Nebraska Football: Husker Fans Can – And Should – Handle The Truth About Their Program

Jack Nicholson as Col. Nathan Jessup in “A Few Good Men”

The dismissal of Scott Frost after his loss to Georgia Southern was far from a surprise. Indeed, it seemed like a relief, with interim head coach Mickey Joseph now getting a nine-game audition for the job.

Even with such a monumental change at the heart of the Nebraska program, it was hard to come up with anything new to say about it. A smart and particularly handsome analyst talked about the potential for Frost’s failure before his tenure started, and how the commitment of the fanbase would be part of Nebraska recovering.

Ironically, it’s the dark side of that fanbase’s passion that has created a new controversy after Frost’s firing. Mike’l Severe, a fixture in the local sports media, was featured on a video from Hurrdat Sports talking about how the firing was about more than wins and losses.

“[Athletic Director Trev Alberts] can’t talk about his head coach being late for practice every day. He can’t talk about his head coach not making recruiting phone calls.”

Damon Benning, on 1620 The Zone’s “Sharp and Benning” show, had more to say on Severe’s comments, and more broadly on whether local sports media should be really be covering the bad things that are happening behind the scenes at the beloved football program.

To summarize, Benning quotes the famous “you can’t handle the truth” line from “A Few Good Men” in saying that Nebraska fans were neither interested in nor able to handle negative reporting about their team or the coaching staff. Benning’s perspective, echoed by co-host Gary Sharp, was that reporting about problems within the program would just be met with criticism and anger. The deluge of calls, e-mails, and tweets to “quit being negative” and “just support the program” would be, in their words, exhausting.

And I get that! There’s a portion of the fanbase – a vocal one, to be sure – that just wants the sunshine pumped for Dear Old Nebraska U. Any member of the media who is perceived as being critical of or challenging the current coach gets labeled as “disloyal” or “negative” or (what might be my least favorite word in the English language) a “hater.”

Just as Dirk Chatelain, or Sam McKewon, or Mitch Sherman, or anyone who has pushed back on the company line or asked tough questions what their inbox and Twitter mentions have looked like.

But that really raises a bigger question as to what the point of having an independent media is in the first place. Let’s presume for a moment that Severe’s allegations are true. If that was actually happening, wouldn’t it have been better for the program for it to come into the light, so the problem could have been addressed – one way or the other – before the program unraveled as spectacularly as it has?

Now let’s be clear. I’m not talking about rumor-mongering. The internet is full of salacious stories and rumors of all the goings-on within the Nebraska football program. Repeating rumors and amplifying them with a large platform would be incredibly irresponsible and inappropriate for the local media.

If that’s what Benning was talking about – hearing rumors but not spreading them – I’m with him all the way. But that wasn’t the impression I got. What it sounded to me is like there were knowable, reportable things happening, and a choice was being made to not report them because the Nebraska fanbase “can’t handle the truth.”

Remember, though, that famous line in the movie was from Colonel Nathan Jessup – the villain of the movie. And trying to suppress the “truth” that Jessup was so sure we couldn’t handle was going to result in an innocent man going to jail.

I get not wanting to deal with that vocal portion of the fanbase that gets upset at anyone being a “hater.” But if that vocal portion of the fanbase is given a heckler’s veto to stop truthful, factual reporting on problems within the program, then any problems hidden behind closed doors will just continue to fester.

The purpose of journalism is to speak truth to power. Sports journalists who require ongoing access to the team they cover – and thus staying in the good graces of that team’s administration – are presented with all kinds of challenges and ethical quandaries.

But that doesn’t change the fact that no one ultimately benefits if the heckler’s veto stops us all from finding out if there are problems within the walls of the program we love. If Severe’s story is to be believed – that off-the-field problems were at least at part to blame for Nebraska’s mystifying inability to win close games – then failing to report on those did nothing but prolong the agony of Nebraska fans everywhere.

GBR, baby.

Nebraska Football: Is Obligation All That’s Left?

I’m all out of faith, this is how I feel

I’m cold and I am shamed

Lying naked on the floor

Illusion never changed

Into something real

I’m wide awake and I can see the perfect sky is torn

“Torn,” Natalie Imbruglia

In a season-defining, career-defining, program-defining opening game, Nebraska lost to Northwestern 31-28. Nebraska lost despite holding an 11-point lead twice in the game. Nebraska had chance after chance as the game wound down to pull the game out, but fell short yet again.

Nebraska is now 5-21 in one score games under Frost, including 0-9 since 2021. Nebraska is now 15-30 overall, reaching the stage where they’ve lost two games for every one win.

We can dissect the details of the game, including the decision to try an onside kick (a reckless but aggressive one which, at the time, I was fine with).

But, really, this isn’t about Xs and Os anymore, is it? You know what it felt like, Husker Fan. The bad break that lead to a slide and the late-game collapse. Be honest, once Northwestern took the lead, did you think that Nebraska was going to win?

I didn’t. And it sure looked to me like no one wearing scarlet and cream did either.

Please hear me, I’m not calling the players quitters. But in the fourth quarter, it looked like those uniforms weighed a thousand pounds. That the players felt the weight of every close loss, every dashed hope, every suffering Saturday throughout the Nebraska fanbase. It’s quite a lot to ask college kids to bear that weight.

I honestly don’t know what to do now. I thought about waiting for a few days before writing anything, so I wasn’t writing something for public consumption while being so up in my feelings about this.

But maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe this is the honest part.

