MADISON, Wisc. — Hail Varsity staff members Derek Peterson, Erin Sorensen and Brandon Vogel offer some final takeaways from Nebraska-Wisconsin.
It wasn't a high-percentage play –– the opposite actually –– but it was the decision Scott Frost made. Down 13-3 in the second quarter, after a promising drive fell apart in the predictable way (back-breaking penalty), Frost opted to go for it facing a fourth-and-11 from Wisconsin's 37-yard line.
It was clear the moment the punt team didn't come onto the field that this was probably a game-changing play. Score and it was game on. Don't and the Badgers had solid starting field position (again).
It didn't go the Huskers' way. Adrian Martinez's pass to Maurice Washington fell incomplete.
"I made a decision in the second quarter," Frost said. "We're up here in Wisconsin trying to beat a ranked team, figured we had to go get points and it kind of backfired. They went and got points, but our team kept battling. Right now they're just better than we are."
Better, and on that drive at least, perhaps a little more motivated. Various Paul Chryst clips started to make the Twitter rounds after Wisconsin's touchdown on the ensuing drive.
Frost has shown that he's not afraid to say what he thinks and occasionally that might offer some bulletin board material for the opponent. But in this case I don't think there was anything in the week leading up to the game that fits that description. No history between the two either.
No, it seems like the inciting incident here may have been Nebraska daring to go for it on fourth-and-11. If so, good for Chryst.
And good for Frost. This series is going to get fun in the near future.
If you haven’t read the transcript of Scott Frost’s time at the podium, I recommend you do that now. I’m not asking you to read the transcript because I transcribed it all (although I’d still appreciate it for that reason), but because I want you to see what I see.
Eight questions. Over 1,500 words. Long story short: Frost had a lot to say post-Wisconsin.
Frost was oddly upbeat after the 41-24 loss to the Badgers. Derek pointed it out. Brandon did, too. It’s probably because despite a loss, Nebraska did look better in some aspects. Not all aspects, but enough to feel “close” to being a team that can win games against teams like Wisconsin.
Frost’s postgame attitude was likely a sign of the hope he has of what’s to come. His quotes in the transcript show that, too. Midway through a question about what Nebraska did better in the second half against Wisconsin versus the first, Frost found himself on a tangent. He started talking about Adrian Martinez and Jack Stoll. Both are taking steps forward. They’re showing promise. That led to a couple of positive comments about Maurice Washington before Frost finally circled back to the original question that was asked.
“I think Coach Walters and the guys had us in some really good stuff,” Frost said. “We’re playing a good team and we didn’t execute well.”
This happened again, multiple times, during Frost’s nine minutes at the podium. It was a combination of answering the question in the moment, while also looking ahead. It’s hard to blame Frost for looking toward the future. There’s a lot of promise there and it’s probably hard not to want to get to that place.
As Frost would say, it’s “day by day.” And for now, on this day, it was 1,500 words on eight questions that were filled with a little of the current situation and a lot of what’s to come.
Understandably, there were questions postgame about the two guys that left Nebraska this week. One of them decided a day before the game, the other already has his next school, things were still plenty fresh.
"Anything I say…,” Frost started before he caught himself. “I wish those two kids well.”
But he continued.
“Our team's going to keep getting stronger. I wish them well. That's probably all I should say. I feel good about where we're going. Sometimes those things are necessary. I told those guys at the beginning of the week that you're either all in or don't be here. We had a couple that chose to do something else. We're going to help them, wish them well, but at the end of the day, sometimes those things need to happen for your team to get better."
Quarterback Adrian Martinez was asked if he was surprised to see so many players up and leaving. His answer was pretty interesting.
“A little bit,” he said. “Definitely something I’m not used to but I definitely understand. Those are those guys’ decisions and they want to play. They’re used to being able to play, being highly-recruited, you want to play and that’s why they’re transferring. I can understand their situations. Obviously, I wish guys would stick around but it is what it is. I’m happy with the guys we have here now and you never know what the future holds in regards to other people.”
Frost talked about Nebraska’s depth, or lack thereof, a couple of times. He mentioned at inside linebacker, behind their two starters, it’s basically Jacob Weinmaster at this point (Collin Miller? Anybody?). Departures have left the Huskers pretty vulnerable in a number of key places. And yet, Frost remains optimistic about his team’s ability to win games this season.
“The guys we've got are plenty capable of winning games this year and we're close," he said. “That was my message to the team. I hope you guys see how close you are.”