Five for Thought

A stunned Mohamed Barry (7) walks off the field after the Huskers' 48-7 loss to Ohio State at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

It was a long weekend for anyone and everyone involved with THE Daily Nebraskan (trademark pending). If the staff wasn’t covering any and all of the weekend’s numerous events, they were partaking in them. I haven’t been into the newsroom yet today, but I can imagine everyone’s still groggy after likely sleeping through most of Sunday morning. Following an eventful week, here are five for thought:

  1. There were some very mixed messages from Nebraska following its 48-7 loss to Ohio State

No one was quite sure what head coach Scott Frost or any of Nebraska’s players would say following a beatdown as lopsided as the one suffered on Saturday. Most people expected a better fight in this game, and there were a lot of media members at the postgame press conference that appeared much angrier about the result than Frost. 

There were two very different reactions by the four team captains in their postgame interviews. Adrian Martinez and Darrion Daniels spoke first, and mirrored Frost with their composure, peace of mind, and approach that this game won’t define their season. Matt Farniok and Mohamed Barry spoke after them, both nearly on the verge of tears and far more vocal about their disappointment in the game. Both were also more vocal about how much better Ohio State played than them.

It was almost like the team has two different mentalities after the loss, and the dividing point was clear: the 2017 season. Farniok and Barry both started on the 2017 team that suffered several losses as ugly and demoralizing as last night’s. Daniels, Frost and Martinez were all not a part of that era of Nebraska history, and tried their best not to give into the routine ‘sky is falling’ narrative after losses like that. 

Going into the season, I was fascinated by the choices of captains for this season. Choosing a true sophomore, a graduate transfer, and a senior and junior was an interesting combination. Especially one year after all of Nebraska’s captains were seniors. 

One year ago today, Nebraska’s captains notoriously had a meeting following a 42-28 loss to Purdue and decided that their current position was unacceptable. Now, following an embarrassing performance on a national stage, can this group of captains keep the entire team focused and pulling in the right direction?

Here’s a quote from Barry about what he expects to happen in this fallout:

“You don’t blame no one but yourself. You watch the film, you criticize yourself. You allow your coaches to help you, you allow your teammates to help you, and you correct what you need to correct, and the team is going to be better and we are going to stay together and that’s all that matters.”

If this team is on the same page, they will all put Saturday night behind them quickly like Frost seems to expect. If they’re still haunted by the mentalities of the old, it’s going to be a long October.

  1. College GameDay’s return to Lincoln was a success. When will they be back?

Regardless of the outcome, Saturday was a positive look for the university in the morning leading up to the game. Nebraska fans showed up in droves early for the popular ESPN show, were loud enough to be heard from the other end of downtown Lincoln, and appeared to have an absolute blast in what turned into a pre-tailgate tailgate party. So, when’s the next visit?

Nebraska hosts current No. 8 Wisconsin on Nov. 16, but there is no reason for the show to return to Lincoln this year. Regardless, even if both teams go undefeated from here until then, Georgia at Auburn would likely be a more compelling matchup and Alabama sounds a lot nicer than Nebraska in November. 

Next year, Nebraska’s non-conference schedule is highlighted by Cincinnati. Their best home game is on Nov. 7 against Penn State, which happens to be the same day that Notre Dame hosts Clemson and Alabama plays LSU.

2021 seems to be a more reasonable expectation for the show’s return. The Huskers host Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin. It seems highly unlikely, but wouldn’t it be ironic if they returned for Iowa at Nebraska on Saturday, Nov. 6? It would be a hilarious silver lining to one of Shawn Eichorst’s numerous blunders in his short tenure as the school’s athletics director. 

If GameDay doesn’t return by 2021, it would almost assuredly return in 2022 when Nebraska hosts Oklahoma on Sept. 17.

  1. Northwestern is by far the most ideal opponent to face following a loss like this

By no means am I guaranteeing a victory by Nebraska with that statement. Instead, this is a perfect opponent for the Huskers to face because of the areas where they currently struggle. 

Northwestern is an opponent that Nebraska will have to take seriously and move on to quickly following Saturday night. They know as well as anyone about what can happen when a team loses focus against Northwestern. Still, this is a game that Nebraska needs to win convincingly and will test them in all of the right areas.

Northwestern’s quarterback situation is questionable to say the least. Hunter Johnson has struggled as the starter and left Saturday’s game against Wisconsin with an injury in the second half. Junior backup Aidan Smith has not been any better, throwing for 137 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions in cleanup duty the past two weeks. The Wildcats’ running game isn’t much better at the moment, either.

More importantly, Northwestern’s defense will provide a great test for Nebraska’s offense in this game. The Wildcats kept Wisconsin’s bruising offense limited on Saturday, but struggled against Martinez and Nebraska’s fast-paced offense last year. Much like Northern Illinois’ defense provided an adequate tune-up for conference play, Northwestern’s defense will do the same in preparation for facing Iowa and Wisconsin a month from now.

  1. Nebraska basketball’s new opening night event served its purpose

Not to be that guy, but the event was not packed like expected. Still, around 10,000 people showed up on a Friday night to watch a 24-minute basketball scrimmage. Programs that take basketball seriously hold events like that on an annual basis. 

The scrimmage itself was no different than any of the ones held by Tim Miles. It was short and dominated by transfers ineligible to play this season. By putting it on a Friday night instead of a weeknight, adding some flashy introductions and a concert, it appeared to be taken seriously and utilized as a recruiting tool. 

There are still plenty of kinks to work out with the logistics of the event, but Fred Hoiberg and Nebraska may have started a tradition that the program probably should’ve started years ago.

Also, Rick Ross isn’t anywhere close to being as fat as I thought he was. 

I’m interested in seeing if Nebraska continues the concert portion of the event in the future. Rick Ross doing whatever you call what he did for an hour on Friday in front of a nearly empty arena and half-full concert pit was bizarre, but it still was a good look for recruits to see the team get to party onstage with him.

  1. What a great deal for Nebraska’s women’s basketball team

Amy Williams’ crew got to have the same fancy introductions as the men’s team, advertise for more ticket sales, and got to party on stage with Rick Ross. All without having to play a second of basketball.

This event was a recruiting tool for Williams as much as it was for Hoiberg.

sports@dailynebraskan.com