Amie Just: Nebraska can't afford Irish hangover after inexplicable loss to Northwestern | Football

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DUBLIN — Try as Nebraska fans might, the answer to the Huskers’ continued woes isn’t at the bottom of a plastic pint.

No, all the free alcohol due to internet issues at Aviva Stadium on Saturday wasn’t enough to drown the sorrows stemming from Saturday’s inexplicable 3-point loss to Northwestern when Nebraska was the double-digit favorite.

The seventh loss in a row for Nebraska was a roundhouse kick to the gullet, especially after the hope-springs-eternal-esque offseason full of change and optimism. It didn’t help either that Northwestern was the only Big Ten team the Huskers steamrolled last season.

“That’s a team that we handled last year,” a forlorn Scott Frost said in his post-game press conference. “Thought we won the match physically last year. We didn’t win it today.

“I’m surprised by that because of what I’ve seen from the guys in training camp and leading up to the season. I feel terrible for the guys.”

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Nebraska had a litany of issues crop up Saturday, but the one comes to mind first is the confounding onside kick attempt when Nebraska was up by 11 with nine minutes to play in the third quarter.

The call, Frost said, was his decision. Not Bill Busch’s, the man he promoted to get Nebraska’s special teams units out of the doldrums. It was Frost’s.

It’s a decision — to paraphrase another former Husker quarterback in Tommie Frazier — that’s going to keep him awake as Nebraska flies back home. Not only will it live in Frost’s brain, it will live in infamy among Nebraskans and football fans in general.

Frost explained that the onside kick came from a desire to be aggressive.

The grades: Northwestern 31, Nebraska 28

“I thought, if we got it, I thought we could end the game,” Frost said.

The game did end there, but not in the way Frost imagined.

Kickoff specialist Brendan Franke’s squib danced right to a Northwestern player, and the Wildcat didn’t let go. Northwestern made quick work of Nebraska’s defense to march down and trim the Huskers’ lead to four.

“The way we were playing, I felt like at that point, like we had a really good chance of winning the game and I felt like maybe we were the better team,” Frost said. “You can’t really foresee them scoring 14 straight and us sputtering after we played well to start the second half on offense.

“Again, those are excuses. If I had it over, I wouldn’t have made the call.”

Nebraska, on the other hand, didn’t score again in the remaining 24 minutes of the game.

In fact, they never got close.

The Huskers’ drives after that: three-and-out, three-and-out, interception, punt after a third-down sack, three-and-out, interception.

In those six unsuccessful drives, Nebraska gained just 84 yards. Before that, Nebraska had racked up 444 yards of total offense since the Huskers set the tone with their thrilling first series.

“It didn’t impact us in the moment because we were still in the middle of the game, but yeah, of course, it kinda made us fall short in the end,” edge rusher Ochaun Mathis said.

Truth be told, there’s never one sole reason for a team’s in-game demise. There’s plenty to think about for Nebraska on their 4,000-mile flight.

The all-around decision-making. The suboptimal run defense. The quiet pass rush. The tackling snafus. The turnovers. It all has to get fixed. There can be no post-Ireland hangover.

Where does Nebraska go from here?

For a sullen Garrett Nelson, there is no “magical answer.”

“It just can’t happen,” Nelson said. “It’s not how you win Big Ten football.”

He’s right. The miscues cannot snowball.

Losing to FCS North Dakota next week would be apocalyptic for the program, as would a loss to Georgia Southern two weeks from now. Even close games against those two schools would result in chaos.

“We’ve just lost too many close games,” Frost said. “These guys need something to believe in.”

That’s where it starts. That’s where it ends too.

“You gotta win in this business to keep your job,” Frost said. “That’s the way it is.”

What happens if the belief stops?

Frost won’t resign if things continue to sour. He shut down a question pertaining to the matter.

“No, absolutely not,” Frost said in response. “I love Nebraska. I’m going to fight with the guys as long as I can fight.” 

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ajust@journalstar.com

On Twitter @Amie_Just.

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