LINCOLN — It’s a uniform Husker linebacker Mohamed Barry has to wear. Not exactly a glowing endorsement of NU’s alternate look from the team’s leading tackler.
“I like the black cleats,” Barry said with a smile Monday. “The pants, I guess. I don’t know what else to say.”
Nebraska’s alternate uniform simultaneously marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I and intends to mimic the look the Huskers wore in 1918. It comes complete with a helmet decal that’s a replica of a leather helmet. Safety Tre Neal liked that.
Safety JoJo Domann said “hmph” when asked what he liked about the red jerseys.
“You know, I’m not a big — I’m not Jay Terry,” Domann said, referring NU’s equipment manager. “I don’t speak on that stuff. I’m just going to be here Saturday playing.”
Barry would prefer Nebraska’s alternate be an all-black look similar to the one worn in the 2015 loss to Northwestern.
NU coach Scott Frost has recently coached at two programs — Oregon and Central Florida — that mixed and matched looks frequently. UCF, for example, wore an outer space-themed helmet last year and this year. At Nebraska, Frost appears more likely to be conservative with his approach.
“In general, I think there’s a dozen brands in college football that you recognize, and those schools probably are better off, in my opinion — just my opinion — sticking to tradition,” Frost said. “And we have a strong enough tradition here. Everybody in the country, when they see that N on the side of the helmet, knows what it stands for. Not to say we won’t mix it up occasionally, but there’s power in what we wear every Saturday.”
Scott Frost sees encouraging signs inside Husker program despite 2-7 start
LINCOLN — The best thing Scott Frost heard in the last few days came from a true freshman.
A senior approached the freshman and said he was jealous. He got to stay and play for four more years. And the senior had to leave the program.
“Players can feel what’s happening and where this is going,” Frost said Monday.
Despite the 36-31 loss to Ohio State, Nebraska’s seventh loss of the year that more then likely bumped them from bowl eligibility, there’s still optimism around the program. The good feeling that’s coursed through Memorial Stadium since the Bethune-Cookman win has gone nowhere.
In part, Frost said, because there have been signs of bonding, and not separation, throughout this entire season.
“Most teams would’ve shut it down, would’ve started fighting, would’ve gotten worse, and this team keeps getting better, keeps having more fun playing, the culture keeps getting better,” Frost said. “There’s real bonds being developed, there’s a lot of things being built during some trying times, and that’s not easy to do.”
Frost said Monday he thought the offense and defense played well enough to beat No. 8 Ohio State. That couldn’t be said about the special teams, which allowed a punt block and messed up a surprise onside kick.
First, the good. The defense played its best game of the year, Frost said. They forced three turnovers — one interception and two fumbles — and that’s encouraging.
“Every week it’s gotten better and they probably played their best game,” Frost said.
The bad news is the special teams. Though they’ve improved, they’re still weighing the team down.
On the punt block, there was a changed protection at the line of scrimmage that wasn’t communicated well enough. The flub by Caleb Lightbourn on the onside kick was just poor execution.
“We know what happened and what went wrong,” Frost said. “Some other things that happened we’re gonna have to wait and address in the offseason.”
Feeling good about most of the team’s performance isn’t enough for Frost. He wants to rattle off a few wins and head into the season with some momentum.
“We’ve had some great moral victories this year,” Frost said. “And those don’t count for anything.”
Huskers didn’t leave Horseshoe with win, but they entered with confidence that they could
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Stadium stands 166 feet tall. And from the field, there’s no escape.
The 15-story football coliseum is fully enclosed. Even where it should open up on the south side, a wall of bleachers makes the Horseshoe an oval. No buildings are visible from the field. Just concrete, the sky and 104,000 clad in black and red.
Mohamed Barry stood at his own 15-yard line, and as the laughs spread throughout the stadium, he felt just fine in this enclosure.
Screenshots of Caleb Lightbourn’s failed onside kick spread across social media as Barry lined up across from Heisman candidate Dwayne Haskins for the first time. And despite the fact that No. 10 Ohio State scored 118 points in their last 120 minutes against the Huskers and hadn’t punted since President Barack Obama’s first term, Barry felt in control.
He felt confident.
“We was in the red zone and we said, ‘So? We don’t care,’” Barry said.
On third-and-1, safety Aaron Williams sniffed out a jet sweep and forced a fourth-and-2. Instead of kicking a field goal, Urban Meyer gambled, but Dedrick Young and Alex Davis stuffed OSU running back J.K. Dobbins at the line of scrimmage. Nebraska took over. Crisis averted.
