LINCOLN — Rewatching Nebraska’s blowout loss to Michigan wasn’t particularly fun or educational for Luke Gifford.
The NU captain and senior linebacker saw again what he witnessed firsthand during the 46-point humiliation in the Big House. Missed tackles. Defenders falling out of their gaps. Forgotten assignments.
Coach Scott Frost called for a “reset” after the game. But some of the familiar sins of Nebraska teams past — being outrushed 285-39, losing the turnover battle and generally wilting under pressure — are hard to shake.
“I’m still not over it,” Gifford said Monday. “You watch film and it just makes you want to throw up.”
Mixed with that queasiness Monday was the sense of a team moving past the “buy in” rhetoric of a week ago and on to football-specific solutions for the winless start to the season. On offense, Frost said the Huskers “weren’t that far away” from making big gains, while quarterback Adrian Martinez said the unit was “this close” to busting out instead of producing the 132 total yards it did. A block here, a read there, can make a big difference.
Right guard Tanner Farmer said slow starts — the Huskers have trailed by multiple touchdowns before scoring in each of their first three games — are the result of whiffing on the details. His man deflected the pass on Nebraska’s opening drive that turned a could-be touchdown into an interception. Before the visitors knew it, they were down 39-0 at the break.
“These little things can completely change a game; that can change the complete momentum,” Farmer said. “… We’re trying so hard and we’re struggling with it. I think once we get this one win, I think things are gonna start compounding in a good way and we’re going to just keep on rising after that.”
Will that first victory come against Purdue, the last team Nebraska beat before its current seven-game losing streak? Players said they liked Monday’s practice, but they’ve liked every Monday workout this fall. Cornerback Lamar Jackson said defenders need to care enough to stay in their gaps and be competitive on a down-to-down basis.
Some Michigan players even called out the Huskers following Saturday’s game for showing a lack of fight after the slow start.
“It’s just the littlest thing that can get you beat,” Jackson said. “Even our coach said the score is not a reflection of what we really put on film or put on tape. It just shows the importance of doing the right thing and everybody just making sure they’re playing assignment football. It’s frustrating, but the worst part is just the pure fact of just losing.”
The eight NU defenders who wore Blackshirts last week still had them Monday, Gifford said. Though the senior was “conflicted” about whether they should, he takes it as a sign of confidence from the coaching staff. One game shouldn’t change the way they think about themselves. The Blackshirt mentality is more important now than ever.
Senior safety and UCF transfer Tre Neal said the defensive growing pains aren’t unlike what Frost and his staff weathered in Orlando two years ago. It takes time to break bad habits and build a winning mentality. He saw a defense and special teams Saturday that either tried to do too much and strayed out of position or fell back on old routines when the moment of truth arrived.
“It wasn’t that they were just better than us, it wasn’t that they were stronger than us,” Neal said of Michigan. “It was just, guys were coming free and they weren’t making the play. They weren’t trusting their technique, trusting what we were teaching all week.”
Now Nebraska sits in danger of missing a bowl in consecutive seasons for the first time in 50 years. There’s a long-term vision, Frost said, that includes the Huskers looking as lean and athletic as Michigan players while competing for championships. There’s also an urgency to fight in this moment and beat a 1-3 Purdue program that is “not much different from us other than they’re coming off a win and we’re coming off getting our butts whipped.”
“We’re hitting the reset button,” Martinez said. “We still have plenty of season left to kind of prove ourselves.”
Scott Frost defuses blowback from ‘we get a game we can win’ comments about Purdue
LINCOLN — What appeared to be early trash talk between head coaches for this weekend’s Purdue-Nebraska game cooled considerably by Monday afternoon.
Frost got the attention of the Boilermakers after Saturday’s 56-10 loss to Michigan when he said, “We get a game we can win next week (against Purdue).”
Purdue coach Jeff Brohm responded to the remark Monday during his weekly press conference in West Lafayette, Indiana. His program moved to 1-3 last week with a 30-13 win over No. 23 Boston College.
