Steven M. Sipple, Parker Gabriel and Chris Basnett recap a wild week in Nebraska football. That, and NU hoops' season-opening stumble.
Things I know, and things I think I know:
Someone remarked last week that it feels like Nebraska's football season is over already.
That's an awful feeling. But in the context of last week's mega-news in the program, coupled with the Huskers' paltry record (3-7, 1-6 Big Ten), it's easy to understand the sentiment.
If you're a Nebraska fan, you might have felt a degree of jealousy Saturday if you watched Iowa players joyfully carry the Floyd of Rosedale Trophy on their shoulders after they won a bare-knuckle Big Ten West Division brawl against Minnesota in Iowa City.
If you're a Nebraska fan, you also might have spent your bye-week Saturday scouting Wisconsin's home win against Northwestern. By the middle of the second quarter, the Wildcats' defense clearly had no answers for the balanced Badgers. Meanwhile, UW's defense essentially dismantled Pat Fitzgerald's crew piece by piece. It was ugly.
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Surging Wisconsin improved to 7-3 overall and 5-2 in the Big Ten, while Iowa raised its record to 8-2 and 5-2. The Badgers, however, control their destiny in the race for first place in the division, having defeated the Hawkeyes two weeks ago.
As it all unfolded, I considered something a good friend suggested last week regarding expectations for Nebraska's program next season and perhaps even in future seasons. That is, it would be fair to expect the Huskers, at a minimum, to enter the last few weeks of the regular season in contention for first place in the division. That's happened only once (2016) in the past seven seasons.
If Nebraska right now were consistently playing at the level of Wisconsin and Iowa, or even Minnesota (6-4, 4-3) and perhaps even Purdue (6-4, 4-3), it's likely that Husker coach Scott Frost wouldn't have had to essentially overhaul his offensive coaching staff, as he did last week.
If Nebraska right now were in the hunt for first place in its division, there might still be some grumbling in the fan base, but the prevailing sentiment would be excitement for both the present and future.
There's no question the program's expectations have dropped precipitously (and organically) since 2014, when Bo Pelini was fired with a 9-4 record. The Huskers finished 5-3 in the division that season, tied for second. In Pelini's seven seasons at NU, the Huskers three times played in conference championship games (twice in the Big 12 and once in the Big Ten).
These days, however, you'll seldom hear Nebraska fans haughtily proclaim, "Our standards will never drop," a common refrain as recently as 2015.
That's because Nebraska is now on its way to its fifth straight losing season and sixth in the last seven years. So, yeah, the expectations have had to be adjusted, at least temporarily and perhaps permanently. But next season — which will be Frost's fifth in charge at NU — it shouldn't be too much to ask for the Huskers to enter the final few weeks of the regular season with a chance to win the division. Am I right?
In most seasons, that would mean Nebraska would have bowl eligibility wrapped up by mid-November. Next season, it would represent discernible progress in Frost's program, and likely would get him a sixth season at the helm.
The Big Ten is a bear. It'll probably remain a bear. It's become apparent that Nebraska's long-held standard of yesteryear — nine wins as a birthright — can no longer be applied in a fair manner.
So, just get to mid-November with a chance to win the division. Do it regularly. If Nebraska can manage that standard, it'll likely mean it's playing sound, hard-nosed football on a consistent basis. That's what Husker fans hunger for at the moment.
They long for meaningful games this time of year.
My heavens, those incredibly loyal fans have missed out on a lot of fun in recent years.
* Wisconsin fans are having some fun because the Badgers, who play host to the Huskers this Saturday, have righted themselves with six straight triumphs. They have an excellent chance to make their fifth appearance in the Big Ten Championship Game since the conference went to West and East divisions in 2014.
They're doing it with a lot of familiar faces. Receivers Kendric Pryor and Danny Davis and tight end Jake Ferguson have been around forever.
They're doing it with elite defense. The Badgers rank first nationally in total defense, allowing only 211.4 yards per game. Georgia is a distant second at 245.9. What's more, UW allows only 55.7 rushing yards per game, which also leads the nation (the Bulldogs are next at 78.10).
They're also doing it with a rising star at running back. True freshman Braelon Allen, age 17, has reeled off six straight 100-yard rushing games.
Good luck to defenders who try to arm-tackle the 6-foot-2, 238-pounder. He's already a good college back, but not necessarily a great one. If he keeps improving, he has a chance to be an elite back.
* Big Ten "wow" statistic of the week: Entering the game at Iowa, Minnesota was rushing the ball 68% of the time, the most of any FBS program that's not a service academy.
P.J. Fleck is doing excellent work in Minneapolis. Even so, he's now only 1-8 against Wisconsin and Iowa.
Nebraska fans can relate, but probably aren't overly empathetic.
* Big Ten "wow" score of the week: Rutgers 38, Indiana 3. The Hoosiers, ranked No. 17 in the preseason Associated Press Top 25, fell to 2-8 (0-7 Big Ten) with their sixth straight loss. They turned it over six times against the Scarlet Knights. Yikes.