For the whole week before the game, my friends and family kept asking if I was excited for the game. And I kept saying no, and it was true. I wasn’t excited. I was dreading it.

Apparently, for good reason.

So now what? I know you’ve come here for years now to hear about how Nebraska football connects us to our history and how we can all stick together in all kinds of weather and all that rah-rah jazz.

Right now I’m just pretty numb inside. I am all out of faith.

I never thought I would look myself in the mirror and realize that I don’t want to go to Lincoln next week for the North Dakota game. I have consistently referred to Memorial Stadium as my favorite place on earth.

Now? The thought of being one of the greatest fans to pass through those gates just fills me with sadness.

I’ll will go, more than likely. The season tickets are my parents’ and having the opportunity to spend that day with my mom is a gift I would be a fool to turn down.

But Nebraska football isn’t fun anymore. It’s an obligation. It’s muscle memory on a Saturday afternoon.

I can hear myself saying to stay the course, to take in the pageantry, to live in the hope that something wonderful will happen.

So I will probably be there, performing the rituals I have since I was small. Chanting the chants and clapping slightly off-beat to the band. Hoping to find some solace in that familiarity.

But I’m out of faith in this program. Maybe it will come back. Maybe a win over Oklahoma will wash the taste of this Irish debacle out of my soul.

I’ll believe it when I see it.

GBR, baby.

Nebraska Football: Assessing and Power Ranking the Cornhuskers’ 2022 Alternate Uniforms

In what might have been the most don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it events, Nebraska last week announced their alternate uniforms for the 2022 season. Here’s the announcement on Twitter.

The uniform is an homage to the 1983 “Scoring Explosion” team, which is utterly appropriate. You can see above what the new threads look like. Ordinarily we’d go into a piece-by-piece breakdown of the uniform.

Except … we’ve kinda seen it before. In 2017, Nebraska wore an homage to the 1997 team that had the same mesh numeral concept. Really all that’s different is the sans-serif N on the sleeve and the stripes on the pants (more on that in a moment).

That’s it, that’s the list. And I can tell you from experience, the mesh on the numerals is not at all visible live and barely visible on TV. So basically we’ve got the same concept as 2017, and including the N that Nebraska already puts on its practice jerseys.

As a result, we aren’t going to waste your time breaking this thing down. Let’s just talk about what should be obvious.

Bring. The. Stripes. Back.

Look, I know I’m a bit of a radical on Nebraska uniforms – I think they should change the numeral font on the jersey to match that on the back of the helmet, and the original scoreboard clock, of which there is a replica inside Memorial Stadium (if you’ll pardon that dope and his kids standing in front of it). Fer crying out loud, they had a proof of concept in 2018 and it looked awesome (and would have been so much better without the silly helmets).

I get that’s not going to happen. But the stripes can happen. The stripes should happen. Heck, the team already has striped pants to practice in.

I understand that Frost wanted to change something in the uniform to bring it back to the glory days when he won a national title here. But, honestly, 2022 feels like an opportunity to reboot from the first three years of Frost’s time in Lincoln.

What better way to do that then to get rid of the white yoga pants and put the stripes back where they belong, all the time.

Once we get that sorted out, we can then work on getting “The Cornhusker” and “Thunderstruck” played at proper times every home game.

NEBRASKA ALTERNATE UNIFORM POWER RANKING

12. 2014

The infamous trash bag uniforms, which had numerals which literally couldn’t be read from the stands. The two-toned helmets were pretty cool, but overall the unis were a disaster.

11. 2015

Mystifyingly, adidas took its disastrous 2014 concept and made just a slight tweak, putting it on a black background instead of a red one, and made the uniform only marginally less horrific.

10. 2012

These original (well, except for 2009) throwbacks get far more hate than they deserve, especially how well they combined with Wisconsin’s to make a truly memorable spectacle. (Although, in the interest of full disclosure, Wisconsin had the better unis that night.)

9. 2016

The first road alternates Nebraska has worn ended up making good use of the trash-bag silver, working them into an ice concept that ended up very sharp.

8. 2017

The concept was brilliant, to pay homage to the 1997 team by replicating the mesh uniforms. And while it came out great, it was also hard to tell the unis apart from normal ones on the field during the game. (In full disclosure, this picture is also my avatar on an unsettling number of websites).

7. 2022

Yes, the 2022 version is entirely derivative from 2017. But the N on the sleeve makes it just the tiniest bit cooler.

6. 2013

Even early in the process, adidas got this one right. The basic black uniforms, the different-but-legible stencil numerals, and the overall simplicity gives this one a place of honor in the Nebraska alternate uniform pantheon. The unique stenciled numerals and (of course) the stripes on the pants give 2013 the nod over 2019.

5. 2020

Yes, Nebraska has never actually worn this outfit, but it doesn’t make it any less sharp (especially with the scary Hallowe’en motif for which I am a total sucker). Once you’ve swallowed the concept that the Blackshirts logo is for the whole team – which took some work – then it’s hard not to love this set.

4. 2021

I really do love a monochrome uniform set as an alternate (or unless you’re the Seahawks). And mainly because you can’t really see the camo unless you look hard, this set is incredibly clean. The old-school NU logo on the helmet is a nice change of pace without the helmet looking dramatically different, and the typeface on the numerals is unique and sharp.

And then there’s the stripes. Those blessed, amazing, gorgeous stripes matching the shoulder sleeves and making the uniform connect rather than wearing yoga pants. Hopefully a bellweather of things to come.

