As UCF poured on the points en route to a shootout victory in the American Athletic Conference Championship, the sellout crowd at Spectrum Stadium chanted three obvious words.
“We Want Fro-ost!”
In an attempt to show their second-year coach just how loved he was in Orlando, you could could probably hear the chant that was shouted an hour later in living rooms from Chadron to Omaha.
“We Got Fro-ost!”
The worst-kept secret in college football was that despite the local support for Frost, the hay was in the barn. Frost agreed to a deal to become the Huskers’ next coach long before his UCF squad capped off its unblemished run through the AAC. He became a hero in Orlando, and he’ll have a chance to become a home-grown hero in Lincoln. Again.
Frost won’t have to do much more than flash that “aw shucks” smile and talk about Runza to win his opening press conference.
But if Frost wants to win more than that — something tells me he does — he’ll have to bring that same rebuilding approach that made him an overnight sensation in Orlando.
Frost will be tasked with performing a minor miracle in Lincoln. It’ll be different than the “Flea Kicker” miracle he and Matt Davison pulled off 20 years ago. Nebraska was far more than one play away from keeping its national hopes alive in 2017. Nebraska wasn’t even one play away from making a bowl game in 2017.
It’s true that the Huskers didn’t play in a single game with anywhere near the implications like the one Frost coached in on Saturday. Instead, Nebraska’s games usually concluded with the same question.
“Is this a new low?”
It’s actually quite similar to the situation that Frost inherited at UCF. People forget that UCF was 0-12 when Frost got to Orlando. Just kidding. People definitely didn’t forget that. If you listened to any UCF broadcast this season, surely you were reminded of that a few times.
At Nebraska, 4-8 may as well be 0-12. It was the program’s worst record since before that sellout streak began in 1961. And if you listened to any Nebraska broadcast this season — or were even brave enough to listen to “Big Red Reaction” — you likely heard about that, too.
Frost’s responsibility will obviously be overhauling the inconsistent offense that Mike Riley put in place. Nebraska fans won’t expect to see the triple option with Frost again. Well, unless he feels the need to line up as the scout team quarterback to prepare to defend such an attack.
Defense, of course, will be the biggest question mark of Frost’s tenure. As in, where will he find it?
Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos talked about getting the Blackshirts back to being the Blackshirts. Call me crazy, but I bet Frost is going to reference that once or twice in his introductory press conference.
Reports surfaced that Frost already hired 90 percent of his staff, which likely includes a top-notch defensive coordinator. If there’s one thing Frost has to prove, it’s that he can find the right defensive mind to lead his team. His UCF team that surrendered 55 points in the AAC Championship certainly wasn’t a defense-first squad.
Then again, allowing 55 points in a conference championship game is a whole lot easier to stomach than allowing 56 to Iowa. Lord knows fewer are things are tougher for Nebraska fans to stomach than watching their team drop three straight to the Hawkeyes.
Frost’s task will not be to simply get to Iowa’s level. It’ll be to get to Wisconsin’s level. You know, the team that hasn’t lost a division game in each of its last two seasons. Frost will be asked to do something that Riley, Bo Pelini and all of the other post-Tom Osborne coaches couldn’t do in Lincoln — contend for conference titles year in, year out.
Osborne’s influence on Frost was believed to be what pushed the deal over the top. It was obvious that the Wood River (Neb.) native was the Huskers’ only choice from the start. As other schools scrambled to find their guy and failed offers went public, Nebraska sat back and knew that it had its guy.
Frost is different than his predecessors. He’s not only that up-and-coming coach — arguably the best in the sport right now — but he has those Husker ties that can’t be defined. Like chili and cinnamon rolls on a crisp fall afternoon, it’s hard to understand those ties until you’ve experienced Nebraska the way Frost and others have.
His decision was never about making sure his family could live close to theme parks or whether his beach-loving wife could be close to the ocean. It was also never about popping in tapes from 20 years ago and having talks with some former teammates.
This was and is about Frost getting Nebraska back to the level he left it at in Osborne’s final season. This was about restoring the tradition that once made Nebraska a heavyweight, and not a punching bag.
Frost’s honeymoon will last throughout the entire offseason and maybe well into his first season in Lincoln. But he knows better than anyone.
The work begins now.