The loss to Illinois was obviously a tough pill to swallow, but how are Nebraska fans feeling about their team entering this weekend?
It absolutely depends on which ones you talk to. I wrote a few weeks ago about how we’re more or less in three groups. - 1) I quit, peace out. But I’ll still watch. 2) Varying states of “Let’s go but the second anything goes wrong, then (insert sarcasm, rage, comedy at the expense of the team & coaches, etc.)”. Basically hoping for the best but done being invested emotionally. And 3) All in, now & forever, will/have learned to talk myself off the roof after steaming piles of crap like the Illinois game.
I’m Group 3. (Face palm)
So, all that being said, I’ll speak for group 3. The W/L isn’t reflecting it yet but we’ve closed the talent gap and brought back this crazy thing called strength and conditioning which was sort of optional during the Riley years. If the boys can play a mostly mistake-free game, they will surprise some people this weekend. The defense has actually started resembling the Blackshirts again holding opponents under 400 yards for seven straight games for the first time in like…a long time. And Martinez is a special player when not trying to do everything.
But, the Illinois game was a classic example of how mistake-free and Nebraska don’t often collide in the same sentence these days. If we flip the clown car a few times with special teams hijinks and ringhole-clenching turnovers, Oklahoma will cover and I will throw back a few shots with a toast of “Namaste, bitches.”
As far as Scott Frost is concerned, what would the fans, boosters and administration need to see from his team for the rest of this season for him to avoid losing his job before 2022?
Even 6-6 and a bowl game buys him time. Some folks who never wanted him in the first place have started the rumor-mongering, but it’s not gaining much traction. A new AD coming in more often results in him hiring his own guy ASAP, but Trev Alberts and Frost come from the same era, so Trev’s going to have a longer leash than most fans if this season goes south. Would another 4-8 stretch that leash to the snapping point? I don’t want to find out.
I know most Nebraska fans aren’t expecting a win this weekend, but what would you need to see from this game to walk away encouraged about the remainder of the 2021 campaign?
If this game is competitive in the 4th quarter, it will go a long way to convincing fans that serious progress has been made and force the folks who’ve hated Frost from Day 1 into the shadows for awhile. A game over by halftime will have the opposite effect. I’ll say keep the loss no worse than 10-15 while looking competitive and we can build on that.
Defensively, Nebraska’s front is certainly seen as a strength. What makes this group so effective?
It’s become a nice mix of young and old who are suddenly (but not really that sudden) big, fast, mean & talented. Much of it is recruiting the positions well the last few years. Some of it is just growing up and growing into roles.
I’m thinking of NG Damion Daniels who has gone from talented freshman who needs to control his weight to team captain. A couple years ago, his brother Darrion graduated from Okie State with a year of eligibility remaining, transferred to the Huskers, became a team captain out of one fall camp and is now in his second year in the NFL. I think he rubbed off on Damion and the rest of that D-line room.
Also, Darrion’s nickname is War Daddy which is just insanely cool.
Adrian Martinez looked pretty rough against Illinois, and it’s not like he’s lacking experience. What’s been his biggest issue up to this point?
Turnovers, period, exclamation point, end of sentence. He’s still trying to learn how to do that extra little bit with his talent without doing too much. The Martinez fumble scoop-and-score right before halftime of the Illinois game was crippling as we’d turned it around after the Cam Taylor-Britt punt mishap, then blink-blink, mid-late 3rd quarter, it’s 30-9.
But he was also the guy who busted off a 70-something yard TD run, brought it back to 30-22 and had a chance to tie it up. You want to reign in him in, but you also want to turn him loose. He has the best receiver corps I can remember at Nebraska. Unfortunately, our top two tight ends and 2nd-4th best receivers all have injury issues. If we’re missing all those guys, he’ll feel obligated to possibly do too much.
As far as the rest of the offense is concerned, what names should OU fans know entering Saturday?
Look for Samari Toure a transfer from Montana who was being projected as a 6th-7th round pick in draft but transferred to Lincoln to try and up his stock against Power 5 competition. Omar Manning, Oliver Martin and Xavier Betts (top JC transfer, former Rivals 4-star Iowa transfer and Rivals150 local recruit) have talent but are the aforementioned three WR’s recovering from injuries.
Gabe Ervin, a true freshman from Georgia and Markese Stepp, a former 4-star transfer from USC have shown flashes but Adrian is once again our leading rusher after three games. I would love to see either break out against the Sooners but that’s a damn tall order.
Who’s your favorite Nebraska alum outside of sports?
Wow, that’s a great question. And a tough one but I’m going to go with Bob Kerrey. He served as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam winning the Medal of Honor. He served as Governor of Nebraska in the 80’s and then ran for President in 1992, losing in the primaries. After that, he left politics to serve as president of The New School University in New York. In 2010, he was actually selected to become the head of the Motion Picture Assn. of America but never took the office as they couldn’t come to an agreement. (I literally just learned that on Wiki. My movie nut side just lost it and approves of my pick.)
I got to meet him on occasion when my family owned a bookstore in Omaha’s Old Market years ago and he would drop in. Just a genuine good guy and warm person.
Also, he attended the Bruce Springsteen concert at the Bob Devaney Center in 1985 and his date was then-girlfriend Debra Winger. Dude was cool.
How excited are Nebraska fans about the temporary renewal of this rivalry?
Many are probably wishing it happened when we were at the same level, but for my Jiminy-Cricket ass, it couldn’t come at a better time. Like Captain Kirk in the Kobyashi Maru test, I don’t believe in the no-win scenario. To me, this is the no-lose. We get whipped? Meh, it was expected.
But just the prospect of pulling off something special is why I love college football and I say this non-sarcastically with the most respect - if we’re gonna get that program altering win, there’s no one I would rather do it against than Oklahoma. No one.
Who’s your favorite Oklahoma Sooner of all time?
There’s so many to choose from and I’m not lying when I say that. So many Sooners I would call “you sonofabitch” but would have killed to have them on my team from Billy Sims to Baker Mayfield or Kyler Murray.
But it’s really one name and one name only - The Boz. I saw him close up in Norman in 1985 for a 27-7 shellacking which I believe was his sophomore year (when I was a 1st year senior lol) and before the hair had eight different color streaks running through it. The Sooners left the field at halftime heading to the tunnel down a ramp next to heckling Husker fans in the end zone seats. Our fans were hollering and screaming and then Boz came wandering down and everyone just dialed down to muttering and looking away. He was terrifying.
I loved him - he was the very definition of colorful and was an absolute wrecking machine in college. The Sports Illustrated article in 1987(?) took it all to another level. And Stone Cold is still my favorite biker gang movie - with a shout-out to Lance Henrickson as an awesome psycho. (You know Stone Cold Steve Austin owes his moniker to The Boz. You KNOW it.) Long live Boz.
How do you see this one playing out? Does Nebraska cover the 22.5?
As hard as it is not to fly off the handle and pick the upset here, I’m going to try and temper my homer side on this one. I’m going to say the Huskers make it three straight weeks of not punching themselves in seeds, put up a solid fight, inject a little hope, but at the end of the day, the Sooners are a hell of lot more ready for us than they were for Tulane.
It’s competitive at halftime, but the Sooner Schooner hits its stride in the second half and while they don’t cover, the final isn’t in doubt over the last 10-12 minutes. Oklahoma 38 Huskers 26. But wait’ll next year, gents.