ANN ARBOR, Mich. –– "We have a tough game next week, and this will get worse before it gets better but it’s always darkest before the dawn," Nebraska coach Scott Frost said one week ago after Nebraska lost to Troy. "I know where this is going, so I want every guy in that locker room to be on board.”
One week later, it got worse.
Nebraska finished its matchup with Michigan with 132 yards of total offense compared to the Wolverines' 491. The Huskers had 12 first downs to Michigan's 22. Nebraska also converted only three of its 13 third down conversions and had just about 11 minutes less possession time than Michigan. The final stats sheet is a bit painful to look at for too long.
Michigan was triumphant against Nebraska. The Wolverines got an early lead and the Huskers were never able to recover. Mistakes and mishaps doomed Nebraska from its very first drive of the game.
"We're not ready to beat a team like this yet but the keyword is yet," Frost said following the 56-10 loss to Michigan. "It certainly is not going as quickly as I would like but I'm kind of excited because it's not going to get worse than this.
"It's only up from here."
Frost's players agree. Senior captains Jerald Foster and Luke Gifford took the podium together following the loss. Foster spoke first, addressing how the team will approach the lessons from the loss to Michigan.
"We're behind our coach. It makes perfect sense. With a game like this and a loss like this, you definitely have to hit the reset button," Foster said. "You've got to be able to pull everybody together so we're able to go through the rest of this conference play, which we have a whole lot more games. We just got another game added on in place of the Akron game that we missed. We have a lot of football left, only play three games and I'm still excited for this season.
"It's a hard loss, definitely. This is a team you really want to stack yourself up against. Michigan is a great, great team and a great atmosphere but we're going to take this one and we're going to learn from it, definitely. We're going to learn from it and we're going to push forward. I don't know exactly what else to say. I guess that's what you'd expect me to say because it's the truth. I feel like everbody wants to say things but it's when you actually do them so we're going to get out there on the field on Monday and do what we need to do."
Foster said the locker room equated the team's current status to being in a swimming pool. Now that they've reached the bottom, their feet are on the ground and they can push off. It's just a matter of making that push.
"It's not about swimming. It's about being able to get back to the top," Foster said. "We're going to use that. We're going to run with that. There's a lot that we're going to have to do. It's going to be hard, which I'm fine with. Whatever we have to do to be a good football team and be able to compete with good football teams like Michigan. Hats off to them for sticking to their game plan and playing their game."
As Foster said though, it's more than just talk. He hopes people can see that because he doesn't believe it's going to get worse.
How does he know, though?
"Because we have a coaching staff and players that won't allow it. That's it," Foster said. "Look me in the eyes and I hope you can see I'm not going to let it get any worse than this."
For junior inside linebacker Mohamed Barry, part of building this team back up is taking accountability as leaders. The way he sees it, a mistake on defense belongs to everyone and not just to the individual who made it.
"That's the thing, this is on our leaders and not just on our teammates," Barry said. "Even on the defense, everything that happened today on defense, no matter what you said about my own game, it's on me as a leader. That's what us leaders have to know. When we lose and when we perform bad, it's not on an individual person. It's on the leaders because we let that slide in practice. We let that slide in the summer. It's on us."
Foster, Gifford and Barry all agreed that it's about supporting one another and setting an example for the team. It's also about showing up on Monday and putting the work in, win or lose.
"It's not easy. It's tough but I'm pretty confident in the leaders we have and the leadership that we have and the coaching staff we have that we're going to get it down," Gifford said. "We expect it this week. That's what we expect this week. Just because of this outcome, I wouldn't expect anything different on Monday. Honestly, it should be a whole new level. Like Coach Frost mentioned in the locker room, we're going to find out who loves football. That's what you want.
"This is tough and it's a tough situation to be in and a lot of guys have been in this situation that last few years but it's going to be how we respond. And us four captains, I know what direction we're going and I know what direction our guys are going to follow us."
Frost knew it would take time to fix Nebraska's mistakes. He never expected it to happen overnight, but he sees it getting better. Post-game on Saturday, he talked about looking ahead to Purdue next Saturday.
He's also ready for things to start looking up.
"I knew we had a lot of work to do. We're not giving up," Frost said. "We're going to get this thing right. They brought us in here to get it right and we're going to get it right."
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.