It took far too long, but Scott Frost got his first win as Nebraska’s coach, and it was felt throughout Husker Nation. Finally, Nebraska was in the win column and another small part of the new foundation was built. “Getting the monkey off his back” was almost an understatement as Frost held back tears as the clock hit zero. Even after getting hit with a Gatorade bath, the celebration continued. It was a tremendous moment, and you could see the bond that Frost and the coaches have with these players. Every athlete on that field and fan in the stands were thrilled for victory No. 1.
And in no better way was that proven than Husker Nation packing Memorial Stadium once again. An 0-6 team. A new coach. That wouldn’t happen anywhere else. Say what you will, but the passion is back in the fan base, and it didn’t go unnoticed by the coaches, players or even the recruits in town. Everything about Saturday was done right. It felt good. Finally.
You know what else felt good? Seeing the tunnel walk return to the original version. Now, the Sirius music seemed as though it was sped up just a tad, but it still worked. I know that I’ve talked about it probably too much, but even though the other tunnel walks had really cool video and excellent songs, nothing brings the crowd to a fevered pitch like a routine. The fans were able to clap along, and the momentum wasn’t broken this time around. The return to the original was a hit on social media, and that has to reverberate back to NU officials, but who really knows what we’ll see for the rest of the home games.
Maybe, just maybe, it was the lucky charm that day?
JoJo Domann has battled all kinds of injuries so far in his short Husker career, so it was nice to see him getting on the field against Minnesota. He made tackles on special teams and maybe even got a few snaps at safety. On Monday, the new depth chart was released and his name was finally listed on there, too, this time at outside linebacker. I don’t think he’s changing positions per se, I think it has to do more with his ability to be on the field when the Blackshirts get into nickel and dime packages. Domann is athletic enough to cover and play the run, and he has one of the highest football IQs on the team. He’ll be a quality player for several years, barring more injuries, of course.
What Nebraska did on Saturday is truly the offense that was expected. A high-tempo offense was predicated on successful first-down plays to get rolling downhill, so to speak. And get rolling, it did. First off, I’d be wrong not to mention how great the play calling was. How about the Statue of Liberty play? And then the same set-up, only with a QB run off of it instead? So good. So creative. Now, it’s easy to say that after it works, but, hey, at this point, you have to give credit where credit was due. Nebraska gashed the Gophers for 659 total yards (383 rushing, 276 passing). That’s incredible, especially led by a true freshman quarterback. There was no doubt things were clicking, and the usual offensive lull didn’t last near as long this game. Thankfully.
For the fifth time in school history, Nebraska had three different rushers hit the 100-yard mark. It hasn’t happened since 2010 at Washington, but it was awesome to see Devine Ozigbo (152 yards), Adrian Martinez (125) and Maurice Washington (109) torch the Gophers. That’s one heck of a trio, and two of them are just freshmen.
As a team, Nebraska has now rushed for 1,539 yards in just seven games, compared with 1,290 all of last year. Yeah, do you remember how horrible it was last year? A successful rush was just getting a few yards. Brutal. But there’s an example of coaching and improvement in the 2018 season. Scheme, technique, effort — it’s all leading to big-play ability. And that’s fun to see.
Switching gears to the wide receiving corps, it was good to see Stanley Morgan get targeted more against Minnesota than the week prior. He came up with some crucial catches and continued to add to his receiving records.
And speaking of records, Morgan’s partner in crime at receiver, JD Spielman, continued to show how clutch he can be. With his catches against Minnesota, Spielman is now the first receiver in Huskers history with 100 or more receptions before his junior season.
You probably heard this stat during the broadcast, but the penalty on the Gophers for holding was the first holding call during a Husker opponent’s passing play in 21 league games. That’s unimaginable. I don’t care if Nebraska has been bad in recent years or that the effort has been poor, but that’s complete bull. There’s ZERO percent chance that should happen — to any team. I barely have words to describe how unfair that is, and especially not ones for print. And, again, that’s not 21 plays, or 21 quarters. ... It was 21 league GAMES. Pitiful officiating.
Let’s bag on the refs some more while we’re at it. Can you believe how terrible spotting the ball was on Saturday? Some games you see it once, maybe twice, and you could understand how it may be off by a half-yard or something. But last week was one of the worst games I’ve ever seen with bad spots of the ball. One play in particular — and what was posted on social media — a Gopher player didn’t even get close to the first-down marker, yet the ref spotted the ball a yard-and-a-half farther downfield. It may not sound like much, but in a game of inches, that’s a lot. And for a play that should’ve gone to the booth for a replay at least, instead the refs gave the Gophers a first down and the drive continued.
For all of the questionable officiating, Nebraska finally did its part and played a cleaner, more disciplined game. With a season-low six penalties, and just one turnover, the Huskers showed what kind of team they can be when the “little things” are done right. And even more proof was the win. Stop beating yourself, and you’ll find success. Let’s hope this is what we’ll see moving forward.
Backup cornerback Eric Lee showed that he’s all in when he didn’t give up on the long Gopher kickoff return. If not for Lee busting his butt all the way down the field to knock the returner out of bounds just before the end zone, that potential score would have completely given momentum to Minnesota. Lee’s play was literally game-saving, because soon after, the Blackshirts intercepted Minnesota near the goal line. You could make the case it was the play of the game.
Young struggled again at times on Saturday. For whatever reason, he’ll run himself out of his run fits, or find himself in the backfield ready to make a tackle for loss, but won’t end up tackling anyone. The zone read and option plays that Minnesota was running took advantage of his indecision at linebacker. Thankfully, Young continued to play hard and came up the the interception that I mentioned above. Good for him for battling through struggles and making a huge play.