The Weekly Rundown: Husker have more questions than answers after Game 1
Nebraska left their season opener at Illinois with many more questions than answers. We give our thoughts as we start your Monday off with the Weekly Rundown column.
You have to feel pretty good about these things right now:
The end of the sellout streak this week: Whatever the number of tickets that remain for sale for Saturday's Fordham game, it's hard to see any scenario where thousands of seats get moved for an 11 a.m. game vs. an FCS opponent after Saturday's loss at Illinois.
This is a hard thing for Nebraska to face, but the reality is they need to have a plan for how they want to address the end of the sellout streak. Yes, it is a sad day for the program if the streak comes to an end, but it can be a celebration of what was accomplished these last 59 years as well. This will be a big moment in Trev Albert's early tenure as athletic director.
No answers the next two weeks: We all know why the Illinois game was so important. Not only was it a league game, but it paved the way to 3-0. Scott Frost has never won three in a row at Nebraska. It hasn't been done at NU since 2016.
The reality is the Huskers should win the games vs. Fordham and Buffalo both convincingly in Lincoln, but nobody is going to walk away with any glaring observations about this football team until they prove it against Power Five competition.
What's scary is the path to even 6 wins now will be very difficult if we see more of what we saw the rest of the way.
Tony Tuioti: The one real bright spot from Saturday, I thought, was the play of Nebraska's defensive line vs. Illinois. Tony Tuioti has done a great job of developing this group, and Illinois had to change a lot of what they did on offense to avoid getting beat upfront.
These were my surprises of the week:
WR Zavier Betts: The standout second-year freshman from Bellevue West did not play a single wide receiver snap on Saturday. That one is hard to figure out, especially after Zavier Betts reportedly had a great fall camp. He did see time, though, as a kick returner on Saturday.
RB Sevion Morrison: Second-year freshman running back Sevion Morrison was another guy we expected to see on the field Saturday, and he did not see one snap of action on offense. In fact, late in the game Ryan Held went to Rahmir Johnson after Gabe Ervin Jr. and Markese Stepp struggled with their pass protection of Adrian Martinez.
Kicker Connor Culp: Nobody could've predicted the Big Ten kicker of the year would miss two extra points after being perfect a year ago.
Special teams play: I wasn't expecting Nebraska special teams play to look like 2005 Virginia Tech, but I still thought we'd see an improved product. That obviously was not the case, particularly in the punt return, kick return and punt departments.
Offensive line play: Adrian Martinez was blitzed on 11 of 47 dropbacks and under pressure on 26 of 47 dropbacks on Saturday according to PFF. The offensive line play was a liability on Saturday. They also struggled to move people upfront on early running downs.
The jury is still out
Questions still surround these things:
Greg Austin: This is year four of Nebraska offensive line coach Greg Austin. The depth is supposedly there, as is the talent. This group did not get off to a good start on Saturday. Many of the same questions remain for NU. The reality is the best we saw this line look under Frost was in his first season when it was anchored by players like Tanner Farmer and Jerald Foster.
QB Adrian Martinez: This was supposed to be a "new and improved" version of quarterback Adrian Martinez. He was lighter, more relaxed and entering his fourth season as a starter. Instead, we saw a quarterback under duress the entire game who missed multiple wide-open throws that could have turned the game early. If his struggles continue, Frost will be in a very tough spot going forward.
LB Chris Kolarevic: Another real surprise for me was linebacker Chris Kolarevic only seeing 15 snaps at inside linebacker, while Nick Henrich played 61 snaps and Luke Reimer 60 snaps. I think all of us were under the impression this would be close to an even three-man rotation.
This has my attention
Moving forward, this has my attention:
The leadership of the team: You can talk all you want about improved leadership and culture, but you really only find this out during moments of adversity. This next week will really test the football team, with the sellout streak potentially coming to an end and a disappointing loss at Illinois.
Scott Frost: You have to wonder what is going through the head of Frost. He has repeatedly said this is the most talented team he's had at Nebraska, but we didn't see that on Saturday.
Frost has been given just about every benefit of the doubt to get things right, but Saturday was a real breaking point for many in the fan base. So many in this fan base want to see him succeed, but moments like Saturday where Husker fans feel dejected on the national stage are tough. There have been too many moments like Saturday the last few years. Things need to change and they need to change fast.
Trev Alberts: You have to wonder what NU's first-year Athletic Director was thinking after Saturday. Alberts understands the lay of the land here and he's followed Nebraska football closely the last several years. I'm sure there will be a lot on his mind as he walks into his office on Monday morning.
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.