It’s clear now there is some resistance in Nebraska’s locker room to what Scott Frost is preaching.
Several players mentioned guys need to be fully bought in after Saturday’s loss to Troy. Frost told the team at the time “if anyone doesn’t want to stay on board this ride with us, let me know now and we can get off.” Then Monday morning, six different players got up in front of the podium and talked about buying in.
“For me, I just feel like it’s us letting him down,” linebacker Mohamed Barry said. “That can’t happen. For someone to put everything into this program and everything into us and genuinely care for us and for us to let him down like that… we all have to be bought-in.”
Added linebacker Luke Gifford: “A lot of times you see now … there’s some defiance in doing what you’ve been told to do. I think guys are starting to understand that, yeah, I’m a grown man and I get to make my own decisions, but a grown man does what he’s told to do. If your boss tells you to do something, you do it. It’s not always fun, it’s not always easy, but that’s the way it is and that’s the way this program is going to be run.”
Said cornerback Dicaprio Bootle: “We’re getting there. Some things in life, in general, we’re not going to agree with everything, but it might take a little time to come around. The overall buy-in from everybody… there’s nobody on this team that’s just outright against what we’re doing and where we’re trying to go. There are definitely areas we can get better in and that we’ve been working to get better in.”
No one got specific. No one singled guys out. Instead, guys kept saying it’s in the little things, the details. But the message is coming through loud and clear. In the 48 hours or so since the Huskers’ loss to Troy, countless Huskers have told their teammates that it’s time for more.
“It’s not just on the field. It’s deciding whether or not to make it to class, deciding whether or not to be dressed the right way at meetings and deciding whether or not to go home and go to bed and get sleep instead of doing something else,” Frost said. “Champions make good decisions in every single decision that they have. Average people, average teams don’t make those decisions.
“Little things lead to big things. We’re going to get it right, I don’t care how long it takes and what we have to do, we’re going to make those little decisions matter. Little decisions and little mistakes are what’s cost us a couple games.”
Nebraska is now 0-2, potentially starring at 0-3 for the first time since the second World War, and the little things have indeed cost them games. Lax ball security has led to three lost fumbles through two games. Mental lapses on special teams have led to poor starting field position. Late hits on defense have extended scoring drives in crucial points of the game.
“We look like an undisciplined team right now with a lot of the penalties,” Frost said. “Too many mistakes, too many penalties, too many bad plays.”
Asked if there was anyone who took Frost up on his “get out now” challenge, he said the intentions behind his postgame comments were something else.
“I just want to get ahead of it. Coming into Nebraska and hearing about how things went down last year, I want to make sure that nobody decides to go off on their own,” Frost said. “We’re all in this together. There’s a lot that had to be fixed and we fixed a lot of it but there’s a lot still to be fixed.
“I think accountability is something a lot of these guys have been missing as a team.”
Senior guard Tanner Farmer said Nebraska needs to work harder, echoing what wideout Stanley Morgan Jr. told the team after the game. He said doing things the right way, both on the football field and off it, has got to be the No. 1 priority.
Tanner Farmer is incredible.
— Derek Peterson (@DrPeteyHV) September 17, 2018
Frost doesn’t appear worried about the spirit of his team. He joked that they’re in better moods than he is. Guys are more frustrated and motivated to change the results than they are down on themselves. Gifford said the start of conference play against Michigan offers somewhat of a fresh start. “Everything we want to do is still out in front of us,” he said. Nebraska has a chance to go get its first road win over a ranked opponent in five years. Bootle said that would go a ways toward helping guys dive in.
He also said they shouldn’t need that.
“What they did down at UCF and seeing that team should already be a big factor for buy-in here,” he said. “We actually see that it actually works. UCF was doing some big things last year and to have that staff come over here and to call their coaches our own [should be enough].”
Bootle said for the most part, guys are invested. Gifford said the same, adding guys’ hearts are in the right place. Barry agreed, too. But Barry also said if guys are shaky, if they’re on the fence, it’s time to figure things out.
“They need to figure it out, you know what I mean? Like I said, you’ve got to look at what you’re doing first but I know I’m 100 percent bought-in. I know that,” he said. “We all have to be bought in and we all have to challenge ourselves to get better.
“We’re this close to being that team. Y’all see it. You know we’re not the same team from last year but it’s just [that little bit] right there. When we get that confidence, when we taste winning, there’s going to be great things that happen this season. We’ve just got to get the first one.”
Other news and notes
>> Freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez practiced Monday after missing Saturday’s game. Frost provided an update on his status, saying he’ll continue to be a gametime decision.
>> The Husker defense is itching to face Michigan’s offense.
“It's a front-seven game,” Barry said. “We've got to bring it. We've got to hit them in the mouth. We've got to play Blackshirt football."
Gifford said it’s Big Ten football.
“This is what you come here for."
>> Nebraska’s offensive line was shaky Saturday after a mostly solid opener. Frost said the unit got tired late in drives and didn’t have the same edge it had to open possessions. He also seemed cautious about the depth.
“Guys like Boe Wilson, Trent Hixson [and] Hunter Miller need to step up and be able to spell some of those guys,” he said. “We got tired on the o-line, particularly at the end of some of those long drives where we were going fast, and we didn’t have the edge that we had at the beginning of the drive. More guys that are able to play are going to help us so we’ve just got to keep bringing them along as coaches.”
Frost said something similar about the wideout group.
“We need more guys to step up and I think it hurt us a little bit at the end of games these last two games because we’ve had to play Stanley [Morgan Jr.] and JD [Spielman] a lot,” he said. “Anybody would get tired as much as we’re playing those guys, so we need more depth there, more guys to be consistent so we can get them on the field and keep them fresh.”
Frost said Andre Hunt, Jaron Woodyard, Mike Williams and Bryan Reimers are all progressing, but they need more. He said sophomore Tyjon Lindsey needs to be more consistent.
“We’re close. There’s a bunch of guys that show really good things,” he said. “We just need consistent play out of those guys so we can get more guys on the field.”
This staff cares greatly about the work throughout the week. We’ve already seen it on the field: if you don’t take care of business during the week, you won’t play on Saturday.
>> Asked about potential personnel changes on special teams, Frost said they already make those on a week-to-week basis, but to drastically alter their approach now, in any facet of the game, would be foolish.
“No matter what happens, we’re going to be who we are and we’re going to do what we know works,” Frost said. “Nobody’s going to panic, we’re just going to work. If the coaches panic and make a bunch of changes just because of losing a couple games, the kids won’t believe in us as much. We had the guys out there on those units that we thought were the best going into the game.
“Not a lot’s going to change, we just need to do a better job.”
>> Freshman running back Maurice Washington had his best day in a Husker uniform against Troy, rushing for 92 yards on 14 carries. He had three 20-yard carries on the day.
"Mo’s a big play waiting to happen. He’s just young. I think the fans are starting to see some of the things he’s able to do," Frost said. "I can’t wait for the day when he has a year, a year-and-a-half in the weight room with Zach but he’s certainly a kid that can provide a spark for us in the game."
>> True freshman linebacker Caleb Tannor was asked if the team was told to pick things up in practice. He said no. They felt the need to on their own.
"We know what we are doing wrong and how to fix it," he said. "It’s just a matter of attacking it and doing it."
Frost saw that and acknowledged as much.
"I did see a great practice today," he said. "I saw guys practicing with an intention to be great. I thought it was our best Monday. It was just kind of a different mindset today and I hope that carries over."
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.