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Behind Enemy Lines Q&A: Nebraska

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Scott Frost and the Huskers have nothing to lose, so can they pull off the upset?

NCAA Football: Colorado at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the non-conference slate has ended, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty.

The Michigan Wolverines despite the loss to Notre Dame, have the opportunity to do great things this season, including contending for, and possibly winning, their division.

That all starts this week with the Nebraska Cornhuskers. And that’s why I talked to the guys over at CornNation.com about the game against the Huskers.

Josh LaFond: Frosh QB Adrian Martinez is clearly the best on the Huskers’ roster at the position and I’d wager you feel the same. That being said, do you think he will be healthy enough to go against Michigan, and speak to the drop off from him to the rest of the guys if he can’t start Saturday.

Nate M: The current three quarterbacks on a roster are two true freshmen (Adrian Martinez and Matt Masker). Masker is a walk-on who probably never expected to dress for an away game the entire season. Then there is Andrew Bunch who is a Walk-On JUCO transfer. So right now the roster has one scholarship quarterback and he’s hobbled. So there isn’t even a second scholarship quarterback to turn to if Martinez gets hurt.

The drop-off is dramatic from Martinez to Bunch. However, I think that may have to do with how good Martinez looked more than how Bunch looked. Bunch can be an adequate quarterback for now. Part of me wonders if the coaching staff held him back against Troy as they thought they’d be able to just run the ball against the Troy DL.

Paul: I’m guessing that if it’s even remotely possible Martinez will play. Without him there’s no point in even playing the game. Forfeit and save the travel costs.

Jon: I don’t think Martinez will play against Michigan. Bunch will get the call again, and if so, I hope that they abandon all hope and play YOLO, wing zing the damned ball all over. If we lose 50-3, doing that who the hell cares. I want to see this “no fear” concept Frost talked about during the offseason because it wasn’t apparent against Troy.

Uglydog56: Quarterback depth was dire, but steps have been taken to rectify that situation. After last week, the staff signed a new walk-on dual-threat quarterback named Scrott Brost to be the second string quarterback. He’s real good at option and zone read, but his passes look like a shotput. After him, there’s a water boy, then the janitor from the toilets behind the north endzone. Yeah, tell your guys to be nice to Adrian, please.

Mike: My guess is that if he’s healthy enough to practice all week, he’ll play. Besides Brost, I’ve also heard that they also found a sophomore named Merrick Couch, who’s done some nice things in the rec league.

Andy: I’m a naturally contrarian son of a gun, but I think Martinez plays Saturday. He’s gone through 2-3 full practices this week and my thinking is that, green jersey or no, why do that and split reps with a guy like Bunch who desperately needs them all if he’s going to start again?

Josh: Tanner Farmer (Nebraska offensive lineman) had an interesting quote at a recent press conference talking about guys on the team “not buying in”.

In your mind, what do you think is holding some back from being all in?

Nate M: Well losing probably doesn’t help. Tanner Farmer is probably echoing what Scott Frost had to say right after the game at his press conference.

But in Riley’s first year there was obvious “Non-buy in” guys that were still loyal to Pelini. I don’t think that is the case here with Frost. I think the “non-buy in” is that this coaching staff demands so much more from these players than the previous staff that maybe there are just some players that haven’t caught up with the program.

Sometimes kids aren’t lazy. They just don’t know how to work hard. There is a significant difference between the two.

Paul: To continue what Nate started...some won’t survive after a season with Frost though. It’s pretty clear that Frost’s vision of building a successful team starts with building exceptionally strong and fast athletes. That requires the athlete to ‘buy in’ to what the coach wants him to do.

Frost can force players to show up to workouts, but he can’t force them to push themselves the way he wants them to. This is what (I believe anyway) Grant Wistrom and Jason Peter were getting at when they spoke to the team before Hurricane Herbie wiped out the Akron game: You have to WANT it more than the opponent and the next guy behind you on the depth chart. I don’t think this makes them lazy in general, but Frost is demanding something that Riley never asked for and it may take a season for everyone on the team to understand that. There will be more who leave after this season.

Jon: What Nate said. These damned kids these days have little or no idea what it takes to work hard (waves angrily at avocados and clouds). It requires you have enough depth with guys who want to make the NFL that push each other at the highest level possible OR that you play guys who maybe aren’t the best, but work harder than the guy who thinks he’s working his ass off but instead is going out four nights a week.

Uglydog56: To echo what’s already been said, my read is that the team is with the coaches mentally. The work ethic required to be a Division I football player is what is still under development.

Mike: I think the “buy-in” issue has been misread for much of the last four years. Have you ever had a new boss come in and clearly shows you that he doesn’t know what he’s doing? We saw this in 2015, and then again last season with Bob Diaco. This year is different, though. Some players just don’t quite realize just how many of their old, bad habits that were developed the last three years still exist. Maybe they thought they could get away with some of them because they were doing so well in other areas.

