Final take: Frost displays raw emotion following loss to Purdue
Scott Frost displayed raw emotion following Saturday's 42-28 loss to Purdue we've never seen from the first-year head coach.
Nebraska is 0-4 for the first time since 1945, and the program has lost eight straight games - the longest in school history. They haven't won a home game in over a year, and their last win came at Purdue on Oct. 28 of 2017.
We are experiencing the worst stretch of Husker football in modern-day program history. Nobody knows that more than Frost and nobody is taking it harder than him.
With his team trailing before halftime, we saw Frost display more emotion and fire than ever before. NU was seemingly doing everything wrong on Saturday from drive killing penalties, special team blunders, and defensive breakdowns. It was what we've seen at times in every game this season, and it overshadowed anything the Huskers did right.
Frost was searching for answers on Saturday. Answers why some players in his locker room don't maybe care about Nebraska football as much as he does. He wouldn't call out anyone by name, but he made references to things that have gone on during the weeks leading up to games that have opened his eyes.
“I’m still encountering habits that I didn’t know or expect," Frost said. "Listen, you can go back to all these games, we can’t run down on punt and run into the punt returner. We can’t block somebody in the back on punt return, we can’t hit somebody out of bounds, we can’t get 15-yard penalties on 3rd-and-24. Every time we’ve addressed what we need to address we find another way to shoot ourselves in the foot. But it all comes down to caring enough to do it right.
"Not just on the field. It comes down to caring enough to do it right on Monday, on Tuesday, when you’re supposed to be in study hall, when you’re supposed to be at class, the way you treat the people that serve you food in the lunch line. People that do all those things the right way are winners, and they win. We have a bunch of them on this team. We have a bunch of them. We’re doing enough little things wrong that we can’t overcome it right now. We’re doing enough little things wrong that we can’t overcome it right now. We’re not good enough to overcome those things.”
It kills players like senior linebacker Luke Gifford, who grew up in this state, to let down their head coach.
“I mean for me it hits me right at home," Gifford said. "He wants it just as much or more than any of us. That’s part of the problem. Guys played hard today, that wasn’t it. We just have to, like he says, need a bunch of guys that love football, and that’s what gets you through tough times like this. It’s not easy, no one wants to lose, it’s really hard, but if we’re going to change the way this season is going then we need guys that love football and want to go out there every day and work their butt off.”
And perhaps Frost's strongest message came at the end of his press conference on Saturday.
He referenced his struggles as a player in 1996 losing at Arizona State and to Texas in the Big 12 title game. Getting booed in 1997 against Central Florida. All tough times in his life he was able to overcome.
“We’re going to build off everything that’s good and go forward," Frost said. "When life knocks you down, I’ve been through this at Nebraska before, I’ve been through a hard time at Nebraska before. And I told the team this week, the thing I’m most proud of about my career at Nebraska, is that when I was down I fought back.
"And life’s going to throw a lot of things at you. Football is not the hardest thing life is going to throw at you. Being 0-4 isn’t the hardest thing life’s going to throw at you. But if you can look at yourself in the mirror after that and know that you have two choices when you’re down; stay down or keep fighting. And I’ve been through this before. I got a bunch of guys on this team that’ll keep fighting, too.”
Now on to the breakdown...
What I saw on Saturday
***As Purdue was leaving the field on Saturday several of their players were shouting "that was a winnable game...winnable," about Frost's post-game comments at Michigan. I know people here didn't make a big deal about those comments, but they were obviously used to motivate the Boilermakers this week in practice.
***Saturday was the third time the Huskers outgained their opponent and lost this season. What do I make of that? Penalties, special teams and field position. All of these things have forced the Huskers to have longer fields to drive, which leads to higher yard totals.
***Wide receiver Kade Warner got the start on Saturday. Warner was rewarded for a good week of practice. Frost has started Mike Williams, Bryan Reimers and now Warner at the third receiver spot this season with Stanley Morgan and JD Spielman.
***Nebraska is 0-4 to start a season for the first time since 1945. Their current eight-game losing streak is the longest in program history. They haven't won a game in Memorial Stadium in over 370 days. These are three sentences I never thought I'd be writing right now. The "greatest fans in college football" are going to be put to the test with NU's four remaining home games. These are unchartered waters for everyone.
***There were a lot of questionable officiating calls on Saturday, but the non-pass interference called on Stanley Morgan in the first half may have been the worst of them all. Morgan's arm was completely held, making it impossible for him to go up and get the football.
***We also saw Nebraska start Jaron Woodyard at kick returner, before going back to Spielman later in the game. They are trying anything at this point to get a spark on special teams. Of all things, it was Wyatt Mazour who gave them a spark when Purdue pooched it to him, and he gave NU their best starting field position on a kickoff on this season.
***Boe Wilson got the start at right guard. Tanner Farmer missed most of the week of practice battling a stomach bug. Then later in the game, Cole Conrad went down, which put Farmer at center and Wilson at right guard. NU was able to establish some good offensive rhythm with this combination on the line.
***Freshman Cam Taylor did not dress on Saturday. That was one of the bigger injury surprises going into the game. Also, linebacker Tyrin Ferguson did not play and was seen with his ankle taped in pregame warm-ups.
***Frost unloaded on junior cornerback Lamar Jackson after a defensive holding penalty by him took away a Marquel Dismuke interception. Jackson was later pulled from the game, as Eric Lee replaced him. During his halftime interview on the Husker Sports Network, Frost said guys that continue to make the same mistakes aren't going to play.
Jackson was later seen on the bench late in the second quarter with his head down as the starting defense was on the field.
Frost also jumped on a group of backup players who were doing a dance routine before a kickoff. He referred to this as well during the postgame that his team looked silly dancing around on the sidelines while they were trailing by 21 points.
The final grade out
Rushing offense: B+
Devine Ozigbo and Adrian Martinez gave Nebraska enough to win this game on the ground. The pair finished with 261 yards on 35 carries. I know Frost wants to play multiple backs, but Ozigbo has pulled away from the pack after his performance on Saturday. Greg Bell saw just two carries on Saturday, and Maurice Washington did not play because he missed most of the week of practice.
Passing offense: B
Martinez showed how good he can be at times Saturday. He delivered some big-time throws to JD Spielman. He also had a freshman moment though on his one interception where the Huskers were driving to make it a 7 point game.
Rushing defense: D
There were once again way too many breakdowns with the rushing defense that led to big plays on Saturday. Purdue finished with four rushing touchdowns and found ways to finish drives in the red zone with the run game, averaging 5.1 yards per carry.
Passing defense: D
David Blough was sacked just one time by Nebraska, and the Huskers failed to force a single turnover in the passing game. Even when the Huskers had guys covered up downfield, Blough was able to scramble and get some big first downs. Blough finished with 328 yards passing and had another 38 yards rushing on six broken pass plays.
Special teams: F
JD Spielman only returned one of the seven punts from Purdue on Saturday. The only kickoff the Huskers got of note came from Wyatt Mazour on a pooch that gave NU their best field position of the season from a kickoff. CJ Smith got a costly penalty on a punt return that went past midfield by Spielman. Punter Caleb Lightbourn also had no punts land inside the 20 and fell down on another punt that could've resulted in a disaster, but luckily the ball advanced forward off his foot. Barrett Pickering's missed field goal before halftime also left a lot to be desired, as it came nowhere close getting off the ground.
Sean Callahan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.