It’s not like Mark Whipple has voiced a thought about football in camp interviews that hasn’t been expressed one way or another before. Nor has it been the attempt at an offseason where the Huskers have generally managed to reveal little — certainly about the offense.
But for a guy new to the Husker scene in 2022, Nebraska’s offensive coordinator struck me as someone who deliberately or indirectly repeatedly hit the button on the ailments that plagued Big Red’s psychology. these last years.
Head back near the end of camp in Lincoln for a great example. He was talking about practice that day, which was going quite well. But there was a lull during one of the practice stations. The voices of the Husker players began to rise in an attempt to regain momentum. This, in itself, is not a bad thing.
Still, the coach of four decades must have sensed something a little in the air, or at least an opportune moment to score a point: more or less, he wanted them to know he knows how much it matters to them, but don’t press.
“I just said, ‘Listen, you’ve been working hard. It was a very good camp. It reminded me of when I had to call the Super Bowl games and I thought right before that if I screw up that game I can’t go back to Pittsburgh because they’re going to kill me. So these guys, it’s important to them, but they need to relax,” Whipple explained after that practice.
“There’s this fine line, where you just say, ‘You did well. We will make mistakes. How will you handle adversity? So just a quick reminder there. They cannot be strained. “
Husker head coach Scott Frost admitted his team played tense in week zero a year ago at Illinois, a game like this against Northwestern where Nebraska were also favored but wore also the weight of the passion of a state. And so even before a QB fumble that was returned for a score, the Huskers improved him on basic stuff – a talented veteran losing his mind for a moment on a punt return to give up two runs, an assist missed wide-open touchdown, canceled interception for giving the QB a little extra in a time when referees are looking to make an example of you.
Last year is only brought up because the Huskers hope they learned a thing or two from it. Frost has repeatedly spoken about how his team let him rip this time around. And while he clarified the “business trip” point, you might have noticed that the Huskers aren’t just locked in their rooms in Ireland, staring at the walls, saying, “I gotta make a play, I have to do a play.”
They go out every day to visit centuries-old buildings and taste the local flavor. There’s a big task ahead, but haven’t you done much better at a job interview than you did when you were relatively relaxed and didn’t give it too much thought to the point of you lose in the word soup?
Frost said Thursday his team is confident, but as eager as you are to see how they weather the adversity Whipple mentioned.
“But when we do, I want to make sure they keep attacking until 40, until 40, until 7, until 7, they have to be attacking,” said Frost.
That’s been easier said than done with Husker football lately. But Frost said some of the new blood may have brought extra confidence. Casey Thompson, Trey Palmer, Marcus Washington. Headliners now who weren’t part of the 3-9 team last year. “Some of these guys are pretty sure of a fault. And our offense needed a little injection of that,” Frost said.
Can they still provide it when you get your toe stuck on the bed frame? Or what if you have a first quarter where production is just a trickle? What happens if it’s 0-0 after about 20 minutes of play or if you’re down 7-3? It would be good for the health of Husker fans for Nebraska to jump in early and not look over their shoulder. How about Jaquez Yant or someone who runs 60 yards and guns a dude out of 20 right away? But Whipple knows that first games don’t always start with you sitting in a race car.
“I’ve been on both sides. Get out of the first quarter without giving away the game and settle in,” Whipple said this week.
Intentionally or not, there was also a critical point of the decreasing psychology of Husker. A bad game or an average quarter doesn’t have to define the day. In the past, with Husker football, there have been those “Oh, no, this is it” moments. And sometimes they came when there was still plenty of game.
How do you break this pattern? It’s hard to put into words, but as this mysterious 2022 season begins, Nebraska’s recent past is not the past of Whipple and Mickey Joseph and Bryan Applewhite and Donovan Raiola. This is not the common past of 33 new scholars.
“I think confidence comes from your training,” said one of these newcomers, Casey Thompson, recalling an old adage he keeps close to him. “‘You don’t rise to the occasion, you fall back on your training.'”
Sounds like the words of camp from a coach who has seen a thing or two.
This coach and this quarterback didn’t experience the last year like you did, although Thompson had his own adversity in Texas, he hopes to pull through. They weren’t there for all those “narrow” losses, or on the sidelines to see a 99-yard Northwest drive in the final two minutes, or a 17-point Boulder lead. This is not about throwing water balloons from the past. The thing is, they don’t carry those memories.
And maybe, maybe one weekend, hope has wings and a new Nebraska football campaign begins, maybe a little new blood is helpful in transforming moments” here we go again” into a composed and believing response of “here we go”.