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Six Reasons for Dread: Nebraska Football’s 2021 Season

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The upcoming 2021 season could be different than the three that preceded it but is there any reason we should believe that things will be different?

Nebraska v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

This article was set to be published on yesterday at 10 a.m. Then the news broke about Nebraska Football being investigated by the NCAA a couple hours before the set publish time. Great timing.

Being investigated by the NCAA could definitely be an additional reason for dread as we head into the 2021 season.

Normally, I would have waited until the following week to publish something like this but next week is game week and there should be more than enough content at that time. Actual football can’t come soon enough.

So here we go.


In addition to this article of dread, I plan on publishing a complimentary “Reasons for Hope” article as I work my way through my thoughts for this upcoming season. I generally am an optimist. Especially when it comes to Nebraska Football. Though I do try to fight the urge to drink the Kool-Aid.

So the question I ask myself is the following: What are my reasons for dread when I try and guess what is going to happen this season?


The Coaching Staff - Past Performance Could Predict Future Results

The verdict is still out on this coaching staff. This includes Scott Frost himself. It is my opinion that Frost inherited a bigger mess than we anticipated. He also received some bad breaks along the way. With that said, the staff also made some mistakes along the way and are in the process of righting those wrongs as they adjust to life in the Big Ten.

I can make excuses for the staff all day but the reality is that they are currently 12-20 through three seasons at Nebraska. Not only can you say that 12-20 isn’t good enough at Nebraska but it wouldn’t be good enough anywhere in the Power Five except for Kansas.

Starting 0-6 in 2018 including a loss to Troy. Then last season the losses to Illinois and Minnesota. The two win Illinois team beat Nebraska by 18. Minnesota was missing half of it’s team due to COVID and had four defensive linemen dress for the game. Nebraska found a way to lose.

Those are two games Nebraska should have won in 2020 and instead they got embarrassed.

Is there any reason why we should expect something different in 2021?

Adrian Martinez: Fumbles and Health

Adrian Martinez has lost 15 fumbles in his career. That leads all current FBS players. It helps that he played in three seasons which would push that number up a bit. However, he lost five fumbles last year, which lead the conference.

Remember the Rutgers game last year? The offense put up 620 yards. The defense held Rutgers to 252 yards and Nebraska won by a touchdown.

Four turnovers from your quarterback will do exactly that.

Martinez lead all Power Five quarterbacks in rushing yards per game last year. That doesn’t need to happen. Hopefully Scott Frost plans on taking some weight off of Martinez’s shoulders by running the ball with the running backs in 2021.

The other issue for Martinez has been staying healthy and he hasn’t been able to do it since the kid from Colorado cranked on his leg in 2018.

This is as healthy as he has looked since his freshman year. Hopefully by not running him as much, he will be able to stay the starting quarterback for the entire season.

Which would be good for Nebraska if he doesn’t turn the ball over.

Kickoff Specialist: We Miss Thee

I think having somebody who can get it to the end zone on kickoff is one of the most underrated aspects of a football team.

I haven’t always thought that way. The past three seasons of horror on kick-off has changed my mind.

Nebraska has not had that guy since Frost showed up. I’m still not sure they have the solution yet.

Yes, if we continue to try and depend on opponents trying to fair catch the ball at the 10-15 by lofting a kick then that is a reason for dread for 2021.

Turnovers Won’t Just Go Away

Credit to Omaha World-Herald’s Sam McKewon on the following (if you don’t already read his stuff I really suggest that you do):

Minus-29: Nebraska’s turnover margin since 2014. It’s a single number that says a whole lot, frankly, compared with Iowa (plus-45), Northwestern (plus-22), Minnesota (plus-14) and Wisconsin (plus-8). Among Big Ten teams, only Purdue and Rutgers (both at minus-36) are worse.

The Huskers have lost 58 fumbles since 2014; what makes this stat remarkable is that from 2015 to 2017, they lost 13. Since 2018, they’ve had 32 in 32 games. That’s a lost fumble per game.

Things really start to make sense when you realize that since 2014 the difference in turnover margin between Nebraska and Iowa is 74.

Since Frost got here Nebraska has been averaging one lost fumble per game. That’s crazy.

Lack of a Pass Rusher

Who is the best pass rusher since Randy Gregory? He had 10.5 sacks in 2013.

  • Freedom Akinmoladun had 4.5 sacks in 2015.
  • Ross Dzuris had 5.5 in 2016.
  • Ben Stille lead the team in 2017 with 3.5 sacks.
  • Luke Gifford had 5.5 in 2018 while Stille had 5.0 sacks.
  • Khalil Davis had 8.0 sacks in 2019.
  • Will Honas led the team last year with 3.0 sacks over eight games.

If you go purely by numbers then Khalil Davis is the best rusher of the passer Nebraska has had since Randy Gregory.

Who on the current roster is the best pass rusher?

When asked if he would prefer to have a lock-down corner or a pass rusher, Erik Chinader said that it would be 1a and 1b. 1a being a lock-down corner. He has forgotten more about football than I’ll ever know but it seems like an alpha pass rusher would be more beneficial than a lock-down corner to this Nebraska football team.

My guess at the sack leader in 2021? Pheldarius Payne.

Running Back Room - It’s Full But...

Will the bell-cow running back please stand up?

By reading the tea leaves it appears that the top three running backs are, in no particular order, Sevion Morrison, Markese Stepp and Gabe Ervin Jr. I have a feeling Jaquez Yant will serve some role of a full back or power back on short yardage situations.

Frost has made it known that he wants a clear cut starting running back who will receive the bulk of the carries. Maybe they know who that player will be and are keeping it in-house. However, when they say there is a top-4 that makes you think they are still working through it.

It is rare that a running back by committee works.

At this point there appears to be no alpha running back and if Nebraska is not successful running the ball from the running back position then you know what that means...running Adrian Martinez which means...fumbling the ball which means...dread.