Nebraska football: It's another early Frost warning for Nebraska after the Huskers go cold in Ireland
The end may be near for Scott Frost. And he has no one to blame but himself.
Saturday’s 31-28 loss to Northwestern was a microcosm of Frost’s shortcomings at Nebraska. Silly mistakes, questionable coaching decisions. It all takes effect. And Frost and season openers? They haven’t mixed well.
Can Frost save his job after Saturday’s 2022 season-opening debacle? That remains to be seen.
Frost struggles in another opener
Frost fell to 1-4 in season openers since taking over in 2018. His lone opening win came in 2019 over South Alabama. He’s on thin ice at this point.
It’s been a mixture of blunders and bad luck. Saturday was more or the same. Twice, the Huskers led by 11 points. Twice, Northwestern responded to take the lead.
The final indignity came after Nebraska took a 28-17 lead with 9:09 left in the 3rd quarter. Momentum was on the Huskers’ side. Victory was in sight.
However, Frost decided to get cute. He called for an onside kick after the TD. Yep, you read that right. After taking an 11-point lead — the Huskers’ second double-digit lead of the game — Frost wanted the dagger.
However, the attempt failed, and Northwestern took over inside Nebraska territory with a short field. Just over a minute later, Cam Porter barreled in from 3 yards out to close the deficit. Momentum had shifted.
Why risk a low percentage play? Frost said it was his call, and that if he had to do it over, he’d kick deep.
“I made the (onside) call,” Frost said. “So it’s on me. I thought if we got it, we could end the game.”
— Steven Sipple (@steven_sipple) August 27, 2022
Following a disheartening 3-9 season in 2021, Nebraska’s mental state is fragile. Doing all you can as the head coach to give your team a chance to win is key. In a split second, Frost cost his team with a careless call. With it, he fell to 5-21 in one-score games at Nebraska.
The Huskers had several chances after the onside debacle. Six offensive possessions ended in 4 punts and 2 turnovers. A late interception by Northwestern’s Xander Mueller off a deflected pass sealed it.
But everyone in Aviva Stadium and those watching elsewhere knew when and why the momentum flipped. The Huskers were never the same after the failed onside attempt. Body language changed on both sides. The Wildcats played with swagger. Nebraska? The ghosts of past narrow losses appeared again.
Winning is hard. Especially in a league as tough at the Big Ten. Possessions and field position matter. Frost should’ve kicked deep. His defense wasn’t at their best Saturday. Make the Wildcats drive the length of the field. A 2-score lead — especially in the second half — should have been enough.
The ugly recent history in openers
Maybe it was an omen. With Frost’s first game at Nebraska set for Sept. 1, 2018, a severe storm wiped out the opener vs. Akron. A week later, the Huskers gave up a late TD pass to lose 33-28 to Colorado.
Frost picked up his only season-opening win in 2019 against South Alabama. Covid-19 delayed the start of the 2020 season, and Nebraska drew the short straw of having to travel to Ohio State to open the delayed campaign.
A year ago, Nebraska fell behind 30-9 in a 30-22 loss at Illinois. It was an ugly and tight performance from the start. A safety by the Illini started the scoring after NU attempted to field a punt inside its 5-yard line.
Nebraska didn’t play tight to start Saturday’s loss. A game-opening TD drive sparked hope. But Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald, unlike Frost, rolled the dice correctly. And even though Fitzgerald was conservative at times, he never put his team behind the 8-ball. He waited for opportunities to attack, and he leaned on a veteran offensive line to pave the way for running back Evan Hull’s 119 rushing yards.
Where does NU go from here?
Nebraska AD Trev Alberts restructured Frost’s contract in the offseason. Oct. 1 is the key date. Word has it, NU must be 4-1 for Frost to keep his job. The next 2 weeks are gimmies, but the Sept. 17 game vs. Oklahoma takes on a whole new meaning now.
Can NU rebound? Absolutely. But history shows it’ll be a tall order. Close losses are almost an expectation at this point. Nebraska fell to 0-10 in its past 10 1-possession games. Friction was evident after Saturday’s loss. Frost appeared to throw a bit of shade at new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple.
Frost postgame: "I think our offensive staff has to learn you've got to be a little more creative in this league."
— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) August 27, 2022
It will be a long flight home for Nebraska. A quick turnaround awaits Saturday against North Dakota. Their culture will be tested over the week. Questions will persist.
Kudos to Northwestern and Fitzgerald. This is a team that was steamrolled 56-7 a year ago in Lincoln. They were prepared and played to the game plan. Coach Fitz again proved he’s one of the best in the land, as the Wildcats now have 49 wins by 1-score since 2006. Only LSU has as many.
Nebraska fans showed up in droves. Over 5,000 attended Friday’s pep rally in Merrion Square Park. The loss won’t sit well with the Big Red faithful, especially after giving up a pair of 11-point leads. An uneasy week awaits in Lincoln.
For diehard Huskers fans, today stings about as bad as any recent loss. Nebraska was a double-digit favorite, and the offseason changes in the coaching staff and from the portal gave hope. Casey Thompson threw for 355 yards, but had two crucial picks. The defense, which was solid in 2021, got run over for 528 yards.
NU seems cursed. Huskers fans are begging for it to stop. At this point, Frost looks like a dead man walking. It seems a Sept. 17 date against an old Big 12 rival may determine whether the final nail in his coffin is pounded.