“I think that obviously (Frost) was talking after a loss that he didn’t like very much,” Brohm said. “So I get it. But no, I think everything that’s said is heard, and our team needs to respond and understand that we’ve got to show up ready to play and this team will be licking their chops trying to get us.”
Later Monday, Frost called Brohm “one of the best coaches in the country” during his own press conference and complimented the second-year coach on turning around the program and getting it to a bowl game last season.
Said Frost: Both teams need the win and both expect to leave with a victory.
Gifford laments missed gaps, tackles
The thought clearly crossed Gifford’s mind before Monday morning’s practice, but Nebraska defenders did not lose their Blackshirts after a 56-10 loss to Michigan.
“I was kind of conflicted with that,” Gifford said. “But I think at the end of the day, we still have to play with that same confidence and swagger that a Blackshirt would, and what happened on Saturday is never acceptable.”
One bad game, Gifford said, can’t “completely alter the way we play and think of ourselves.”
Gifford said he didn’t believe Michigan overpowered NU’s front seven. Rather, it was Nebraska defenders missing their gap assignments and missing tackles when they had chances to make them.
“Credit to them, because they have good backs,” Gifford said of the Wolverines.
Neal said Husker defenders were “trying to do too much.”
“We weren’t just doing our job,” Neal said.
Bootle in fix-it mode despite strong game
Corner Dicaprio Bootle had five pass breakups on Saturday against Michigan.
But he says he had even more mistakes. One of which cost Nebraska early in the game.
On an explosive play in the first quarter, Bootle said his eyes were in the wrong place, which led to a late reaction, which led to a long Michigan run.
“I mean, going back and watching the game and just seeing the mistakes that were made that made us lose big, they were very, very minute,” Bootle said.
Just like the loss to Colorado, with all the penalties, and with Troy, with all the missed opportunities, it is still the little things catching up to the Husker defense, Bootle said. No one is dropping the ball completely. But enough guys are messing up small things that the defense can’t get stops.
“I just wanna fix all the mistakes I’ve made so far and continue to be a strong mind and come out with the same attitude every game,” Bootle said.
Purdue WR Moore a ‘mismatch nightmare’
Purdue receiver Rondale Moore is just four games into his collegiate career, but he leads the Big Ten in all-purpose yards — including 161 in a win over Boston College. Moore, one of the highest-rated prospects in Purdue history, made an immediate splash against Northwestern on opening night and has continued his strong play.
Neal said Nebraska defenders know the 5-foot-9, 175-pound Moore is a “mismatch nightmare” whom Purdue lines up all over the field in hopes of hatching a big play.
“They’re going to get him the ball, he’s going to touch the ball, and you’ve got to rally and tackle him, because he’s making people miss right now,” Neal said.
The Huskers worked on individual special teams drills Monday, said safety Tre Neal, instead of their usual team drills. Neal said players — including himself — need to show more effort and better discipline on special teams plays. NU has picked up 10 special teams penalties already this season.
“(Players) were just kind of running freely and doing whatever they want,” Neal said of NU’s special teams performance in the opening three weeks.
» Of Nebraska’s new Oct. 27 game against Bethune-Cookman, Frost said NU players deserved the chance to play a full slate of games despite having to play 12 straight weeks.
“I’m just grateful that somebody agreed to come here and play us,” Frost said.
Coaches normally hit the road in recruiting that week. Frost said he’ll try to send out coaches in smaller bunches throughout the season to account for missing that week as NU prepares for BCU.
» Frost said he hadn’t talked to his mentor and former coach, Tom Osborne, yet about the loss to Michigan.
“My impression is he’s fishing Sunday and Monday, so I usually see him about middle of the week,” Frost said.
» Nebraska has won nine straight homecoming games, dating back to a 52-17 loss to Missouri in 2008, and 77.6 percent of its homecoming games overall.
» NU is 18-11 in Big Ten home games but just 1-4 last season.
Michigan players suggested that the Huskers quit. Nebraska says that’s not true
Did Nebraska quit, as Michigan players suggested following Saturday’s blowout loss? The Huskers don’t think so.
