Things were going pretty well for Nebraska on Saturday, but it only took one decision from coach Scott Frost to knock all those good vibes away.
After trailing Northwestern 17-14 at halftime, Nebraska scored twice in 28 seconds to turn that three-point deficit into a 28-17 lead with 9:09 left in the third quarter.
The Nebraska defense had already forced a punt and a fumble early in the second half, so surely the Huskers were going to kick deep and let the defense get back to work, right? Bad.
Puzzled, Frost called for an onside kick. It was a decision that completely changed the trajectory of the game.
Northwestern easily recovered the attempt and regained possession of the Nebraska 44. Boasting excellent field position, Northwestern needed only five plays to reach the end zone and cut Nebraska’s lead to 28-24 .
Suddenly Northwestern got a much needed boost of energy and never looked back. Nebraska, meanwhile, went into a turtle shell.
Northwestern controlled the game the rest of the way and would continue to win 31-28 as double-digit underdogs. After the inbounds kick, the Nebraska offense turned it over twice and only managed to gain 85 yards the rest of the way.
The end result was the 21st loss by a score in Frost’s head coaching tenure at his alma mater. The kick in play was a turning point.
After the match, Frost took responsibility for the decision and said he wished he could take it back. He said Northwestern’s kickoff team presented “a look that was really good for” the onside kick test.
“In hindsight, it didn’t work. Every time something goes wrong, you want it back,” Frost said. “We had a few things we wanted to be aggressive in. We had one earlier where we wanted to see if we got the look we wanted. We had a look that was really good for it. I made that call. It’s on me.”
Frost said he felt his team had the momentum on their side at this point in the game. If the Huskers could recover the kick in play, he felt they would win the game.
“At that point in the game, I thought all the momentum was on our side. I thought if we got it, we could end the game,” Frost said. “The way we were playing, I felt at that time that we had a very good chance of winning the game and I felt like we were possibly the better team. You can’t really predict that they will score 14 in a row and we will spit after playing well to start the second half in attack. Again, these are excuses. If I was done, I wouldn’t make the roll call.
With the loss, Nebraska is 15-30 under Frost and has now dropped seven straight since last season. Those seven losses came by a single-digit margin.
Illinois overwhelms Wyoming
Elsewhere in the Week 0 action, Illinois took care of home business against Wyoming.
Wyoming was actually within reach, down 17-6 early in the third quarter. However, the game quickly changed when Wyoming decided to throw fourth and second just inside Illinois territory. From there, Illinois closed the game with 21 unanswered points to win 38-6.
In the win, Chase Brown rushed for 139 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Tommy DeVito, who threw for 192 yards and two scores in his Illinois debut.
The State of Utah is afraid of UConn
Utah State is the defending champion at Mountain West, but got scared of lowly UConn on Saturday.
The Huskies, in their first game under Jim Mora Jr., surprisingly took a 14-0 lead at Logan. The Aggies, however, remained calm and fought back. USU would take a 24-14 halftime lead and eventually claim a 31-20 win.
Utah State’s Logan Bonner threw for 281 yards and three touchdowns in the win.
Take care of FCS opponents
After a weather delay, Florida State picked up a 47-7 win over Duquesne. FSU, which started 0-4 in 2021, rushed for 406 yards in the win.
Western Kentucky only had a 21-20 lead going into the fourth quarter, but managed to pull away and beat Austin Peay 38-27. West Florida transfer Austin Reed threw four touchdown passes in the win.
UNLV easily handled Idaho State, 52-21. The Rebels had 45 points in the first half.