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Scott Frost keeping eye on Huskers’ response to tough start

September 17, 2018

Nebraska head coach Scott Frost follows the second half of an NCAA college football game against Troy in Lincoln, Neb., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. Troy won 24-19. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Minutes after his team lost to Troy to drop to 0-2, Nebraska coach Scott Frost struck an ominous tone when he announced to reporters he had just told his team in the locker room that if any player “doesn’t want to stay on for this ride, let me know and get off.”

Frost said Monday that he didn’t mean to suggest he’s seen signs of players giving up or having their own agendas.

“I just want to get ahead of it,” he said. “Coming into Nebraska and hearing how things went down last year, I want to make sure nobody decides to go off on their own. We’re all in this together. There is a lot that had to be fixed. We’ve fixed a lot of it. There’s still a lot more to be fixed.”

Frost’s postgame remark illustrates how mentally fragile he found the team he took over. The Huskers lost four straight to end last year’s 4-8 season, giving up more than 50 points in the last three games.

The team he inherited was woefully out of shape, and he immediately put into place a demanding strength and conditioning program. He also installed an entirely new offense and a defense predicated on passion and aggression. An air of confidence permeated inside and outside the program from the spring through fall camp.

But the first three weeks of the season have been a test. First, the opener against Akron was canceled right after the opening kickoff because of severe weather. Then came a loss to Colorado , and then another to the Trojans of the Sun Belt Conference.

Giving up might have been an option before. Not now, Frost said. The Huskers open Big Ten play on Saturday at No. 19 Michigan (2-1). Another loss would be a seventh straight and ninth in 10 games since last year and make Nebraska 0-3 for the first time since 1945.

The Huskers are one of the most penalized teams in the nation, none of their special teams ranks higher than 80th and they are second-to-last in turnover margin.

More than ever, Frost said, the players need to be committed to his plan.

“It’s details. That’s been our message to the team,” he said. “It’s not on the field. It’s deciding whether to make it to class and deciding whether to be dressed the right way at meetings and deciding whether or not to go home and go to bed and get sleep instead of doing something else. Champions make good decisions in every single decision they have. Average people, average teams don’t make those decisions. Little things lead to big things, and we’re going to get it right.”

Offensive lineman Tanner Farmer said the message was received. As a senior, he said, it’s his job to hold teammates responsible and to teach them what it takes to be committed.

Farmer said he’s learned a lot about himself through the process, pointing out that he thought he could work just as hard as he did in high school and achieve the same results as a collegian.

“If you succeed in high school, you’ve got to be ready to amp it up, go even harder,” he said. “I don’t have free time. I’m up dusk till dawn dedicating myself to football and schoolwork. I make sure I’m passing my classes, and I want to do everything I can and extra stuff — go to yoga, watch more film. That’s what it takes. You don’t really get a social life during football season. Either leave it or take it.”

Cornerback Dicaprio Bootle said that even though he believes the team is mostly holding together through the tough start, Frost’s point is taken.

“No one on this team is outright against what we’re doing and where we’re trying to go,” Bootle said.

Linebacker Mohamed Barry said the 0-2 start should motivate him and his teammates to challenge themselves to be better.

“We are this close from being that team,” he said, holding up his right thumb and index finger close together. “Y’all see it and you know we’re not the same team as last year. When we get that taste of winning, it’s going to be great things that happen this season. We have to get the first one and it’s going to be good.”

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