3. 2019

OK, I admit it, these things have grown on me to the point where they surpassed the 2013 set, something I didn’t think would happen. Now, if Nebraska goes the full Darth Vader and rolls out with these shirt and the 2020 black pants …

2. 2018

Anything that involves old-school numerals, a shout-out to the Stadium Clock, and the full In the Deed The Glory inscription is going to be hard to beat. If it wasn’t for the silly helmet, this one would be the one to beat. Also, adidas, why could I not buy an “18” jersey with the cool 8 numeral, instead of getting stuck just buying a “1.” Just take my money already!

1. 2009

Because of the three-year hiatus, these gorgeous threads frequently get left out of the alternate uniform consideration. That’s a shame, because these throwbacks, with the curly-Q numerals and numbers on the helmets, have yet to be surpassed. Quite honestly, Nebraska could go to these uniforms as their regular ones tomorrow and I’d be quite happy (as long as they put the stripes back on the pants, natch).

GBR, baby!

Nebraska Football: Game-by-Game Predictions of the 2022 Season

Every year for some time, we at the Double Extra Point have done a game-by-game prediction of the upcoming season. After the last few years, and with all of the changes to the program, guessing the 2022 season seems like an even more daunting task than normal.

But we’d hate to disappoint you. So once more unto the breach we go. We will use the same technique we have before, breaking games into four categories:

BETTER WIN: Expect to win all of the games

SHOULD WIN: Expect to win more than half of the games

MIGHT WIN: Expect to win less than half of the games

WON’T WIN: Expect to win none of the games.

Once all the games are categorized, we’ll add everything up and see what the system tells us. In addition, as always, we will also make a Fearless Forecast of each game (and with all the uncertainty this year, it’s way more Fearless than ever).

NORTHWESTERN (Aug. 27, 11:30a, Dublin, Ireland)

In the most obviously make-or-break season this century for Nebraska football, it is truly unfortunate that the first game of the year is both against a conference foe and played on a different continent. The Purples don’t appear to be a much better team than the one Nebraska drubbed last year in Lincoln. But Northwestern is the kind of team that Nebraska has struggled with under Frost, a team that grinds, doesn’t make mistakes, and waits for the opponent to beat itself.

Under anything close to normal circumstances, Nebraska should be heavily favored. But given that the game is early, and in Ireland, makes a game that Nebraska simply cannot lose all the more challenging.

SHOULD WIN

Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 38, Northwestern 17

NORTH DAKOTA (Sep. 03, 2:30p, Lincoln, NE)

A home opener against an FCS opponent would have been a far softer start to Nebraska’s season. The F’ing Hawks come off a 5-6 season last year, but run an aggressive blitz-all-the-time defense that could cause a team like Nebraska problems if everything goes right.

(Yes, I know they’re the “Fighting Hawks.” But the college hockey fan in me can’t resist the dig)

Regardless of how the Ireland game goes, Nebraska should have a comfortable return to Memorial Stadium

BETTER WIN

Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 55, North Dakota 17

GEORGIA SOUTHERN (Sep. 10, 6:30p, Lincoln, NE)

A night game for Georgia Southern does seem a little unusual, but these are unusual times in which we life. The Eagles bring their option-style offense to Lincoln to challenge Nebraska, in yet more evidence that the world has been turned on its head.

But this is another game that Nebraska should be able to handle. Let’s just hope they get wise and give us “Thunderstruck” in the third quarter again.

BETTER WIN

Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 42, Georgia Southern 24

OKLAHOMA (Sep. 17, 11a, Lincoln, NE)

Last year, the Oklahoma game seemed like such a lost cause that I played in a Marvel Crisis Protocol tournament rather than watch what seemed to be an inevitable embarrassment. Shows what I know, as Nebraska took the Sooners to the fourth quarter with a chance to win, and I got smoked in my tournament.

This year, the game is in Lincoln, which (assuming Nebraska is 3-0) should make for an atmosphere unlike any we’ve seen since Miami came to town. Oklahoma’s got a new coach. Nebraska (in this scenario) comes in as confident as they’ve been. The stars are aligned for Frost to get his signature win.

MIGHT WIN

Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 28, Oklahoma 24

INDIANA (Oct. 01, 6p, Lincoln, NE)

The Hoosiers looked primed to becoming a consistent force in the B1G East. Then, 2021 happened. Indiana went 2-10, and the momentum built up seemed lost.

Like Nebraska, Indiana will be looking to rebound from a disastrous season. But with the game in Lincoln and the talent differential still in place, it looks to be a tall order for the Hoosiers.

SHOULD WIN

Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 31, Indiana 20

RUTGERS (Oct. 07, TBA, Piscataway, NJ)

The Scarlet Knights look to be on the rise with Greg Schiano’s return to the Birthplace of College Football. And Rutgers went to one more bowl game last year than Nebraska.

It’s a long trip out to New Jersey to face former Nebraska quarterback Noah Vedral. Rutgers is still likely a year or two away from competing at the top level, but this game has danger written all over it for Nebraska.

SHOULD WIN

Fearless Forecast: Rutgers 24, Nebraska 21

PURDUE (Oct. 15, TBA, West Lafayette, IN)

Nebraska and Purdue really do feel like mirror images of each other, with Boilermaker head coach Jeff Brohm entering the league just two years before Frost, and both promising to bring dynamic offensive changes to the staid B1G.

