Scott Frost’s résumé says .500 feels like a bit of a low bar for 2018, all things considered, Bristol be damned. Although if you want to splash cold water on that endorphin high you’ve been on since the first week of December, take a gander at the roadies on Nebraska’s dance card this fall:
Sept. 22: at Michigan
Oct. 6: at Wisconsin
Nov. 3: at Ohio State
Nov. 23: at Iowa
From Michigan’s gauntlet to Oregon’s cakewalk, my 2018 Strength of Schedule Rankings: pic.twitter.com/CoAlFYGrMD
— Matt Smith (@MattSmithCFB) January 16, 2018
Fun, right? It’s the first time as a member of The Delany 12 14 that the Cornhuskers have been handed visits to Ann Arbor and Columbus in the same itinerary. Throw in joyrides to Madison and Iowa City, plus Colorado (Sept. 8) and Michigan State (Nov. 17) at home and, well, yeah — 13-0 right out of the chute looks like a bit of a reach.
So where do we draw a fair line or Scott Frost, Year 1, given that what’s old is new, and what’s new is everywhere — coach, staff, system, philosophy, quarterback, the lot? 7-5? 8-4? Does ESPN have it right at 6-6?
“I don’t put a number on it,” former Huskers rush end Chad Kelsay, a 1998 co-captain, a former Frost teammate and member of the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame Class of 2017, told Land of 10 this week.
“You have a lot of people talk about it. I think, just from a perspective of a former player, [Frost’s] focus, at least through all the talk and interviews since he’s been there, since it was announced he’d been hired, is that it’s getting back to the culture and what Nebraska is all about,” Kelsay said. “If you can do all that and get it back, from that perspective, the wins and losses take care of themselves.
“I’m pretty excited that all the focus has been, ‘Hey, we’re going to get back to working hard and outworking your competition.’ And those things are exciting to hear. That’s how we did it. We also had some great talent, but we also had a lot of guys — I’d put myself in that boat — that if you worked hard, good things were going to happen. Obviously, you’ve got to have your game-changers, but you also have to have a lot of guys who are busting their butts.”
When it comes to Year 1, to those that know, to those that care, it’s not just about the number.
It’s about the pride.
Enough pride to wipe that silly grin off PJ Fleck’s mug.
Enough pride not to let Ohio State walk in your house and treat your secondary the way a boot treats a doormat.
Enough pride to protect your face, or what’s left of it, when Wisconsin slips on the gloves and goes into Rocky Balboa ’80s montage mode:
“They basically did to us what we were used to doing to people throughout so many years, when Nebraska had so many strong teams — you beat them down,” Kelsay sighed, the bruises still fresh from the Badgers’ 38-17 win at Memorial Stadium last Oct. 7, a night in which Bucky rolled up 353 rushing yards.
“You’d start the game and maybe it would be back and forth, and once you get to the third and fourth quarter, those 3- and 4-yard runs turn into 8- and 9-yard runs. And the same thing with the defense — it would be able to take a stranglehold to the other team and pretty much dominate as the game went on. And that’s what [Wisconsin] did to us. It was a little sick to watch the roles reversed.”
It’s about enough pride to try and stop the bleeding, once the wound opens up.
Over the last 15 years, the Big Red has been handed a defeat of 21 points or more 25 times — or an average of 1.67 times per season, almost two clock-cleanings per campaign. Since joining the Big Ten, it’s been 12 poundings in seven seasons, or 1.7 per year.
For perspective, that’s more than twice the beatdowns suffered by Iowa, and more than three times what’s been handed to Wisconsin over that same stretch:
“We’d get a game of a little bit bigger stature,” Kelsay said, “and you’d watch us get whipped up on.”
Ohio State 118, Huskers 17.
Iowa 96, Huskers 24.
— Hawkeye Football (@Hawk_Football) November 27, 2017
“To some extent, to see some of those blowouts we had, it’s like, ‘Hey guys, don’t you have a little bit of pride?’ ” Kelsay asked.
“You’re not going to say that somebody’s quitting. But there’s a time where you’re still going out there every play and you have to say, ‘Suck it up.’ ”
Of those 25 routs, six of them — nearly a quarter of the carnage — stem from the last 18 months.
It starts there.
It has to end there, too.