Few words have been forgotten from matchups between football teams coached by Scott Frost and Jim Harbaugh.
The two first faced off in 2016, when Michigan blew out UCF 51-14. Despite the loss, Frost said afterwards that his team “outhit” the Wolverines.
Michigan hung on to that quote when the 2018 game against Nebraska and new head coach Frost came around. The Huskers lost 56-10, and Michigan was up 46-0 in the third quarter. Then-linebacker Devin Bush said Frost’s words from the 2016 game inspired them to come out with intensity.
“We really took that to heart,” Bush said in 2018. “And, we wanted to make a statement.”
Frost didn’t have the same tone he had in 2016, admitting this time that his side was physically dominated.
Now, Nebraska is the team not forgetting trash talk from years ago. On Monday, cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt recalled that a Wolverine player said then that Nebraska wasn’t “prepared” for the contest. That player was defensive lineman Chase Winovich, who has since gone on to the NFL.
“It just seemed like they didn’t really want to be out there,” Winovich said after the win.
He went on to say that it was something he could sense right after Michigan’s first series.
Taylor-Britt didn’t concede that Winovich was necessarily correct, but he wasn’t hesitant to acknowledge that Nebraska has to play better.
“We have to come prepared this time. We don’t need any ifs, ands or buts about it,” Taylor-Britt said. “Come out and play our best football, and we are more physical than we have ever been.”
Taylor-Britt was far from the only Nebraska player that remembers that loss from three years ago well. Ben Stille was a sophomore at the time, in his first season after transitioning from linebacker to the defensive line.
“That was the most physically defeated I’ve ever felt after a football game in my entire career here,” he said. “… I personally wasn’t ready to be in that position yet.”
Still, the Huskers have long since moved on from that loss. Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez, who had 10 total yards and an interception in the half he played against Michigan in 2018, said that the team is in a “much different spot.”
In many ways, Martinez’s statement is correct. Instead of Frost being a newcomer to the Big Ten, he’s in his fourth year. Nebraska comes into this game only as a slight underdog after a 56-7 win over Northwestern, rather than a team coming off a pair of losses to Colorado and Troy.
The rosters have changed greatly too. Outside of Martinez, there are only a few other contributors that played in that game still on the team. On the Wolverines’ side, the case is the same, but they’re currently undefeated and ranked in the top 10.
Nebraska has already played the current No. 6 and No. 11 teams in the country, and have matchups coming later this season with two more top 10 opponents.
At 3-3, the Huskers don’t have to beat any of their remaining ranked opponents to make a bowl game. A win over one of them would make that path easier, however, and matching up physically is key to making it possible. Frost said thanks to strength coaches Zach Duval and Andrew Strop, the team has grown in that area.
“We got out-manned pretty bad a few times that first year. We need to be bigger, we need to be stronger, we need to be faster.” Frost said. “They need to be tough and nasty. We are getting closer to that.”
The Husker coach hopes his team will show its improvement on Saturday under the lights of Memorial Stadium against a challenging opponent.
“I guess we’ll find out,” Frost said. “… They have another good team that’s very similar to that (2018) one. We get an opportunity to test ourselves against a really good team.”