Purdue’s 2021 season was a glimpse as to what Nebraska’s could have looked like, going 9-4 by getting close wins against Illinois and Michigan State and beating Iowa soundly. While Nebraska has a talent advantage over Purdue, the second road trip in a row feels like a big ask.

SHOULD WIN

Fearless Forecast: Purdue 28, Nebraska 17

ILLINOIS (Oct. 29, TBA, Lincoln, NE)

Nebraska can’t lose to Illinois three times in a row, right? The last two games against the Illini have been embarrassing for Nebraska in different ways. In 2020, Illinois came to Lincoln and manhandled Nebraska. In 2021, Nebraska found seemingly every possible way to give the Week Zero opener away.

Bret Bielema brings a very particular style back to the B1G after his days in Wisconsin. He has yet to put the team he wants together, though, and it’s very hard to see Nebraska dropping a third straight.

SHOULD WIN

Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 23, Illinois 10

MINNESOTA (Nov. 05, TBA, Lincoln, NE)

P.J. Fleck is in many ways a perfect villain for Nebraska fans. He brings a very slick presentation and puts off a used-car salesman vibe, and his “culture over talent” dig at Nebraska after last year’s game should stick in the craw of Nebraska fans.

Beating the Gophers in Lincoln would be a good sign that this is the year Nebraska gets out of its own way and starts to turn a corner.

SHOULD WIN

Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 31, Minnesota 21

MICHIGAN (Nov. 12, TBA, Ann Arbor, MI)

Boy, it was close, wasn’t it. Nebraska was on the cusp of a real signature win, leading Michigan until the last three minutes of the game. Beating the Wolverines, a playoff team last year, would have changed the entire perception of Frost’s tenure, and may very well have led to more wins last season.

A trip to Ann Arbor is daunting, though, and Michigan’s talent is better than Nebraska’s. Even with how close the game was last year, it’s asking a lot to get this win.

MIGHT WIN

Fearless Forecast: Michigan 28, Nebraska 20

WISCONSIN (Nov. 19, TBA, Lincoln, NE)

There a few constants in the universe, but one seems to be that Wisconsin has a great offensive line and question marks at quarterback. The same holds true this year, with Graham Mertz being the deciding factor between Wisconsin challenging for a B1G West title or not.

Even with the game in Lincoln, given the history it’s very hard to say that Nebraska will beat Wisconsin until we actually see Nebraska beat Wisconsin.

MIGHT WIN

Fearless Forecast: Wisconsin 24, Nebraska 17

IOWA (Nov. 25, 3p, Iowa City, IA)

OK, Husker Fan, now can we say it’s a rivalry? We’ve seen Keith Duncan walk Iowa off the Memorial Stadium turf with a field goal. We’ve seen Nebraska lead Iowa 21-9 before a blocked punt triggered yet another collapse.

Iowa’s defense might be the best overall unit in the B1G West this year. And Iowa’s offense under Kirk Ferentz has always been like a zombie hoard – slow-moving, predicable, utterly relentless, and waiting for you to make a mistake so it can eat your soul.

(Hey, Hawkeye Fan, that’s a compliment)

This should be like Wisconsin, in that you don’t expect Nebraska to beat Iowa until Nebraska beats Iowa. But it’s time. Call it the Gambler’s Fallacy if you like, but there’s no way Nebraska gives another game away to the Hawkeyes.

MIGHT WIN

Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 30, Iowa 23

SEASON PREDICTION

OK, so let’s see what our system tells us about Nebraska’s 2022 season

BETTER WIN (expect to win all)2
MIGHT WIN (expect to win less than half)4
SHOULD WIN (expect to win more than half)6
WON’T WIN (expect to win none)0

That puts Nebraska at 7-5 for the season, which should be enough progress to keep Frost in Lincoln. The Fearless Forecast is a little more optimistic, showing Nebraska going 8-4 with a win on Black Friday.

One of the most fascinating – and consequential – season in recent memory is about to dawn for Nebraska Football. Frost once said that if Nebraska does turn a corner, it’ll turn quickly. Given how strong recruiting remains even off a 3-9 season, a proof of concept season for Frost and his new staff could really be a launching point.

GBR, baby.

Nebraska Football: It’s OK That ESPN’s FPI Picks Huskers to Win B1G West

Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton in “Avengers: Endgame”

Don’t do that. Don’t give me hope.

Clint Barton, Hawkeye/Ronin, “Avengers: Endgame”

Nebraska ended the 2021 season at 3-9, and head coach Scott Frost is 15-27 in his first four seasons. So Nebraska fans could be rightly surprised when ESPN’s Football Power Index tabbed Nebraska as most likely to win the B1G West. Here’s how the projective metric sees the chances for each team to win the division.

Nebraska29.2%
Wisconsin28.9%
Minnesota14.2%
Iowa13.9%
Purdue13.0%
Illinois0.6%
Northwestern0.3%

I know, I know, another “Nebraska winning the offseason” column. And Nebraska fans certainly are wise to guard their hearts given Frost’s 5-20 (!) record in one-score games.

But hear me out. The FPI really does give some objective reasons why you should at least have some cautious optimism for 2022.

First of all, in the preseason the FPI is based largely on previous season data, including returning starters, coaching tenure, and past performance. Likely starting quarterback Casey Thompson’s experience at Texas helps Nebraska’s performance in the metric.

