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Behind Enemy Lines: Nebraska Cornhuskers

We talked to the staff from Corn Nation to preview Illinois’ trip to Lincoln, Nebraska this weekend.

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

After a narrow loss to Ohio State by the Huskers and an upstart game from your Fighting Illini, this weekend’s tilt in Lincoln appears to be a toss-up game, regardless of what Vegas will have you believe.

We sat down with Corn Nation’s staff to preview the Huskers and first year head coach Scott Frost.

The Champaign Room: How would you rate Scott Frost’s first year?.

Nate M: This is difficult. I could justify an A. And I could justify a “C+”. It depends on where you land on the situation he inherited. He gets an “A” if you think that he had to tear down everything in regards to the culture and getting players to “buy-in” in order to build things back up to where we are at this moment. He gets a “C+” because while yes he was fighting the culture that was already here when he took the job, that still doesn’t justify starting 0-6. I think I would likely side with “C+”. If we end the season with a three game winning streak then I think the grade could bump up to a “B+”.

Uglydog56: I have him in the B- to C+ range. His culture change and efforts towards team buy-in are above reproach. His recruiting strategy is decent and evolving to meet the unique requirements of Nebraska. He has made some young coach mistakes with personnel and play calling. Special teams are an F-. His hat roll, however, is A++!

Huskrboneyard: Scott Frost was brought in to change the culture of our program and in that sense, he has done well. Winning games and championships happen will come soon enough!

If you have watched The Office episode where Michael tries to put kids through college, then Scott Frost is our Michael and the Huskers are Scott’s Tots. I am trying to get this trending. GO BIG TOTS!

Jon J: If it were a videogame I would rate it “M” for mature. If it were a movie it would be rated “R”. It would have these ratings because of the insane amount of profanity that’s come out of my mouth and been directed toward my television while watching this year’s team. There has been a lot of improvement. The offense is amazing and the defense appears to be coming around. Special teams are still horrid and responsible for at least 70% of the profanity.

Mike: I’d give him a solid B. The turnaround in the offense is remarkable, considering the condition of the program he was left. Yes, the record may not improve this season, but considering the strength of schedule, it’s impossible to not recognize the improvement.

Andy: If the record reflected the actual improvements, it would be a solid B+ to possibly A-, however record has to count for something. While some of the losses had bad luck and questionable reffing as factors, those items fell far behind what could best be termed “stepping on our dicks” and that included the coaching staff, most notably against Northwestern.

I told myself this year that the record would mean little and I just wanted to see us competing again as opposed to the sprinkles and fairy dust days of the Riley years. At 2-7, I have to stick to those guns because they are competing - solid B

TCR: At 2-7, how would you rate this season compared to the last few and to where expectations were with Frost coming in?

Nate M: I love this season. There is hope. Hope from the tangible and obvious improvements we have seen throughout the season. I don’t think you could have said that about any season under Mike Riley. It felt like the team at the beginning was the same team (or worse) at the end. It is kind of nice being on this side of the railroad tracks.

Uglydog56: It’s tough not to feel optimistic. I had the opportunity to attend a bunch of games last season. From the get-go, it felt ugly. And just like Nate said, it went downhill from there. This year just feels different. Admittedly, even I, the Eeyore of preseason prognostication, didn’t see the team sitting at 2-7 at this point. The team is figuring things out. The coaches are figuring things out. Heck, the fans are figuring things out. I would rate this season as a solid vanilla bean ice cream in a sugar cone. But no chocolate dip on that cone, and no sprinkles or chocolate syrup.

Huskrboneyard: Losing games is never fun even when everything is trending upward. This team has had major growing pains, which continue to pop up in big moments, losing games. Worst season record in a hundred thousand years sucks, but it has been much more enjoyable than last season. The team is actually fun to watch!

Mike: Nobody expected seven losses. But that being said, NU has been in every game sans one, and that’s something that couldn’t have been said during the previous year and a half.

