It was a tale of two seasons for Nebraska and first-year head coach Scott Frost. The Cornhuskers started the season with six straight losses but finished the season 5-7. If not for a late field by Iowa in the season finale, Nebraska could have gone 6-6 and headed to a bowl game. That will have to wait. Frost continues to build the Huskers program and 2019 could be the year Nebraska takes off.
The First Half The first half of the season for the Cornhuskers was about as far from traditional Nebraska football as you can get. The Huskers started the season 0-6, the worst start in school history. One of the big reasons was simply mistakes. Nebraska averaged 10 penalties and nearly 100 penalty yards per game in those first six games. Making up the length of an entire football field makes it difficult to win games.
Nebraska lost at home to Troy and hit rock bottom in a 42-28 home loss to Purdue. There were a few players that left the program, but the mentality of the team began to change when the Huskers gained 518 yards against Wisconsin and then let one get away in overtime at Northwestern.
The Second Half Frost’s offense really began to shine as it gained 659 yards in a 53-28 win over Minnesota. The following week, Nebraska beat FCS Bethune-Cookman 45-9 and then almost pulled the unthinkable – an upset of 10th-ranked Ohio State.
Nebraska gained 450 yards of total offense in seven straight games. The Huskers hit 500 yards five times and 600 twice. The two 600-yard games came in a four-week span in Big Ten play. The school had its first-ever pair a 1,000-yard rusher (Devine Ozigbo) and a 1,000-yard receiver (Stanley Morgan Jr.).
It was the quarterback that really turned some heads. Adrian Martinez averaged over 200 yards passing and 50 yards rushing. He completed 64.6 percent of his passes, second-best in Nebraska history. The Cornhuskers averaged 209 yards rushing for the season, an improvement of over 100 yards under previous head coach Mike Riley.
Returning Stars Martinez ended the season with 2,617 passing yards and 17 touchdowns. He also ran for 629. Maurice Washington added 455 yards on the ground. Both will return next season as will receivers J.D. Spielman (66-818) and Kade Warner. The roster is full of young talent and Frost is proving himself as one of the nation’s top recruiters.
The defense, which improved greatly over the second half of the season, features a number of young players that return in 2019. Over the last five games of the season, the defense went plus-6 in turnover margin. Over the first seven games, Nebraska was minus-7.
The Schedule Next year, the season starts with South Alabama at home. The Jaguars of the Sun Belt Conference finished just 3-9 in 2018. Next up is a trip to Colorado where Nebraska will be seeking some revenge. The Buffaloes also dropped off the radar in 2018. After winning their first five games, Colorado lost its last seven games of the season.
The third game of the season brings Northern Illinois, the MAC champ, back to Lincoln. The Huskies will be looking for revenge in that game as well as NIU beat Nebraska in 2017. The Big Ten opener is the following week with Illinois. It is highly possible that the Cornhuskers are 4-0 heading into their first test – Ohio State.