Second, and probably more importantly, Nebraska’s schedule is far different this year than last. In 2021, even at 3-9, the FPI had Nebraska ranked at no. 29 nationally due to how difficult its schedule was. Last year, the FPI ranked Nebraska’s schedule as the eleventh-hardest in the country, and most difficult in the B1G West.

This year, Nebraska’s schedule is no. 50 nationally. Only Illinois (no. 51), Minnesota (no. 52), and Purdue (no. 62) have easier schedules than Nebraska. Iowa (no. 16), Wisconsin (no. 20), and Northwestern (no. 27) have far more difficult schedules this year.

Of course, the FPI is just a predictive metric based on past performances. It’s no guarantee that this will be the year that Nebraska finally gets back to a bowl game and likely saves Frost’s job. And given what they’ve seen, Nebraska fans could be forgiven for concluding that the team is just plain cursed.

Nebraska doesn’t make it any easier by insisting on a week zero game in Ireland against Northwestern, a team that is almost grown in a lab to cause Frost problems. A loss to the Purples could easily wreck the team’s confidence and start a “here we go again” spiral for the 2022 season.

But if Nebraska is able to beat the Purples in Dublin (and get its first winning record since 2019), then at least the table is set for NU to finally, finally, turn that mythical corner.

GBR, baby.

Nebraska Football: NU Re-View, White 43, Red 39

One of the strangest spring practices drew to a close with the annual Spring Game on Saturday. Due to injury concerns, the format was changed to offense v. defense with a modified scoring system. Quite honestly, I hope they keep this format – being able to see a full first-team offense against a first-team defense seemed quite illustrative.

Here’s the standard caveats. This is a practice, not a game. In the first half, the teams were basically playing touch football, so even less about the running game could be taken than otherwise even from an event like this. Take it for what it’s worth.

Still, at least we have something to keep our Husker hearts warm until August. So in reviewing the Spring Game …

THE GOOD

Casey’s Crew. Transfer portal phenom Casey Thompson didn’t get a lot of time to shine on Saturday, but he made the most of it. On the first play from scrimmage, Thompson threw wide to Nate Boerkircher who was double-covered. As God as my witness, when the ball left his hand I thought it was going to be a pick-six, that’s how conditioned I’ve gotten over the last few years watching Nebraska.

But it wasn’t. Thompson fit the ball into a snug window and completed the pass for an 11-yard gain.

Yes, one swallow does not a summer make. And Thompson basically spent the rest of the game on the sideline, signaling as clearly as possible that he’s the guy this fall. But at least from the small sample size we got on Saturday, Thompson looked like the real deal.

Tailback Talent. Most of the first half was a punt-fest, with neither offense able to generate much momentum. But Anthony Grant took a stretch play to the right, cut it back left, and outran the defense for a 60-yard touchdown. Grant’s explosive first step and lateral quickness were on full display.

Jacquez Yant looked every bit like 2018 Devine Ozigbo, a big back who looks to have developed speed and shiftiness. The touch-football rules of the first half definitely hindered Yant’s ability to shine on Saturday, as I lost count of how many gallops to the end zone he had to cut short because he was touched down coming through the hole – plays where he would have been able to lower his shoulder and be able to power through in a real game.

A number of other backs – Markese Stepp, Trevin Luben, Connor Jewett, amongst others – got carries as well and looked impressive, especially in the second half where defenders had to bring a ball carrier to the ground.

The Sea(ish) of Red. Nebraska hasn’t been to a bowl game since 2016. Nebraska was 3-9 last year and hasn’t won a football game since October 02, 2021. And still – still – 54,357 people showed up at Memorial Stadium to watch a practice.

Much digital ink has been spilled (including at this very site) fretting about how continued failure in football will eventually wear a fanbase out. I still think that’s true. But once springtime arrives in Nebraska, hope still pops its green shoots out of the ground.

THE BAD

Tackle Trouble. We talked earlier about the first half being a punt-fest. That was in no small part because Nebraska’s offensive tackles were routinely being eaten alive by the outside pass rush of the defense. Garrett Nelson, in particular, looked like a man amongst boys with the way he was able to terrorize the green-shirted quarterbacks.

And yes, that could have been a “Good” about the game. But coming into the Spring Game, Nebraska’s offensive line was a huge question mark. Nothing about this practice – and, again, it’s just one practice – gives any reason to doubt that conclusion.

Oh God Not Special Teams Again. Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A 14-yard punt. A missed 40-yard field goal. An extra point shanked so badly it almost missed the net.

A smart and particularly handsome analyst observed that with even a league average special teams unit, Nebraska would likely have been bowl-bound in each of Scott Frost’s non-pandemic-shortened seasons. Nebraska hired a special teams coach whose only job is to make the unit better. Specialists at punter and kicker were transfer portaled in to improve the talent.

And still. And still. Yes, it’s just one practice. But Judas Priest, some of those things just should never happen, practice or not.

AND THE GREAT UNCERTAINTY

I have been uncomfortably disconnected from Nebraska football this offseason. Yes, some of that is just life interfering, but some of it really is just feeling the effects of the soul-destroying way Nebraska’s 2021 campaign unfolded.

Coming back to Memorial Stadium on Saturday – which, I can confidently say, is still my favorite place on earth – was salve to some of those old wounds. I may or may not have teared up as the band played “There Is No Place Like Nebraska” – I had sunglasses on, you can’t tell.

But then the offensive struggles of the first half made me flash back to the reflexive pessimism that had developed as a coping mechanism. The 14-yard punt and the shanked extra point gave rise to bitter black humor that has become an emotional defense strategy.

