Monday was the best practice Scott Frost has seen from his team in a long time. Tuesday’s practice was awesome. Wednesday was just OK, the Husker head coach said there were some details that needed fixing but the effort was good. Thursday’s walkthrough was almost flawless.
That’s how the head ball coach categorized his team’s week of practice coming off a canceled season-opener, so yes, he feels good heading into Saturday’s new season-opener against Colorado.
“These guys are as ready as they can be and as prepared as we know how to make them,” Frost said when he met with gathered media Thursday. “We didn’t get the experience of the game and I think the level of our team rose despite that, so I was thrilled to see that happen in practice. I think there’s a lot of room for improvement, a lot of ways to get better, but I saw a huge jump from last week to this week.”
Almost every coach has used some variation of the line “you improve the most between game one and game two,” and Frost alluded to that as well. But, he said the week of practice they had in the run-up to Colorado showed no signs of a team that hadn’t played a game yet.
Their focus is squarely on Colorado.
On Wednesday, offensive coordinator Troy Walters said a key for the offense on Saturday will be establishing the run. While that’s the case on any given Saturday, Colorado looked exceptionally good in the trenches in its opener. The Buffs rushed for 258 yards at 6.45 yards a pop while their defense held Colorado State to 103 yards at 1.48 yards per.
Asked how the Huskers’ looked in the run game during the fall, Frost said things have been positive.
“It’s been back and forth, that’s how you want it. Sometimes the defense got the better of the offense and vice versa,” he said. “Running the ball is important. If you can run the ball in any game, you’ve got a great chance to win it. We’re going to try to stop the run, they’re going to try to stop the run, we’re going to try to run it.”
It might be even more important given the guy Nebraska will be starting at quarterback… or so you’d think.
“Playing a freshman quarterback… he’s ready. I don’t know how he’s going to respond when he gets that first snap but I have a pretty good idea he’ll be calm,” Frost said. “I think there’s going to be a mistake or two and we’re going to have to deal with that and go out and make plays to make up for it.
“[It’s] important, though, that we give him time, give him a run game and don’t put the whole game on his shoulders.”
Accomplishing that whole “don’t put the game on his shoulders” is a joint task. The Nebraska defense is going to have to slow a CU offense that looked as explosive as any in the opener. Quarterback Steven Montez topped 300 yards passing and had more touchdowns (four) than incompletions (three). Receivers Laviska Shenault Jr. and K.D. Nixon had 211 yards and 112 yards receiving, respectively, and a pair of scores.
“Montez is a good player,” Frost said. “Had a great first game, their whole team looked really good in that first game. He can run it, he can throw it, he obviously has experience and knows what he’s doing and I think he’s got some good weapons to get the ball to. It’ll be a challenge for our defense and our offense.”
But Frost was careful not to give all the credit to just one guy.
“I think they have other weapons, I think both their running backs can beat you, they’ve got several receivers that can beat you and I think they do a good job with scheme so we’ve got to make sure we execute,” Frost said.
“After today’s walkthrough, it’s clear the guys know their assignments and know where they’re supposed to be and know how they’re supposed to operate. We need to make sure we can do that when it’s live, bullets are flying and the lights are on.”
Other News and Notes
>> Frost said he was a little antsy coming out of the tunnel for the first time last Saturday but it’s good to have that first entrance out of the way, even if there wasn’t a first game that followed.
“It’s going to be even easier to focus on what we need to do as a coaching staff,” he said. “I think we got all the bugs out, even though we didn’t play a game. Our job is to serve the players, so we’re going to be there and be calm and try to do our jobs the best we can to try to help serve them.”
>> Asked about his memories of Colorado, Frost said they were definitely a rival, but things are different now that he’s coaching.
“As long as I’m here, we’re going to treat every game the same,” he said. “Fans and media and everybody can make rivalries rivalries. Rivalries are for the fans. We’re not going to prepare our players any harder or any less hard because we’re playing one opponent or another.
“Rivalries are great for the fans but we need to go to work and make sure we’re doing what we need to do no matter who we’re playing.”
>> Last week, Nebraska selected seniors Jerald Foster, Stanley Morgan Jr., Mick Stoltenberg and Luke Gifford as season-long captains. Frost said it was an easy choice.
“We had the players vote on it offensively and defensively and those guys got the majority of the votes, those four, so obviously the team recognizes them as leaders. We could have told you that probably as coaches,” Frost said. “It’s an awesome first group for this team. Three of the four are from Nebraska, which I think is cool as a Nebraska kid. All four kids are doing a good job stepping out front and making sure they lead the way.”
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.