water polo team Huskers honor Foltz with season
[Drew Brown]”We’ve played these guys in the past,” senior wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp added. “Two years ago, we went there. They’re always a good team. They’re always extreme competitors and from a defense point of view they are fast.”
They were, indeed.
All that holding true, Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter started more quarterbacks last year (four) than he won games (three). And yet, for the entire first half, his club not only hung around with the Cornhuskers, but stretched them to their limits.
Ultimately, however, Nebraska finished enough second half drives to leave Week 1 with a 43 10 win, wrapping up a three game series against Fresno State that began in 2011. The win is Nebraska’s 30th consecutive against Mountain West opponents, and 35th in 37 all time meetings.
“We just have to be better than that,” Riley said after the win, referencing the 80 yards in penalties his team amassed. The Cornhuskers have produced at least 80 yards in penalties in half of their games since Riley took over.
“There’s lots of stuff that has to change,” Riley said. “Sometimes you feel like you can’t make a good play without a celebration penalty, which is silly to me.”
But, of course, considering the circumstances, the night was much more than a football game for many. Sam Foltz, the incumbent starting punter, reigning Big Ten punter of the year, and widely respected special teams leader, died in a car crash less than two months ago.
Those wounds are still raw. Who knows when the callouses will come.
A product of Greeley, Nebraska a town of hundreds, not thousands, Foltz walked on in Lincoln rather than accept a scholarship to another school, committed himself to punting. He earned a scholarship and became the most feared leg in the Big Ten Conference. Few have embodied the ethos of the Nebraska football team quite like Foltz. Even fewer were as outwardly proud to represent the program.
Saturday night, then,
became an open memorial for 90,013, an often overwhelming tribute for the man who graduated in May with a degree in agronomy.
A standing memorial for Foltz was placed in a highly trafficked spot in the northwest corner of Memorial Stadium. Tens of people wore custom made shirts and raised self drawn signs. One boy, two hours before kickoff, asked his father where Foltz had gone. His father didn’t respond, letting the moment float.
A piece of corn was laid nearby. Written in black sharpie was “RIP27” and two words: “Dream Big.”
Inside the stadium, pre recorded video segments blared loudly over the stadium’s movie theater like scoreboard and accompanying speakers. Sam Hahn, another of Foltz’s close friends, a fellow agronomy major from DeWitt, calmly stared at the camera and proudly announced he was “from Smalltown, USA,” a nod to his buddy.
“I think about him at random times all the time,” Hahn said earlier in the week, “but it’s never really caused me to lose focus too much. It did at the beginning of camp a little bit a few days. I’ll probably think about him before the game a little bit and maybe during that first punt, stuff like that. But at the same time you have a job to do and you have to do it, and that’s what he’d want.”
Drew Brown, one of Foltz’s best friends on the team and the starting kicker who was in Wisconsin, working the same camp when the fatal crash occurred brought out Foltz’s No. 27 uniform to the sidelines during pregame kicks. He held it up for the student section to see; they clapped and roared in return. Some wept.
“It was special because the kickers, the punters and the snappers are always the first ones on the field for warmup, and me and Spencer (Lindsay) carried Sam’s jersey,” Brown said. “It was a cool thing because he was always one of the first guys out on the field with us and we just felt it was right to carry his jersey. They set up his locker with his pads and shoes and everything, me and Spencer just felt that his jersey should be out there with us just like he was watching over our head.”
The game was Brown’s 27th as a college football player. Rain came down in sheets, splattering on the metal seats, wetting the turf.
A short while later, he stood by his family as he received the the inaugural Sam Foltz Memorial Scholarship. Foltz’s family members stood with him, too.
He later played catch with Foltz’s nephews on the sidelines, smiling as they threw their body weight into passes.