And to top it all off, it’s impossible to avoid the feeling that Frost’s tenure in Lincoln rides on this year being successful – and if it is not, then the wandering in the desert looks to continue even longer.

My wife, who came with me even being an Iowa fan, observed how much more pleasant the Spring Game crowd was because it lacked the nervous tension of a game day environment. She was right, and it really got me thinking.

It’s not nervous tension she feels, I think. It’s just fear. That’s where Nebraska’s fanbase is in 2022. It’s where it will be in September when North Dakota comes to town. And heaven help us if Nebraska drops the week zero game against Northwestern in Ireland.

It’s a strange place to be. But at least for one glorious spring afternoon, it was good to be home.

GBR, baby.

Nebraska Football: Five Things To Watch in Spring Practice

So, the Double Extra Point has been on a bit of a hiatus, not posting since November 04.

It’s been … an eventful few months, with the turnover of the entire offensive coaching staff, the departure of the entire leadership cadre of players including talismanic quarterback Adrian Martinez, the remake of the roster through the transfer portal and *gasp* the hiring of a special teams coordinator.

Now we are back at that annual rite of passage, the beginning of spring practice. But in a year unlike any other, expect a spring practice unlike any other. Here’s five things to be watching for.

WHO IS GOING TO PLAY QUARTERBACK?

Martinez will be leading the Kansas State Wildcat offense in 2022, which will be a strange enough sight. But Nebraska’s quarterback room is quite full. Nebraska signed two transfer portal quarterbacks in Casey Thompson and Chubba Purdy. Nebraska also signed a scholarship high school quarterback in Richard Torres. And Logan Smothers and Heinrich Haarberg are still on the roster and will be fighting for playing time.

For the first time in quite some time – and certainly the first time in Scott Frost’s history at Nebraska – we will be seeing a legitimate quarterback battle.

WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE ON THE DEFENSIVE LINE?

Of all the departures from the 2021 squad, it’s possible defensive tackle Damion Daniels’ loss will be the most keenly felt. Particularly in the B1G, being able to have a strong presence in the middle of the defensive front to stand up against the run is of paramount importance.

Sophomore Nash Hutmacher will like be called upon first to fill Daniels’ role. Hutmacher saw limited playing time last year, but he (and the players behind him) will have a lot to prove.

WHO ARE THE OFFENSIVE SKILL PLAYERS?

Like with quarterback, the transfer portal saw a remaking of Nebraska’s receiving corps. Nebraska added Trey Purdy, an electric playmaker and return specialist, and Isaiah Garcia-Castenada to a group likely led by Omar Manning and Oliver Martin.

But perhaps the biggest addition to Nebraska’s pass-catchers will be the star of last year’s recruiting class, tight end Thomas Fidone. The five-star recruit from Iowa was sidelined last year after an injury in spring practice, but looks ready to contribute in 2022.

WHAT WILL THE OFFENSE LOOK LIKE?

Of all the new arrivals on Nebraska’s coaching staff, new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple might be the most intriguing. Frost arrived at Nebraska with a reputation for innovative, high-scoring offensive prowess. But after four years, his offenses have not exactly lived up to that billing.

Whipple’s arrival signals a number of things. First, he’s been successful wherever he has been, most recently guiding an offense that lead quarterback Kenny Pickett to a Heisman finalist season and likely a first-round selection in this year’s NFL Draft. Second, and perhaps just as important, Whipple brings a wealth of experience.

When Frost arrived in Lincoln, he brought his entire coaching staff from Central Florida. While that made some sense at the time given UCF’s success, one thing that was missing was a voice of experience to help guide and advise Frost. I still believe that one element of former head coach Bo Pelini’s downfall was his refusal to bring in coaches with outside experience that could challenge him and help him to grow.

Frost has done that with Whipple, at least in the hiring. How much that will translate to offensive performance on the field remains to be seen.

WILL SPECIAL TEAMS BE NOT QUITE AS TERRIBLE?

Even if Nebraska were just as mediocre as it was on offense and defense in the last two years – and that’s been plenty mediocre, believe me – Nebraska would still have made bowl games in each of those years were it not for comically, hysterically, inexcusably bad special teams play. Just last year, a win on the road against Michigan State – which could very well have inspired confidence and sparked more of a run the rest of the season – turned into a loss on a punt return.

That’s just one example of Nebraska’s special teams disaster area, from an inability to kick a field goal to the inevitable touchdown kickoff returns against Iowa and Wisconsin (including on the opening kickoff against Sconnie last year *insert angry face emoji*). If Nebraska was just average – not good, just average – in special teams over Frost’s career, NU would have been in bowl games each of those seasons.

It was very much an open question as to whether Frost would hire a special teams coordinator. After the end of last season, he seemed quite stubborn in his perception that special teams was not an area that needed drastic change.

But Nebraska did hire Bill Busch as a special teams coordinator, a reflection that at least special teams will get individualized attention. Now, having a special teams coordinator is no guarantee of success – Mike Riley had Bruce Read in that position, and Nebraska’s special teams that season were about as bad as they have been under Frost.

However, at least Nebraska is trying something different this year. And while one hesitates to say this for all the karma it can bring, statistically speaking it would really be hard for Nebraska to get much worse than it has been.

GBR, baby.

