Now what, Husker Fan?
Nebraska is now 0-6, after dropping a gut-wrenching 34-31 overtime loss to Northwestern, after having a two-score lead with two minutes left to play in the game. Even a faint flicker of hope for a bowl game was snuffed out by the loss, and the remainder of 2018 is a game-by-game prospect, with tangible achievements postponed until 2019 and beyond.
Head coach Scott Frost said he was “running out of words” to tell the team after their sixth straight loss of the season and tenth overall (according to Parker Gabirel of the Lincoln Journal-Star). Even more disturbingly, Frost said this about Nebraska’s defensive scheme at the end of the game (as reported by Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald):
“One, I don’t call the defense and two, make a play,” Frost said. “One more play.”
Now, after Northwestern’s 99-yard drive in under two minutes – with no time-outs – to tie the game (a drive which bore haunting resemblance to Nebraska’s 2015 late-game collapse against Illinois), Frost’s frustration was understandable. And nothing in Frost’s quote is factually incorrect.
But some also read Frost’s quote as him trying to distance himself from the loss, to blame defensive coordinator Erik Chinander or the players for letting him down. To be clear, that is not a necessary interpretation of what Frost’s quote, and would run counter to the culture of accountability Frost has said he wants to create in Lincoln.
Having said that, it’s not the first time Nebraska fans have heard a coach say and mean something like that. And after absorbing Nebraska’s tenth (!!!) straight loss, it’s only natural for despair to kick in and color perception to see the seams unraveling on the entire Nebraska program. After a knife-to-the-soul loss like Saturday, Nebraska fans were primed and ready to descend into a very dark, very hopeless place.
And yet …
There you were, Husker Fan, applauding the team – both teams – after that loss. Sure, not all of you. But that core is still there, the ones who measure your fandom in generations, who pledge to cheer the scarlet and cream come in all kinds of weather – and mean it.
(By the way, don’t read the comments after Heady’s Twitter post. Like pretty much all internet comment threads, they’ll make you doubt your faith in humanity.)
You’re going to be tested, Husker Fan, even more than you have. Wins may be elusive this year, and perhaps even beyond. You’ll be mocked and trolled by fans of teams who hate Nebraska (looking at you, Hawkeye Fan, and a locked beer fridge is neither “Iowa nice” nor at all original).
You have faith in Frost to succeed, and that faith is still well-founded even with how 2018 has unfolded. He’s not perfect, of course – his oddly-conservative play-calling on the drive before Northwestern’s 99-yard march and game plan as a whole against Troy being examples of mistakes. But he still gives Nebraska its best chance to take its place amongst college football’s national powers.
A chance is not a guarantee, though. While all the signs point to Frost righting the ship, there’s no promises that Frost can be successful, at least on the time frame that fans were initially expecting when he arrived in Lincoln.
So you’ve got a choice, Husker Fan. You can surrender to despair and bitterness. Or you can choose a different path. You can choose to enjoy the spectacle of the game without expecting the luxury of a victory.
This doesn’t mean you accept failure, of course. It doesn’t mean you don’t agonize at the losses and rage against the mistakes and poor decisions that snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Demanding excellence and that the program be on the path to achieve it is one of the prime distinguishers between Nebraska and other programs.
What it means is that you don’t quit showing up. You don’t quit wearing your colors – flying your Husker flag – with pride. You don’t turn on the players – a collection of college kids – ever. And you don’t turn on a coaching staff until they’ve given you no choice but to do anything else.
In other words, you don’t stop believing.
I know, I’m beating this thing into the ground. But remember when, at the start of the year, we thought the biggest question to answer was what song should replace “Sirius” for the Tunnel Walk?
In my mind, there’s no doubt as to what the theme song of this year – and of this fanbase, in general – should be.
Workin’ hard to get my fill
Everybody wants a thrill
Payin’ anything to roll the dice just one more time
Some will win, some will lose
Some were born to sing the blues
Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on, and on, and on
Don’t stop believin’
Hold on to that feelin’
Don’t stop believing, Husker Fan. Now more than ever.
(And, seriously, HuskerVision bigwigs, make the Journey singalong A Thing already, wouldya?)