2019 Nebraska football.
A common phrase in these situations is, “Some day we’ll all look back on this and laugh”. You say such things when something awful has happened; you’ve totaled your car, ruined Christmas drunk again, or when you’ve mistakenly pulled the second drive out of a RAID 5 set and realize you’re going to spend the next 24 hours straight restoring from tape or be fired.
I am unsure we will laugh much. Perhaps in five years, we’ll have forgotten this season as better times occur. That is my hope anyway.
We could just label it now: 2019 Nebraska Football - A Season To Forget.
The CN Staff gets together to answer some questions about what just happened.
Look back at our predictions in August. Take into account what was happening then, and what happened, and do a one-sentence reaction to what happened.
Jon: I thought we were going to a great sushi place then everyone got food poisoning and nearly died.
Jill: I suck at predictions.
Uglydog56: I predicted problems at center and linebacker. I’m going to buy a lottery ticket!
Brianna: I drank a lot of spiked Koolaid and the hangover lasted for months
Andy: I’m not scrolling back for 45 minutes, I’d rather drink my own piss. Pretty sure I said 5-7 and nailed it.
Patrick: “We threw gasoline on the fire and now have stumps for arms and no eyebrows” - NOFX
Mike: Well, we didn’t see THAT happening.
Nate M: Everything that could happen...happened.
Did Nebraska make progress in any areas of the game - offense, defense, special teams? If so, what were they?
Jill: Penalties. They got much better at not getting penalized.
Uglydog56: They’ve just about perfected soul-crushing last minute losses.
Brianna: Jill took my answer. I wasn’t crying after every big play because it was called back due to a penalty. The offensive line made progress from the beginning of the year to the late games.
Jon: The defense made progress on third down conversions. Last year they were 105th, this year they progressed to 76th. We won one more game than last season. Sure, the competition wasn’t as stiff but if all you want to complain about is wins and losses - we got one more win. I agree with Brianna in that the offensive line made significant progress from the beginning of the season to the end. If Cameron Jurgens stays healthy we have an All-Big Ten level center for the next three years.
Andy: Penalties improved a ton. I thought the offensive line showed massive improvement as the season progressed - if you’re not sure, check who was winning the trenches in the 2nd half of Iowa and blocked Dedrick Mills to 187 yards against the immovable beef of Wisconsin. Yes, there were a couple close wins, but there were four “If only we didn’t step on our dicks” losses from being 9-3. (Colorado, Purdue Indiana, Iowa)
Patrick: Scotts headwear choices are on point.
Mike: The defense did get better as the season went along...but they got better last season as well. The offense regressed far more than we expected, and with the lack of production from the receivers...well, get recruiting, Scott.
Nate M: Special teams definitely isn’t it. Offense definitely isn’t it, except for the offensive line. So I guess that leaves us with defense.
The offense was supposed to carry the team in 2019. It did not. If you had to choose one thing that sucked about the offense, name it.
Uglydog56: I know Martinez is going to be a lightning rod for criticism, but my opinion is the offensive line woes at the beginning of the season got him so out of sync there was no coming back from it. My 1b would be the wide receivers. No one could get open. Ever. They must all have 5 pound cleats on or something.
Brianna: I’m with Jill. Sometimes they racked up 500-600 yards and others they did nothing.
Jon: Lack of a consistent direction. I realize you’re supposed to game plan for every opponent, but this year’s offense looked like somebody was just trying to nail a bunch of boards together and hope it became a house. We had a lead in the Colorado game and Scott Frost sat on it. We would do well within the 20s and then break down in the red zone. I understand the horizontal passes, but when your guys consistently can’t execute them why bother?
Andy: Adrian Martinez’ injuries. I know he went from biggest recipient of our love to “I always thought Gebbia was better, I wish he’d transfer” in no time flat - Gawd bless our level-headed social media warriors. To be fair, screaming for the backup in Lincoln is a Husker tradition as old as David Humm and Randy Garcia. (Ask Bobby & Eric)
Dude was 19 years old and played 0 games healthy. He didn’t suddenly forget how to play.
Patrick: Depth. There was little to no depth across the board. We should have seen it coming but Scott told Dirk that this would be the best season ever.
Mike: What sucked? Receivers. After JD Spielman, you had Wan’Dale Robinson, who ended spending most of his time at I-back after Maurice Washington disappeared. And that left … well, a few catches by Kanawai Noa (who missed the last two games of the season). Maurice Washington ended up with the same number of catches (12) as Mike Williams, Jaevon McQuitty, Jaron Woodyard, Darien Chase and Chris Hickman all friggin’ season long. Yes, Mike Riley left the receiver room a mess, but we haven’t seen much evidence Frost is cleaning that mess up.
Nate M: First down success rate. If I am correct, I think it was one of the worst in the country. If you are not good on first down then things are going to be extremely difficult.
Give me three newcomers (not named Wan’Dale) this season that give you reasons for optimism next season.
Jill: Cam Jurgens, Garrett Nelson, whichever body emerges at wide receiver in spring/fall practices.
Uglydog56: Cam Taylor-Britt showed some flashes on defense. I think there’s a lot of potential there. Offensive tackle Bryce Benhardt has an R2 unit in front of him showing a hologram of a hot princess with sidebun hair pleading for his help as we speak. And Jill is right. SOMEONE has to break out at wide receiver!