Nebraska Football: Frost’s Downfall, and the Silver Linings on the Impending Storm Clouds

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them …”

– Maya Angelou

October 9 doesn’t seem that long ago, does it Husker Fan? Boy things seemed different then. Sure, Nebraska was 3-4, but had come through a daunting stretch where it very, very nearly upset three top ten teams (Oklahoma, Michigan State, and Michigan), two on the road. More importantly, Nebraska showed it had the talent level to be on the same field with those national powerhouses, something that has been in question about the program for some time.

And, for good measure, Nebraska eviscerated a Northwestern team that has always been a challenge at home, 56-7.

Was this it? Were we finally, finally, finally on the verge of turning The Corner and being the program we all envisioned when Scott Frost was introduced as the prodigal son returning?

Minnesota 30, Nebraska 23. Purdue 28, Nebraska 23.

If the loss to Purdue really was the end of Frost’s time in Lincoln, then there is one thing that can be pointed to more than any other to explain the failure. As a smart and particularly handsome analyst has observed, Frost’s inability to avoid bad losses has doomed seasons and – perhaps – Frost’s career at Nebraska.

You can (and, really, you should, because of those sweet sweet clicks) read the piece for the details, but here’s the takeaway. Let’s call Illinois and Purdue bad losses for this year. If Nebraska could just avoid those bad losses, here’s what Frost’s record would look like:

2018: 7-5

2019: 8-4

2020: 5-3

2021: 5-4

You’d feel better about Frost’s tenure if this was Nebraska’s record, wouldn’t you Husker Fan? Again, achieving these records isn’t asking Frost’s teams to pull up forests. It’s not asking to beat Ohio State, Michigan, and Oklahoma. It’s not even asking to beat Iowa and Wisconsin.

It’s asking to beat Illinois. Purdue. Colorado. Indiana. Troy, fer cryin’ out loud. Teams that, given Nebraska’s talent level, it should beat regularly.

Four years in, Frost has one signature win – and you kind of have to squint to see it that way – over Michigan State in 2018. Sure, they’ve been close. Sure, there’s three games left in the season and anything can happen.

But we’ve seen enough to know that here on Earth-1, Nebraska would be doing very well to end 2021 at 5-7. Far more likely that we see 4-8 or 3-9 as Nebraska’s final tally. And that would give new athletic director Trev Alberts a  difficult decision at the end of the season.

Pretty grim stuff, huh, Husker Fan?

Well, we did promise you some silver linings. And here they are

To start with, let’s go back to how we all felt on October 9. Remember, this wasn’t even Nebraska pulling an upset, just keeping games close against Oklahoma, Michigan State, and Michigan. All of a sudden, Nebraska had buzz. People were talking about Nebraska being the best 3-4 team in the country – which I guess is a compliment.

The point is, though, that Nebraska is still one of the blue-bloods in college football. It still has a name, an image, an aura, that resonates. And the minute that Nebraska shows even flickers of life – like we saw on October 9 – then it will be able to reclaim some of that national prominence that has been lost over these years of wandering through the desert.

So don’t despair, Husker Fan. Nebraska football isn’t going to turn into a ghost town like some doom-sayers had surmised (looking at you Dirk Chatelain) anytime soon.

Additionally, we now have objective evidence that Frost has been successful at rebuilding the talent level at Nebraska to where it can compete with top-10 teams. For quite a while – really, through the end of the Pelini era, the entirety of the Riley era, and the start of Frost’s tenure – Nebraska could not stay on the field with teams like that.

Now, it can. So if Alberts does make a change, the new guy will be handed the keys to a talented roster. He’ll be well-paid, likely top-20 nationally at worst. He’ll inherit a fanbase with expectations lowered to subterranean levels, to where even modest success (coupled with running a clean and respectable program) will make him a star.

If Frost is relieved of his duties, it’ll be a sad day, and worth mourning the failure of a native son unable to find the success we all thought was inevitable. But the sun will rise the next morning, Husker Fan, and the Nebraska job will be one of the best in the country to attract a talented replacement.

GBR, baby.

Nebraska Football: A Reason For Hope In Frost’s Cornhuskers

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. On the cusp of finally delivering a signature win, Scott Frost’s Cornhuskers committed a catastrophic mistake which snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. In this case, it was quarterback Adrian Martinez’ fumble late in the fourth quarter which allowed no. 9 Michigan to escape from Lincoln on Saturday, 32-29.

Once again, Nebraska sees a chance for victory come agonizingly close. The players see it too, and are just as sick of it as the fans. Here’s defensive end Ty Robinson, courtesy of 247 Sports.

We’re so close. I mean, I’m sick and tired of hearing we’re so close.

It’s hard not to think that the Nebraska program is cursed, trapped in a time loop like Loki in the TVA. Certainly the pain of all these close losses feels the same, over and over.

So why should you keep coming back? Why should you – dare we even say it out loud – be more encouraged about Nebraska now than a month ago?

A smart and particularly handsome analyst pointed out that before this year, Nebraska was losing heartbreakers to mediocre teams and getting blown out by good ones. This year (Illinois notwithstanding), Nebraska is beating mediocre teams and losing heartbreakers to good ones.

That’s progress! Baby steps, sure. As unsatisfying as rice cakes without peanut butter, absolutely.

But it’s progress. Nebraska hasn’t beaten a ranked opponent since September of 2016 with a 35-32 win over Oregon. Since then, Nebraska is an eye-watering 0-15 against ranked opponents.

Which is terrible of course. But the margin of defeat tells a little more of the story. Here’s the list of those games.

