Find a way to keep the game respectable. Play like you have nothing to lose.
That’s not how you’d normally think about a Nebraska team heading to Norman to face old rival Oklahoma. That was the position facing the Huskers coming into the first big game of the season.
The Huskers showed a level of grit and toughness during the 23-16 loss at Oklahoma. Playing a more smash mouth style allowed the team to stay in the game even having an opportunity to win it. Nebraska took several punches from the No. 3 Sooners but kept responding. That is something senior linebacker JoJo Domann was proud of.
“The resiliency of this team was amazing today,” Domann said. “I’m so proud of how the guys rallied around one another and how we never put our head down. We understood that they had momentum at times, but we were going to keep fighting. We never rolled over and I’m proud of our guys for that.
“It’s a mental battle with the special teams. It’s all between the ears. We got some talented dudes that that care a whole lot. It’s just in between the ears. We got to be about it each and every day. Every moment so that when you’re on the big stage, it’s just second nature.”
We can acknowledge that the team has grown since losing to Illinois. That doesn’t make everything better. The second part of that quote is important. Two things can be true at the same time. The Huskers should be proud of the way they fought in that game as a 23-point underdog. The fan base has also grown weary of seeing the same mistakes. Those mistakes that have kept Nebraska from winning games popped up again.
Special teams blunders were present on Saturday. So too was undisciplined play from the offensive line. Nebraska had four penalties on the opening drive of the game. The offense was having success moving the ball. That type of thing has happened frequently the last three years under coach Scott Frost.
Quarterback Adrian Martinez noted plays that he would like to have back from the game.
“Well, there’s definitely a couple because we had our chances to take them down,” Adrian Martinez said. “I’ll start with the first drive. We got a field goal and we had maybe four penalties on that one drive. That’s just unacceptable for what we’re trying to do. Then the opening drive of the second half, we needed to finish that one. At the very least come away with some points and we didn’t. They were fixable things, self-inflicted errors that we need to get corrected. You can’t make those when you’re playing a really good football team.”
Oklahoma was a big test for Nebraska but it wasn’t a measuring stick for the program. That comes during the next stretch of games. Nebraska has a huge game on the road against Michigan State. Then matchups with Northwestern, Michigan and Minnesota await. The self-inflicted wounds will need to be minimized to win those games.
Like Frost mentioned after the game there are plenty of things for Nebraska to work on. There are also things to build on. Which of those the Huskers lean into will determine the direction of the 2021 season.
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.