Tasked with a major rebuilding job, Nebraska football coach Scott Frost has said over and over that achievement can’t be measured in wins or losses.
That was the message back in the summer, before Frost had made his official debut at his alma mater. And it’s the message now, after Frost’s first month ended with the Cornhuskers (0-4, 0-2 Big Ten Conference) winless heading into Saturday night’s game against the University of Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium.
“Being great is being better than you were yesterday,” Frost said Tuesday. “That’s greatness to me, being better than your former self. We certainly need to be better than we’ve been. I think we have improved in a lot of ways. There are some things holding us back from improving even more.”
Frost took over a Central Florida program that went 0-12 in 2015 and went 6-7 in his first season. After leading the Knights to an unbeaten season in 2017, Frost was the no-brainer choice to try to resurrect a Nebraska program that went 19-19 in three seasons under Mike Riley.
A former quarterback under Tom Osborne and member of the Nebraska team that went 13-0 and split the national title with Michigan in 1997, Frost arrived back in Lincoln and couldn’t hide how sickened he was by the state of affairs in the program.
Having been through a complete overhaul at Central Florida, Frost understood the first year of a rebuild isn’t fun. Even with that knowledge, it’s possible he underestimated just how difficult it would be to fix the problems at Nebraska.
“Listen, they brought this coaching staff in here to get this fixed,” Frost said. “We’re in the process of getting it fixed. I have more confidence than ever of where we can take it. It’s just taking a while and there’s a lot of things that need to get fixed: attitudes, culture, strength and conditioning, talent level and team, everything needs to get fixed.
“I like where we’re going. Most of the guys are buying in and doing what we’re asking. Some aren’t.”
Heading into the game against the No. 16 Badgers (3-1, 1-0), the Cornhuskers have lost a program-record eight consecutive games dating to last season. Their last win, a 25-24 decision at Purdue, came on Oct. 28, 2017.
Nebraska has allowed 50 or more points four times during that losing streak and is coming off a 42-28 home loss to Purdue on Saturday. The Cornhuskers’ other losses this season came against Colorado (33-28), Troy (24-19) and Michigan (56-10).
What angered Frost most about the loss to Purdue was the Cornhuskers were penalized 11 times, including two flags for roughing the passer and one each for a late hit and unnecessary roughness.
Nebraska is tied for last nationally with 96.8 penalty yards per game.
“In my opinion, we looked like one of the most undisciplined teams in the country,” Frost said after the Purdue game, “and it kills me.”
The Badgers have won five consecutive games against Nebraska and are 6-1 in the series since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten in 2011. Frost said he has a lot of respect for UW coach Paul Chryst and the Badgers, but he’s determined to close the gap between the programs.
“They’re at the top of our half of this league right now,” Frost said. “That’s a team that we need to catch and we will.”