Nebraska is back to work in preparation for a road trip to Northwestern after an unexpected “bye week.” The Huskers should have faced Wisconsin last Saturday, but the Badgers canceled the matchup due to a COVID-19 outbreak on the team.
“I mean, it was kind of rumors at first and then it became real,” defensive back Dicaprio Bootle said on Monday.
The canceled matchup meant a change of plans for the Huskers. It also meant Nebraska tried for a nonconference opponent to fill the void. However, when Coach Scott Frost told the team the Big Ten had to approve the potential Tennessee-Chattanooga matchup, the players were confident it wouldn’t happen.
“It turned out they were right,” Frost said.
The team ended up practicing Friday and Saturday, according to receiver Wan’Dale Robinson, before taking Sunday off. While it wasn’t what Nebraska expected for the weekend, Frost did think the team handled it well. The Huskers also did their best to adjust and keep the players safe.
“We had a scary movie night on Halloween, trying to keep our guys from going to parties or doing dumb things,” Frost said. “We have officially set a record for the most practices with only one game under your belt but I think the guys are learning to roll with the punches.”
Now that Nebraska has turned its attention to Northwestern, the Huskers know what to expect. The Wildcats are 2-0 to start the season, most recently defeating Iowa 21-20.
Nebraska is 5-4 against Northwestern since joining the Big Ten—including a 3-1 record at Ryan Field—with most of the matchups coming down to the wire. Of the nine meetings between the programs, only two games have been decided by more than seven points. The most recent meeting in 2019 ended in a 13-10 Nebraska win, which happened on a game-winning field goal.
“Every time I’ve played them, it’s been nothing but close games,” Bootle said.
Frost, Robinson and Bootle all acknowledged that Northwestern will be a difficult opponent. Frost has put some focus on the Wildcats’ defense, mostly because “they kinda whooped us on that side of the ball last year.” Either way, Frost does think his team has a chip on its shoulder right now. Quarterback Adrian Martinez sees it as Nebraska having a determined mentality.
“I like where our heads are at,” Martinez said as the team prepares for the Northwestern.
Yes, the Huskers are ready for what’s next. In fact, they have been ready from the moment the decision was made about last Saturday.
“Whatever was in front of me is how I prepared,” Bootle said. “. . . We just go on to the next one.”
More news and notes:
>> Robinson said he has seen the receivers getting “better in all areas.” He’s also said that the younger players know they have to make strides in practice to get onto the field during hames.
“If you want to play, you have to show it in practice,” Robinson said.
He has also taken it upon himself to help the younger receivers.
>> Senior offensive lineman Matt Farniok knows it won’t be easy facing the Wildcats’ front seven.
“We know it’s gonna be an inch-by-inch kind of game,” he said.
He also said that the Huskers “always love” those kind of games.
>> Frost said he will not weigh in on Wisconsin’s decision to cancel the matchup between the two programs. He said the Big Ten Conference left it up to the team’s discretion and Wisconsin took it based on what they were seeing on the team and in the community.
>> Deontai Williams and Cam Taylor-Britt will sit out of the first half of the Northwestern due to their targeting penalties. That carried over with the cancelation of the Wisconsin matchup.
“Certainly don’t think that’s necessarily fair to these kids,” Frost said. “. . . It’s an awfully big penalty.”
>> Frost said he was able to go trick-or-treating with his kids on Saturday, which was one small benefit of the game cancelation. With that said, the Huskers have played just one game and it’s already November.
“This is a such a broken, messed-up year,” Frost said.
>> Nebraska will also be off from practice on Tuesday in honor of Election Day. What does it mean to someone like Robinson?
“Now it’s a lot more big of a deal to get out and vote and use your voice,” he said.
>> Nebraska and Penn State are set for an 11 a.m. CT kick on Saturday, Nov. 14.