The Double-Edge of Talent Talk
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

The Double-Edge of Talent Talk, Feelings of Disrespect and Fast Starts

October 28, 2019

Scott Frost said a few interesting things after the Huskers lost 38-31 to Indiana Saturday night. He gave AT&T a new ad idea if it would like to stick with the “Just OK is not OK” theme of late. He said players warming up in hoodies at Minnesota two weeks ago, while the Gophers warmed up shirtless and he thought about teams of Nebraska past that would have done the same, was a troubling occurrence. He said the team needed Darrion Daniels to essentially yell at it the morning before the game. 

But one statement has stuck in the brain, right there at the front of the line:

“I watched Ohio State play Wisconsin today and watched one guy generate [a pass rush] by himself. We need to keep getting guys in here that can do those things and that’s being honest.”

The one guy is Ohio State’s Chase Young. Young maybe has the best case for the Heisman Trophy a defensive player has had since Ndamukong Suh. He wrecked Nebraska’s pass protection when the two teams met on Sept. 28 and has wrecked other teams’ game plans since. 

Wanting that guy on your team isn’t an issue. Hell, I wrote after the Buckeye blowout about how Nebraska needed that kind of guy. Nebraska’s had a hard time generating a pass rush in recent weeks and it puts the defensive backs in compromised situations. 

Nebraska would be better with Chase Young on its team. That’s a pretty indisputable fact. And Frost is correct in saying Nebraska needs to continue to bring in Chase Young-level and Wan’Dale Robinson-level talent across the board. But Nebraska doesn’t have Chase Young on its team, so lamenting that fact does nothing to solve the problems this team is facing. 

Having a Chase Young doesn’t prevent “dumbass stupid” decision-making, to use a phrase Frost used at halftime to describe his team. 

Having a Chase Young doesn’t fix this kind of assignment failure from a running back in pass protection or negate this kind of mental mistake from a quarterback who needed to protect the football and absorb a sack rather than try and make a play.

Having a Chase Young doesn’t help a team whose spirit breaks at the first sign of trouble. The Huskers were driving to at least some form of points on that third possession, but the fumble happened and things crumbled from there. 

Having a Chase Young doesn’t prevent a guy from lining up a yard off the line of scrimmage on a crucial fourth down and drawing an illegal procedure flag. 

Having a Chase Young doesn’t prevent Isaac Armstrong from hitting a 19-yard punt because he made contact with the ball with the side of his foot. (Indiana scored on the ensuing drive.)

Having a Chase Young doesn’t prevent a roughing the passer penalty on a fourth down. Twice. And after the second one, while Frost gave Khalil Davis an earful on the sideline, Davis jawed back at his head coach.

Having a Chase Young doesn’t help a cornerback that still hasn’t learned to consistently turn his head and find the ball. 

Having a Chase Young doesn’t help a defense that, for one reason or another, forgets to cover the tight end up the seam.

Having a Chase Young doesn’t prevent a kickoff out of bounds, or a missed block on a fourth down at the end of the game when you need a score, or any of the other comedy of errors the Huskers continue to commit that absolutely befuddle.

Wanting a Chase Young is fine, but saying after your fourth loss of the season to a team you were favored against at home that you don’t have a pass rush because you don’t have a Chase Young tells a Caleb Tannor or a Garrett Nelson that he’s not yet good enough and it tells a Ben Stille that even though he has seemingly done everything asked of him that he’s not good enough. 

The message after the game was that the Huskers are just an OK football team right now because too much “just getting by” is allowed to stand, but in sending that message it also says the non-Frost guys aren’t good enough. 

Yet, after a week spent talking about freshman running back Rahmir Johnson being in the game plan and wanting to get freshmen offensive linemen Bryce Benhart and Ethan Piper into the game and freshman defensive end Ty Robinson being right there, none of Frost’s guys are allowed onto the field. 

Benhart can’t sniff the field while Nebraska’s true ground game is in shambles. The best running play for the team right now is a quarterback sweep, and it has three quarterbacks carrying injuries. Dedrick Mills only got eight carries after it seemed he would be the starter and Johnson didn’t see the field, as it appears Nebraska is intent on preserving his redshirt. Ty Robinson hasn’t played in a game yet this season. Jahkeem Green has been in one.

What if Nebraska has a Chase Young sitting on the sideline, unable to get into the game? 

If the argument is rolling with the players who give Nebraska the best chance to win, the counter is “scoreboard.” The head coach is playing the long game and growing upset with the lack of success in the interim.

Nebraska entered the year thinking it could win eight or nine games and now feels like it needs a Chase Young to beat an above-average Indiana team? 

The Huskers have four games left on the schedule and they need two of them to go to a bowl game. Chase Young ain’t helping.  

A Feeling of Disrespect

Indiana’s receivers seemed extra fired up after catches over Husker defensive backs, Saturday, didn’t they? The Hoosiers got flagged for taunting on one occasion, but that same flag probably could have been thrown a couple of times. 

On what proved to be the game-sealing touchdown from running back Stevie Scott, the sophomore threw the bones and then rested his head on his hands. Night night. 

Then Indiana’s head coach, Tom Allen, said no one knows what his program went through this week. 

Then Indiana Athletic Director Fred Glass told the Indy Star he felt disrespected by Nebraska. 

“I’m very, very happy for our kids and very, very happy for our fans, because like Tom said tonight, we’re sick of talking about how close we’ve been, one to a signature win and two to qualify for a bowl. … To hit both of those things today at Nebraska was particularly gratifying, particularly knowing Nebraska’s staff had no respect for our program.”

And Glass didn’t elaborate on his assertion. 

“They know, and I know, and our team knew, and I’ll just leave it at that,” he said. 

Nebraska’s coaching staff didn’t say anything about the Hoosiers this week that wasn’t glowing. Players didn’t publicly talk down about the Hoosiers. Frost praised the growth of the IU program under Allen year-over-year in his postgame presser. Why Indiana was feeling wronged is something of a mystery, but Indiana certainly felt wronged. 

It’ll be a situation to monitor in the coming weeks, but it’s something now of a trend. Michigan a year ago used Frost comments from his UCF days to motivate itself in a revenge game. Purdue a week later latched onto the coach saying the game was “winnable” for Nebraska. Colorado this season said the Huskers talked themselves out of the game. Minnesota took exception to Frost saying the team wasn’t going to do anything outside the ordinary to prepare for the elements. Now, this. 

Nebraska, it seems, has ruffled feathers in the conference. Frost said “get us now” during his first tour at Big Ten media days, and while the Huskers struggle to get the ship back on course, teams are certainly taking him up on his offer.

Figuring Out the Start

Nebraska had multiple touchdowns in the first quarter Saturday for the first time all season. The offense hit for 9 yards a play, faced third down just once and looked crisp in a way it hasn’t looked at many points in the season. That’s something to build on. 

And that set the tone on that side of the ball, because if the Huskers weren’t shooting their toes off, Indiana’s defense wasn’t doing much to stop the Huskers. The run game, as previously mentioned, is still an adventure because relying on a freshman quarterback and freshman wide receiver to produce between the tackles is a dangerous gambit, but Nebraska hit for 514 yards of offense, its best output in over a month, and produced 18 chunk plays, also a high-water mark for the last month of football. 

It’s clear the Huskers have three quarterbacks more than capable of running the show.

It’s clear the Huskers have weapons that can produce points. 

And a 14-3 lead in the first quarter is a positive to take moving forward. 

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