It was a roller coaster ride of a season for Nebraska football, to say the least.
The season began with high expectations after the potential shown in 2021 and some new lauded arrivals.
Yet here the Huskers stand in December — a 4-8 final record and a change of head coach.
Former head coach Scott Frost was already on thin ice heading into the season. Each of his four full seasons brought five wins or less, culminating in what may have been both his best and worst season — 2021. Though their 3-9 record didn’t reflect it, the 2021 Huskers played close in every single loss of their season, never falling by more than nine points, including against six ranked teams. That, accompanied with many new additions to the Nebraska offense and coaching staff, gave Frost a chance to turn things around.
But some things never change.
In their season opener against Northwestern in Dublin, Ireland, the Huskers managed to blow a 28-17 lead and come up short 31-28. That came after Nebraska scored two quick touchdowns on the Wildcats, which gave them a comfortable advantage. Frost, in a head-scratching decision, however, opted to attempt an onside kick, trying to build more momentum against an already shell-shocked Northwestern team. The high-risk, high-reward move backfired completely as the Huskers lost all momentum and ended up handing the Wildcats their only win of the season.
Frost guided Nebraska to an underwhelming 38-17 win over North Dakota the following week, but then came the infamous Georgia Southern game in which Nebraska fell to the Eagles in a 45-42 shootout. It marked the second time Frost lost to a Sun Belt Conference team at Nebraska, the first coming against Troy in 2018, his first season in Lincoln. The second incident proved the final straw for athletic director Trev Alberts, as he fired Frost the next day.
The Huskers stood at 1-2, and the reins were handed to Mickey Joseph to try and salvage the season as interim head coach. Joseph got off to a rough start with his first game coming against then-No. 3 Oklahoma, which ended in a 49-14 loss. That result brought another big change in the Nebraska coaching staff.
Joseph fired defensive coordinator Erik Chinander the next day, and special teams coordinator Bill Busch stepped in as interim defensive coordinator. Busch held the position for the remainder of the season and helped Nebraska’s defense to a respectable average of 23.6 points allowed through the last eight games.
The Huskers got themselves back on track after their first bye week, winning two straight conference games against Indiana and Rutgers. Nebraska did, however, suffer another shootout loss after the back-to-back victories week, this time a 43-37 defeat to Purdue in which junior receiver Trey Palmer set the Huskers’ single-game receiving yards record. The Huskers then entered their second bye week with a tough five-game stretch ahead of them. Unfortunately, that stretch became even tougher when junior quarterback Casey Thompson suffered an arm injury against then-No. 17 Illinois, sidelining him for the rest of the game and the next two weeks.
The offense collapsed without Thompson at the helm, leading to three losses and just 16 total points in his stead. A 34-3 loss to then-No. 3 Michigan eliminated the Huskers from bowl contention, but they still had an opportunity to finish strong as Thompson returned with two games remaining. Yet Nebraska found an unlikely way to suffer one final loss in a season full of them. The Huskers’ final home game against Wisconsin brought a fourth-quarter collapse, as Nebraska surrendered a 14-3 lead to lose 15-14 and drop to 3-8.
Then came a chance to play spoiler against Iowa in the season finale. The Hawkeyes needed to win over Nebraska to punch their ticket to the Big Ten Championship Game for the second straight year. Last year, with the same stakes, the Huskers blew a 21-6 lead and lost to Iowa 28-21. They nearly did it again this year, but a 24-0 Nebraska lead was too much for even it to choke away. The Huskers held on to win 24-17, a resounding victory to finish an underwhelming season.
The next day, Nebraska officially announced its head coaching move, hiring former Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule. The 10-year head coaching veteran signed an 8-year, $74 million contract and has already made major hires to the coaching staff ahead of what could be an equally eventful offseason.