It seems for Husker fans that 1997 was more than a lifetime away. Since that time, it's been a blur, but in some cases, not blurry enough.
Most every streak that Nebraska once held proudly is all but gone save for the home sellouts, consecutive bowl bids and the record for Academic All-Americans.
What's defined this team over the last few years is almost irony in and of itself, an offense once steeped in tradition and respect, now one of the more maligned of any "major" team in the country.
Enter, Bill Callahan and his "West Coast" style, attempting to take one of the more antiquated philosophies and turning it on it's head. Part of what can only be considered a monumental tasking in making this transition is a major reason that Nebraska's goals in simply getting better and at least this year, not necessarily being the best.
Lucky for this green offense, they are going to have one of the best defenses in the country shouldering the load. An All-American secondary, an All-American middle-linebacker, an interior line that should be almost impossible to run on and their deepest unit at the rush end position in years.
This is a unit that Bill Callahan will be relying heavily upon early. "There have been times during the spring where our defense has showed flashes of dominance." he said at Big XII media days in Kansas City. "We are concentrating on a championship ring this season and it will rely on our defense early, which will allow some time for our offense."
While the defense has to carry the load, it's the offensive line that will ultimately determine just how this team does. Three players moved over from the defensive line to help bolster an anemic offensive-line in terms of overall depth. There still isn't that much depth even with all the changes, so this unit will not only be stressed in terms of learning the new philosophy, but knowing that most of those that are starters will be THE focal points almost the entire season.
The fortunate thing is that with the necessity to work out the kinks, Nebraska will need a fairly cushy schedule to accomplish just that. They have that at least with the Western Illinois game and while Southern Miss. has proven itself to be a defensively staunch team year to year, it's not suspected they'll be nearly as stingy this time around. After that, Nebraska's first road-trip takes it to Pittsburgh to play the now almost totally depleted Panthers.
Take that and a game hosting Kansas and it's a feasible four games to tune up that offense before they head down to Lubbock to play the Raiders.
These really are all just "tune-ups" though as with Nebraska's defense, it's not unreasonable to assume they will be undefeated when Oct. 23rd rolls around. That's Kansas State and it's in Manhattan - a place NU has pulled out a victory in a few years.
Even in some of the most dire years in recent memory for Husker fans, this game was one that no matter what, they thought they could win. Considering all the obstacles NU has to overcome this year and with Oklahoma returning so much, I doubt the optimism in pulling out a victory this year is quite as frequent this time around.
I have to look back to the 1996 season when Scott Frost replaced Tommie Frazier. That offense of Nebraska's was abysmal at best, having scored just the prior year 63 points on Arizona State in just the first half only to score none the entire game the next season.
The Nebraska defense was off-the-hinges good that year though, giving that offense at least a decent cushion. They never got that much better though, the defense ultimately suffering because they simply couldn't get off the field.
The good news for this version of the Huskers is that this offense will indeed get better. Each game, every week this offense will become a closer and better unit because when learning something new, that's just how this stuff goes.
If the defense can keep this team undefeated before they travel to Manhattan, the offense should have enough sense of what it can and can't do that Callahan and company will have something for anyone that plays them.
It's not enough this year to give them any sort of a title, but the best thing about the first year is that there's a second and a third. The future looks good for the Huskers.
Steve Ryan can be reached at SteveRyan@bigredreport.com or 402-730-5619