Let's call it what it is: Scott Frost has been a failure at Nebraska so far
Sometime between watching Adrian Martinez play his own game of “500” and Purdue’s perfect misdirection play to score the go-ahead touchdown on Saturday, the “F-word” had to be on the minds of Nebraska fans.
Not that “F-word.” The other one.
Through 21 games of the Scott Frost era, it’s been a failure. I’d describe Frost’s highly-antipcated return to Nebraska as an underwhelming, hair-pulling, never-ending routine of disappointment that’s been anything but successful so far.
Saturday’s gut punch came against a Purdue team that entered with 2 wins who was without starting quarterback Elijah Sindelar, All-American receiver Rondale Moore and leading tackler Markus Bailey. Just in case that wasn’t enough, Purdue backup quarterback Jack Plummer was carted off in the fourth quarter, which meant third-string quarterback Aidan O’Connell got to help Purdue to a pair of go-ahead touchdown drives. It was another “in over their head moment” for the Nebraska defensive staff who Frost brought with him from UCF.
The Purdue loss — the Power 5-worst eighth time that the Huskers failed to cover the spread — dropped them to 4-5 on the year with remaining games against ranked Wisconsin and Iowa (plus a trip to Maryland in a few weeks). In other words, the preseason B1G West favorite is now more likely to miss a bowl than make one.
Let that sink in.
Quite frankly, none of those are a given considering the Huskers have yet to beat a top-25 team under Frost, and they’re now 1-8 in road games.
Why don’t we compare Frost to his predecessor Mike Riley, who could only earn praise from fans when he got a commitment from a 4-star receiver out of California:
[table “” not found /]
Just in case you’re under the impression that these are just early growing pains in the aftermath of the post-Riley era, consider this.
In the yearly talent composite rankings that 247sports compiles, Nebraska entered the year ranked No. 24 in the country. There are 20 players on the roster ranked 4-star or better. That’s more than Minnesota, Purdue and Wisconsin COMBINED.
(Don’t tell me about Nebraska’s future recruiting class rankings, either. Riley could recruit, too.)
Blame Riley for Frost’s early struggles if you choose. Or wake up and realize that even though Frost is the hometown boy who can say and do no wrong, he has failed this team on and off the field.
His team lacks toughness — something that has nothing to do with whether his players wear hoodies before a game. His preseason Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback lacks Year 2 development — something that has everything to do with Frost.
Martinez’s return on Saturday was supposed to spark Nebraska and remind us why Frost was considered one of the top offensive minds in the sport. Instead, Martinez’s return reminded of us of those weird September storylines about how he wasn’t practicing well. We found out about that via Frost calling him out publicly, which he certainly hasn’t been shy about doing with anyone on his team (he also apologized to players last week after a loss to Indiana for “losing his cool” on the sideline).
Speaking of that, Frost has been a failure with the media, despite everything he has working in his favor.
In a midweek press conference ahead of Saturday’s game, he was asked about how Martinez looked coming off the knee injury. This was his response:
Frost when asked about the status of injured player Adrian Martinez… pic.twitter.com/a4aMTMIGXo
— 1011Sports (@1011Sports) October 31, 2019
If Riley or Bo Pelini responds like that in the midst of a 4-win season, they’re blasted. Instead, Frost gets a chuckle. After all, he can do no wrong.
I’ll save the additional rant about the reaction to his handling of the Maurice Washington situation. I already said my piece on that back when Frost continued to allow him to play as he awaited trial for his felony charge.
Frost is going to continue to get undeniable support internally and externally. Part of that is because Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos knows his job is entirely dependent on Frost’s success. If you don’t believe that you should probably remember how things ended for Shawn Eichorst after his out-of-nowhere hire of Riley lost to Northern Illinois in Year 3.
The other part of that is because Nebraska fans are the most loyal fanbase in sports. They’ll continue the sellout streak as long as Frost is on the sidelines while they keep their fingers crossed that like last year, the Huskers will show promise down the stretch. He’ll try to deliver the Nebraska a signature win against Paul Chryst or Kirk Ferentz, both of whom are paid less than Frost.
That’d be quite the change considering Nebraska has just 2 wins against bowl-eligible teams during the Frost era. That matches its total of losses to B1G teams from the state of Indiana … in the last 2 weeks. But hey, remember that time Nebraska kept it close against Ohio State last year!
Being “so close” has become the spin zone of the Frost era. The Huskers are 3-7 in 1-score games under Frost following Saturday’s debacle. Maybe, just maybe, that’s not a coincidence. Raise your hand if you’ve heard this type of postgame comment from Frost before.
“There’s at least three games this year where if we do anything better we win,” Frost said on Saturday.
Or what about this?
“I thought the psyche of the team was good. We came out and played well for the most part, we just wasted too many opportunities,” Frost said on Saturday.
Once upon a time, hiring Frost was considered a golden opportunity. It was supposed to be the long overdue instance in the post-Tom Osborne era that the no-brainer candidate came to Nebraska and led the program back to prominence. Not Osborne-level prominence, but at least to the level where picking the Huskers to win the division wasn’t a freezing cold take by midseason.
For all I know, Frost will finish the season by winning 2 of those 3 regular games, beating some random ACC team in the Pinstripe Bowl and telling everyone that a 7-win season showed why the Huskers are ready to compete in Year 3. Everyone will be convinced that Nebraska deserves to start in the Top 25, which actually might not be as absurd as those who believed a 4-win Nebraska squad that was No. 93 in FBS in percentage of returning production was worthy of being ranked to start 2019.
One thing Frost and the Huskers don’t fail at? Controlling the offseason spin zone. All Frost has to do to get people believing again after yet another devastating loss is remind everyone what this means to him because after all, it’s personal.
“I came back to Nebraska to get this fixed, and I’m gonna do it,” Frost said on Saturday. “Regardless of what has to happen … we’re gonna get it there. I won’t let anything else happen.”
As promising as that sounds, Frost doesn’t have that kind of control.
If he did, well, the “F-word” wouldn’t have defined his first 21 games at Nebraska.