Northern Illinois vs. Nebraska, 9.14

Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez awaits the snap in the fourth quarter against Northern Illinois on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Three takeaways from Nebraska's weekly football/volleyball news conference:

Scott Frost clearly was ready for one question in particular. His anticipation of media storylines is typically pretty strong.

And, boom, there it was — the first question out of the gate.

Reporter: "It seems like each time you score, you guys have pretty explosive plays on the drive. Is it all a concern that you get too reliant on that? Or is that just the nature of how you get things done?"

Frost: "I think we might be looking into stuff a little too much if we're worrying about having big plays. We want those to happen."

Nebraska's 44-8 victory Saturday night against Northern Illinois was largely defined by the Husker offense's laundry list of big plays. Dedrick Mills peeled off a 61-yard run and Maurice Washington a 60-yarder. JD Spielman hauled in a 41-yard reception, and Wan'Dale Robinson a 30-yarder. On and on. It was a thing of beauty, really.

But the line of questioning makes sense in a broader scope. Nebraska, in Year 2 of Frost's building project, lacks the sort of horsepower in the trenches to line up and overpower defenses for 60 minutes. Frost hopes that day will come.

In the meantime, Nebraska does in fact need chunk plays.

There's not a team on Earth that would turn one down.

It can be a tricky exercise to assess the culture of any organization, let alone a football operation with some 200 people involved. But we should give credit where it's due here.

Nebraska showed zero effects Saturday night from its gut-punch loss the previous week at Colorado. The Huskers jumped on Northern Illinois immediately and were never seriously threatened.

So let's call it a good "culture win."

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It's easy to overlook that part and easy to forget Frost's program is still in relative early stages of growth.

"The guys were fired up to play, to get out under the lights," said Husker sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez, a team captain. "We approached the game in a great way. There was no hangover effect."

That's nothing to take for granted. I stopped taking it for granted late in the Mike Riley era when blowout losses became a routine occurrence. The program's culture essentially was in shambles.

Of course, Martinez wasn't around here in 2017.

"It was a tough loss (at Colorado)," he said of the 34-31 overtime setback. "But in my mind and a lot of the team leaders' minds, there was nowhere else to go but forward. We knew we had to win against Northern Illinois. We knew we had to win that game. We had to come out strong for our team and for the rest of the season.

"I really think the guys recognized it was a big game, and we came to practice and worked hard, and then responded in the game. It wasn't our best game, but we found a way to win on both sides of the ball."

As is the case with Frost, Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook asks his players to perform with a sense of fearlessness. Cook gave a great answer as to why.

He said there's a certain pressure that goes with playing for a powerhouse program. Expectations can be daunting. What's more, high-achieving athletes tend to put pressure on themselves. But pressure can lead people to hold back and fail to realize all of their God-given talent instead of cutting loose and playing without fear. 

"It's a tough thing to do," said Cook, whose top-ranked Huskers play No. 2 Stanford at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Devaney Sports Center. "You just have to be ready to go for it. This generation, they think they need to be perfect all the time."

Sounds like a subject to delve into another day.

Watch: Frost, players talk about road ahead to Illinois

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.


Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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