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Instead of dialing up third-down calls and making in-game adjustments on Saturday afternoon, Nebraska head football coach Scott Frost took his two young children trick-or-treating.
That, he said Monday, was about the only good that came of the Huskers’ game against Wisconsin being canceled.
Instead of trying to snap a seven-game losing streak against the Badgers, Nebraska’s players instead had a scary movie night at the football facility in an effort to keep them from going out on the town, lest COVID-19 issues were to pop up in the NU locker room and make Memorial Stadium feel like more of a haunted house than it already must for Frost and company.
In taking fellow QB Luke McCaffrey under his wing, Martinez was simply helping the program's culture, he says.
Frost said a straw poll in Monday morning’s team meeting revealed that the majority of the Huskers have either already voted or will do so Tuesday.
If all goes well this week — a tenuous proposition for anybody in 2020 — the Huskers will play their second game of the fall Saturday on the road against a 2-0 Northwestern team that finds itself tied atop the division. That would feel like a win in and of itself at this point.
“This has been such a broken, messed-up year,” Frost said Monday. “I see some college football teams that have played six, seven games played. … It’s November and we’ve played one game.”
The frustration in the program about the way this year has unfolded so far — from the season being altered in July, and then postponed in August and reinstituted after a bitter fight and plenty of hard feelings, and then being the first team to lose a game because of an outbreak at a different school — showed through on Monday.
“I think we’ve officially set a record for the most practices with one game under our belt in the history of college football, there’s no question about that,” Frost said. “But I think our guys are learning to roll with the punches.”
Nebraska’s challenge now is to channel it against Northwestern. The third-year head coach went a step further in regards to his players’ mentality.
“It’s just not a normal year. It’s kind of Murphy’s Law right now, missing a game, missing a home game, all the things that are happening,” he said. “I think our kids have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder. I don’t know what will happen on Saturday — we’re playing a really good team — but I know our kids are going to play hard.
“You can just tell. They wanted to play, they see us fighting to try to get them to play,” he continued. “We’ve kind of failed at every turn. They just want to be on the field. I think they feel like some people are out to get them or have an ax to grind against them a little bit. I think they feel like they haven’t accomplished everything they could have accomplished. I think they feel like they’ve lost some close games that we could have won if we played a little better, a little harder, a little smarter.”
In addition to progressing in his own game, Robinson is trying to make sure NU's next wave of receivers is ready to get on the field.
Junior quarterback Adrian Martinez essentially summed up the comments of several of his teammates Monday in describing what he sees from a group that was told its game had been canceled last Wednesday, then thought for 24 hours perhaps they’d play Tennessee-Chattanooga, then by Thursday morning had turned its attention to Northwestern.
“I think we’ve had that (chip on our shoulder) coming into this season and we continue to have that chip and just a determined mentality,” the two-time captain said. “I feel really good about where our heads are at this week.”
Frost in 17 minutes of taking questions said the phrase “want to play” or some version in regards to his players more than a dozen times. He couldn’t help but laugh when told that Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald on Monday called it a “huge advantage” that the Huskers were able to get a jump on game planning and getting healthy instead of playing.
“They had a week off. They obviously had a chance to watch us play,” Fitzgerald said. “We were in a four-quarter war. It’s a huge advantage for them. I know they would much rather have played last week."
Said Frost, “Maybe if this was Week 7 or 8, having a week off would be nice, but we’ve only played one game. I don’t know, Pat’s one of the smartest guys in the country, probably, but I don’t know if I agree with him on that one.”
Nebraska won't have a normal week of preparation anyhow because Tuesday is a designated off day for the election. So the Huskers practiced Saturday, were off Sunday, practiced Monday, are off Tuesday and then have a normal Wednesday through Friday before getting on the plane to Chicago.
“Honestly with how crazy this year is and everything that’s going on, it’s just day by day,” senior right guard Matt Farniok said. “Just continue to work to understand the game plan that’s in front of us and just be a better person and better player than who you were yesterday.”
Junior defensive tackle Damion Daniels said he thought the team put a strange week in the rear-view mirror and got refocused on Northwestern quickly. The question then becomes whether the adversity and the uncertainty and the frustration propels the Huskers forward, or if it becomes a burden.
“I think our program is ready to turn a big-time corner," Frost said, "But it’s tough too if we’re given circumstances where we can’t get on the field and get better. I think our kids are just anxious to get back out there and try to compete and win a game.”
The first game of the fall in Lincoln will kick off at 11 a.m. and is set for broadcast on FS1.
Maybe Bill Moos is right. Perhaps Nebraska's off week will turn out to be an advantage. The Huskers could use one.