Nebraska football: Winless on road, path to bowl just got tougher
At this point, some Nebraska fans might prefer to be blown out.
Because for the 5th time in as many losses this season, the Huskers fell by just 1 score, 30-23 to Minnesota.
Scott Frost knows that feeling all too well at Nebraska. He was 1-5 in 2018, 2-4 in 2019 and 2-3 in 2020 under that scenario. This year? 0-5.
“Little details got us beat,” Frost said. “I know the guys are kind of tired of hearing that. I’m tired of saying that, but that’s what it is.”
Misfortune and mistakes were the culprits.
“The amount of detail — attention to detail — it’s something we’ve been working on,” Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez said. “It’s something we know is a focal point for us.”
In some cases, the Huskers were doomed if they did and doomed if they didn’t.
On consecutive drives in the third quarter, a choice of whether to kick a field goal or not went wrong — both ways.
Down 5, Frost chose to go for it on 4th-and-goal inside the 1. Jaquez Yant, in for a just-injured Rahmir Johnson, tripped and fell short of the goal line.
“Gotta get those balls in the end zone when we get them down there,” Frost said.
After forcing a 3-and-out, the Huskers took advantage of field position and worked their way back into field goal range on the next possession. But Connor Culp, who missed an extra-point but made a 50-yard field goal earlier, missed a 27-yard chip shot.
“We’ve got to do little things a little bit better and get this much better,” Frost said.
Nebraska had no answer for Minnesota in falling behind 21-9 at halftime. That trend continued into the second half as the Golden Gophers couldn’t miss, completing 16 consecutive passes before Cam Taylor-Britt ended that streak with an interception so smooth that even the TV announcers didn’t know what happened.
Another Nebraska interception on the next drive — this time by Deontai Williams — signaled that another comeback like last week’s against Michigan might be on its way.
But like last week, those same small miscues that have haunted them all year prevented the Huskers from hurdling the hump.
Like a false start on a crucial 3rd down that knocked Nebraska out of field goal range. Or running 6 yards backward into your own end zone and giving up a safety after being called for intentional grounding. Or allowing a 56-yard touchdown run that made the one-score difference more of a formality than anything.
“We had every opportunity to be in control of the game after the third quarter, ” Frost said. “I thought Minnesota was the better team in the first half and we were the better team in the second.”
Indeed. Early on, it was a tale of two — maybe three — quarterbacks.
Martinez started slow, connecting on only 1 of his first 6 passes. On the other side, Minnesota’s Tanner Morgan was 14-of-15 with 2 touchdowns in the first half and Cole Kramer was 1-for-1 with a 5-yard touchdown — the first of his career. He also rushed for 20 yards.
Morgan added those early interceptions in the second half, but was 6 of 7 otherwise, finishing with 209 yards.
“We just have to keep pushing forward,” Martinez said. “We have to continue to work on those things and go from there.”
If you want to make a bowl, you’d think eventually you would have to win on the road. Nebraska is 0-for-4 in that department.
But Wisconsin is the only trip left to travel for these 3-5 Huskers. Unfortunately, the home games are 2 Top 10 teams (at the start of Saturday) and the Purdue team that just soundly beat one of them.
All 4 teams left on the schedule are beatable — and have now been beaten. The question is: With the game on the line, will Nebraska ever be able to do the little details necessary to get those wins?