LINCOLN — Of all the signs a culture change is ongoing at Nebraska, Scott Frost noticed a big one this week.
A sincere belief from players they can hang with — and beat — a Big Ten powerhouse.
That wasn’t the case a month ago, when the Huskers traveled to Michigan and were blasted 56-10. But the multi-touchdown underdogs head to No. 8 Ohio State more confident in who they are and what they’re capable of accomplishing.
“When we went up to Ann Arbor, I’m not sure the team thought they could win,” Frost said following Thursday’s practice. “I think they wanted to, but I’m not sure deep down if some of the guys thought they could win. I think we have a team that’s going up there thinking we got a chance if we play well. That’s a big change in improvement.”
One reason for Nebraska’s two-game winning streak has been a spike in offense, which has posted 98 points in that span. The unit ranks 20th nationally with 6.5 yards per play and has been above 7 four times this year, though Frost said it’s not a statistic he tracks. In fact, the coach said, he prefers instinct and tempo to analytics in most cases, though he’ll refer to the latter during self-scouting bye weeks and in the offseason.
Frost said he evaluates success by wins more than offensive efficiency, though he acknowledged the offense will need to carry a heavy load if Nebraska wants to add more victories.
“I’d rather win a game 2-0 than lose one 61-60,” Frost said. “We’re gonna have to score points to win games right now. That’s just the way it is. Our defense continues to get better too, but I don’t think we’re going to win any 10-3 (games) right now in the Big Ten.”
Wandale Robinson, one of Nebraska’s top recruits, commits to home-state Kentucky
LINCOLN — In an apparent late change of heart, longtime Nebraska running back target Wandale Robinson committed to Kentucky on Thursday afternoon.
For weeks signs had pointed to the consensus four-star prospect and standout at Frankfort (Ky.) Western Hills leaning toward the Huskers. He dropped multiple hints on social media, including a Twitter response Monday to Nebraska offensive line commit Matthew Anderson that said “might have to join you” with a shrugging emoji.
But the Wildcats — ranked 11th nationally at 7-1 and with a pivotal home game against No. 6 Georgia on Saturday — ultimately rallied to win Robinson’s services. The 5-foot-9, 179-pounder had long held a relationship with the school, which is located about 30 miles from Robinson’s home.
Robinson has chosen the familiar path before. With multiple larger or more successful high schools wooing him before his senior year, he elected to stay with Western Hills, which is 7-3 as it begins its playoff push Friday.
“Everybody wanted him to come here or go there. They love trying to do that,” Western Hills coach Don Miller told The World-Herald. “But he stayed, he performed.”
Game film and statistics confirm why Robinson took official visits to Purdue, Michigan, Alabama and Ohio State in addition to Nebraska for the canceled Akron game on Sept. 1. In 10 games this season he’s accumulated a state-best 2,510 total yards as a receiver/back while also piling up a team-best 105 tackles along with three interceptions and six forced fumbles as a safety/linebacker. He’s averaging 9.6 yards per rush for 1,844 yards and 28 touchdowns and has 22 catches for 493 and nine.
Including two punt-return TDs, two more as a Wildcat passer and two on turnover returns, he’s accounted for 43 scores overall.
Steve Wiltfong, director of football recruiting for 247Sports, made a prediction late Wednesday for Robinson to Kentucky, breaking a trend of industry picks for the Huskers. He told The World-Herald on Tuesday “it kind of goes against logic” that Robinson would choose Nebraska because that was where he had visited the least.
“He’s obviously a touchdown waiting to happen when the ball is in his hands and he’s got the ball skills that can be a factor in the passing game,” Wiltfong said. “He’s an all-purpose back that can move all over and bring great versatility to your offense.”
Robinson’s father, Dale Robinson, told The World-Herald last week that how quickly his son can get on the field and how often he might get the ball are key factors for the family. As a former college player himself at Western Kentucky, the elder Robinson said insincere recruiting pitches from schools — like when coaches say they aren’t recruiting any other running backs — are easy to identify.
“We actually know what we’re looking for,” Dale Robinson said. “Some recruiters, they tell you what you want to hear. You can’t just tell me what I want to hear.”
Nebraska’s 2019 recruiting class remains at 20 members after adding three verbal pledges in the last eight days.
» Central Florida transfer Noah Vedral is the No. 2 quarterback behind Adrian Martinez, Frost said. Vedral, who the NCAA ruled eligible three weeks ago, made his debut last weekend. The Wahoo Neumann graduate completed 2 of 9 passes for 29 yards and threw an interception. He also ran for a 20-yard touchdown.
“(Andrew Bunch) is perfectly capable and ready to come in too,” Frost said, “but I think going into the game it’ll be Noah.”
» Frost confirmed that junior DaiShon Neal underwent surgery and would be out “for a little bit” after the defensive lineman posted the news on social media Wednesday. Neal has appeared in seven games this season and made three tackles. Frost said he had been “gutting it out.”
» Asked about the offensive line, Frost said underclassman tackles Brenden Jaimes and Matt Farniok have “really grown up,” and also complimented starters Jerald Foster, Tanner Farmer and Boe Wilson.
“Those guys as a unit are playing pretty well,” Frost said. “We’ve been lucky. We’ve stayed healthy at that position and Coach (Greg) Austin’s doing a great job with them. We couldn’t be doing what we’re doing on offense without those guys improving and playing well.”
» Sophomore JD Spielman could finish atop the Nebraska career record books if he continues to play like he has, Frost said. Spielman is tied for ninth in career receptions with 108 — Kenny Bell has the record at 181 — and is 10th in career receiving yards at 1,516 (Bell 2,689).
“I think by the time JD leaves here, if he stays healthy, he’ll be the all-time leading receiver in Nebraska history,” Frost said. “And he deserves it. (He) makes plays.”
Nebraska at Ohio State
When: 11 a.m. (Pregame: 6 a.m.)
Where: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
Radio: 103.1 FM