Losing stinks. It’s even worse when you blow a 17-point lead to a rival, dropping both games in a home-and-home series by a single score. Nobody is going to try to argue any differently.
Nebraska’s 34-31 overtime loss to Colorado on Saturday is one that leaves a sting. Just two games in, though, it hardly defines a season. And dare I say, maybe that heartbreaking defeat comes as a blessing in disguise for the Huskers?
Allow me to explain.
Since the final gun sounded on the 2018 season, Nebraska has been the talk of the B1G. Scott Frost’s second year in Lincoln was going to be a big one, now with his system in place and a Heisman Trophy quarterback in Adrian Martinez. The Huskers were the preseason favorites to win the B1G West. People were circling the Sept. 28 showdown with Ohio State at Memorial Stadium. That was viewed as Frost’s chance to show the nation that the Huskers were back on the college football map.
Maybe Nebraska wasn’t worried about anyone until the Buckeyes rolled into town in late September. It wouldn’t be the first time the Huskers overlooked an opponent.
In 2017, Nebraska dropped a non-conference contest to Northern Illinois, a game that eventually led to the demise of the season. Linebacker Mo Barry said the Huskers didn’t take that game seriously two years ago.
“When I look back on that loss, I think about how we didn’t give them the respect that they deserved,” Barry said, according to Parker Gabriel of the Journal Star. “I feel like practice was very loose that week and that people were like, ‘Oh, it’s the Sun Belt Conference or whatever, we’re going to beat them, we’re going to dust them, we can play relaxed football, we should beat them by 40.'”
Is it so hard to believe that maybe that happened again this year?
As hard as players and coaches attempted to downplay the offseason hype, Maybe the noise was too loud to ignore. It would’ve been easy to believe this team could easily roll through the first three games of the season (South Alabama, Colorado and Northern Illinois) without a hiccup.
Saturday was a reality check for the Huskers — perhaps in the best way possible. There’s no talk about a potential College Football Playoff berth (yes, there was some of that chatter). Martinez’s name hasn’t been in the Heisman Trophy running after the first two weeks of the season. College GameDay isn’t going to be setting up shop in Lincoln for a showdown between undefeated Nebraska and undefeated Ohio State in a few weeks.
The pressure to make the same leap UCF did from Year 1 to Year 2 under Frost evaporated for Nebraska almost immediately into the Boulder air last week. Now, it’s just football.
Expectations haven’t necessarily been diminished — it is still Nebraska for goodness sake, where you’re always expected to produce results on the field. But they have been tempered, at least on the national scale. There’s something to be said for that.
Not only does the loss alleviate some of the pressure in Lincoln, but it served as a reminder that Nebraska needs to take every team on the schedule seriously — not just the Ohio States, Wisconsins and Iowas of the world.
Barry made that point again on Monday, saying that Nebraska has to treat each opponent the same. It starts this weekend in the final non-conference game against Northern Illinois.
“Every team we’re facing this year, we’re going to give them the respect that they deserve like they’re the best team,” Barry said. “That’s how we’re preparing for NIU.”
Nobody likes losing, but Saturday’s loss to Colorado could serve as the wake-up call Nebraska needed. Fortunately for the Huskers, it came in a non-conference game early in the year, and all of the Huskers’ goals are still in front of them. In the end, a loss to the Buffaloes has no affect on the Huskers’ pursuit of a division title.
“No one’s going to care about Colorado when we’re in the B1G Championship,” Barry said, according to Brian Christopherson of 247Sports. “And that’s a fact.”
The goal is still the same in Lincoln, but the pressure is off. If the Huskers use the Colorado game as a turning point, and the moment they realized they can’t just roll their helmets onto the field and beat anyone they play, they’re going to be just fine.