Andy: I read a couple more articles and it seemed that what he meant by the lack of “buy-in” had more to do with level of commitment than just not buying in at all. The guys who wanted no part of it were weeded out over the spring and summer months. Frost, unlike Riley bending over backwards to be everyone’s buddy, was very up front about how it was going to be and what he expected.

Farmer was talking about how there are still some not quite at 100% but just by not doing the little things - getting to practice & class on time, not staying out late, skipping parties. The way he put it was that there is no social life during football season and until everyone accepts that, there will be issues.

Josh: What’s the floor and ceiling of Nebraska in Scott Frost’s first year?

Paul: Mathematically, it’s somewhere between 0-11 and 9-2. Realistically, it’s probably a 7 win ceiling, with 5 being most likely and a 2 win floor. Both assuming, of course, we can’t find an FCS patsy for 27 Oct or the day of the CCG (8 Dec?).

Nate M: The floor is that meme with the dog sitting at the dinner table as everything is burning around him saying, “This is fine.”

The ceiling is probably 5 or 6 wins. That 6th win would happen if we reschedule the Akron game with some FCS school on October 27th.

Jon: I just want us to win a game. One game. After that, win another. Not necessarily even in a row. THEN THE DAMN BE BROKEN OPEN AND THE WORLD WILL BE AMAZED AT WHAT WE CAN DO! And I can stop sniffing glue on Saturdays, because that’s not all it’s cracked up to be, but when things are dark you tend to fall back on old habits and because everyone else in my house drinks the alcohol but they don’t touch the glue.

Uglydog56: One month ago in the preseason roundtable, I said 5-8 wins. Now I’m saying 1-3. Vodka in a water bottle is nearly undetectable at work.

Mike: My upper ceiling has shifted down to 8-4, and that clearly requires some upsets. My floor is now down to 2-10, because while the Big Ten West didn’t have the greatest weekend, I’ve seen enough improvement from schools like Illinois to suggest that there aren’t any automatic wins on the schedule.

Andy: I said 7-5 and I’m sticking with it. Yes, we’re 0-2 when we expected to be 3-0. The flip side of that is that 1) we are dominating games yardage-wise against teams that quite frankly would have sonned us hard last year, 2) there’s definitely a passion that has been sorely missing even if it is resulting in some serious self-destruction and 3) the Big 10 is suddenly looking very little like the 4-top-10-teams juggernaut that was touted pre-season.

It may be 0-3 after Saturday but I’m going with the wisdom of Coach Eric Taylor on this one: “This fight is not over.”

Josh: Let’s switch it up for a sec before we get to the game and score prediction.

Which current Michigan Wolverine could Nebraska use most?

Paul: Patterson. I don’t think he’s your best player, but he’s a schollie QB. And we seem to be kinda short on them.

Nate M: Who is your best player? We will take him. In fact, how about this. You keep your best player and we take your 3rd, 5th and 7th best player instead. I think that’s fair.

But in all reality, I’d take Shea Patterson just so we have at least another scholarship quarterback on our roster.

Jon: Well, hell, I say we just go ahead and take Jim Harbaugh. We could put him in a cage and parade him in front of our fans before games just like the Romans or the Assyrians - whoever did that in the past. We could hold him ransom and get more than just one player for him. Maybe take one of your newly highly recruited offensive lineman or two. Or three.

Uglydog56: First choice is center Cesar Ruiz. Second choice would be cornerback David Long. With Scrott Brost on the roster, QB is shored up.

Mike: I saw what a difference Adrian Martinez could make in Nebraska’s offense, and what his absence means. So I’m going to go with Dylan McCaffrey as a backup quarterback. Nebraska already has a commitment from his little brother, and knowing the bloodlines, he’d give Frost the freedom to ask his quarterback (either McCaffrey or Martinez) to play the game as he played without any fear of injury.

Andy: God bless Andrew Bunch, but if Martinez’ knee is going to be a twitchy thing - and btw, let’s hope the rest of college football doesn’t follow Mike MacIntyre and the Pac-12’s lead that there’s nothing wrong with leg-wrenching after the whistle - we could really use another top QB. Otherwise, we’re all going to be sleeping on those floors mentioned above.

Josh: Who’s the best fictional football player? TV or cinema are both accepted.

Nate M: Water is important. In fact, water could never be considered overrated. Which is why it is Bobby Boucher from The Waterboy. Plus, he took a team that probably doesn’t win a game to beating their rival in the Bourbon Bowl with a last second miracle play. Remember, they were down 17-0 at halftime.

“Remember when Bobby Boucher showed up at halftime and the Mud Dogs won the Bourbon Bowl?” Yes, we do Bobby. Yes. We. Do.

Paul: I wish you hadn’t said fictional, as I would have gone with Billy Dee Williams portrayal of Gale Sayers in Brian’s Song. For fictional I suppose I’ll go with Rudy...fictional because the real Rudy was probably a jerk.