But they also recognized Monday that the Wolverines had earned the right to talk.
“Obviously they beat us by 50, so they can say what they want to say,” NU senior outside linebacker Luke Gifford said. “But I didn’t feel that way, and I know a lot of guys on our defense didn’t feel that way.”
NU safety Tre Neal said playing hard should be a matter of pride no matter the score. That the opposing team observes otherwise about the Huskers should be a concern.
“If that’s what we’re putting on film, if that’s what they felt, it doesn’t matter what we think,” Neal said. “If they’re thinking that these guys are giving up, that means we’re not going hard enough.”
Notably, the two Michigan players who spoke out about their observations Saturday were defenders. Lineman Chase Winovich said he could feel Nebraska “didn’t really want to be out there at some points,” according to Michigan reporters.
“We knew they ain’t want to play,” Michigan safety Josh Metellus said. “You could just tell the intensity, it was kind of flat. I just knew personally that they didn’t want to play with us.”
Kickoff time, TV information announced for Huskers’ game against Wisconsin
Nebraska and Wisconsin will play under the lights at Camp Randall Stadium.
The Huskers’ Oct. 6 matchup with the Badgers will start at 6:30 p.m. and be televised by BTN.
Nebraska (0-3) will be coming off a home matchup with Purdue. Wisconsin (3-1), which beat Iowa on Saturday, will be coming off a bye week.
The Huskers are 4-8 all time against Wisconsin in a series that dates back to 1901.
Some Husker fans miffed over Wendy’s zinger tweet on Michigan blowout
Wendy’s is known for serving up singles and doubles, but now you could add zingers to the menu.
The fast-food chain tweeted a one-liner during the Husker’s 56-10 loss to Michigan on Saturday that left some Husker fans feeling a little steamed.
“Might need a Scott Frosty to ice down the beating Nebraska is taking,” Wendy’s tweeted.
Might need a Scott Frosty to ice down the beating Nebraska is taking.#FreshFanReaction
— Wendy's (@Wendys) September 22, 2018
That cute red-headed little girl with pig tails can throw some shade.
Wendy’s tweet about the humbling, blowout loss has received 47,000 likes and more than 2,600 comments, with reaction from apparent Husker fans ranging from “ouch” to lol.
“Let’s boycott Wendy’s if that’s all the more respect they can show Scott Frost,” tweeted one person. “Deplorable of Wendy’s for taking cheap shots.”
Hope your thumbs didn’t blister typing this with such thin skin.
— Wendy’s (@Wendys) September 22, 2018
But plenty of Nebraska fans got the joke: “Husker fan here – that was hysterical! Some of us do actually have a sense of humor.”
And this fan seemed to think a “Scott Frosty” might just hit the spot: ‘I’ll take two please, lol.”
Fillmore Central two-way lineman Riley Moses commits to Huskers as a walk-on
Fillmore Central lineman Riley Moses always knew he wanted to go to Nebraska to play football. On Tuesday he committed to do just that. Moses gave his pledge to Nebraska as a walk-on in the 2019 class.
“Growing up it was always the thing that I wanted to do ever since I started playing football,” the 6-foot-3, 275-pound lineman said. “I wanted to play football at Nebraska.”
An unofficial visit to Lincoln on Tuesday sealed his commitment for the Huskers.
“I took a visit to the campus today and it felt like home,” he said. “I loved it all.”
Moses is the second known walk-on commitment of the 2019 class. In August Lincoln Southeast punter Grant Detlefsen committed to Nebraska as a walk-on.
Moses chose Nebraska over scholarship offers from NAIA Concordia and Division II schools UNK, Wayne State and Southwest Minnesota State. FCS South Dakota State offered as a preferred walk-on.
Through five games, Moses has 42 tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery. Offensively, he has been credited for eight pancake blocks.
Purdue at Nebraska
When: 2:30 p.m. (Pregame: 9:30 a.m.) Saturday
Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln
Radio: 103.1 FM