This isn't exactly the look Scott Frost envisioned for his program in his second year in charge.
It couldn't be the look. It sure as heck shouldn't be.
This game was a bad look for Nebraska in too many ways. Not in all ways, mind you, but in too many. Indiana prevailed 38-31 on Saturday at Memorial Stadium largely because the Huskers made too many sloppy mistakes and not nearly enough big plays when needed. In the end, as the sun set on a gorgeous afternoon, you saw a lot of Big Red fans with stern faces. A crowd of 89,317 was eerily quiet.
I'm guessing that quiet soon gave way to grumbling at dinner tables, in bars, on message boards, wherever passion for Nebraska football still flows, even through these tough times for the program. Some of the grumbling this week will be loud, and much of it for good reason.
Nebraska's offense did enough to win with 514 total yards but hurt itself with two lost fumbles that Indiana turned into touchdowns. The Husker pass defense was lousy and special teams were disappointing, which is par for the course for that phase of the game.
Special teams often give you a good barometer on a program's culture. It's dirty work. It's work that gets taken for granted. If special teams operate at a high level, it usually indicates a team that pays attention to details and performs even grunt work with passion.
I mention the "culture" buzz word because it was the theme of Frost's postgame session with reporters. In short, the culture isn't where the Nebraska head coach wants it.
"We have a lot of guys on this team that really care," he said. "We've got some guys on the team who are tough and dedicated enough. We don't have enough of them yet. I told the team that's where we are right now. We're just OK. We're just OK right now. Because a lot of things that are done are just OK.
"I'm not going to be happy with 'just OK.' I want a bunch of team players who aren't going to be happy with 'just OK.'"
Then came his standard line, "This is going to keep getting better. …"
I think he's right. Nebraska fans pray he's right. Reasonable Husker fans understand the mess he inherited from the previous coaching staff. Reasonable fans will be sufficiently patient in large part because many of them, especially those who remember Frost's days as a player, have profound respect for the man in charge.
That said, even reasonable Nebraska fans have limits to their patience. I'm guessing their patience was tested on this day. Their patience will be tested when they don't see sound football. It'll be tested when they see too many examples of uninspired football. It'll be tested when they see dumb football.
Even Frost's patience was tested. He had his team's mistakes on his mind as he did his halftime interview with the Husker Sports Network, growling, "We can't be so dumbass stupid early on in the game. We're missing blocks and fumbling. … This game probably shouldn't be close. We can't do that stuff. I'm tired of that. "
It almost goes without saying, but it's Frost job to train players to execute the minor details, such as lining up correctly on a critical fourth-and-1 in the second quarter. The flag for an illegal formation resulted in Nebraska attempting a 32-yard field goal, which Barret Pickering pulled wide left.
It's Frost and his staff's job to create the sort of mental and physical toughness that leads to Nebraska holding Indiana without a first down on a fourth-and-7 early in the fourth quarter. Instead, Whop Philyor somehow found enough open space for a 7-yard reception. The guy finished with 14 receptions on the day! How in the world did he get open?
Then, tack on 10 yards because a Husker senior lineman roughed the passer. Seriously?
Yeah, that series of events will test any reasonable fan's patience.
So will a third-quarter punt that travels only 19 yards and hands Indiana (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) excellent field position, and a 45-yard kickoff that dribbles out of bounds.
Peyton Ramsey, who actually lost Indiana's starting quarterback job in August, was brilliant much of the day, finishing 27-for-40 passing for 351 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception. Nebraska's pass rush was anemic and its coverage often poor, especially on under routes.
Yeah, it all gets a bit old.
"Nobody's more disappointed than me, but Nebraska fans are disappointed," Frost said. "Everybody wants this to happen faster. It's going to happen. But one of the ways it's going to happen is 'just OK' can't exist around here.
"There's a little too much 'just OK.'"
Consequently, Nebraska (4-4, 2-3) may be hard-pressed to qualify for a bowl. This program needs a bowl badly. Very badly. Two more wins are needed for it to happen. The good news is, the Huskers are stocked with three talented quarterbacks. Of course, all three are limping to varying degrees at the moment. But Noah Vedral and Luke McCaffrey were superb much of the afternoon, as was do-everything Wan'Dale Robinson.
But the defense's shortcomings were too much to overcome.
"We were in position to make plays and didn't," Husker linebacker Mohamed Barry said. "That's the story of this game."
It's actually not that simple. Which explains Nebraska fans' stern looks, and the grumbling you'll hear this week.