Jon: Since Nate took Bobby Boucher, I’m going with Forrest Gump. “Run Forrest Run”, I mean, right now we could use a guy that could score, and screw all this academic shit anyway. Most of these players are in school to play football, but the Big Ten especially keeps playing up the academic side of this crap despite having the worst scandals in all sports.

It’s either that or Samson from the original “The Longest Yard” in 1974, who clotheslines a guy. Maybe it’s in the Adam Sandler remake. I don’t know. I don’t care. It’s this bit:

Uglydog56: Thad Castle from Blue Mountain State. Or, Lucy Draper from Necessary Roughness.

Mike: Dawg took my choice. Draper every day.

Andy: This one’s easy.

Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite - I mean, this is a no-brainer. Granted, his high school coach deprived us all by not putting him in in the 4th quarter. Of course, they would’ve won the state championship. But Rico can a) throw a football over a mountain and b) he threw a steak across the front yard and HIT NAPOLEON IN THE FREAKIN’ FACE.

If there’s a tighter combination of arm strength and aerodynamics control, I’ve never seen it.

Josh: What’s one college football rule you would add and one you would take away?

Paul: Targeting. What a mess that rule is. Also, I’m probably not going to be popular for saying this, but I would also get rid of kickoffs. They are far and away the most dangerous part of the game, and removing them wouldn’t fundamentally change the game.

Nate M: I think the easy one to take away is the new ejection for subjective intent targeting rule. So I will go in a separate direction. I would move to the NFL clock rules after a first down. I think with teams passing so much now, that the clock should continue to run after a first down. So I guess the taking away would be the temporary clock stoppage after a first down.

The rule I would add is the “Pat Fitzgerald - RPOs are Communism” rule because I just don’t like RPOs. I don’t have a justifiable reason to not like them...I just don’t.

Jon: Let’s just get rid of holding. They don’t call it anyway, and when they do, it’s only because they decided to ruin fun. Or because they’re against your team, which really means my team. We could experiment with it this weekend. We get to tackle Rashan Gary on every play he’s on the field.

I would add a rule where any made field goal longer than 40 yards in the last two minutes of the game is worth four or five points. Let’s start with four. It would drive people insane, and since they’ve basically disemboweled the onside kick it would make game ending #collegekickers even more fun than now.

Uglydog56: New rule: I would make it illegal to punt past the 50. Sorry, Kirk, real men go for it on fourth down. Rule to get rid of: No more PAT’s. Everyone has to go for two. Let’s play some football dammit! Bonus new rule: EA sports is ordered to bring back the NCAA football game. Period.

Mike: I’d like to modify the targeting rule so that if the player being targeted lowers his head after the defender starts making the tackle, the penalty is waived off. We’ve seen too many defensive players (Nate Gerry) kicked out of the game because they started trying to make a legal tackle and got flagged anyway. For the rule to add, I’d bring over the CFL’s rouge. If a kickoff goes into the end zone and isn’t returned, the kicking team gets a point and the ball gets placed on the 35 yard line.

Andy: New rule: Bring back that little block field goal tee. I want to see game-winning 75-yard FG’s!

Toss out: The rule that says penalties can’t be reviewed. Why not???? Not every single one, but let’s allow a couple red flag tosses so we can overturn some of those horrible yellow ones.

Josh: Back on topic now, let’s wrap it up. Give us a game and score prediction for the messiah’s of the Midwest first meeting.

Nate M: Assuming that Bunch is playing, then Nebraska loses 35-10. If Martinez plays then Nebraska loses 28-24.

Paul: With Martinez I think NU steals one 27-20 based on Michigan’s not-quite-amazing offense and Nebraska’s much-better-than-anticipated defense. With Bunch it will be ugly...probably 35-10 ugly.

Uglydog56: With Martinez: 28-17 Michigan.

With Scrott Brost: 69-3 Huskers.

Anyone else: 38-10 Michigan.

And seven of that ten is a defensive touchdown. Sigh. Where’s my water bottle?

Jon: 50-3 Michigan.

Bunch throws six interceptions. Martinez would throw four anyway, so it’s a wash. My family considers an intervention, but decides it’s too much work and if I had to go away for rehab they would miss my income. Nebraska’s 0-3 start is its worse since 1945. The fields go unharvested, the cattle go unfed. Disease breaks out, and the zombie apocalypse starts in McCook, Nebraska in early November. And they say “it’s just a game”. “They” can go to hell.

Mike: Three years ago, Nebraska let Darrell Hazell’s Purdue team hang 55 on them for Hazell’s only conference win. The next week, the Huskers upset #6 Michigan State. So I’m calling my shot.

Adrian Martinez leads the Big Red to a stunning upset in the Big House:

Huskers 31, Michigan 25.

Andy:

Homer time - with everyone writing this season off, the Huskers clean up the turnovers and penalties and pull a 19-17 upset for the ages. Or September, anyway.


I want to extend my thanks to the guys over at CornNation.com for giving us some laughs and solid insight and analysis about the upcoming game. You can check out my preseason Q&A with the same guys by clicking HERE.