Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Nebraska-Minnesota Notebook: Mistakes Continue to Plague Huskers in Loss to Gophers

October 16, 2021

Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck officially holds a 3-1 record over Scott Frost since Frost took the Nebraska head coaching position in 2018 following the Gophers 30-23 win on Saturday. Maybe all that “sloganeering” isn’t such a bad thing for Fleck. He is known for his “Row The Boat, Ski U Mah, Go Gophers” rally cry that concludes most of his press conferences and media availability.

Frost, on the other hand, isn’t one for the the sloganeering.

“If the players need me to motivate them all the time or need me to come up with a unique slogan to get them to play harder, I probably don’t have the right players,” Frost said at Big Ten Media Days in July. “I played for a coach at Nebraska in Coach (Tom) Osborne, he didn’t need all the sayings and slogans. He just taught us the right way to do things and we went to work.”

When it comes to doing things “the right way,” Nebraska has found many ways to beat itself. It’s the “little details,” Frost said. Those are what beat Nebraska on Saturday against Minnesota.

“I know the guys are tired of hearing that,” Frost said post-game. “I’m tired of saying that.”

Despite that, the little details that go uncorrected turn into bigger and bigger issues for Nebraska. This one hurts, offensive lineman Turner Corcoran said. “No one on the team likes losing, obviously,” he added. Nebraska could easily be an 8-0 football team if things had just gone a little differently.

“And we could also be just where we are right now, you know, 3-5,” Corcoran said. “But we just have to be able to eliminate the mistakes on our end as an offensive unit. The false starts, I had a false start and I’m not too happy about myself. I’m still beating myself up about it but eliminate the mistakes and execute the opportunities.”

Eliminate the mistakes. Execute the opportunities. That’d be a good slogan for a team even if you’re not one for sloganeering, because this is a team that has been and remains plagued by miscues and mistakes. It’s the same movie more often than not, a movie Nebraska fans are tired of watching.

Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts left his box situated just to the side of the press box with a few minutes left in the game. It’s hard to know exactly what he was thinking in that moment, but we know what he was thinking in a recent interview with ESPN. In that interview, he shared his thoughts on what defines success now for a team like Nebraska. He spoke about how proud he is of the players.

He also said this:

“To me, fundamentals can be taught, the hardest thing about flipping a culture is getting guys to be willing to lay it on the line when you really don’t want to. We have that,” Alberts said. “Even in those games we lost, those guys are fighting and that is the most important thing. You have to start with the fight. We’re not intimidated or scared, and then we’re taking incremental steps in those key areas like special teams and penalties and turnovers.

“You’re always going to have mistakes. It’s part of the game, but it can’t define who you are.”

Right now, however, Nebraska is defined by its mistakes. It’s defined as the team that continues to beat itself, the team that can’t get out of its own way. Frost says there is progress—and there is progress, especially when you look at the defense—but there are too many mistakes that remain. A missed kick there. The inability to score in the red zone multiple times in a game. The list goes on and on.

Will the bye week bring an opportunity to change things for Frost and Nebraska?

“All I know how to do is keep detailing. Put the kids in the play possible and keep detailing, keep detailing and keep detailing,” he said. “We had two false starts today, the one really hurt us. It was third-and-5. We had a run play call that I felt really good about. Even if you don’t get the first down there, you’re doing to have a fourth-and-short. We kind of called first and second down based on that and then all of a sudden you’re in third-and-10 so that hurt one drive, missed a field goal on another and got stopped on the one-yard line. That’s the game.”

Frost isn’t one for sloganeering and that’s fine. He doesn’t need to be. It’s just hard to poke too much fun at those that like the slogans when they’re the ones winning.

Nebraska now heads to a much-needed bye week before the final four games of the regular season. What will we see from Frost on the other side of this break? Only time will tell, but it’d serve Nebraska well to figure out the mistakes piece sooner than later. No slogan needed.

“We’re all upset,” Frost said. “I want this for the kids first. I want it for Nebraska second. I’m at the end of the list.”

More news and notes:

>> Nebraska defensive coordinator Erik Chinander’s father, Gene, passed away in a car accident on Thursday. Frost, who has known Erik since 2007, said Gene was a good man.

“He would have wanted to see Eric be here, which is why he was here,” Frost said. “He would have wanted to see Erik win today and I’ve got to be a little better, everybody’s got to be a little bit better but it’s not easy and the whole team and the whole Husker family is there for him.”

Despite the loss, Nebraska’s defense was able to turn around a sluggish first half and get things going for the Blackshirts in the second half. The defense player for Chinander and his father, of course, but what exactly did Chinander tell his defense?

“Coach Chinander, being the man he is and the leader he is, he told us to leave everything out on the gridiron and out on the field,” defensive lineman Damion Daniels said. “He said to just play the game just like we do and just get caught in the act of being ourselves.”

>> Nebraska has had some issues in the red zone, to put it lightly. Tight end Austin Allen caught one of the rare passing attempts by Nebraska in the end zone in the loss to Minnesota, but he’s hopeful trust can continue to be built between him and the offensive coaching staff.

In fact, that touchdown by Allen has been in the Nebraska playbook for some time now. “Good to see it actually work,” he said.

>> What does the bye week mean for Nebraska at this point? Corcoran said it’s much-needed for the Huskers.

“I think it’s big time,” Corcoran said. “It’s been a grind so far. It’s been, what, eight straight games and three weeks of fall camp? So, you know, we’ve been at this deal about three months now and I think it’s a good opportunity for some of the guys on the team to be able to get away but be able to come back with a fresh start and get ready to go for the next four or five games this season.”

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