Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Nebraska-Michigan State Notebook: What Is There Even to Say?

September 25, 2021

What is there even to say about that one? Nebraska fell 23-20 in overtime to No. 20 Michigan State on Saturday, and the post-game mood reflected exactly what was experienced in the final moments of regulation and overtime.

Frustration. Disappointment.

“I’m happy that I was able to help the team today and it sucks because all of the games we’ve been in have been one score, super close,” kicker Connor Culp said post-game. “I know we’re a damn good football team and we’re going to figure it out. I’m just disappointed right now in the outcome and everything.

“I worry about the team more than anything else. I don’t care about my personal performance. That’s kind of where I’m at.”

When asked about his performance Saturday, Culp fought back tears. While he went 2-for-2 on his kicks against Michigan State—and improvement over previous weeks—something was clearly bothering Culp. Coach Scott Frost previously shared that Culp had missed some of fall camp with an undisclosed injury, but Culp said it’s been more than that.

He didn’t want to dive into the specifics, but Culp shared a little about where his head was at post-game.

“I’ve been dealing with a lot of personal stuff last couple of months,” Culp said. “After figuring out what was going on, I made a commitment not only to myself but to the team to, whatever it is, keep going through and do your job because at the end of the day, that’s what I’m here to do.

“Tonight was just a start and I’ve got to keep building off of this. Definitely instilled a lot more confidence in me and, you know, I don’t feel great because we still lost and I was ready to go out and hit a game-winner.”

If he had the opportunity to kick that game-winner, Culp felt he’d have been comfortable up to 53 yards. He previously hit a career-long 51-yard field goal against Oklahoma.

Culp isn’t worried about his confidence, but you could feel the disappointment in his voice. You could hear it in Ben Stille’s too. He and Nick Henrich spoke postgame for just a couple of minutes before heading to the bus. They didn’t have much to say. The message was simple.

Do your job. Focus on what you do. Pay attention to the details.

It’s everything Frost said he needs from his team postgame. But what else is there to even say?

More from Nebraska’s loss to Michigan State:

>> Frost said that Daniel Cerni’s punt that Jayden Reed returned for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter was supposed to go right. Instead, it went left where the punt coverage wasn’t. Frost said that outside linebackers coach Mike Dawson preps his special teams units well, but will keep working on them.

“I don’t think Coach (Mike) Dawson can detail things more than he does in practice but we’re gonna try,” Frost said.

>> Outside linebacker JoJo Domann said the defense played well in the second half when the Spartans were held scoreless and had fewer yards (14) than plays (15), but the Blackshirts can always be better. The loss isn’t going to bring down the defense.  “We’re not done, we’re not going to roll over. We’re competitors.”

>> Domann also shared his thoughts on what it felt like to not give up a first down to Michigan State’s offense in the third and fourth quarters, but still lose the game.

“It hurts. We want to win. We’re competitors and that’s why we play the game.”

>> Austin Allen believes Nebraska has the the makeup to overcome a game like this and get back on track.

“This is a special team for sure,” Allen said. “If I know anything about this team, we’re not going to croak. We’re going to keep kicking and we’re going to keep fighting. We’re going to build off this game and there’s a lot of stuff to learn out of it. We can use this as another foundation we can we can jump off.

>> Outside linebacker Garrett Nelson said that he and the team are going to show support for Cerni, whose errant punt led to a returned touchdown late in the game. He brought up the similar situation with Culp from last week when he missed two of his three field goals, but responded well against Michigan State.

“I tried to pick up Culp and the team picked him up, and he obviously kicked a lot better this game,” Nelson said. “I don’t know if we had any part in that, I’d like to think we did. But he’s (Cerni) our teammate and we all make mistakes. But his mistakes are so obvious because he has one shot, and as a defense we have 60 or something. So he has to be perfect, which is a difficult thing to do in football. But you can’t get on him and think he sucks now. You have to pick him up like we did with Culp.”

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