With a win against the Iowa Hawkeyes on Friday, the Huskers would have their fifth victory in their past six games – a remarkable turnaround since the Huskers started off the season with their worst record in their 129 year history For first year head coach Scott Frost, the improvement over the course of the season was a welcome change, even if came far too late in the season.
Speaking to reporters from the Hawks Championship Center on Wednesday, Frost expressed that he felt “pride in the fact that we (Nebraska) improved through a lot of difficulties and a lot of unfortunate circumstances, and also a little bit of disappointment.”
Besides the 0-6 start, the Huskers lost several players to last minute transfers. JUCO transfer and running back Greg Bell left the program after he was displaced on the depth chart. Once the number two rated junior college running back in the country, Bell left the team before the Wisconsin game, losing key depth Nebraska could’ve used at that position.
Wide receiver Tyjon Lindsey jumped ship to Oregon State the same week Bell left, following his teammates Tristan Gebbia and Avery Roberts who also left for the Beavers just before the season began.
Nebraska’s lack of success on the field through the first six games has been well documented. The Husker’s first game was cancelled outright, after a severe thunderstorm made the game unplayable. The very next week, the Huskers lost a heartbreaker to Colorado in the final minute of the game, losing starting quarterback Adrian Martinez to injury late in the fourth quarter.
Nebraska was then upset by a Sun Belt team, the Troy Trojans. If that wasn’t embarrassing enough, the Husker’s were then handed what is arguably their worst loss of the season when they took on the Michigan Wolverines in the Big House. The matchup was lopsided in Michigan’s favor from the get go, with the Wolverines walloping the Huskers 56-10 in a loss Frost believed to be “the bottom” point for the program.
Yet still, Nebraska would go winless for three more weeks, dropping games to Purdue, Wisconsin, and in overtime to Northwestern. The turning point came for Nebraska in their win against Minnesota, cruising to a comfortable victory 53-28. Since then, Nebraska has won four out of their last five.
“I wish we would have had the team like this when the season started,” Frost said. “We would have won a bunch of games… hopefully we’ve laid the groundwork for more good things to come.”
Those good things might have to wait until next season, as the Iowa Hawkeyes will present a real challenge. According to the NCAA, Iowa is ranked sixth in the nation in total defense, thirteen spots higher than Michigan State. They’re also ranked eighth in run defense, allowing less than 100 yards on the ground per game.
Offensively, they can put up points, as evidenced by their 63-0 win over Illinois last week. Many Husker fans will be familiar with Omaha native Noah Fant, the Hawkeye’s productive tight end, who has over 500 yards receiving and seven touchdowns on the year.
Quarterback Nate Stanley is nearing 2,500 passing yards this season, and has tossed 21 touchdowns. Iowa can also run the football, with tailbacks Mekhi Sargent and Toren Young who have combined for over 1,100 yards this year.
“They’re just really stout up front on both sides,” Frost said. “Their offensive line does a great job protecting and creating holes. We got our work cut out for us.”
Nebraska and Iowa will face off at 11 o’ clock on Black Friday, November 23rd.
By Tim Curran