Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Cody Green couldn’t have asked for a better setting for his college debut as a starting quarterback.
Friends and family from his hometown of nearby Dayton, Texas, turned out in droves at Baylor’s Floyd Casey Stadium -- already one of the least imposing locales in the Big 12.
But that familiarity came with a cost, after Green received a strong rebuke from his old high school coach Jerry Stewart for some of his late struggles in an uneven debut.
“My head coach back at home, he’s straight-laced, not going to tell me anything that I want to hear,” Green said. “I called him after the game and he goes, ‘You know what? You choked that second half.’ I go, ‘Golly, c’mon coach. It’s just my first game.’”
After driving the three hours back home after the game, Stewart had a little softer recollection the following day for his former player when they hooked up.
“He called me and said, ‘You know what? I watched the film. I analyzed it. It wasn’t that bad,'" Green said. “'But you can still do better.'”
Green shares those sentiments after his first start last week directed the Cornhuskers to a crucial 20-10 victory over Baylor. His numbers were pedestrian, as he completed 12 of 21 passes for 128 yards and added 43 yards rushing. But they were still enough to lead the Cornhuskers to a huge victory that snapped a two-game losing streak while keeping their North Division title hopes alive.
Sure, Green’s second-half interception and fumble detracted a little. But he still guided the Cornhuskers on scoring drives on his first three possessions and had an extra zip that seemed to have been missing from the Cornhuskers’ attack in recent weeks when Zac Lee was starting.
It was a marked contrast from the previous two weeks when the Cornhuskers combined to score 17 points in home losses to Texas Tech and Iowa State. The misery bottomed out when they had eight turnovers in the ISU game.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Green made history in the game by becoming the first Nebraska quarterback since Tommie Frazier to start a game as a true freshman. And he impressed teammates and coaches with the moxie he showed during that game.
“He’s a confident young man with a lot of poise. Things are going to happen and you’re going to make mistakes,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. “But at the end of the day, I thought he handled it well. It’s not like he lacks confidence. I don’t think he’ll crawl into a shell. Cody’s not that kind of kid.”
But Pelini and Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson have stopped short of naming Green the starter for Saturday’s crucial game against Oklahoma.
“He still has a lot to learn,” Watson told reporters earlier this week. “The first time you walk out onto the field is obviously different than practice. You can’t simulate a game, the emotions of the game and the highs and lows. He had a valuable learning experience in that game.”
That first start should especially help against Oklahoma, which will arrive at Memorial Stadium with one of the nation’s top defenses. Along with Nebraska, the Sooners are the only Big 12 team to rank among the top-20 teams nationally in rush defense, pass efficiency defense, total defense, scoring defense, sacks and tackles for losses.
Wily Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables is well known for his intricate blitz packages. Texas quarterback Colt McCoy was knocked to the ground 14 times in the first half by the Sooners. After the game, he said that he had never seen most of the blitzes that Oklahoma employed.
“I expect they’ll bring the house on me, try to change things up and show me things I hadn’t seen on tape before,” Green said.
McCoy is a senior who was making his 45th career start in that game. Asking Green to combat that stout Oklahoma defense will be a tall order in his second career start.
But Green is confident in his abilities to run the offense, despite his lack of experience.
“I just really have to rely on my instincts,” Green said. “Lean on the offense and the coaches to explain to me things on the field and off the field that will really help me out.''