come. They could’ve easily folded when we were 0-6 but they knew what they were doing mattered far beyond just this year. I admire our senior class a lot for their attitude during that adversity.”
Saturday wasn’t just a happy ending, but hopefully a wonderful beginning.
RICHARD RHODEN can be reached at sports@hamilton.net.

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