So close: Nebraska seeks real victories, not moral ones, as Michigan State awaits
“We’re tired of being close,” Nebraska senior safety Deontai Williams said Monday. “That takes a toll on you. We’re tired of being close. We want wins.”
He isn’t alone.
“We’re going to be in a lot of close ones,” Nebraska head coach Scott Frost said. “Got to win them.”
The margin for error in any football game is small. For Nebraska, it almost defies explanation, but you know it when you see it.
“A game of inches.”
“Playing 60 minutes.”
“Any given Saturday.”
“The inches we need.”
“That’s why they play the games.”
Pick a cliche. The Huskers have been on the wrong side of every close game of two halves.
Or perhaps pick an emoji, since one man summed up the Huskers’ place in this modern college football world with one hand gesture.
“I’m sick and tired of everybody doing this,” linebacker Garrett Nelson said, displaying the human equivalent of 🤏. “Stop doing this, because that just pisses me off now because we’re so close.”
Three of Nebraska’s 5 losses last season were by 6, 7 and 8 points. This year, the 2 losses have been by 8 and 7 (Saturday’s 23-16 setback vs. No. 3 Oklahoma). You can understand why the reactions are what they are above.
“I want kids to go into the game expecting to win, and I think they did,” Frost said.
They’ll need to get up for another statement game, because 3-0 Michigan State has arrived in the rankings just as the Huskers are set to arrive in East Lansing.
“We get another opportunity against another ranked team on the road this week,” Frost said.
Yes, the Spartans are a newly christened No. 20, an unexpected development among experts in the preseason — and one Nebraska would love to be in.
But just to book a bowl will require a win this week or against a team of similar caliber — at minimum.
After Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa are on the calendar — all ranked. At 2-2, that margin for error is (sorry) this close, because the Huskers haven’t had recent success against any of the teams they have left that many would have expected them to dominate when they entered the Big Ten.
And even if Purdue and Northwestern fall in Lincoln, the Huskers haven’t beaten Minnesota since 2018 and haven’t won in Minneapolis since 2015.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves: The bottom line is Nebraska will need to beat a ranked team to see the postseason. Maybe 2.
The time is now to close the gap.
And in order to finish the season right, first they need to finish drives, then they need to finish games.
Quarterback Adrian Martinez broke it down Monday through the prism of the Oklahoma loss:
“First drive, we got a field goal and we had maybe four penalties on that one drive. Just unacceptable for what we’re trying to do. … Then, the opening drive of the second half, we needed to finish that one — at the very least, come away with some points — and we didn’t, either.”
Tight end Austin Allen explained.
“We kind of fell back on some old habits.”
Old habits, like being this close: 🤏