Nebraska fans can be forgiven if they don’t really recall Scott Frost’s first trip to the Big House. It was Sept. 10, 2016, Frost’s second game as a head coach, and it kicked off at the same time (11 a.m.) that the Huskers welcomed Wyoming to Memorial Stadium. Nebraska was a 25.5-point favorite that day, Michigan 36.
If you look at the final scores, everything went according to plan. As the Huskers were using a second-half surge to beat the Cowboys 52-17, the Wolverines were putting the cap on a 51-14 win. Nothing to see here, right?
Well, Frost saw something. Michigan fans already weren’t fond of him for his open politicking for the Coaches Poll vote in 1997, but Frost didn’t make any new friends with his postgame comments that day:
"It's hard to say when the score is what it is, but we came in here and outhit those guys today," Frost said. "Standing on the sideline, there was no doubt who was hitting harder. Our guys came in hungry and wanting to do that. It's rare you can come into Michigan and rush for 300 yards on them. They had to run a fly sweep in the fourth quarter to get to 100.
. . .
"Jim Harbaugh's teams are physical, that's what he's known for. We came in here and rushed for 6 yards a carry against them," he explained. "They had 2.9 yards rushing. That tells me our guys are playing hard and fighting. That's really what I wanted to see today.
"There was no lull. We outhit them in the first half, I thought we outhit them in the second half. They've got a lot of playmakers and they made a bunch of plays. But standing on the sideline, watching the impacts and watching the collisions and watching the line move, I thought we won that battle."
UCF didn’t quite hit 300 yards rushing. It was 275, but close enough and point made. Those 275 rushing yards were the most Michigan allowed that season. More than any team managed in 2017, too. The Wolverines put up plenty of yards through the air, were plus-two in turnovers and had a huge field position edge, hence 51-14, but for a new coach at a new program that had all of eight quarters under its belt at that point, I’ll remember that game more for Frost’s “we outhit them” comments and the clear intent to set a tone for his team following what looked like a run-of-the-mill blowout.
And I’ll probably be thinking about it all the way up to this year’s conference opener at Michigan on Sept. 22, which I started to consider while reading Mark Schlabach’s bold predictions for 2018. Both the Huskers and Wolverines made the column.
Schlabach predicts that Michigan will address one of big hangups of the Jim Harbaugh era – maybe the primary hangup – and “beat an opponent that matters.” The Wolverines are 2-7 against Ohio State and Michigan State combined.
He also offers a prediction for Nebraska – the Huskers won’t go undefeated – which isn’t all that bold.
. . .The turnaround might not happen immediately, but Frost will build a Big Ten title contender sooner rather than later.
Big Red fans will have to be patient, though. Not only might Nebraska be starting a freshman quarterback, Adrian Martinez, who missed his entire senior season of high school while recovering from a shoulder injury, but it also plays one of the most difficult schedules in the FBS this coming season.
I don’t think patience will be a problem for Husker fans in 2018. Progress is the name of the game this season. Every gain made will feel like icing on the Frost cake Nebraska fans will enjoy all offseason.
Though things could get interesting if the Huskers go in and “outhit” Michigan in the Big House. Beat the Wolverines, and maybe you can throw that patience stuff out the window.
Only 250 days to wait.
There’s Nothing I Fear
The practice of putting buzzer beaters to “My Heart Will Go On” can go on forever and never get old for me.
Here is the game story, three takeaways, quotes, photo gallery and video from Nebraska’s win over Illinois last night.
The Grab Bag
- SIU basketball coach Barry Hinson said that if players can transfer without sitting out a year, a rumor at the moment, "you can shut mid-major basketball, and low-major basketball down."
- An Iowa PhD candidate developed an algorithm that she believes can predict where a football recruit will sign with 70-percent accuracy based on players' social media profiles.
- Former Nebraska offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh is reportedly headed to Syracuse. The Orange offense ranked 18th nationally in passing yards per game in 2017.
- Some good tidbits from Bill Walsh on scheme in this writeup from Bill Connelly.
Today's Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.