LINCOLN — When Nebraska coach Scott Frost talked to the media Thursday morning, he expected to handle captains one way. By Thursday night, he’d changed his approach.
So Husker players voted receiver Stanley Morgan, offensive guard Jerald Foster, nose tackle Mick Stoltenberg and outside linebacker Luke Gifford as NU’s seasonlong representatives.
“After talking about it and deliberating on it for a while, we decided to keep with Nebraska tradition of having just four captains,” Frost said Thursday night on his Husker Sports Radio monthly show. He said he’d previously used a unity council — from which game captains emerge — but changed it for this year.
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Frost said the four were “pretty clear winners.” Three — Foster, Gifford and Stoltenberg — are from Nebraska. Morgan, who broke NU’s single-season record for receiving yards last season, hails from New Orleans.
Foster is a captain for the second straight season. The Lincoln Southeast graduate earned specific praise from Frost on Monday for his leadership.
“He’s going to get the guys in a huddle if he needs to,” Frost said.
Gifford, Foster’s high school teammate, has battled injuries throughout his career but earned respect from teammates for his playmaking ability when healthy and his willingness to speak up when necessary. Gifford’s voice was notable, former coaches have said, in a second-half comeback last season at Oregon when NU’s defense, after giving up 42 points in the first half, shut out the Ducks in the second half. Both Frost and defensive coordinator Erik Chinander have said Gifford exceeded their expectations in coming back from a hip injury that kept him out of spring camp.
Stoltenberg, from Gretna, has long been an example for other defensive linemen who joke about his “old man” voice while respecting his place in the program. Defensive line coach Mike Dawson has consistently gushed about Stoltenberg’s presence on the defense.
“Mick’s a great guy,” Dawson said. “He’s a clear, distinct leader as far as the program goes. He’s smart in what he says, he talks to other people. He’s very passionate about what we’re all trying to do. Mick’s been awesome since the day we got here.”
Morgan has become more of a vocal leader in his senior year. He represented NU at Big Ten media days and has made himself more available for media interviews. Teammates — and Frost — have respected Morgan’s on-field toughness and passion, especially as a blocker.
“I had to come out of my shell this summer,” Morgan said at Big Ten media days. “I was that quiet leader. Lead-by-example -type guy. But I’m more vocal now.”
For the last three seasons — and most seasons in recent Husker history — Nebraska named captains before the season. During the Bo Pelini era, NU sometimes used game captains, naming permanent captains after the season had ended. Frost hinted after practice Thursday he planned on using game captains in 2018. Instead, the same four seniors will walk out for the coin flip.
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Jan. 1, 1964: Nebraska defeated Auburn 13-7 in the Orange Bowl. "It was true what they said about Nebraska being a big, strong and resourceful football team," Miami Herald sports editor Jimmy Burns wrote after the game. "The Cornhuskers lived up to that reputation here."
Jan. 2, 1967: Alabama defeated Nebraska 34-7 in the Sugar Bowl. It was the worst defeat suffered by Nebraska since Oklahoma topped Bob Devaney’s first Husker squad, 34-6, in 1962. Nebraska quarterback Bob Churchich did set a then-NU passing record with 21 completions.
Dec. 20, 1969: Nebraska defeated Georgia 45-6 in the Sun Bowl. "Nebraska's mean Cornhuskers kicked the Georgia Bulldog to death in the first quarter Saturday," then-World-Herald sports editor Wally Provost wrote. The Huskers had six interceptions and recovered two fumbles in the rout.
Jan. 1, 1973: Nebraska defeated Notre Dame 40-6 in the Orange Bowl. The win marked the final game in coach Bob Devaney's career. "A golden era in Cornhuskerdom ended late Monday night in the sauna bath-like heat of the Orange Bowl with the man who made it all possible riding high on the shoulders of his players," The World-Herald's Tom Allan wrote. "And riding even higher in the hearts of all Nebraskans."
Jan. 1, 1974: Nebraska knocked off Texas 19-3 in the Cotton Bowl. Steve Runty, who was playing his final game, waited through a redshirt season and three more years as a substitute before finally getting his chance in the second half against the Longhorns. The Huskers broke a 3-3 tie and outscored Texas 16-0 with Runty under center.
Dec. 26, 1975: Arizona State defeated Nebraska 17-14 in the Fiesta Bowl. Dan Kush, son of ASU coach Frank Kush, was given playing time after his mom "threatened" the coach. It worked, as the kicker connected on three field goals, including the game-winner from 29-yards out with 4:50 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Dec. 30, 1976: Nebraska defeated Texas Tech 27-24 in the Astro-Blue Bonnet Bowl. Husker defensive lineman Ron Pruitt stripped the ball from Red Raider quarterback Rodney Allison in the closing seconds, and Reg Gast recovered to clinch the NU victory.
The Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl
Jan. 1, 1982: Clemson defeated Nebraska 22-15 in the Orange Bowl to claim the national championship. Roger Craig's 26-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion in the fourth quarter cut the Tigers' lead from 22-7, but NU couldn't finish the comeback.
Jan. 1, 1986: Nebraska lost to Michigan 27-23 in the Fiesta Bowl. The Huskers had more rushing yards (304-171), more passing yards (66-63), more return yards (20-3), more time of possession (32:01 to 27:59) and a better ratio of third-down conversions (7 of 17 to 4 of 14), but also had four turnovers to Michigan's none.
Jan. 1, 1988: Florida State topped Nebraska 31-28 in the Fiesta Bowl. Nebraska I-back Tyreese Knox’s fumble at the Florida State 3-yard line kept the Huskers from turning a 28-24 lead into an 11-point edge with 6:58 left in the game, and FSU quarterback Danny McManus finished a 97-yard, game-winning drive with a 15-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal.
Jan. 1, 1995: Nebraska claimed the national championship with a 24-17 win over Miami in the Orange Bowl. Fullback Cory Schlesinger scored two touchdowns in the final eight minutes. Miami had one last gasp, but Kareem Moss intercepted a pass to clinch the title for Nebraska.