As odd as it may sound, Nebraska head coach Tim Miles was fine with his team losing to No. 8 Ohio State on Wednesday night. What he wasn't fine with was how the Huskers went about it.
While few gave NU a chance on the road against one of the top teams in the country, Miles at least expected to see maximum effort from his players on every possession. In their 70-44 loss to Buckeyes, he said effort plays were few and far between.
"So you saw a hustle play?" Miles said when asked about Nebraska's lack of hustle in the loss. "You can verify you saw a hustle play? Because I couldn't find one."
Miles said that was easily the biggest shock and disappointment he's had so far this season during NU's 9-5 start, especially because the Huskers showed no signs of coming out the way they did in their previous week of practice.
He took part of the blame for not incorporating enough high-pressure situations in practice to increase the level of intensity and competition.
"We didn't practice soft, but I didn't put them in an environment where they had to overcome a bunch of obstacles in practice and made it more difficult than it needed to be," Miles said. "It surprised me. I thought we'd show more fight than that."
Senior forward Brandon Ubel said the players were equally disappointed with their showing in Columbus, Ohio. When asked why the Huskers appeared to come out so flat in such a big game, Ubel said it may have been a continuation of three second-half letdowns in their final four non-conference games.
"We were all disappointed," Ubel said. "Especially when we watched the film, just the lack of energy that we had, the fact that they beat us to just about every loose ball. It seemed like we were kind of in slow motion out there. It's not just something that Coach wants to change; we all kind of saw that and we all realized we need to change something."
"I just think maybe some of that carryover from the last couple of games where we just relaxed, took some things for granted," Ubel added. "We thought a rebound was coming to us, so we thought we were the only one's going after it and all of a sudden someone's sticking a hand in there and knocking it loose. Taking a couple of those plays for granted and letting stuff like that kind of snowball on you and affect later plays."
When the Huskers returned to practice on Friday to get ready for Sunday's Big Ten home opener against Wisconsin on Sunday, Miles said he had a few, let's say, unique, methods in mind to get better effort out of his players.
"I don't think I can say that in public and still keep my job," Miles joked about how he can coach more hustle. "You have to encourage your guys to play harder. Sometimes getting guys to play harder is finding new and innovative ways to antagonize your players. We'll work on that at about two o'clock (Friday).
"I mean, it's got to be uncommon. I understand sometimes you look at a game and you're like, 'Holy cow, they're good.' What I can't understand is not pinning your ears back and playing as hard as you can and going down and fighting to the death. We didn't do that. That's on me. I let them get to that point. I let them get soft. We'll have to correct that immediately."