Andy: Although we’ve all been gritting our teeth a little harder with each of those “well, we outgained them” weeks, I’ll honestly take it over the last three years which basically tunred me sarcastic every fall Saturday. I get really mad watching Husker games again and it’s glorious.

TCR: Nebraska nearly toppled Ohio State last weekend. Would a marquee win like that have made up for this seasons lack of wins?

Nate M: As an attorney, our favorite answer depends. It depends on how does the season end? If we would have beaten Ohio State, and then go 1-2 to finish the season or even 0-3 then it really is meaningless. Ohio State is not the usual juggernaut it has been in the past few years and we would have just caught them “sleeping.” However, if we finish the season going 4-0 or 3-1 with one of those wins against Ohio State then I think it could really stand out as a marquee win. However, with all that said it might come down to the black friday.

Uglydog56: Ehh. The only good thing about beating Ohio State would have been the hastening of Urban Meyer to another “medical retirement.” It would have been a service to their University; they could have started changing the culture to one where domestic violence isn’t rewarded or excused. Ohio State will just have to become better without our help. At least we made them punt this time.

Huskrboneyard: Winning the game would only be proof Scott’s Tots are becoming the team we thought they would be game one. Sure, no one likes an Ohio State. Sure, they have a coach with iffy morals. No, yeah, we would have really liked to beat those guys.

Jon: Yes. Beating Ohio State would’ve made up for the losses because it would’ve solidified how far this team has come in a single season. Just two years ago the Buckeyes smashed us 62 – 3 any game that wasn’t even that close. It was frustrating to see our offense and defense play well but our special teams fall apart and lose the game for us.

Andy: Absolutely. This is the type of game of game that usually resulted in right good teeth-kicking for the Big Red. A win there this time probably would have turned Urban’s brain cyst into a tumor within 48 hours and resulted in yet another “medical retirement” before their next game. It would have been BCS bowl win level of celebration.

TCR: Adrian Martinez has shown the ability to be a really good quarterback and leader on the field. How would you say his development is coming along?

Nate M: He has been real good. My only concern is how much better he can get by the end of his career. If he is just getting started then he will be up there in the list of the top 1 or 2 quarterbacks in school history. His numbers will just be stupid by the end of his career, but all it will matter is the wins he gets here at Nebraska. He doesn’t need to win a national championship to be a legend. With our past 20 years, all he needs to do is win a conference championship. That’s it. Pretty easy right? LOLOLOLOLOL

Uglydog56: Martinez is quite a player right now. He is definitely ahead of schedule. Nebraska has been lacking a quality quarterback for like ever. He’s like the create-a-player you make in NCAA football where you drive down all the non-pertinent stats so his total score is lower and he isn’t recruited as hard. Then you get him to your school and Whiz-bang! Not to hang further weight of expectations on him, but Adrian Martinez has the potential to be the greatest Nebraska quarterback in a generation. I suspect he will be the record holder in nearly every category in Nebraska history before he’s done. 30% of male babies born in Nebraska in the next 5 years will be named Adrian, and 10% of the female babies will be named Adrienne. In twenty years, he’s either Nebraska’s head coach, or a Senator.

Huskrboneyard: Of the over hundred Tots running around, Adrian is the best one. He is seriously a Heisman contender in the very near future as long as we can keep building a team around him.

Jon: Adrian Martinez is already on track to become the best quarterback in Nebraska school history. His passing is far more accurate than any quarterback in recent memory. His decision-making has been mostly good. He’ll be one of those guys that everyone else gets tired of playing against in another year. Check this: Martinez is the fourth player in NU history with five 300-yard total offense games in a season, and is just one 300-yard game from the single-season record of six 300-yard total offense games.

Andy: This is a trick question, right?

TCR: How lenient will the AD and fans be with frost as he works to build the program back to the standards Nebraska is used to?

Nate M: I have written articles in the past that have been critical of Nebraska fans. And I hope I won’t have to write the same article again for a long long time. I’ve long held that the standards Nebraska should be gunning for aren’t going back to the 90’s. We need to start gunning for being Wisconsin. After we are there, then let’s start gunning for being Ohio State. If we get there, then let’s aim for Alabama. But UNTIL we can start saying we are even close to Wisconsin, let’s not worry about Alabama. But first, we need to focus on Illinois.

