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Nebraska vs Northwestern: Three Things We Learned

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Good football is fun. Who knew?

Northwestern v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Me either.

Don’t get me wrong. This is awesome. This is the kind of game Husker fans have been waiting for. Whether this becomes a trend or a mirage will be up to Scott Frost, his staff and the Husker football team.

So, what did we learn yesterday?

1. Nebraska can play a clean game

It seems so silly to say, yet so refreshing at the same time. Nebraska is capable of playing a football game in which they are not their own biggest opponent.

The real trick here is, can they do it again next week? Playing at this level once is awesome, but it now needs to become a habit.

Which brings us to #2...

2. We’ll know more about this Husker team next week

Northwestern is a well-coached team that has a history of playing close games with Nebraska. No one was overlooking the Cats despite their apparent badness this year.

Now, we can look back and say that the Huskers manhandled a bad team and did what they were supposed to do. I’m sorry Northwestern, the frustration of the Illinois, Oklahoma and Michigan State losses got taken out on you.

However, a highly ranked Wolverine squad comes to Lincoln next Saturday. They boast a much stouter (to put it mildly) defense than the Cats fielded. The revamped Pipeline looked like a success last night, but they will go from the team that was ranked #104 in rush yards (allowing 186/game)* to one that is ranked #34 (115 yards/game). Expecting to see Jaq Yant stiff arming dudes as he plows them over and Zavier Betts outrunning everyone like they did on Saturday isn’t realistic. Nebraska is going to have to exercise their newly-found discipline and be prepared to grind out drives.

Yes, Michigan comes in with questions about “are they for real”, but that question is being asked about every team except Alabama and Georgia.

*This ranking was before they played the Huskers. After the murder at Memorial last night, the Cats are now ranked #124 out of #130 FBS teams and allowing 234 yards/game.

3. The hot seat is growing colder by the minute

We’ve gone nearly full circle this season from calls to fire Scott Frost at the halftime of the Illinois game to what we are seeing now. No one is ready to build statues yet, but we got a glimpse of Scott Frost’s vision, albeit a couple years later than most of us hoped.

Sometimes leaders develop a vision and they have to break things to make that vision a reality. Sometimes, that vision has to be changed (hence the offensive overhaul). Scott Frost is growing as a coach and leader. He isn’t a finished product yet. There will be many more bumps in the road I’m sure. This dominating victory may turn out to be a mirage in the desert.

Right now though, it doesn’t feel like a mirage. After the progression we’ve seen from the team it feels like they’ve taken the next logical step toward good Husker football again. Against Buffalo is where we saw the first glimmers of hope because the Huskers made mistakes but bounced back from them rather than letting them spiral. Against Oklahoma, we saw a team that finally physically matched up with a good opponent, but made mistakes in multiple phases that cost them the game. Against Michigan State, we saw a team that physically dominated (on defense at least) but mistakes in one phase cost them the game. We saw a team that was mad at a loss because they expected a win. Against Northwestern, we saw a team that came in expecting to dominate a bad opponent and they did. They aren’t going to dominate like that every game, but I like the mental progression we are seeing.

Bonus: No, we don’t want Bama yet

For anyone out there sneering at Husker fans enjoying this victory and mistakenly thinking we believe “we’re back”, you are wrong. We’re enjoying a dominating victory the likes of which we haven’t gotten to enjoy in a while. There are likely more losses on the Huskers’ schedule, but it appears there are more wins now too.

Rather than dreading the rest of the season, we are looking forward to a team that plays hard and makes sure the opponents think about how much time they spent in the ice bath when prepping for the Huskers in future years. That was half of the battle during the Tom Osborne era - even when someone beat Nebraska, they knew they’d been in a dogfight. They remembered the aches and pains and the hard hits and bruises. That is what Husker fans got a glimpse of starting at Michigan State and now against Northwestern.

But, we got a long way to go before hoisting any “We Want Bama” signs.

Shoutouts

For everyone - Team, coaches and fans.

This was cathartic. It was needed. The team needed it more than any of us. They earned it. They deserve it.

The coaches deserve it for a masterful job of playcalling and putting a shit ton of stuff on tape that other teams have to spend time prepping for.

The fans brought their A-game to One Memorial last night. Hardly anyone left before the clock read zeroes. That is how much Husker Nation wanted and needed to see a game like that.

There are so many individual players that deserve shoutouts that it would really be going down the roster and naming pretty much everyone. So, I’ll go ‘old school’ and offer some blocking shoutouts.

Now, on to Michigan.