A man in a navy suit coat stopped Scott Frost as he left the podium following Nebraska’s 37-21 loss Saturday afternoon. The jacket had a “Peach Bowl” patch sewn on the upper-left pocket.
“Good to see you again, Coach,” the man said as he extended his hand to Frost. The Huskers’ second-year coach smiled, shook the man’s hand and exchanged a few quick words before finding his quarterback a few feet away.
It feels like a lifetime ago since Frost and his Central Florida Knights defeated Auburn in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. The reality is that it was less than two years ago at this point. That matchup took place on Jan. 1, 2018.
Twenty-two months later, Frost was at a podium trying to explain away another Nebraska loss. The Huskers are 4-6 now, closing in on the possibility of a bowl-less season for the third-consecutive year.
Frost knows the challenge ahead. “I hope they understand their back's against the wall,” he said when asked about needing to win the next two to be included in post-season conversations. But he wants more than a team that knows that now. “I want a team that plays like their back is against the wall in every single game.”
He’s been given the gift of time. His contract was extended for an additional two years prior to the matchup with Wisconsin, taking him from 2024 to 2026.
“We’re all a little frustrated because of our record, but we’re in it for the long haul and building a program,” athletic director Bill Moos said on the field prior to kickoff. “It’s going to take several years. I’ve said that all along. Scott knows it. We’ve got the new building under construction here shortly. We’ve got our air fleet all geared up on our recruiting piece.
“It just made sense to do it now, I was going to do it anyway. This, I think, is a good piece for morale and some energy within our team and our program.”
That gift is something many of his Class of 2018 Year 2 coaching brethren were not given. Frost is currently 8-14 at Nebraska. Willie Taggart was 9-12 at Florida State when he was fired this season. Chad Morris was 4-18 at Arkansas. Things are different for Frost, of course. He returned home to a state and a program that so badly wanted him to.
He returned home to a place he so badly wanted to be at as well. Frost’s longest answer at the podium on Saturday was about his extension. He thanked the people, like Chancellor Ronnie Green and Moos, for their support. He credited the leadership of the university, and the people who support it. That included the fans who show up every Saturday and those who stop him in the community to say hello when they see him.
“This is where I want to be,” Frost said. “People in Nebraska know me pretty well and I’m a fighter and I’m not going to quit until this is right. We took the Nebraska job as a staff because we figured we had the runway to build this and build it the right way, in a lot of ways there was more work to be done than we even anticipated before we came to Lincoln, and there’s still things to do to get right.”
Time is tricky. It’s especially tricky in sports, when you’re left to guesstimate the time something will take to make it successful once again. Minnesota, for example, has been trying to figure out how to get time back on its side since its last national championship in 1960. Maybe 2019—with Coach PJ Fleck rowing the boat—will finally be the year some things shift. But maybe not. The Gophers were losing 20-13 to the Iowa Hawkeyes at the time this was written. There’s also too much time left in that game—better yet, the season—to say anything definitive.
Nebraska is trying to figure its own timetable out. The Huskers last won a national championship in 1997. Twenty-two years later, time is still playing tricks on the Huskers.
And that’s what Frost is trying to figure out. No one wants to fix Nebraska more than him—he’s said so many times now—but maybe he underestimated the work ahead. Maybe he just didn’t see Nebraska for what it really was, and maybe he never was going to until he was truly back in the thick of things.
It’s been 22 months since Frost took an undefeated team from the American Athletic Conference to the Peach Bowl and defeated an SEC powerhouse. There are little reminders here and there of what Frost did at UCF, like the preseason comparisons between Year 2 with the Knight and the Huskers. Or the man in the Peach Bowl jacket who stopped Frost to say hello. To say it was good to see him.
Maybe—just maybe—Frost and the time he’s been given will have the opportunity to see that man again. Next time, hopefully, it’s in Atlanta.
Erin is the Deputy Editor and Digital Marketing Strategist for Hail Varsity. She has covered Nebraska athletics since 2012, which has included stops at Bleacher Report, Cox Media Group’s Land of 10, and even Hail Varsity (previously from 2012-2017). She has also been featured on the Big Ten Network, NET’s Big Red Wrap-Up, and a varsity of radio shows nationwide. When not covering the Huskers, Erin is probably at Chipotle.