* Heading for home: Texas has dropped five straight games, the latest a 57-56 overtime decision at home against Kansas. The Longhorns could be headed for seven straight defeats to end the season, with games remaining at West Virginia and against Kansas State.
I say with great certainty that Nebraska fans are unsympathetic.
* High-five to Kansas coach Lance Leipold, formerly an on-campus recruiting coordinator at Nebraska during the Frank Solich years.
The 57-year-old Leipold has a lot of friends in our neck of the woods who were "Rock Chalking" into the night Saturday.
'Nebraska showing some old-school patience': What people are saying about Scott Frost returning, 4 assistants out
Parker with the particulars
Much more coming from the LJS and OWH sit-down with Trev Alberts today, but here's one bit: It's pretty clear Scott Frost is going to hire a play-caller for his offense.— Parker Gabriel (@HuskerExtraPG) November 9, 2021
Also, NU's $5 million pool for assistants remains, but Alberts told Frost the final number has some flex.
Encouragement from the chancellor
I’ve had great confidence in Scott Frost from the beginning and still do. No one in Nebraska wants to win more than he does. Scott will continue to take the steps necessary to bring the football program to where it needs to be and I very much look forward to watching him do that. https://t.co/idw2tJwwTF— Ronnie D. Green (@RonnieDGreen) November 8, 2021
What could Frost's restructured contract look like?
Over the past year-plus, Jim Harbaugh and Scott Frost both agreed to restructured contracts to remain head coach. If Frost's is anything like Harbaugh's, I think it's great. All CFB coaching contracts should be lower bases/guaranteed money + incentives based on actual success.— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) November 8, 2021
What's that they say about patience again?
In a year when schools have been tripping over each other to fire coaches ASAP, Nebraska showing some old-school patience/faith that the record doesn't tell the whole story.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) November 8, 2021
Refreshing for some Huskers fans, depressing for others?
Too close to start over, says this FOX broadcaster
Ready to put speculation in rearview
Frost will be back next year with a restructured contract.— Meg (@hotmesshusker) November 8, 2021
While I'm really going to miss reading everyone and their mom's opinion about what they think should happen, I'm glad the speculation is over and we can get back to tweeting at Trev to bring back blonde Herbie.#gbr
'Close' to getting over the hump with Frost
I’m all for this! As frustrating as this season’s been, this team’s stronger than last season, and Scott Frost is close to getting over the hump with this squad.— Josh Idachaba (@JoshIdachaba) November 8, 2021
These last two games (both winnable) are a great opportunity to get a statement win and build momentum for 2022. https://t.co/e3Mx8LHddf
Bringing out the GIFs for the occasion
All it takes is a little time
Giving the alum the benefit of the doubt
Keeping Scott Frost has a lot of parallels to the decisions Georgetown hoops had as Ewing struggled early - there’s nowhere else to go, as an alum he has a lot of goodwill that will never extinguish. In GU’s case the faith worked but we stayed true to self and BE. Not NU case— Lorenzo Cortes (@Hoyatexas) November 8, 2021
The price tag on removing Frost is too high, some say
Where have we heard this sentiment before?
Props to #Nebraska for making the right decision:— Embrik Eyles (@EmbrikEyles) November 8, 2021
23-16 loss at #3 OU
23-29 loss at #23 MSU in OT
32-29 loss vs #9 Michigan
30-23 loss at Minnesota
28-23 loss vs Purdue
26-17 loss vs OSU
Scott Frost and the Corn Huskers are so close, no reason to get rid of him! https://t.co/rdDLzZR0kE
Husker O-lineman on coaching shakeup
Damn— Teddy Prochazka (@TeddyProchazka) November 8, 2021
6 not 3
Nebraska football finally figured it out — you’re not the coaching destination you think. Keep a guy that loves the Huskers and has shown he can win as a coach. Just not easy to win quickly at Nebraska anymore. It’s a 6 year rebuild. Not a 3.— Colin Cowherd (@ColinCowherd) November 8, 2021
A not-so-official statement from ex-Husker
Happy to move on past the rumors
I'm just happy the "Scott Frost is on the chopping block" narrative can go away now. Very happy to have him back for another year. He's the guy for this program— Jake Brown (@BandanaBrown) November 9, 2021
Money moves by Trev Alberts
So, Trev Alberts is basically giving Scott Frost one more season to end the misery, and to show any sign of noteworthy progress, and he took a million from Frost's salary and cut the $15 million buyout in half. That's doing your job as AD under difficult circumstances.— Pat Harty (@PatHarty) November 9, 2021
Less cash for Frost, more to attract new assistants?
It seems to me that Frost restructured contract in part to create more money for the pending staff hires that he will now be making...ADs think of coaching money in a large pool...They created close to $3M in room for the new hires with the exact same total pool— Joel Klatt (@joelklatt) November 9, 2021
Loyalty prevails on this day
Bob Devaney told me “Once a Husker, always a Husker”Never been prouder of being a Husker than I am today. @TrevAlberts did the right thing. Loyalty, not blind loyalty, should carry the day. “Scott Frost is one of Us” Well said Trev. @coach_frost PS: let’s get back to option.— McGraw Milhaven (@McGrawMilhaven) November 9, 2021