The last decade of Nebraska football has been nothing short of a rollercoaster. It has featured up and down play, which has led to several discussions on what holds Nebraska football back. Do the Huskers have enough talent or is it a coaching issue? A desire and effort issue? A mixture of all?
Having had the time to think about the loss to Illinois, I believe this was the worst loss for Nebraska football in recent memory. I was left to ponder those sets of questions mentioned above once again. It almost sounds strange given what we saw on Saturday but I don’t believe talent is the issue at Nebraska.
Lack of talent didn’t lose 41-23 to Illinois despite being a double-digit favorite in the game.
Lack of talent didn’t come out for the game with lethargic energy.
Coach Scott Frost didn’t blame a lack of talent on the latest bad loss. What he did articulate was a much deeper issue in the program.
“We’ve got plenty of talent right now to compete in every game,” Frost said during his post-game comments. “But in order to win the games, you’ve got to do a lot more right than we did today. This has been a rebuild. We’ve had to rebuild talent. We’ve had to change culture. We’ve had to change attitudes. We’ve had to learn lessons. I feel like we’ve come a long way, but it sure didn’t feel like it today.
“We’re going to get this fixed but the results need to come. The results are going to come, and this is what I told the players, the results are going to come when their expectations and their effort are aligned. I didn’t think we had as much juice today. I didn’t think we had as much enthusiasm. I would die to go back and play one more game in Memorial Stadium. Nobody had to tell me to be fired up to play. I would give anything to go play one more time on that turf.”
This football team is young in a lot of spots. The young talent at wide receiver, running back, offensive line, defensive line and the secondary is evident. There have been flashes by young players at one or more of those position groups in each game of the season. In a since deleted tweet, freshman defensive back Ronald Delancy III chimed in.
“We ‘pose to be way better than that as a team wasting talent,” he wrote.
Freshman outside linebacker Jimari Butler added his thoughts in a quote tweet.
“Nocap bro play the ppl u recruited all dat shit a change not to supposed to lose to no damn Illinois,” Butler responded.
A number of people quickly reacted to the tweets, encouraging the pair to delete them and keep those thoughts within the team. This is a situation where Delancy and Butler aren’t necessarily wrong though. Nebraska is wasting talent. The Huskers are not at a place as a program where they can just show up and beat teams in this league without full preparation. That mentality must get out of this program immediately if the team is ever going to take off.
Frost admitted he thought the team was lackadaisical. He could sense that the team got one win over Penn State and thought it had arrived. The Nebraska players admitted there was a lack of focus and energy in practice. Tight end Austin Allen said the attention to detail and execution was good all week.
While it sounds like I am putting that at the feet of the players, I am not. That all falls on Frost and his coaching staff.
The Huskers have enough talent to compete with anyone in the league. That is a testament to the recruiting job the staff has done. The Huskers feeling like they arrived after escaping with a win over a winless Penn State team then laying an egg against Illinois is on the staff too.
Frost must find a way to motivate his players and keep them engaged before the season gets away from them. Things don’t get easier from here. The team has to turn around in a short week to face rival Iowa. The Hawkeyes would love nothing more than to beat Nebraska next week and make a statement while doing so.
The Huskers will be as talented as the Hawkeyes when they line up on Black Friday. The question remains if they will be as focused and well coached.
Greg is the Recruiting Analyst for Hail Varsity and has covered Husker athletics since 2013. He has always had a passion for sports while growing up in the Chicago area. As he got older and had to hang up his cleats and sneakers, he realized his passion for sports went beyond just watching and attending games. He has covered many events from the Rose Bowl to championship boxing matches. If he’s not talking sports, he’s hovering over his grill. He is married to an amazing woman, Kim, and they have a dog that barks when Greg yells at the TV during games.