Huskers have a lot on their plate, fix their mentality before Purdue

September 24, 2018

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Linebacker Caleb Tannor scanned the white picnic table for a postgame snack.

The true freshman selected fruit with little bruising, then picked up his brown box containing a small dinner and headed toward the idling bus. He stopped for a moment to put on his headphones. And as he did, the tick-taca from the Michigan marching band clicked off the brick inside the one tunnel of the 91-year-old Michigan Stadium.

“Watch out, please!” A Michigan official down the tunnel yelled. “Band coming through!”

A few more Huskers trickled out of the locker room to pick up dinner, and slowly, the band marched in unison, filing up the only way into the stadium and only way out. In a the narrow tunnel, Nebraska players had no choice but to find a piece of fruit quickly, and exit the tunnel to get out of the way.

This is what is going to happen this week with Nebraska football, coaches and players said after the 56-10 drubbing by Michigan on Saturday. Some guys on the team — this week — will have no choice. Either they make a quick decision to work hard to fix the smorgasbord of issues, or they need to get out of the way.

“Guys gotta look at themselves in the mirror,” safety Tre Neal said. “If you were here just to be on the bandwagon ride if we were winning games, you shouldn’t have been here in the first place. It’s not a good thing, but we’re gonna see people’s true colors coming out.”

Nebraska failed in nearly every way Saturday.

Couldn’t stop the run. Couldn’t run. Couldn’t field a punt, couldn’t cover a punt. Michigan players sensed the Huskers gave up after the first series. Things need to change, and they need to change now, coach Scott Frost said.

“We’re really going to find out who loves football and who loves each other and who is going to band together,” Frost said.

After the Troy loss, Frost, unprompted, told the media that guys who felt like they wanted to jump ship and leave the program were welcome to do so. On Monday, the talk from captains was about buy in, or lack of it. No one was outright against what the coaches were saying and doing, corner DiCaprio Bootle said last week, but not everyone seemed totally into the system and team. Frost said as much Saturday.

Though the coach tried to walk back his comments about guys “jumping ship,” he was quick to point out there are still guys who aren’t 100 percent committed.

“Inevitably, that’s going to happen,” Frost said. “And that’s healthy for a team.”

Allegations of quitting have come up two seasons in a row. Last year at Minnesota, this year in the Big House.

Linebacker Mohamed Barry led the team in tackles against Michigan and led the charge Saturday to fix the mentality of this team over the next week. Purdue (1-3) beat ranked Boston College on Saturday. Nebraska needs to bring it this coming Saturday.

And right now? They’re not, Barry said. And that needs to change.

“Let’s just be truthful: There are some people who want it, and some people that don’t,” Barry said.

The team’s mentality from Sunday to Friday is what needs to change, Neal said. On Thursday, Frost was visibly frustrated during his postpractice media availability. He admitted Saturday it was because things at Thursday’s practice didn’t go well.

“If you’re missing details on Thursday and expecting them to be right on Saturday, it isn’t gonna happen,” Frost said.

Neal was on last year’s 13-0 UCF team. He was also on the 0-12 UCF team in 2015. He knows when a team looks ready — and when it doesn’t. And last Thursday, Nebraska didn’t look ready, he said. Guys were hesitant while answering questions from coaches Thursday. That was a red flag.

“You can’t go into a game with doubts, period,” Neal said.

It showed. At one point in the third quarter, Nebraska had more penalty yards (66) than offensive yards (61).

Frost said Saturday this is the rock bottom, but the Huskers still have to travel to Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa this year — three teams who’ve handled Nebraska easily the past few years.

Which is why this week is put up or shut up. It’s time to weed guys out, Neal said. He thought guys were working hard, but not everyone is.

“If you want to fake the funk, go ahead, but it’s only hurting us, and it’s only hurting yourself, so you should (leave),” Neal said. “Everybody has to jump in full head first.”

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