Uglydog56: This is a two part question. The Athletic Director Bill Moos will bend over backwards to give Coach Frost everything he needs to succeed as long as Moos is employed as AD. There are some rather irrational elements to the fanbase, on the other hand. There were a LOT of nine and ten win predictions for this season. You can see how that turned out. A Nebraska native,national championship winner and shot-putter, who hunts on the weekends and does his press conferences with a dip in and a mountain dew on the podium? He’ll have to fail spectacularly before the torches and pitchforks come out. But spectacular fail may be not being considered for the College Football Playoff by year 3 by a few people. Let’s hope they are drowned out by the more pragmatic members of the fanbase.

Huskrboneyard: Moos and Frost are going to retire at Nebraska. Even if Frost has some horrible season five or six years down the line, no one will doubt his ability to coach great teams. Frost has such a long leash he might as well be at the dog park. The fanbase is united right now and that should remain for the foreseeable future.

Go Scott’s Tots!

Andy: We will redefine “lenient” as Frost has a 7-year contract which I suspect will roll over annually. Also, there is no 2nd option - if this doesn’t work….

TCR: Who wins Saturday and why?

Nate M: I think Nebraska will win by 20+ points. But I have three concerns. First, is Illinois’ ability to run the ball. If Nebraska cannot stop the run, then Illinois will be sticking around until the end. Nebraska’s offense wants to run 90 plays a game and go fast, so if Illinois bleeds the clock then I’ll start to get nervous. I’ll hang my hat on Illinois’s below average defense and Nebraska’s offense which could be top 10 by the end of the year.

Second, A.J. Bush. Former Husker, and I hope Nebraska fans show him some appreciation when he come onto the field to play against the blackshirts. He’s a mobile quarterback, and mobile quarterbacks always give defense’s a hard time.

Third, THAT BEARD. I am a Bears fan and Lovie got the Bears to Super Bowl. What we didn’t know, however, is that it wasn’t a quarterback he was missing, it was the beard. I wish I could grow beard like that. Holy cow.

Uglydog56: If you look at margins of victory against a common foe (Minnesota) it becomes evident that Minnesota really sucks. Also, Illinois and Nebraska may be closely matched. That means that we the fans will win, because this will be a watchable, competitive game. I foresee the Nebraska scoring machine getting up and running early. The Husker defense is soft against the pass, but Huskers secretly sabotaged this game 4 years ago by not developing AJ Bush as a passer. This 4-D chess skullduggery results in a Husker win.

Huskrboneyard: Unfortunately for Illinois they have to play us in the second half of the season. The game would be close if played in September, but the Husker Tots are hot right now. Hot like just out of fryer hot, and no one can resist steaming Tots for four quarters. Huskers by three scores.

Jon: Nebraska has five playmakers on offense: Adrian Martinez, JD Spielman, Devine Ozigbo, Maurice Washington, and Stanley Morgan. I find only one on Illinois – Reggie Corbin. Illinois doesn’t seem to have improved as much as I expected the season, although the game against Minnesota was amazing. I expect Nebraska to score a lot of points. I don’t see Illinois scoring a lot unless our special teams gives up three points. Nebraska 42 Illinois 21

Andy: This has all the makings of an earlier season matchup where we get a ton of yards, do chuck-knuckle crap on special teams and in the red zone and possibly parlay a 575-300. Yardage advantage into a 31-30 loss.

But I liked how we challenged Ohio State on defense instead of the limit the damage and backpedal philosophy that was resulting in low-level QB’s throwing all over us. If we do that against the Illini, we might actually have a *gasp* comfy win. But if we get Cosgrovian again, Illinois has a few weapons that we could really make look unstoppable. I’ll say 47-28 - like Minnesota, we jump out early, go into prevent mode way too early and allow a white-knuckle comeback, then pull it together in the 4th quarter.

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