This is the third time this season I’ve had to start this report trying to justify how a team with a losing record is awfully damn close to being really good...if not approaching elite. I’m not sure I have to work that hard at it, though. I get a strong feeling that the vast majority of Husker fans recognize that as well. “Would’ve,” “Could’ve,” and really “Should’ve” are trying to claim moral victories in lieu of real victories. Yes, it’s better than the last time the Huskers faced Michigan, so progress is clear. But Nebraska is still coming up short. Ideally those shortcomings will drive this program to keep pushing to get to that next level, where the team gets rewarded with real victories instead of these moral ones. But I still worry about the fatigue factor within the program. It’s hard to continually have to realize that while you’ve been pushing harder, you’ve still got more even more pushing to do.
This team can’t let up or give up now. Just because the next two games are NOT against Top Ten teams, they aren’t givens. This team already lost one game that was clearly in the “should’ve” won easily category. With this season’s schedule, there is no margin for error. They have to win EVERY single “could’ve” game win left on the schedule, and then pull off an upset just to get to bowl eligibility.
Bottom line people will say that this progress is not enough in year four. But also bottom line, Nebraska has NEVER had to play a schedule like this before. Even year one in the Big Ten, it wasn’t this ridiculous with five top ten opponents. The worst thing anybody could do at this point is to listen to the national idiots’ hot seat ratings. You could argue that the Illinois’ loss moved Frost down to level four (“start improving now”), but now he and his program are up to level two (“all good...for now”). Keep striving, keep improving like this, and this program will get where we want it to be.
Each week, I’m more convinced of that than before.
With that, it’s off with this week’s grades. As always, your feedback is welcome in the comments.
QB: If the two teams switched quarterbacks, Michigan would have won this game by at least three touchdowns. That being said, Adrian Martinez has more than a couple of plays he’d like to have back, most notably that second down pass overthrown to Levi Falck on the final drive of the game. Complete that, and Falck likely runs into field goal range, and we’ve got a whole new ball game at that point. Ball security on the fumble the drive previously? An issue, granted. But that’s the risk you have to take when he’s the most dependable runner in a key situation. Grade: B
I-Back: Rahmir Johnson didn’t have a lot of running room up the middle, but that was part of Frost’s chess plan. He showed his stuff on the receiving end. I found the disappearance of Jaquez Yant curious when he was pulled on third and one in the third quarter. To me, that was EXACTLY the situation to use a big back like Yant. After the game, Frost explained he was pulled because of his mistake the play before. Fair enough. The debate between basing playing time on performance or potential is one I always side with the coach on. To me, playing time has to be earned, and players can’t simply coast on their abilities. Grade: B+
Wide Receiver: See Betts, Zavier as another example of a player who has to earn his playing time. He didn’t have a lot of opportunities this week, and when he got one, he dropped the option pitch. One player who did produce was Oliver Martin, who made that incredible catch in the fourth quarter to set up the Huskers final touchdown. Grade: B
Offensive Line: The offensive line didn’t do a great job opening up holes, but did OK on pass blocking. Sad to see that Teddy Prochazka leave the game; sadly, he’s played in five games, so he ineligible for the Kirk Ferentz medical redshirt. Grade: C
Sounds like Teddy Prochazka suffered a very serious knee injury, should learn more tomorrow from Scott Frost, potentially done for the year #Huskers— Joe Nugent (@joenuge) October 10, 2021
DL: I thought Ty Robinson and Damion Daniels played pretty well, especially with Robinson who had a 13 yard sack, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry. But giving up 204 yards rushing is not a great performance. Grade: C-
LB: Quite a few missed tackles; give this group credit for swarming to the ball. Big numbers, to be sure. The combination of Nick Henrich and Luke Reimer has a lot of potential over the next couple of seasons. Grade: C-
Secondary: This might have been one of the better performances by the secondary this season. Deontai Williams with the huge interception, of course. But the defensive star of the game was Cam Taylor-Britt, who broke out of his funk with three huge pass breakups and eleven tackles. Grade: A-
Special Teams: Nebraska didn’t attempt to return anything, not that there was much of a shot of gaining anything on those punts. But despite only two kickoffs reaching the end zone, the coverage on the three Michigan returns was excellent; they would have been better off calling for a fair catch each time. Punting by William Przystup was very good as well, and Nebraska nearly recovered a muffed punt. (Maybe they actually did, no thanks to the lousy officiating.) Grade: B
Overall: B- Not a bad performance against another top ten opponent. Similar efforts the rest of the season will get this team bowl eligible.
How would you grade the Huskers against Michigan?
A - Better than I thought
B - But for a few mistakes, could have been a huge victory
C - Could have played a lot better
D - Didn’t win, so can’t grade any higher than that.
Officiating: F Blaming the refs is an easy thing to do, but there were so many blown calls, someone at the Big Ten needs to take a look at this. After all of the ridicule that’s come Nebraska’s way over clapping, it’s rather ironic that Nebraska ended up getting penalized for it.
And on Michigan’s touchdown just before halftime.
Both coaches will have plenty of complaints to offer on this game; Nebraska should have had the long touchdown to Austin Allen nullified by an illegal formation penalty.