Since I effectively took the summer off, and we’re a scant day from the first game of Head Coach Scott Frost’s fifth season, and since I’d like to keep a few thoughts for another article before kickoff on Saturday, I’m going to just put a few of the things I’ve been ruminating on for the last few months out here today.
First, there has been an enormous amount of talk about how much “improvement” will constitute sufficient “improvement” to keep Frost in his palatial office in Memorial Stadium after Thanksgiving. In my opinion, in a word: LOTS! And it’s not just about the number of wins. It should go without saying that another 3-9 season would be the final nail in Frost’s coaching coffin in Lincoln. But what about 4-8, or 5-7? I mean, that’s improvement, right?
Is that what the Husker Nation is ready to settle for? I hope to God Almighty we aren’t. Let’s engage in some “Alice in Wonderland” level fantasy here, and imagine that NU is 8-0 going into the last 4 games of the season. And then, let’s slip into Stephen King’s world of horror, and imagine recent NU gridiron history repeating itself as losses to Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa (yes…IOWA! AGAIN!) begin to pile up. Is THAT 8-4 really what Big Red fans are ready to accept? Wins against the turds of the B1G, Illinois, Indiana, Rutgers, Purdue, and yes, Northwestern, and continuing losses against the best teams in either bracket of the league? If this qualifies as the trajectory that the fans are good with, the program that us older fans grew up watching and loving, is done.
As far as what I expect this season, I have no idea. We could go 10-2, or just as easily 2-10. We will learn a lot about this team on Saturday, to be sure. The vast majority of my concern rests on the offensive line. The coaches brought in what appears to be a lot of talented players, at nearly every position group. And we’ve heard about a bunch of them. New QB’s, a packed running back room, the deepest crew of receivers in maybe, decades, the most coveted end rusher transfer in the country. But the week before the season opener, the new O-line coach basically says he has 7 guys that he’s ready to go war with. That should be concerning. And not just for Casey Thompson’s mother. That’s not a great two-deep view of the one unit that MUST show exponential improvement. This is the B1G. Seven ain’t near enough.
My other grave concern is the psyche, the resolve of this team. NU has died of more self-inflicted wounds over the last many years than any other team in recent memory. Maybe even not so recent memory. Nebraska suffered through a season of more single-score losses than any team in history. They pulled defeat out of the jaws of victory over and over last season. And the season before that… Many times over the last several seasons, you could see the hearts of the players sink when a penalty killed a drive; when a turnover cost a scoring opportunity; when they gave up a big play in a key moment in a game. This team has been defined by its mental and emotional fragility. How this team handles adversity on Saturday will tell us all a lot about what we can expect this season.
Finally, I think it’s time to accept that this is Scott Frost’s team. Every dent, wrinkle, and defect belongs to him. The players, for better or worse, are his. The coaches are his. The player development, the recruiting, the game planning, the discipline, or lack thereof, all falls on Frost now. He’s had four years. This is his. He is solely responsible for the content of this program. As much as the Husker Nation wanted this regime to succeed, it simply hasn’t happened. Hope, on the part of the Husker fanbase, has drifted into dread and doubt.
There is a considerable number of fans who can’t face the reality of Frost failing because they don’t believe that anyone else could do better. That is just not true. LSU went through a decade of revolving doors in the 80’s before their program regained its footing. Alabama did the same thing after Bear Bryant left. But those are grand old established blue bloods of college football, right? Then explain to me how teams with NO history, no glory days to look back on, have managed to rise, while Nebraska has languished for nearly two decades?
Look at the polls. Cincinnati? Baylor? TCU? The Horned Frogs hadn’t been “relevant” since “Slingin’” Sammy Baugh in the 1930’s. Eventually, the fans, the alumni, the university itself, decided that TCU could be better. They worked at it and finally found Gary Patterson. Several times during his career at TCU, he found himself coaching, arguably, the best college football team in the state of Texas.
I am not saying that Husker fans should be looking to model our program after TCU, but over the last 20 or so years, they’ve been more successful in their conference, and more competitive nationally than the Big Red. And they did it basically starting from scratch. We can do better.
My motto for this season is stolen from a song that came out back in 1987. Back when Nebraska was still college football royalty. It’s a song from a guy from Louisiana, Jo-El Sonnier. The song is No More One More Time.
Scott Frost got his “one more time” from Trev Alberts, last season. This is probably because after starting his career as AD at UNO by killing the wrestling and football teams, he didn’t want to start off at UNL by showing the last football champion at Nebraska the door.
So, like the team now completely belongs to Frost, Frost now belongs to Alberts. And they will rise or fall together. I hope it comes together. I truly do. It is my greatest hope for the coming fall. But if not, this has to stop.
So, I’m singing with Jo-El, “You’ve had your last second chance, at this old heart of mine, And there’ll be no more one more time.” Sing it with me.