Bear with me here. There’s a point to be made, however obvious.
I was sorting through my stacks of old vinyl records, as folks my age occasionally do, and came across an album by Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks, “Where’s the Money?”
I’ve referenced the album, I’m sure, though my memory no doubt failed me on the particulars, so I put the record, the A side, on a turntable to get it right this time. The recording is of a live performance at the Troubadour in Hollywood, California, in February of 1971.
The music, which I’d called “folk-pop,” is for the most part up-beat, fast-paced, like Nebraska’s offense, and defense you could say, under Scott Frost. There’s also humor to the music, as well as on the album jacket, the back of which has R Crumb-like cartoon figures by each song title.
Before “Shorty Falls In Love,” the last song on the A side (I always thought this occurred during the earlier “Where’s The Money”) Hicks interjects: “You probably think it’s easy being up here, singing and everything, and playing; it’s not. It’s not easy. Thank you.”
Then “Shorty Falls In Love” immediately begins.
Hicks’ comments are probably appropriate in the wake of Nebraska’s 34-31 overtime loss at Colorado. At least some Husker fans need to be reminded of what Frost is trying to accomplish and the fact that change in system and culture isn’t going to be accomplished two games into his second season.
And yes, it’s not just Frost, it’s Frost and staff. Where Nebraska was when he arrived and where it is now are dramatically different; at least, “dramatically” is worth arguing. But much work remains to be done, of necessity not because the program hasn’t moved forward.
The glitter of 13-0 and a No. 6 national ranking in his second season at Central Florida has settled, leaving the reality of where the Huskers were when he arrived and where they intend to go. And that reality is shaped by the Big Ten not the American Athletic Conference.
We’ve seen the Colorado game before, including at Northwestern last season, when Nebraska couldn’t hold a 28-14 fourth-quarter lead and lost, yes in overtime, 34-31. But that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a long-term pattern of being unable to hold leads developing.
Consider, too, the pre-season hype, including a national ranking coming off a 4-8 season and sophomore Adrian Martinez in the Heisman Trophy conversation. It has been as if Nebraska would simply fast-forward, as Central Florida did under Frost.
But again, the context is different, the process much more difficult.
When Frank Solich was fired after the 2003 season, there was talk that, “Oh, all the major programs have dealt with downturns and rebounded, Oklahoma, Alabama . . . it happens.”
So Bill Callahan’s first team goes 5-6 and fails to make a bowl game for the first time since 1968—and he made the mistake after a loss to Colorado in the final game of the season of saying something to the effect it was just one loss in one season. For Husker fans, it’s never “just” one.
After that first season, some Husker fans were like: “OK, there’s the downturn. Now let’s get back to winning championships.” Though Nebraska played in one conference championship game under Callahan and three under Bo Pelini, the Huskers never returned to the national discussion.
There are other factors to consider now, among them recruiting, which is more complicated and important than it was 20 years ago. And Frost is just two recruiting classes in.
In any case, Nebraska has to become consistently competitive in the Big Ten before it can regain consistent national relevance. No great insight there. But it will take time, as well as patience, not complaint. You might think it’s easy . . . It’s not. It’s not easy.
Mike is in his 40th year covering Husker athletics, after seven years of community-college teaching. He has written and edited a dozen books, all on Nebraska football except one, a brief history of Husker basketball. He previously wrote for the Lincoln Journal and Star and Huskers Illustrated. He enjoys music, from the Grateful Dead and Jack Johnson to Van Morrison, Bob Wills, Glenn Miller and pretty much anyone else.