The Horses Scott Frost Rode in On

2022 June 13, Monday
Don Collins

This is a reply I wrote on a Facebook post. I’ve added the original post as quote at the top. My reply is below.

Athlon’s annual college football preview has a feature other magazines don’t: Opposing coaches anonymously dish on each team.

The Husker appetizer is particularly spicy. “We call it the all-bus team because they look better than anyone else in the West in pregame,” the critique begins. “Long, tall dudes, really athletic, then after a quarter or so, you stop worrying because they’re usually hurting themselves.”

There’s more if you purchase an Athlon Big Ten preview. But those two sentences do the trick.

Special teams gaffes have slashed the bus tires, so to speak, since coach Scott Frost arrived. Nebraska outplayed Iowa for three quarters until a blocked punt returned for a touchdown shifted the balance. NU didn’t allow a single first down in the second half at Michigan State, and lost because its punter kicked the ball away from his coverage unit.And while Adrian Martinez may have a big season at Kansas State — he’s certainly talked up his Wildcat teammates this spring in interviews — a lost fumble at Illinois, a lost fumble vs. Michigan and a what-are-you-doing sack for a safety at Minnesota were not the fault of his teammates. All three plays cost NU potential wins.

Can Bill Busch fix special teams? Can Casey Thompson, Chubba Purdy or Logan Smothers avoid the errors Martinez made? Can Nebraska run the ball without having to use the quarterback, which was never true for Martinez? Three big questions. Maybe the three biggest questions.

My reply:

The part about what you wrote which is most important is actually what you DIDN’T write. You didn’t mention the terrible play-calling, and abysmal clock-management, that put players in “do or die” situations in every game for the last five years. While you blame Adrian Martinez for things that were “not the fault of his teammates,” you fail to mention that without Martinez, Nebraska could have been blown out of many games.

Also, Martinez played hurt for nearly the whole season. Not sure we’ll ever really know the extent of what he dealt with.
Were special teams bad? Sure. Were there times Martinez made mistakes? Yes, no doubt. I’ve even seen people blame “covid” – which you did not, I’m just adding another excuse I’ve seen.

But, all those excuses and blaming could be attributed to any team. In fact, they are a hallmark of Nebraska’s play for the last 20 years. The same blaming of Adrian Martinez was placed on Tommy Armstrong and Taylor Martinez. Of course in those cases – COACHES TOOK HEAT THAT FROST SEEMS TO BE IMMUNE FROM.

If Mike Riley, Bo Pelini, or Bill Callahan, had teams that turned in Scott Frost’s record they would NOT get another year to figure it out. They would have been OUT THE DOOR.

Yes, Nebraska’s problems start at the very, VERY top. Scott Frost – and staff – mismanaged game play and the clock over and over again. They put players like Martinez in situations where that were, many times, against their strengths. Bafflingly, there were games were runs worked great – yet they’d get away from them in waning moments because, well? Who knows. There were times when passing was lights out, then, inexplicably three or four straight “up the middle” runs.

In the specific games you mention, why were they close to begin with? In fact, as far as I can see it, Nebraska had plenty of opportunity last season to be many scores ahead before the inevitable.

And, by “inevitable,” I mean, the terrible play calls, the horrible clock-management, and the bungled personnel decisions that made every last five minutes of a game an exercise in “heads you win, tails I lose.”

You write, “Can Bill Busch fix special teams? Can Casey Thompson, Chubba Purdy or Logan Smothers avoid the errorsMartinez made? Can Nebraska run the ball without having to use the quarterback, which was never true for Martinez?”

Let me answer them for you:

1) Maybe. But, if your games come down to “special teams” 12 times a year, you aren’t going to many bowl games. Furthermore, which Nebraska teams of the past were champions because of their “special teams?” So, yes, the “special teams” need help, but if Nebraska has to point a finger at “missed field goals” as to why they aren’t winning, it will be a LONG year.

2) Can those quarterbacks “avoid the errors Martinez made?” Well, not if they are in “do or die” situations game after game. Mistakes are part of the equation. An equation that coaches must learn how to solve without blaming a quarterback for entire SEASONS of losses. Martinez and Thompson have nearly identical skill sets – and passing percentages. The TD to INT ratios are better for Thompson, but we’ll never know what Martinez would have done at Texas or Thompson at Nebraska, so that comparison is moot.

The other players are potentially positives, but let me make something VERY clear about Martinez: For all the blame he takes, why didn’t Scott Frost go with another option, or put in plays that would play to Adrian’s strengths better? I mean, if Scott was the offensive genius he was made out to be, why did he ride the Adrian Martinez horse, OR lead it so poorly, such that armchair QBs keep saying, “but, if only Adrian Martinez…” It’s not like people weren’t blaming Adrian four years ago. That’s been a recurring theme. So, where was Scott Frost’s recruiting magic to find another QB til now? Where was the Scott Frost playcalling wizardry we saw before he got to Nebraska? So, yeah, QB play may be better this year – may be worse – but the plays called, situations schemed, and time management issues are NOT the “fault” of the players.

3) “Can Nebraska run the ball without having to use the quarterback, which was never true for Martinez?” I’m stumped by what you ask here. Nebraska has always relied on a quarterback who could run. In fact, in many games there would have been WAY less opportunity for teams to get the ball, or Adrian Martinez to make “mistakes” (read: get blamed for things he was a part of, but not always the cause of), if Nebraska had allowed him to run with the ball – as all Nebraska quarterbacks have been employed to do.

The thing is, Nebraska fans had all these questions, about other players, from the start of Bill Callahan’s tenure til the end of last season. These were not unknown commodities or mysterious problems. They were, in fact, the very issues – and, this is KEY, they were, THE VERY ISSUES Scott Frost was hired to solve.

To date, he hasn’t. And, to date, players are blamed time and again for things other coaches were FIRED for, yet Scott Frost remains at the helm.

Scott Frost has been given more time, more latitude in decision-making, and more MONEY, than any other coach before him at Nebraska. The results are not good to this point. And, you better believe that if Nebraska had won a National Championship in the last five seasons, Scott Frost’s bust would already be shined up outside Memorial Stadium.

While your questions are important, we must not let Scott Frost’s legacy be that “Adrian Martinez” or “special teams” was to blame. In both cases, even if those things were true, EVEN IF THEY WERE TRUE, those are the horses Scott Frost rode in on. He CHOSE the players, he CHOSE the plays, and, HE CHOSE the coaches that put it all together.

Image attribution: By Huskerdood – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=77124029