There were probably several different ways Nebraska coach Scott Frost saw Saturday’s game going.
Maybe he expected a hefty loss. Perhaps he still expected his team to “out-hit” Michigan, as he infamously told reporters after a 51-14 loss to Michigan in 2016, when he was still coaching at UCF. Who knows, maybe he even thought Nebraska would win.
I’m fairly certain getting lambasted by a hamburger chain on Twitter by the third quarter didn’t cross his mind.
And yet, it’s the most succinct summation of the utter drubbing that was Saturday’s contest — a 56-10 loss to the Wolverines that somehow felt like it should’ve been worse. The very epitome of rock bottom.
Scott Frost likes to talk. It’s a personality trait Michigan fans know all too well.
In 1997, some would argue his impassioned plea on television robbed the Wolverines of a solo national championship. After winning the Orange Bowl, Frost made his plea for the then-No. 2 Cornhuskers to claim a share of the National Title.
“You know, if all the pollsters honestly think, after watching the Rose Bowl and watching the Orange Bowl, that Michigan could beat Nebraska,” Frost said at the time, “go ahead and vote Michigan, by all means.”
Count fifth-year senior Chase Winovich — less than two years old in 1997 — among those who remembers Frost’s antics. After the game, Winovich unequivocally said Frost’s comments were used as motivation this week.
“It’s been all week. Like everyone finds something to cling to — locker room banter almost,” Winovich said. “For us, it was that for this week I’d say. It goes back, historically, look back at the ’97 year, where we had the national championship and all the drama that went down there. There’s been a lot of motivation for us.”
He then added, “Yeah, I think we out-hit them today.”
For Frost and Nebraska, though, today had little to do with the past. Not while the avalanche of the present came tumbling down into an unwieldy mess.
This was supposed to be the game to lay a foundation for the Frost era. Sure, an 0-2 start was rocky. But this was a chance to show at least glimpses of the promise of national prominence that came with the Frost era.
That foundation is nowhere to be seen. Instead, the existent hole just keeps getting deeper.
It wasn’t just that the Cornhuskers lost, to extend their FBS-high seven-game losing streak. It wasn’t even just that they lost by 46. Or that their quarterback Adrian Martinez had 10 total yards.
It was the lifelessness, the sheer incompetence, the demoralization of a once-elite program discovering what rock bottom looks like. And a coach left to try his best to plug every hole just to keep the ship afloat.
Saturday when Frost spoke, he spoke with a malaise. This wasn’t the Scott Frost of his boisterous past. He pleaded for trust — that he could turn things around for a program now 0-3 for the first time since 1945. When he answered questions, he looked like a deer in the headlights.
He didn’t dare take any silver-linings from this one — no subtle jabs at Michigan as he did after losing by 37 points in 2016. I suppose the 46-point margin this time around was just a bit too large. He said things that sounded nice, but really didn’t mean much.
For example: “We’re not ready to beat a team like this yet. The key word to me is yet. Because I know where it’s going. That’s not going as quickly as I would like, but I’m kinda excited because it’s not going to get worse than this, it’s only up from here.”
For another: “I think our whole team needs to see what it looks like now to play at that level. We weren’t ready to play at that level today. Adrian is going to be a great player at Nebraska for a long time. I hope he never experiences a day as rough as this one.”
And a third: “If there was something I could snap my fingers and fix, I would.”
And so on, and so forth. It’s possible Scott Frost turns into the wunderkind that he was touted after self-declaring his UCF team national champions last year; it would be unwise to write anything off after three games. Michigan fans probably don’t care right now.
Despite Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh claiming he didn’t know about Frost’s 2016 comment (one Winovich all-but debunked minutes later), the players made it clear there’s extra satisfaction from this one. That lays squarely at the feet of one Scott Frost.
“I think he can he eat his words,” said junior running back Karan Higdon.
Maybe he could wash them down with a Wendy’s burger and fries, too.