Photo by John S. Peterson
Nebraska Football

With Plenty of Lessons to Learn from Colorado, Nebraska Looks to Troy

September 10, 2018
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There was plenty of news to be shared Monday morning; starting quarterback Adrian Martinez is day-to-day after a knee injury against Colorado, Nebraska is seeking a review of the play he was injured on and seven members of the defense got their Blackshirts. But there was also plenty of talk about what cost Nebraska the game Saturday.

In his postgame press conference following the 33-28 loss, Frost pointed to a litany of mistakes that, if corrected, would have resulted in a different outcome. He doubled down on that Monday.

“I said after the game I thought there were 20 or 25 plays that probably cost us and if you look at the tape, it’s a bigger number than that,” he said. “One or two of those things we get fixed and I think we win it. Everybody’s to blame, everybody has things to fix, including the coaches.”

So let’s run through a few.

First mentioned was cornerback Dicaprio Bootle, who was beaten on a couple of deep balls from quarterback Steven Montez to wideout Laviska Shenault Jr. on Saturday. One of those proved to be the game-winner. Yet, on Monday, Bootle was the only member of the secondary who found a Blackshirt hanging in his locker.

“Dicaprio played physical, he was where he was supposed to be all the time,” Frost said. “There were a couple great plays by them, honestly, on fades with throws and catches that he was involved in. Just taking his full body of work from spring ball and camp and how he played in that game, glad to be able to give him one.”

Graduate safety Tre Neal took most of the blame for the particular deep balls off Bootle, saying he had the right leverage and safeties didn’t provide enough help.

Later on, perimeter blocking was brought up. There were a few option plays and a few bubbles which, if the Huskers had gotten a good block on the edge, would have gone for good yardage. “That’s got to be a big part of this game, when we get the ball outside it’s got to turn into yards and big plays for us,” Frost said. And when they break through that first level, it needs to be a house call.

“Greg Bell’s a fast kid, he broke a couple times,” Frost started. The junior running back had a 45-yard carry and a 20-yard carry that initially looked like touchdowns but ended with Bell being chased down. “We need those plays to turn into touchdowns when we pop guys through that cleanly.”

Frost said he thought guys might have been a little too amped and had a little too much adrenaline flowing that they became tight. “He knows it and I’m sure he’ll do a better job in the future,” Frost said. Nebraska spent all offseason finishing plays in the end zone, even if the ball-carrier was tackled, in order to build that mindset.

Frost pointed out missed opportunities by the wideouts as well. Nebraska’s two biggest offensive weapons — Stanley Morgan Jr. and JD Spielman — each dropped potentially-game-changing plays. Morgan dropped a touchdown in the end zone at the end of the third quarter. Spielman dropped a pass from quarterback Andrew Bunch late in the fourth quarter that would have given Nebraska a first down and kept the clock running.

“Quite frankly, [Bunch] threw a ball that probably should have put the game away for us if we get a first down on the throw that he made,” Frost said. “We’ve got to capitalize on deep balls and catch them and third-down balls and catch them.”

The offensive line played well. “It was pretty clear watching the tape we were the more physical team and won the battle on both sides of the line of scrimmage,” Frost said. But even they missed a protection that cost the Huskers a deep shot after a Colorado corner had fallen down.

Special teams played “really well,” Frost said, but was penalized four different times.

“Our field position certainly wasn’t good, our starting field position on offense, four penalties on special teams,” Frost said. “It makes a big difference. Maybe if we start one of those drives 10 or 15 yards farther up the field, we score somewhere else.”

It all comes back to the same thing that was said Saturday night: Nebraska kept Nebraska from winning. Tape didn’t lessen the issues, it reinforced their impact. Frost wants to see those things get corrected, but he’s positive they will.

“Every single player on the team did good things, every guy that played,” he started. “You can count mistakes that I made and the coaches made and just about every player on the team had one or two.

“That’s the progression, right? When you’re trying to get a team where you want to get it, you’ve got to learn how to win the close games and that’s by not making mistakes and figuring out a way to make a play when it counts. We wish we could have learned those lessons in a win, and we should have, but we need to learn them regardless. We’re going to be in several more close games this year so we need to learn those lessons quick.”

Other News and Notes

>> Frost said he had two main goals going into the game: win and keep everyone, especially the quarterback, healthy. Neither was accomplished. “We’re all sick to our stomach about that,” he said. But there were positives. As much as he’s talked about the mistakes, Frost has made sure to praise his team.

“We got down 14-0 because of mistakes that we self-inflicted and the team didn’t blink. They just kept playing,” he said. “The defense was physical. I loved the enthusiasm, I loved the comradery and the way they were playing for each other. They don’t give you wins for moral victories so we’re not going to celebrate anything, but I told the team today how excited I was for them and how happy I was for the way they showed up and played.”

>> With Martinez’s status for Saturday’s 11 a.m. kick against Troy likely to hang in the air until close to gametime, backup quarterback Andrew Bunch will likely get as many reps as possible this week in practice.

“Bunchy, when he’s gotten his opportunities, has done a great job. I was really pleased with how he performed when he came in,” Frost said.

Whether it’s Martinez or Bunch running the show, Frost said things can't and won't change.

“We’re not going to change because of who he is, we’ll try to alter it a little to make sure he’s comfortable with what we have in but there’s not going to be wholesale changes. He knows our stuff and he’s done a good job running it,” he said. “Our team’s got to rally around each other and rally around whoever’s playing quarterback.”

>> On Troy, Frost was more than complimentary.

“They’re a good team. Had a rough game [against Boise State in their opener], Boise had a lot of big plays against them otherwise it looked like a really evenly-matched game,” he said. “They’re well-coached, they wouldn’t have had the year they had last year without that.

“I think they’re a little like us, they’re playing a bunch of new players and they’re young. They are very multiple on defense, you’re never quite sure what they’re going to be in and where they’re going to be. I think they’re similar to us on offense, try to go fast and do some creative things.”

The Trojans are 1-1 with a 56-20 loss to the Broncos and a 59-7 win over Florida A&M on Saturday. They won 11 games a season ago behind a stout defense.

Asked if he’d need to make sure his team isn’t overlooking the Trojans, Frost said: “I hope I don’t need to tell the players anything to get them to play hard. We know the challenge we have coming in here. I’ve got a lot of respect for their staff and their team and what they’ve accomplished. We’re going to work as hard as we can this week to be ready.”

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