It’s time for beloved Huskers to clean up their act

My 3-year-old grandson Briggs gets on my case when I use the word ‘stupid.’ That word isn’t allowed in his house, but it was certainly thrown around quite a bit in Scott Frost’s post-game press conference Saturday night following a school-record eighth consecutive loss, this one to the Purdue Boilermakers.
The 42-28 setback was yet another punch to the gut, one that the Husker head man seemed to take exceptionally hard given the fact that as he arrived at the podium he didn’t say a word, but merely looked down as if still soaking in all of what just happened.
Longtime Omaha TV journalist Dave Weber finally broke the ice with a question, which maybe was more like a statement, in offering up that at times his team plays good enough to win. After initially agreeing, Frost eventually went another direction, noting stupid mistakes and stupid penalties is why his team hasn’t won this season.
“In three of our games, we’ve played well enough to win,” he said. “In my opinion, we honestly look like one of the most undisciplined teams in the country, and it kills me because it isn’t like we aren’t trying to give them messages. It isn’t like we aren’t trying to hold them accountable.”
The penalties are certainly one thing, the Huskers flagged 10 times for 136 yards against Purdue, many of those just silly, avoidable (stupid) mistakes. But there are other, more subtle behaviors that need to be cleaned up, too, like when cornerback Lamar Jackson trots back onto the field following a first-half timeout, strutting his air guitar to the music, only to give up a 48-yard pass on the very next play. To his credit, Frost benched him for the rest of the game and brought in backup Eric Lee, who did a nice job and finished with five tackles.
There are players dancing on the sidelines even though the Huskers are behind. There is a defense that doesn’t get lined up in time. And there is an offensive line that at times couldn’t block a pee wee football team.
Effort isn’t the issue. Discipline certainly is.
“There’s really no difference from a coaching perspective from ‘I can’t do it’ and ‘I won’t do it,’ Frost stated firmly. “The people that won’t make good decisions, the people that are hitting people that are three yards out of bounds, if that keeps up I’m just going to ride with the guys that are doing it the right way. We’ve got a lot of warriors on this team and a lot of guys that played well enough to win, but I’m tired of coaching an undisciplined team.”
Nearly 600 yards of total offense usually gives an offense 50 or 60 points, except when you’re hurting yourself with penalties.
Aurora can certainly be proud of two former players. Sophomore Todd Honas saw the field a total of 15 times, eight on the kickoff return team and seven on the punt return team. He plays on the front line of each unit, coaches utilizing his speed so he can get into position or stay in front of defenders. That unit needs more work, as the Huskers netted just 25 total yards out of those 15 returns.
Redshirt freshman tight end Austin Allen had some awesome blocks as always, was wide open right in the middle of the field on one play during the first half (as he has been on a number of times this season) but finally did have a ball thrown his way when he ran a 15-yard route on fourth down. Allen got tied up with the cover man and then ran deep, the ball landing on the turf over his head as he dove to no avail close to the south goal line.
Big Red did score first after trailing by a combined 51-0 in opening quarter action this year, Devine Ozigbo running it in from 18 yards out with 11:20 remaining in the opening stanza.
That was more like it. That’s what it’s supposed to look like.
But then things went south, Purdue scoring 27 straight points, Nebraska’s defense not having any possible answer for the Boilermakers’ varied attack and especially senior quarterback David Blough.
Frost used the word “warriors” numerous times in referencing certain Huskers, players he would go to battle with any day of the week. Linebacker Mo Barry was one, the junior leading the way with 11 tackles, but a player who couldn’t contain his frustration after one Purdue touchdown drive, screaming to himself as he trotted off the field.
Husker fans were at times screaming, too, encouraging the defense to get a stop, other times booing the officials, specifically at the end of the third quarter when yet another (questionable) penalty hurt their team.
Frost’s emotional press conference caught me just a little off guard. The only other one I had witnessed in person was after the spring game, so to see him glossy-eyed, full of boiling emotion was what I wanted to see. I didn’t want the Mike Riley approach following a disappointing setback, a coach coming in showing no hurt, no emotion and no frustration.
As Frost said, Nebraska doesn’t have stupid players, rather some are just making stupid errors. Errors that need to stop.
“We’re going to build off everything that’s good and go forward,” Nebraska’s coach added at the end. “I’ve been through this at Nebraska before. I’ve been through a hard time at Nebraska before, and I told the team this week, the thing I’m most proud of about my career at Nebraska is that when I was down I fought back.”
So here’s my vow Briggs: I’ll quit saying that word as soon as the Huskers clean up their act. I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be sooner rather than later.
Let’s just hope it starts this Saturday night in Madison.

DAVE BRADLEY can be reached at advertising@ hamilton.net

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