Nebraska football: It wasn't pretty, but Huskers avoid embarrassing loss
It certainly wasn’t pretty.
Nebraska avoided disaster, pulling away in the 2nd half for a 38-17 win over FCS foe North Dakota. A loss would’ve been unimaginable. Yet at half, Nebraska found itself in a 7-7 dogfight and the boos rained down from the sellout Memorial Stadium crowd.
So what changed in the final 2 quarters? Scott Frost wouldn’t say.
Frost brought in former Pitt offensive coordinator Mark Whipple to run the offense in the offseason. But the 2nd half looked different. Frost had a headset on. A play sheet in hand. So who was calling plays?
HC Scott Frost was asked who was calling plays in each half. Said he’ll “never get into that” but said a lot of smart people are in the room making decisions.
— Brady Oltmans 🤠 (@BradyOltmans) September 3, 2022
Could there be friction among Frost’s new staff? Possibly? We’ll have to wait and see. But if Frost pulled play-calling duties from Whipple, there’ll be more to the story as the week unfolds.
The Huskers looked lethargic. Missed tackles. Sloppy offensive line play. It was all evident.
Yet the silver lining was Florida State transfer Anthony Grant. Grant shined in his Memorial Stadium debut. Rushing for 189 yards and 2 touchdowns will do that. It was the most rushing yards by a Huskers back since Dedrick Mills went for 191 at Rutgers in 2020. He showed flashes of brilliance. Jump cuts, breaking tackles, he did it all.
It was a much-needed performance from Grant. Nebraska hadn’t won a football game since Oct. 2, 2021. It was a span of 7 straight losses. The natives were restless. Grant made sure an epic upset wasn’t in the cards. His 46-yard TD run late in the 3rd quarter broke a 17-all tie.
Grant seems to have the “It” factor. He makes defenders miss. He’s dangerous when he reaches the 2nd level. His 19-yard TD scamper on NU’s opening drive was a thing of beauty.
Frost tempered enthusiasm a bit after the game regarding Grant’s performance.
Frost on if he thinks Anthony Grant is better than what he originally thought:
“I don’t want to crown him yet. I know how Nebraska is.”
Same tune after Jaquez Yant's game against Northwestern.
— Steve Marik (@Steve_Marik) September 3, 2022
Nebraska hasn’t had a back with Grant’s talents since arguably Ameer Abdullah in 2014. Even with an offensive line that was less than stellar, Grant found holes and cutback lanes, and had 5 runs of 10-plus yards. He put NU on his back when the game was tight. He finished with over 100 yards for the 2nd straight week.
Grant came to NU highly regarded. He’s been a journeyman. A kick returner for Florida State before transferring to New Mexico Military Institute. He was named the 2021 JUCO player of the year. His talent is evident. It’s transferring over to a Power 5 school and Nebraska is benefitting.
Offensive line woes
For the 2nd straight week, the offensive line struggled to find its groove. Missed assignments, lack of communication, it was all evident. For Nebraska to make a leap forward, play upfront must improve.
Teddy Prochaska was beaten several times. He moved from the right to left side. If North Dakota is getting pressure on Casey Thompson, what will Oklahoma do in 2 weeks?
New offensive line coach Donovan Raiola has his hands full. Developing consistency will be key. It was a rotating circus at times.
Not sure you guys have been paying attention but Nebraska has been playing roulette on the offensive line with personnel the whole game. Just bizarre beyond measure
— Jake Sorensen (@937JakeSorensen) September 3, 2022
Can Raiola find the right combination moving forward? If not, the struggles will continue.
Defensive miscues continue
Erik Chinander’s defense was solid in 2021. Through a pair of games in 2022, the Huskers are giving up 417 yards on average. Missed tackles are a concern. There were 3 on North Dakota’s opening offensive possession.
The Huskers miss the leadership of JoJo Domann and Cam Taylor-Britt. Both have graduated, and finding their replacements remains an ongoing process. Captain, and edge rusher, Garrett Nelson finally collected his first sack of the season in the 3rd quarter. NU needs more production from him, as well as TCU transfer Ochaun Mathis.
Run defense is a concern as well. The Fighting Hawks’ Isaiah Smith was the 2nd opponent to go over 100 yards on the ground vs. the Blackshirts. Linebacker play has been insufficient, and starting middle backer Nick Henrich missed the game due to injury. Luke Reimer has been slow to live up to expectations.
Fighting Hawks quarterback Tommy Schuster had too much time in the pocket. Nebraska must find ways to create more pressure. Blitzes or winning up front has to happen. Chinander must go back to the drawing board to get his unit dialed in.
Still too many head-scratching moments
Watching Nebraska football games can test one’s health. The head-scratching moments happen week to week.
The first happened on special teams. Wyatt Liewer put Huskers fans on edge during a North Dakota punt. With the ball bouncing and about to be downed by the Fighting Hawks, Liewer decided to grab the ball. A dual-possession ensued and luckily Nebraska retained possession. But why even get near the ball?
Another occurred on North Dakota’s game-tying TD drive before half. Facing a 4th-and-2, the Fighting Hawks converted a 3-yard completion. Nebraska defenders were seen celebrating a stop … however, it wasn’t. Another mind-boggling moment, that had Nebraska viewers shaking their heads.
Needless to say, these moments are all too common in the Scott Frost era.
Nebraska avoided disaster. It picked up a much-needed win. Georgia Southern comes to Lincoln next week. Oklahoma awaits Sept. 17. Many questions still persist.
Frost avoided what would have been his most embarrassing loss. It wasn’t easy. Plenty of work remains. But for at least a week, the corrections can be worked on following a win and not a loss.