DateOpponentOppNebMargin
10/29/2016at (11) Wisconsin23176
11/5/2016at (6) Ohio State62359
10/7/2017(9) Wisconsin381721
10/14/2017(9) Ohio State561442
11/18/2017at (13) Penn State564412
9/22/2018at (19) Michigan561046
10/6/2018at (16) Wisconsin412417
11/3/2018at (8) Ohio State36315
9/28/2019(5) Ohio State48741
11/16/2019(15) Wisconsin372116
11/29/2019(19) Iowa27243
10/24/2020at (5) Ohio State521735
9/18/2021at (3) Oklahoma23167
9/25/2021at (20) Michigan State23203
10/9/2021(9) Michigan32293

But take a look at the margin of victory in visual format (with the tenures of Mike Riley and Frost separated out).

Notice something at the right end of that graph? See how in 2021, the comically-bad margins of defeat evaporate? From 2016-2020, Nebraska’s average margin of defeat against ranked opponents was 25.25 (!) points.

In 2021? The average margin of defeat is 4.33 points.

Now sure, losses are losses. And 2021 is a small sample size. Ohio State is still on the schedule. And Nebraska certainly has a history of clunkers against teams it should beat.

But now for a sustained period of time, this Nebraska looks different than Nebraska of years past. And maybe that’s why you should take the rest of Robinson’s quote seriously.

But gosh darn it, we’re close. If it isn’t this game, it’s definitely going to be the next game, and we’ll move on from this and learn from our mistakes.

Never mind the fact that Robinson clearly falling prey to the gambler’s fallacy. Any human being that large who comes at you with a “gosh darn it” to the press is clearly a force to be reckoned with.

So don’t just take it on faith, Husker Fan. There’s reasons for hope. It’s no guarantee, of course. But it’s not blind faith any more, either.

GBR, baby.

Nebraska Football: NU ReView, Nebraska 56, Northwestern 7

*click*

Was that it? Was that what we’ve all been waiting for?

*click*

Since December of 2017, we’ve been waiting. We were promised the flashy, exciting, high-scoring offense Scott Frost ran at Central Florida. We were promised motion, formation adjustments, personnel mismatches, and lots and lots of points.

*click*

Until Saturday, we hadn’t seen anything like that. Until Saturday, Scott Frost seemed like a mirage, an illusion sold to a fanbase desperate for a return to college football relevance. Until Saturday, hope seemed in very short supply.

And then, for at least one glorious autumn evening, things seemed to snap back into place. For at least one night, Nebraska seemed like … Nebraska again. For one glorious night, a Nebraska team that seemed permanently cursed had everything bounce its way – even a punt, fer cryin’ out loud!

*click*

Memorial Stadium felt like a weight had been lifted off the roof, that this long surreal nightmare was finally over. At least for one night, Nebraska football was a joyous, raucous party. And when Thunderstruck hit after the third quarter, the venerable old cathedral vibrated with an energy it hadn’t seen in a decade.

*click*

So was that it? Was that the sound of everything finally, finally falling into place for Frost’s Nebraska squad?

We’ll see. It’s so hard to invest trust in Nebraska. M.C. Escher didn’t have as many corners as Nebraska’s seemed to have, waiting for that right one to turn coming next. We’ve been promised that we’ve seen progress, only to see this team fall flat on its face time and time and time again.

So why is this different? Why is a team that lost to Illinois (as it turns out, a baaaaaad Illinois) at the start of the season worthy of an investment of hope?

Well, if you want tangible evidence of hope, think about it this way. Nebraska’s identity (if you call it that) throughout the entirety of Mike Riley’s tenure and up to now with Frost has been to get blown out by good teams and to find bafflingly-creative ways to lose games against mediocre opponents. A smart and particularly handsome analyst wrote about how avoiding the latter was really all Frost needed to accomplish in 2021.

Take a look at Nebraska post-Illinois – which, yes, I know isn’t a thing, but go with me on a Week 0 game against a new coach. Now, Nebraska is beating (or, as of last Saturday, eviscerating) mediocre opponents and playing good opponents (nationally ranked Oklahoma and Michigan State on the road) within an inch of victory.

I know you kind of have to squint at it, but that’s progress, Husker Fan. Progress we really didn’t see except for flashes in the second half of 2018. And given the talent upgrades between now and then – and apparently finding a solution on the left side of the offensive line – this progress feels far more sustainable.

When undefeated and no. 9 Michigan comes to town this Saturday, Nebraska will get to put this new-found momentum to the test. The Wolverines have the no. 40 total offense in the country, which is (amazingly) better than Oklahoma at no. 43 but far worse than Michigan State at no. 25. Michigan’s defense is the best Nebraska will have yet faced, at no. 15 nationally in total defense.

Could we see a reversion to form with a blowout loss at home and have the ghosts of seasons past come back to haunt Memorial Stadium? Of course. No one who has watched this team – even you Husker Fan, admit it – can honestly say part of you doesn’t dread that outcome.

But this is also a monstrous opportunity for Nebraska to finally, finally turn that mythical corner. It’s also evidence that programs like Nebraska with deep and passionate fanbases really don’t die, they just lie dormant like a bear in hibernation, waiting for the spring to arrive to resume their hunt.

So maybe, just maybe, that spring will arrive for Nebraska on a warm mid-October night in Lincoln, with echoes of Thunderstruck ringing in the ears of the patient faithful. Just listen for it, Husker Fan.

*click*

GBR, baby.