Nebraska football: Canceled Cornhuskers game a lost opportunity
Saturday’s final score at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., was Mother Nature 1, Nebraska 0.
The loss won’t count against the Cornhuskers in the standings, but that’s about the only good news coming out of the weekend, when Big Red’s scheduled opener against Akron was delayed, then canceled because of lightning.
Most of all, Nebraska lost an opportunity. Actually, several of them.
Why? Here’s why:
Young team got no reps
Adrian Martinez was slated to be the first true freshman ever to start an opener at quarterback for Nebraska.
He still is, just a week late. He will step under center — weather permitting — this Saturday against Colorado. He was one of nine freshman on offense listed on the pregame two-deep depth chart.
The Akron game presented a chance for all of those young players to get their nerves out of the way in a game that Nebraska was very likely to win comfortably. Now they will be presented with a much sterner test for their debut against the Buffaloes.
Instead of establishing themselves as college players against the Zips, the newcomers — and for that matter the rest of the team — got no farther than the tunnel walk. Which, one must admit, was pretty cool, but it’s not going to help win any games.
This should hold you over for a little while. ❄️ pic.twitter.com/UAXWk6BK0c
— ❄️ Nebraska Football ❄️ (@HuskerFBNation) September 2, 2018
System still untested
Perhaps you have heard by now, but Nebraska has a new head coach in Scott Frost. The Cornhuskers have a new offensive coordinator, Troy Walters, and a new defensive coordinator in Erik Chinander. In fact all 10 assistants either on the sidelines or in the coaching booth are brand new at their posts.
Now, these coaches are not new to coaching at this level — quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco, for instance, is in his 31st season as a college coach.
Frost brought pretty much the entire staff that helped the UCF Knights to a 13-0 season and a final ranking of No. 6 in the Associated Press poll in 2017. But they are working with all new players at Nebraska and the whole team is still trying to implement new systems on offense and defense.
The Akron game, like any opener, would have provided a glimpse of what the Cornhuskers players have down pat, and more important it would have revealed how far the players still have to navigate the rough spots.
This is perhaps looking too far down the road for a program coming off of a 4-8 season. But bowl eligibility is a bare minimum requirement in Big Red Nation. Actually, just barely making bowl eligibility usually gets coaches fired.
Scott Frost will be given some time to turn this program around, of course. But consider what weather did to two ACC teams last season.
In 2017, Georgia Tech was 5-6 and had a game against UCF canceled because of weather. Now, who knows if the Yellow Jackets would have won, but they never got the chance and wound up out of the postseason. Florida State should have met the same fate but the Seminoles were able to reschedule a weather-postponed game just to get to 6-6 and become bowl eligible.
Again, Nebraska has a young team. Coaches talk all the time about how valuable those extra 15 pre-bowl practices are. At this point in their development, the Cornuskers can’t afford to look down their noses at even a lower-level bowl bid. If Saturday’s canceled game costs this team a bowl bid, and all of those extra practices, the players and coaches will spend all spring and summer ruminating over a missed opportunity.