By this time next week, the Nebraska football team will have a "1" on one side of its win-loss ledger. The Huskers will play a game that counts to start a season that could count for a lot, or not much at all.
It's been a journey, 330 days since Nebraska's last game, when Iowa kicker Keith Duncan was blowing kisses to the NU sideline and ticking off the Husker fan base, to its next, in a mostly empty Ohio Stadium against a national title contender.
Nebraska's fans, coaches, administrators and athletes have been ticked off since then, too. Except, the opponent has been invisible.
"We're lining up against an opponent that we're learning more about, but we don't know everything about at this time," Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos told the Journal Star. "And as frustrating as that is, and as much as it's not the normal way to approach things, it's kind of like a good offense."
There's always a football analogy with Moos.
"You've got to be able, when you get to the line of scrimmage, to call an audible and know that you can carry out the play," Moos said. "And that's pretty much what we're doing."
Nebraska is one of the few in the Big Ten who didn't want to audible to begin with. NU voted to play the season as scheduled when things first fell into doubt. Everyone at Nebraska, from the top of the leadership chain to the head coach to the players who sued the Big Ten, wanted the same thing.
And now they have it.
"It’s been tough, not knowing if we were going to play or not for the longest (time). Just patiently waiting on everybody to make this decision on if we were going to have a season or not. And everybody was anxious to play," NU defensive back Cam Taylor-Britt said this week. "I’d say anybody here was ready to play right in September if we could, or in August, but we didn’t get that chance. And now that we have that chance I believe everybody is ready to let loose and just go out there and ball."
While it was a victory for Nebraska to get back on the field, that doesn't mean reality doesn't stare the Huskers in the face every single day. Around the country, more than 30 college football games have been postponed or canceled entirely.
Just this week one of Moos' best friends in the business, Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne, announced he had tested positive for COVID-19 along with Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban. Saban's test was later determined to be a false positive.
Moos gave Byrne his first full-time job at Oregon back in 1995, when halfway across the country, the football program he would oversee more than 20 years later was running roughshod over the sport.
One of Moos' dearest person friends also came down with the coronavirus in April. Moos said his friend feels lucky to be alive.
Closer to home, Moos has seen the virus sneak through stringent protocols NU has had in place for months.
"It's always felt real. We've had student-athletes and assistant coaches test positive. Not an abundance of them, because I think our protocol is very good," Moos said. "So I've seen it within close friends and staff and colleagues and such.
"It's always been real to me."
What's real now, too, is Nebraska playing a football season. The first game is less than a week away. The Huskers are almost to the finish line, only to have to start again.