Brianna: Dedric Mills really came into his own after the first few games. I think next year he’ll bring a lot to our offense. I am going to go with Jill on Garrett Nelson too. I love his excitement and his drive.
Jon: Luke McCaffrey, Luke McCaffrey, and then there’s this guy named Luke McCaffrey. I find it funny that for the latter part of the season I kept hearing fans say, “they should play the younger players”. They were playing the younger players. Other than McCaffrey (for the record, the quarterback is NOT the entire football team), I’m not sure who fans were clamoring for.
Andy: Dedrick Mills (finally got a little blocking and became the guy I thought he’d be while being confused because we were running 355 lbs. of Mo and Wan’Dale up the middle)
Cam Jurgens (When you were a TE the year before and coming off 36 surgeries on each knee, start the year mocked for firing snaps like a drunk 14 year old with bottle rockets & a lighter and finish grading out like a member of the 90’s pipeline? There’s a future here)
Luke (Not to take over but for the fun of running in & out, double wildcat with Adrian, playing WR, messing with the opposition and burning their TO’s. This is a not a kid in a hurry. And we get 12 games of REDSHIRT FRESHMAN LUKE and HEALTHY ADRIAN jacking with fools. Strap on, kids. They’re both coming back and Max Duggan gets to get in on the fun for 4 games next year too. It’s gonna be a little fun.)
Patrick: Ty Robinson, Ronald Tompkins, & Demariyon Houston. With the exception of Ty, we have not seen them on the field and should all step up well this next season. No guarantee that they will but a year of development “should” benefit their progress.
Mike: Late in the season, I think Frost was forced to accept what Dedrick Mills could do in this offense. LIke Devine Ozigbo in 2018, it was a lesson Frost had to learn late in the season. Good news is that Mills will be tough to ignore in 2020. Cam Taylor-Britt immediately became one of my favorite players on the defense, and while we paid a heavy price for it in 2019, Cam Jurgens is going to pay dividends down the line at center.
Nate M: Logan friggin Smothers. The dude is the truth. But in seriousness I think it starts with Jurgens which everybody has mentioned. Besides the guys mentioned I guess I’ll take a shot and go with Adrian Martinez. I think he didn’t play well and there were numerous reasons both of his own control and out of his control for why he played so bad throughout the year. Getting healthy and having a quarterback competition next year should bring out the best in him.
Rhamir Johnson then? He showed his speed but I think he will show more elusiveness and natural running tendences as he got more experience. Lastly, I guess I’ll go with Chris Hickman. He was trucking some people on offense and he looks like a bean pole. I am excited to see what he looks like after putting on more weight.
What will the expectations be for 2020? What will be considered an improvement, a “good” season?
Jill: I think expectations will probably drop lower than they should, which is okay. A “good” season might need to start with getting to a bowl game. Of course, next fall, I’m sure I’ll talk myself into an 8-4 prediction somehow.
Uglydog56: Expectations may be low now, but after 270 days of off-season, the kool-aid will be flowing once again. I think a good season is a bowl game, next year. Not the year after that, not in perpetuity, just next year. That’s the next step up the mountain.
Brianna: Definitely making a bowl game will be considered a good season. When I look at next year’s schedule, I think 6-7 wins will be a decent improvement.
Jon: I ain’t expectin’ nuthin’.
This whole idea that Scott Frost has to go a minimum of 8 – 4 next year in order to keep his job is idiotic at best. Someone made a comment that we should let the sellout streak end in order to send a message to the people in charge. This is the dumbest shit idea I can think of because it would destroy one of the better recruiting tools we have. What you’re engaging in is self harm and it is closely associated with serious mental illness.
There were other schools that fired their coaches before they completed their second seasons. Those occurred because boosters and the fan base had deserted their team. Nebraska is nowhere close to that and unless the bottom falls out we won’t be there next year either. I know there’s always those people that are going to talk “doom” no matter what happens. The key to having a joyful off-season will be about how well you do at ignoring them.
Andy: Welp, I don’t think Adrian’s going to be on every keyboard pounder’s short list of Heisman finalists. And I think next year, he could actually end up in the discussion. (If healthy. If constantly dinged up again...it’s probably a permanent issue. Let’s hope not.)
Expectation-wise, two straight losing seasons with strong finishes will probably bring predictions to a reasonable level. Expect prognostications for a Husker West Division title to be limited as coming from people
Patrick: I stink at bowling so let’s say bowling. Other than that, I’ll go off of what the media tells me I should be excited about. Even if they haven’t seen anything themselves.
Mike: Minnesota went from a not-very-impressive 7-6 team in 2018 to a 10 win program in Fleck’s third season of boat-rowing in the land of 10,000 lakes. So I’m not completely abandoning my hopes of winning the division next season.
But after getting my hopes destroyed over and over again, I’m not going to bank on that. But I am going to bank on the start of next year’s schedule being enough to get this team to 7-5. Would that be “good”? I wouldn’t classify it as “good”, but it would show progress. And that’s what I think we have to accept.
Nate M: Six or seven wins. The schedule is really difficult. Starting out with Purdue. I assume Rondale Moore will be healthy and that’s not good.