Mickey Joseph walked onto the field out of the tunnel walk, lifting his arms above his head to greet a packed Memorial Stadium.
Interim tag aside, he was a head coach for the first time in a decade.
“Felt good, ’til the game started,” he said after the game.
Of course, Joseph’s debut at the helm of the Huskers didn’t go to plan. Nebraska opened well with a stop and opening drive touchdown, but Oklahoma took control from there, winning 49-14. It marked Nebraska’s biggest loss margin since the 2020 season opener against Ohio State.
Joseph opened his first postgame press conference with a clear message — he’s not going to put blame on players or the rest of the coaching staff.
“This comes back to me,” he said. “It’s not my kids’ fault, not my assistant coach’s fault, this is on me. I gotta accept responsibility for it and I have.”
He went into further detail, saying he didn’t do enough to get the team ready. Joseph didn’t blame it on a lack of time, saying the team was able to accomplish “a lot” between Scott Frost’s firing on Sunday and the game today. That being said, he did also mention that some of the players on the Sooners’ side were simply better.
“We got to do a better job in recruiting,” he said. “They had better skill players, we got to do a better job, but we have very good skill players also, we just got to get them to execute.”
As a result, the interim coach will be making more changes. One of those, he said, will be an enhanced focus on fundamentals, and individual drill work in practice as opposed to group drills.
“The team work don’t matter if the individual work is no good,” Joseph said.
Tackling, gap integrity in run defense and overall offensive line play were areas that Joseph mentioned as needing to improve. The first score Nebraska allowed was a 61-yard run from Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel. The Sooners got in the endzone three more times on the ground, totaling 312 rushing yards on 5.8 yards per carry. They also had four sacks on the day, three in the first quarter and all of them in the first half.
Joseph wouldn’t say that any player played particularly well given the score of the game, but also because he’s yet to watch back the film.
He’ll have some extra time to settle in and correct issues moving forward, as the Huskers have a bye week before their next game against Indiana at home on Oct. 1. The head coach also plans on looking at where depth chart changes may need to be made.
“The bye week’s going to help because we can reevaluate some players,” Joseph said. “We had some young kids that had some snaps, and had some good snaps I thought. So we will look at some young players and see if they can help us, if they can help us then we increase their reps.”
He doesn’t plan on further coaching staff shakeups, although he didn’t rule out the potential for that to change as he analyzes the film.
The three players that spoke after Joseph at the postgame press conference understood their coach’s words, but were generally resistant to the idea that the fault for this performance falls on him.
“We’re the ones out there, we’re playing,” Nick Henrich, a team captain, said. “Coaches can only do so much, and whatever they say we’re going to buy in and believe, which we need to continue to do as a team, but I mean, we’re the ones playing.”
There are eight games left to go this season, all of them against Big Ten opponents. Joseph is confident his team will be able to improve throughout the rest of the season, and won’t get too down emotionally.
“I think they’re going to be OK,” Joseph said. “They don’t have to hold onto this loss, this is on me and I told them that. I told them it’s my job to get them better and we will get them better.”