Nebraska Football's Head Coach Scott Frost Walks off the Field After Game Against Purdue
Photo Credit: John Peterson

Drake’s Takes: Nebraska Football’s Struggles and Analyzing Expectations

November 05, 2021

This week’s Drake’s Takes goes over the insanity of Nebraska football’s current situation, and questioning if expectations for one coach can influence expectations for another.

Nebraska continues to break football

Nebraska football’s loss to Purdue brought what is, to me, the funniest play of the season.

The situation is second-and-1 on the Huskers’ first drive of the second half. Nebraska attempts to catch the defense off guard, and does so well. When Adrian Martinez catches the snap, most of the defense, including the defensive line, is standing up and looking at the sideline.

This is a perfect situation, but it doesn’t end that way. One of the two receivers running a route on the play speeds past his defender. Martinez looks his way, but doesn’t make the throw, likely not confident enough to make it with a safety closing in on the receiver to help. 

The failure to get a massive play out of this isn’t the funny part, though. As result of the Purdue defense’s late reaction, Turner Corcoran, the left tackle on the play, has nobody to block. That is, until, Kydran Jenkins speeds right by him and gets the sack.

I’m not sure why Nebraska felt the need to use eight blockers against a four-man rush and send two receivers on routes on a play likely designed to get a delayed reaction from the defense. Somehow, it still didn’t work. Not only did the Huskers not gain yards, they lost some. 

I’ve tweeted before that this year’s Nebraska football team has to be satire, and this was the best example. This particular scene was possibly a hilarious metaphor for the game and the entire season — the Huskers gain a significant advantage, but make nothing of it. It’s the opposite of what a protagonist’s arc is supposed to be. 

Now we’re here. Nebraska is 3-6, with three top 25 teams left to play. Things don’t look good.

It’s funny that many, including myself, dismissed the Illinois game as an outlier after the Huskers had close games against ranked teams and won the games they were supposed to easily. Now, Minnesota and Purdue have made Nebraska’s blowout win over Northwestern look like it equally doesn’t belong. 

If things go as expected, the Huskers will finish 3-9. I don’t know if Scott Frost will be fired at that point, but it may be hard to justify keeping him. 

I’ve mentioned before that I thought Frost at least had this year and next year before a firing would be a possibility. However, when I said that, a three-win season seemed out of the realm of possibility.  

Quarterback situation

In the wake of Martinez’s recent struggles, people have called for a quarterback change, even if just for a series.

Now, let me say I get it. Martinez has fallen off a cliff the past few weeks, with poor performances against Minnesota and Purdue. His struggles against the Boilermakers were some of the worst I’ve seen from him. 

There are two big reasons I don’t expect a quarterback change, though. The first is that Martinez has done enough this year that he should get the benefit of the doubt in the final three games. Martinez’s excellence has been a large reason the Huskers have been so close to toppling ranked teams. 

The second reason, which might be a bigger one, is that there’s no reason to believe the Huskers have better options. 

The QB2 currently is Logan Smothers, so I’m only going to touch on him. We’ve only seen a little bit of his play, so I can’t say much, but he seems to be someone who is a talented runner and a not-as-gifted passer right now. Maybe if he got extended playing time he could change my mind, but coaches have also mentioned that it’s an area where he is still improving.  

Keep in mind, the last quarterback change Nebraska had ended in disaster, and it’s fair to question how much trust we can put in Nebraska’s coaching staff on quarterback changes. Luke McCaffrey got the Huskers one win, but ended the year with six interceptions and just one passing touchdown. 

I can’t forget that Frost called McCaffrey the “future” at quarterback for the Huskers. Now, that player is essentially the QB3 at Rice and still turns the ball over more than he puts it in the end zone. 

At that time, Frost also said that he was going to play the quarterback that gave the team the best chance to win now. He should do the same here, and that’s Martinez. 

Expectations and standards for Nebraska basketball

A mailbag question I found interesting this week was the comparison of expectations for basketball and football. 

Now, the specific question was if Frost’s failures put more pressure on Fred Hoiberg to succeed. My answer to that is still no, at least to the people that have the power to influence decisions in that area. 

A winning season in football or basketball could actually cause more pressure on the other coach than a losing season would. Both coaches were huge hires and aimed to bring big changes to how their respective program had been structured in the past, so it might be a red flag if one seemed miles ahead of the other.

But it has made me think about how we view both coaches. For me, I feel that I’ve been harder criticizing Frost than Hoiberg, even if we put them on an equal timeline (like comparing Frost’s first year to Hoiberg’s and so on). 

By the end of Frost’s second season, I found myself wondering if he would be the guy. After Hoiberg had his second straight seven-win season, I really still didn’t mind. Part of this is obviously the standard of historical success. One of these programs has multiple national championships and had historically been a winning team, while the other doesn’t have a tournament win. 

But, there has to be a bit more than that, right? Both had recruiting success, were underwhelming compared to expectations and getting the players he wanted in the program was arguably a bit easier for Hoiberg, given how transfer-heavy his teams are. 

I’m not really sure what the answer is yet, but all Hoiberg should have to do is keep fans happy is show improvement. There’s exciting talent on this team, and anyone interested in Nebraska would like to see them produce. 

Nebraska basketball probably doesn’t have to make the tournament this year to keep people happy, but a sizable jump in success would be nice.

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