But to Barry, there was no crisis. Even against the top offense in the conference, and even with a short field, he expected Nebraska to dominate.
“We a different team,” Barry said. “We know we should beat them. That’s a great feeling. Because that’s how it should be at Nebraska.
“We shouldn’t say, ‘Oh, No. 10 team.’ We should beat them in the Horseshoe. We should beat Ohio State in the Horseshoe.”
That’s a mighty different attitude than in previous years. Particularly the last two matchups against the Buckeyes, when the only thing that saved Nebraska from the Ohio State buzzsaw was the game clock hitting zeroes.
But Saturday, Nebraska walked into the Horseshoe as an 18-point underdog and strutted through warmups with a quiet confidence. They might be the most confident 2-7 team in the history of college football. Because they believed they were better than the No. 10 team in the country.
That’s why Nebraska controlled most of the game and was a handful of plays from its third win.
“There was no doubt in our mind that we were going to come in here and have an opportunity to win at the end,” linebacker Luke Gifford said. “And so it does sting. It makes it sting a lot.”
On Thursday, coach Scott Frost said his team believed it could win. A different attitude from a few weeks ago, when Nebraska traveled to Michigan to play the ranked Wolverines.
Frost was right.
“Sitting in the locker room just looking at the guys, seeing the look in their eyes, I knew we were ready to go out and play this game,” cornerback DiCaprio Bootle said.
Said offensive tackle Matt Farniok: “We went into this game, we knew what they were going to do. They had some new wrinkles, but we never head into a game timid, we never head into a game afraid, we’re here to fight.”
That confidence has been growing week by week, Bootle said. Though the Vegas odds were steep and Nebraska hadn’t won a game against a team with a winning record, the Huskers were ready to fight the Buckeyes from the jump, offensive guard Jerald Foster said. Because they believe in the work they’ve put in, and this coaching staff.
Nebraska ran a triple option on the first play and jumped to a 7-0 lead after the opening drive. They caused two straight fumbles and battled back from a 16-7 deficit.
“I think after those first couple drives, they realized it wasn’t going to be the same type of game it was the last couple years,” Gifford said.
Barry played in those two games under former coach Mike Riley. He called them disgusting.
Those days of playing timid, of curling up in the corner when things got hard, those days are over, tight end Austin Allen said.
“We hit adversity, this staff, we’re attacking,” Allen said.
Confidence isn’t enough. You have to execute down the stretch, too. Nebraska didn’t, and lost 36-31.
But the mood in the locker room after the game showed how far the program has come, Frost said. Six weeks ago, Nebraska was hardly competitive against Michigan.
“We had no chance,” Frost said. “And we walked out of there with our tail between our legs.”
On Saturday afternoon, the locker room was mad.
“At no point is losing acceptable,” quarterback Adrian Martinez said.
But that sentiment — expecting to win even against top teams — also means the losses sting more. And at 2-7, Nebraska’s now a long shot for bowl eligibility. The goal, Frost said, is to send the seniors out the right way with a few wins in a row.
But the larger game at play is the future for the Frost era. And in the future, Barry said, when Nebraska’s down and there doesn’t seem to be an escape, the Huskers will find a way to sneak out of places like the Horseshoe with a win.
“We should’ve won this game, but it’s our fault,” Barry said. “We lost. And we’re gonna fix it.”
Husker quarterback Adrian Martinez named Big Ten co-freshman of the week
For the second time in three weeks, Nebraska freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez has earned a Big Ten co-freshman of the week nod.
The 18-year-old landed the honor following a busy Saturday afternoon at Ohio State in which he finished 22 of 33 for 266 passing yards and one touchdown along with 72 rushing yards and two scores on a career-high 20 carries. His fifth 300-yard game of total offense this season is one shy of the Nebraska record.
Under Martinez, the Huskers also accumulated at least 450 yards of total offense for a sixth straight game, tying the longest streak in school history.
Martinez shared the honor with Minnesota receiver Rashod Bateman, who had seven catches for 175 yards and two touchdowns against Illinois. He now holds the program record for most receptions by a freshman.
Martinez also earned Co-freshman of the week honors Oct. 22 following his performance against Minnesota. He went 25 of 29 for 276 yards and three touchdowns along with 125 rushing yards and another TD that day.
The last Big Ten quarterback to win multiple freshman weekly awards was Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson in 2015. Martinez is the first Husker to win more than one Big Ten freshman-of-the-week accolade since NU joined the Big Ten in 2011.
Illinois at Nebraska
When: 11 a.m. Saturday
Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln
Radio: 103.1 FM