There were very few Husker fans who expected to be winning nine or more games this year. At least in my personal orbit, articles I read, and forays into Facebook and Twitter, I found few people who were capping this year’s upside higher than eight wins with most in the 6-7 range. It seemed reasonable.
What I did encounter were plenty of fans from other teams who were convinced that Nebraska fans thought we were winning 12 games, the Big 10 title, going to a major bowl game if not the playoff, etc, all through the magic of Scott Frost. Those people are crowing now over us currently eating crow. Which we’re not because most of us never said those things.
Don’t get me wrong - I’m sure there were maaaaybe a few people out there getting deep into the Busch Light and the Kessler (“Smooth as silk”, Mark and Kelly) and talking themselves into 10+ wins and other accomplishments that fell squarely into ““Ron Powlus will win two Heismans” territory. But that kind of talk sure seemed like the minority voice and usually drew comments like, “Have another beer, Larry. She’s just kidding.”
But what I heard more than anything else was that after watching Nebraska get trounced repeatedly while playing uninspired football again and again the last couple of years, people just wanted a first step of seeing the Huskers consistently compete and play with passion again.
Well folks, it’s time to put up or shuttup and maybe not for the last time this season. The Huskers are competing, they are playing with more passion on both sides of the ball and, right now, they have zero wins to show for it. Instead, it’s two losses against teams that we dared to mark down as W’s before the season started. For the foreseeable future, can we live with more passion and competitive desire if the wins don’t immediately follow?
Can we we trust in **shudder** THE PROCESS?
(By the way, if you’re not seeing the difference so far, then I’m guessing you’re one of those folks that’s secretly hoping this will fail. May Iowa fans squat in your basement and law enforcement fail to assist you in their removal.)
For their part, players are doubling down on their buy-in and Tanner Farmer suddenly found himself going viral as the voice of what it means to dedicate yourself on and off the field and challenging his teammates to do the same. The record might be 0-2, but things like this show that while there was no way it was coming back in just a few months, the desired culture is starting to seep in at the lower part of the foundation that Frost spoke of rebuilding.
“When I first got here, I thought I worked hard in high school, to be a wrestler, to be a football player and I was pretty good at both. And I thought I was working hard. And then I got to college and I worked just as hard as I did in high school and I didn’t do crap. So, it is just a whole new level. If you succeed in high school, you have to be ready to amp it up, go even harder. It is truly just committing everything.
”I don’t have free time. I am up from dusk until dawn dedicating myself to football and schoolwork. I make sure I am passing my classes and I want to do everything I can. You’re doing extra stuff, if you want to go to yoga or watch more film that’s what it takes. You don’t really get a social life during football season. Either leave it or take it.”
In addition to what we’re seeing with our own eyes, there are concrete signals as well that Frost has started heaving the the ship’s wheel in the right direction. The Huskers are 0-2 and the schedule does not get any easier...but if the first few weeks are any indication, the Big 10 is not the juggernaut that pre-season polls might have indicated, at least so far. Losing to the 2017 defending Sun Belt champs, 11-2 last season, stings but is far from the most embarrassing Big 10 loss this month.
Compare some stats from this season to last - yes, there’s only 2 games to consider from 2018, but that’s all they’ve played. I work with what I’ve got:
Total Offense per game: 43rd nationally – 465 ypg (5th in Big 10) - (2017 - 385 ypg – 7th in Big 10 & 87th nationally)
Rushing Yards: 18th nat.– 283 ypg- 3rd B1G - (2017 - 107 ypg – 13th & 120th)
Total Defense: 38th nat. - 324 ypg – 6th B1G (tied with Penn St) (2017 - 438 ypg – 14th & 104th)
Rush yards allowed: 19th nat. - 93.5 ypg – 4th B1G - (2017 - 238 ypg – 13th & 115th)
Pass yards allowed: 80th nat. - 230 ypg – 10th B1G. - (2017 - 221 ypg – 11th & 61st)
Total yardage vs. Colorado: 565 - 395
Total yardage vs. Troy: 364-253
On the flip side, I’m sure everyone who’s been watching is very aware of what has been causing us to scream unspeakable profanities at their televisions the last couple of weeks. For the sake of thoroughness, here’s what’s been turning Mr. Win into Mr. Loss:
Turnover Margin: -4 (Huskers 6 Opponents 2)
Penalties: 21-172 yards
1 Punt Return for TD given up
2 missed FG’s
These are fixable problems. They’re literally the difference between 0-2 and 2-0. Last year’s problems were not.
So that is where we stand right now. 0-2 and improving.
There’s disappointment and that’s expected. We all want to win.
But in the face of both the eye test and statistical evidence, the first rumblings of discontent are beginning. Whether it’s the last gasp of Riley-weenies seeing their final opportunities to screech that sprinkles and Calibraska weren’t given a fair shake or those folks who will never truly be happy unless Nebraska is winning 10+ per year and playing annually in the conference title game at a minimum, some grousing is there.
However, like Tanner and the boys, it’s time to either buy in or get some Chiefs gear and rededicate yourself to having the finest lawn in the neighborhood.
One of Bo’s greatest flaws was trying to cultivate that “us against the world” mentality and too often, he made Husker fans part of that world. Frost has embraced the fanbase as part of the culture and the fanbase must return the favor by getting behind this through thick and thin. Especially the thin.
Me, I find myself turning to the words of Coach Eric Taylor as I so often do in times of crisis. For those of you who did not watch the Friday Night Lights TV series, I will tell you only that Coach Taylor is the finest fictional football coach who ever graced the screen, large or small.
This 0-2 start reminds of the Texas state championship game when Taylor’s Dillon Panthers found themselves being flat smoked by something like four touchdowns at halftime. To make matters worse, the opposing QB was Ray “Voodoo” Tatum, a 5-star Hurricane Katrina transfer who had quit the Panthers after being benched. (To make matters MUCH MUCH worse, Voodoo was stunt doubled by former Texas QB James Brown in the football scenes. Yes. THAT James Brown)
Coach Taylor calmly told the boys that while many had given up on them, there were some in the stands who still believed in them and it was these people they needed to take into their hearts in the second half. He then unleashed this on the team:
“Every man at some point in his life is gonna lose a battle. He’s gonna fight and he’s gonna lose. But what makes him a man, is that in the midst of that battle he does not lose himself. This game is not over. This battle is not over.”
This season is not over.
It’s time to buy in.
All the way in.
(For shit’s and giggles, here’s the video clip of Coach Taylor’s speech. It’s crap quality and for some inexplicable reason, there’s Spanish subtitles. I’m guessing it’s a matter of time before this gets yanked on a copyright infringement. Enjoy.)