LINCOLN, Neb. -- The celebration subsided for a moment Saturday in the locker room under the towering north end-zone seats as Erik Chinander, the Nebraska defensive coordinator and former Iowa offensive lineman, grabbed a football -- the game ball -- and raised it in his right hand.
"His first win ... as the head coach ... at Nebraska ... back home," said Chinander, the tone in his voice rising. "Many more to come."
And with that, the noise level jumped, muting Chinander. He tossed the ball to Scott Frost, who stood in the center of several dozen kneeling Nebraska players. Frost clasped the game ball and slapped it hard. His expression said it all -- joy, relief and affirmation in the decision made nearly a year ago to tackle this challenge.
It has been more difficult than expected, the path to Frost's first victory as the head coach at his alma mater. It took seven games, including three narrow defeats and a season of lessons packed into six weeks.
In defeating Minnesota 53-28 at Memorial Stadium, Nebraska joined the other 64 Power 5 programs in the win column this year and snapped a school-record 10-game losing streak that has tested Frost's resolve.
"This is what it's supposed to feel like," the 43-year-old coach said a few minutes after leaving that locker room scene.
This victory offered hope, as Nebraska produced 659 yards of offense, the high figure for a Big Ten game in the school's eight years as a member of the conference.
Much of that time has seen Nebraska, proud as ever of its 46 conference titles, staring up at the likes of Wisconsin, Ohio State and Thanksgiving week rival Iowa, which has won three straight against the Huskers by a combined 80 points.
There's something to be said for starting over from the bottom.
It hides nothing, exposing every blemish, of which Nebraska had plenty. Still does, in fact. Midway through the losing streak to start this season, Frost compared the process to rebuilding a house -- from the foundation up.
And after a 41-24 loss at Wisconsin this month in which a characteristic 10 penalties plagued the Huskers, Frost told his team, "Sometimes when you're sick, you need to puke it out."
Frost's first victory was all about the future, engineered by true freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez. He was brilliant in piling up 401 yards of offense. In just six starts, Martinez has already equaled the school record with three 400-yard games.
"That kid is going to be real special," senior wideout Stanley Morgan Jr. said.
Martinez belies the image of an 18-year-old, speaking like a veteran and trusted leader.
"We expected to win Week 1," the QB said. "I'm thankful we are finally here, but we haven't arrived. We have a lot of season left, lots of opportunities to win games here, so we have to finish."
In the eyes of Frost and most in attendance for the NCAA-record 365th straight sellout, they were just getting started on Saturday.
Some 10 minutes before Chinander's game-ball presentation, Frost walked off the field to a thunder of applause, certainly not what you'd expect to see for the coach of a 1-6 team.
He said he grew emotional as he neared that north end zone closest to the locker room. Frost raised his red cap to the crowd, which responded with a louder roar. Even through the six defeats, even after an overtime loss a week earlier at Northwestern in which Nebraska squandered a 10-point lead in the final minutes, hardly a grumble was heard among this fan base.
In the hour before the game ended, Nebraska's Barret Pickering nailed a 39-yard field goal to put the Huskers up by 17 points midway through the fourth quarter. The crowd responded enthusiastically for the freshman, who was inconsistent amid the losing.
Earlier, when Nebraska extended its lead to 12 points midway through the third quarter after Minnesota scored 22 straight to nearly wipe out a 28-0 deficit, Frost called for a two-point conversion as an answer to P.J. Fleck's two-point try late in the first half.
The conversion succeeded. Frost has preached such aggressiveness since last winter.
The crowd and the coach, it seemed, both tried on Saturday to push the Huskers across the finish line.
"At some point," Frost said, "it's got to come from inside them to finish it."
And it did on Saturday. Frost said he saw a spark in the second half.
"I saw the guys fight back," he said.
Senior safety Tre Neal saw something, too, a familiar look. A new kind of fire, said Neal, who started for Frost and all of the Nebraska coaches a year ago at UCF on a 13-0 team that beat Auburn in the Peach Bowl.
"There's going to be a day around here when we're not celebrating one win," Frost said.
Saturday, though, was not that day. The moment of truth, in fact, came with the Huskers in retreat after those 22 straight Minnesota points. Most of the first half on Saturday resembled a scene out of a generation long gone as Nebraska opened holes up front for three 100-yard rushers.
But the four-touchdown lead disappeared fast. Doubt crept in. Frost said the struggles early in the second half felt like a movie he'd already seen.
"Act like it's 0-0," Neal said he told his teammates. "That's how we've got to play. And once we did that, everybody started to relax."
Martinez said he felt no panic up six points in the second half.
"I told the guys in the huddle before we ran out of the field we all knew what we needed to do," the freshman quarterback said. "We needed to put together a good drive, go down there and score."
Score they did, in four plays that covered 75 yards.
"This team has kept an immensely positive attitude," said senior running back Devine Ozigbo, who ran for 152 yards and two touchdowns. "Especially with the things that we've gone through, that's kind of surprising. But to finally get a positive result, all that work, all that fighting through the losses, fighting through the downs is paying off."
Nebraska plays FCS-level Bethune Cookman this coming Saturday, a late-schedule add to replace the Week 1 game against Akron that was canceled because of severe weather. Then it's off to Ohio State, a sure gauge of progress for the Huskers, who lost 56-10 in Week 4 at Michigan.
Frost has said repeatedly he won't measure success by wins and losses this year. He'll measure it by improvement and changes in culture and attitude.
Winning makes it all feel so much better. Learning to win provides the answer to so much more.
"We've been searching for it," linebacker Luke Gifford said.
After Morgan's 67-yard touchdown grab from Martinez that put the Huskers up by 24 with five minutes to play, Frost grabbed the receiver in a hug on the sideline and lifted him off the turf.
Clearly, together, they've found the start of something.