What’s wrong with Nebraska, and is Scott Frost the one to fix it?

  • College football reporter.
  • Joined ESPN.com in 2008.
  • Graduate of Northwestern University.

Nebraska coach Scott Frost and his players aren’t in denial. They saw what you saw in Saturday’s season-opening loss to Illinois, and they aren’t hiding from the hard truths.

Cornhuskers mistakes that have marked and marred Frost’s first three seasons showed up in the first game of Year 4. A Nebraska team with decent talent and loads of experience fell behind 30-9 and lost 30-22 to an Illini team playing its first game under a new coaching staff.

“What is the same old story is the turnover, the penalties, little mistakes that, in Big Ten football, you just can’t make,” quarterback Adrian Martinez said.

Playing on a mostly empty national stage in Week 0, Nebraska’s errors already have turned into teach tape for coaches in their final preseason preparations. Several coaches who watched the Huskers and know their history under Frost were surprised but not shocked to see what happened.

“It just blows my mind,” a Power 5 coach said. “They’ve got a lot of talent. They just do some of the most boneheaded things.”

The prevailing question surrounding Nebraska is: Can a team change its DNA? The mistakes that shape outcomes, especially in the Big Ten, seem to be baked in for the Huskers. Frost knows it, and told his team after Saturday’s game, “We can’t have this season be the same movie, because this game looked like the same movie.”

Can Nebraska change the script with plenty of season left? Or will it soon be time to change the director? Frost is now 12-21. Leadership instability has directly contributed to Nebraska’s rocky first decade in the Big Ten, but confidence in the former Huskers quarterback is waning. Nebraska’s home sellout streak, which dates back to 1962, is in jeopardy entering this week’s game against FCS foe Fordham.

After covering Saturday’s game in Champaign, I spoke with coaches and others about the Huskers and whether a turnaround under Frost is still possible this fall.

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