Final Take: Huskers finish with 'no fear of failure'
When Scott Frost got to Nebraska, he preached having "no fear of failure."
Last week as the Huskers were trying to finish off Northwestern in Evanston, and you can argue NU played with a "fear of failure." They went the safe route. The Huskers didn't take any chances on offense and put the game on the shoulders of their defense down the stretch.
As we know, that plan backfired, and the Wildcats pieced together an improbable fourth-quarter comeback.
Faced with a similar situation on Saturday against Minnesota, Frost and his football team didn't pull any punches with how they finished the game.
We saw Frost get aggressive with his play calling, highlighted by a 67-yard TD pass to wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. with 5:19 remaining in the game that vanished any thoughts of a fourth-quarter collapse.
"This leaves me shaking my head, but sometimes when you break through the dam, the flood waters come," Frost said following Saturday's win.
And after the worst start in school history at 0-6, Frost wanted to leave no doubt that Saturday would be his first win as a Husker head coach.
"We are a good enough team to have won several that we lost," Frost said. "That’s not the way it went and that doesn’t matter now. Now we have to just keep going forward and getting better. I think our team understands that and especially the last few weeks I think everyone has committed themselves to that.”
When Minnesota cut Nebraska's 28-0 lead to 28-22 in the third quarter, the "here we go again" chatter started to flow within the stadium.
Freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez said it was important they stayed the course during that moment, as he answered with a 35-yard TD pass to Stanley Morgan, followed by a two-point conversion that made the score 36-22.
“Just having that faith. Knowing that we can score, that we’re going to score, and we’re going to pull this game out," Martinez said. "Staying strong in our will, and knowing the work we put in during the week is going to pay off. Just stick with, know what we can accomplish and we went out there and did it.”
And for players like Morgan, who came back for their senior season, 0-7 wasn't even an option. Morgan was going to do whatever it took for the Huskers to win this game.
"We just came out there today and we weren't taking losing for an answer," Morgan said. "We weren't going to take that 'L' today. Not today. It's a certain point where you just have got to go out there and get that win. That's what we felt today and I felt the team was great."
Now on to the breakdown...
What I saw on Saturday
***It's hard to believe that the holding call Nebraska drew against Minnesota early in the game was the first time a Big Ten opponent had been called for holding on a pass play against the Huskers in 21 league games. That's an incredible stat the Husker Sports Network dug up on Saturday.
***I loved the "Statue of Liberty" wrinkle we saw Scott Frost add into the offense this week. It had Minnesota off-balanced.
***I wish we could've seen Maurice Washington complete his pass to tight end Austin Allen. I'm told NU worked on that play all week, and Washington executed it perfectly every time in practice.
***We saw career-long runs today from both Devine Ozigbo and Adrian Martinez. I felt like I was watching the 1983 Nebraska vs. Minnesota game the way the Huskers were rolling in the first half.
***We saw safety JoJo Domann return back in a big way. He made a big hit on special teams and he was working as a nickel corner.
***Tyin Ferguson was another guy that made his presence felt after battling an ankle injury the last few weeks.
***It took 28 minutes on Saturday before Nebraska got their first penalty. The won the penalty side of things for the first time this season.
***Adrian Martinez completed his first 11 passes on Saturday. His final QB rating was 200.3. That's about as good as you'll see from a quarterback that makes 29 passes. As Frost said after the game, 25-of-29 are "senior type" numbers, not freshman.
***Aaron Williams deserves some credit for the way he came back to work on Saturday. Williams was involved in a couple of physical impact tackles.
***Linebacker Dedrick Young has been an easy target for fans this season, but he's played well the last two weeks. Young came up with an interception that helped seal the victory for the Huskers in the fourth quarter.
***Major hat tip to Nebraska's fans. The place was packed, despite NU's 0-6 record going into Saturday. It was even more impressive that so many fans stayed until the very end to be a part of Frost's first victory celebration.
The final grade out
Rushing offense: A
Three players had over 100 yards rushing for Nebraska, as the Huskers finished with 383 yards rushing on 43 carries for four touchdowns on the ground. Devine Ozigbo's two early scores set the tone for NU's best rushing day in conference play since 2014. It was the first time the Huskers had three players over 100 yards rushing since the 2010 game at Washington.
Passing offense: A
Adrian Martinez has to be a defensive coordinator's worst nightmare. Usually, you can take one thing away and force a young quarterback to do something he's not comfortable with. For Martinez, he's equally good throwing the football as he is running. Martinez finished 25-of-29 for 276 yards and three touchdowns. NU also got Stanley Morgan going today, which was very important. Morgan finished with 10 catches for 163 yards for two touchdowns on 13 targets.
Rushing defense: A-
Minnesota's longest run of the day was just 11 yards. The Gophers top running back had just 49 yards on 18 carries. Quarterback Tanner Morgan did get the Huskers off-balanced with his ability to run the option in the second half.
Passing defense: D
Morgan was 11-of-16 for 214 yards in the second half alone, as the Gophers threw for 349 yards on Saturday. Wide receiver Tyler Johnson gave the Huskers problems, as he led the Gophers with 184 yards on 11 receptions. The 69-yard bubble screen pass to start the second half was also a bad moment for the Huskers pass defense that gave the Gophers momentum in the second half.
Special teams: C-
It wasn't a bad day for Nebraska's special teams, but it wasn't a great day either. The 87-yard kick return was a moment that let Minnesota back into the game after the Huskers appeared to pull away. The defense luckily bailed them out by getting an interception in the end zone. Barrett Pickering's field goal though was a big moment in his young career that put the Huskers up by 17 points. The Huskers didn't get anything from their return game on Saturday, and Minnesota controlled the field position for a lot of Saturday's game.
Sean Callahan can be reached at email@example.com and he can be heard each day at 6:45 am and 5:05 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha during the football season. He can also be seen on KETV Channel 7 in Omaha during the fall and each week he appears on NET's Big Red Wrap-Tuesday's at 7 pm.