LINCOLN, Neb. – In the 24 hours after Nebraska’s excruciating loss to Northwestern, and with no wins through six games, first-year coach Scott Frost started to wonder if his team would fall into the trap of accepting losing.
He said he saw encouraging signs at Monday’s practice.
“Not only was it our best Monday ever, by far, it probably was our best overall practice of the year,” he said. “I told the guys after practice it says a lot about who they are, how they responded.”
That’s not to say Frost isn’t still worried about the mental state of his team as it prepares for a home game against Minnesota (3-3, 0-3 Big Ten) on Saturday. The Cornhuskers are off to their worst start in the program’s 129-year history, and their 10-game losing streak also is a school record.
The 34-31 overtime loss at Northwestern was the biggest gut-punch of this difficult season.
The Huskers led 31-21 with 5 minutes left in regulation. Nebraska’s meltdown the rest of the way included allowing a fourth-and-10 conversion, pass interference, roughing the passer – all before Clayton Thorson finished off a 99-yard drive that tied it – and then a false start and a snap between Adrian Martinez’s legs in overtime.
Frost said he asked his players at a meeting Monday what goes through their minds when they are ahead by 10 points late in the fourth quarter or by seven points with 2 minutes left, as was the case this past Saturday. He said he didn’t ask anyone to answer.
“But at that point, were you thinking, ‘I’m going to go finish this’ or in the back of your mind were you thinking, ‘Oh, no, here we go again?’ I’m sure there were some guys like that,” Frost said. “Even if it wasn’t the majority what they were thinking, it probably was in the back of their head and naturally so. They haven’t won in a while. We need to get over that hurdle as a group.”
Martinez said the mental challenge that comes with going winless through the first half of the season is “a tough one.”
“It’s believing in each other, having confidence despite our 0-6 start and falling back on our hard work and knowing it’s not for nothing,” he said, “and knowing we have the capability to win games and play well.”
Martinez said he agreed with Frost that losing can come to be accepted when it happens so often.
“I think it’s more of that thing where you’re late in a game and it’s tight and believing you’re going to win because this is what we do as opposed to maybe getting used to losing, having that feeling of doubt,” he said. “In my mind, I always believe we’re going to win regardless of who we’re playing, what time it is in the game. I don’t lose that faith and I believe a lot of us are the same way.”
Notes Quarterback Noah Vedral, a sophomore from Wahoo who transferred from Central Florida to Nebraska after Frost’s hiring, received word Friday the NCAA granted him a waiver allowing him to be eligible this season. Frost declined to say why the NCAA ruling took so long and that he wishes it had come before the season. Vedral could play some, but Frost said he won’t appear in more than four games because he wants to preserve Vedral’s redshirt. ... Freshman safety CJ Smith probably will miss the rest of the season because of a knee injury sustained against Northwestern.