Scott Frost’s heartbreaking loss to Ohio State heats up his seat in Nebraska

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Nebraska lost to No. 5 Ohio State 26-17 on Saturday, a result that was not entirely unexpected but nonetheless marked a low point in the Cornhuskers’ 2021 season and made head coach Scott Frost’s seat. hotter than ever in Lincoln.

What’s perhaps the most maddening part of this season, as if Nebraska’s 3-7 record isn’t bad enough, is how close each of the Cornhuskers’ losses has come this year. In fact, the Buckeyes’ victory on Saturday was the first they came by more than one possession all season and was the fourth they came against a team ranked in the top 25.

Nonetheless, Frost’s overall record is now 15-33 since returning to his alma mater, and there are more rumors than ever that he may not be returning for a fifth season.

PLUS: Pregame fight breaks out before Nebraska-Ohio State game

Here are each of Nebraska’s losses so far in 2021, including the final score:

Play Get out
in illinois Illinois 30, Nebraska 22
at No. 3 Oklahoma Oklahoma 23, Nebraska 17
at No. 20 Michigan State Michigan State 23, Nebraska 20 (OT)
vs. No. 9 Michigan Michigan 32, Nebraska 29
in Minnesota Minnesota 30, Nebraska 23
against Purdue Purdue 28, Nebraska 23
vs. No. 5 Ohio State Ohio State 27, Nebraska 16

For those at home counting, that’s an average margin of loss of 6.8 points. In essence, the Cornhuskers have been just one marker away per game from a completely different season. To advance to that point, those losses have often been decided by a few plays that went the wrong way. Frost seemed to acknowledge that after his team’s loss to Ohio State.

“I hate losing more than anyone in that locker room,” Frost told reporters after the game. “But I love being the coach here, I love these kids. They fought a lot. This is going to explode in Nebraska. It just is. We are doing too many good things right. We have too many good young players. We are putting ourselves in a position to win too many games. and just don’t make a play or take a break. “

PLUS: Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley explains why he nearly defied his own team’s interception against Nebraska

With that, Sporting News looks at one or two plays that have defined each of the Cornhuskers’ losses this season, and how they might have helped Frost and Co. to victory:

Illinois

The Nebraska misery tour began early on the road in Illinois, in Bret Bielema’s first year of leadership. The Cornhuskers gave up 16 points in the first half, all of which were the result of mistakes by Nebraska. Two of those scores were a safety and an Illinois touchdown that should have resulted in a Nebraska interception. However, a harsh punishment to the passer allowed the Illinois players to continue advancing and take the score.

However, no play had a bigger impact than a fumble return touchdown late in the second quarter. Keith Randolph Jr. of Illinois caught Adrian Martinez and tossed the loose ball close; Calvin Hart Jr. recovered it and rushed 41 yards to go 16-9 at the half. It turned out to be the last difference in a 30-22 loss.

No. 3 Oklahoma

Nebraska doesn’t like moral victories, but the Cornhuskers played No. 3 Oklahoma surprisingly well in what many projected would be a blowout in favor of the Sooners. It’s easy to point Nebraska’s blocked extra point attempt – One the Sooners returned for a 2-point defensive conversion, as the biggest swing game of this game. But even if Nebraska had successfully tried the PAT, it would have lost 21-17 instead of 23-16 and would still need a touchdown to get ahead of the Sooners.

That play ultimately had no effect on what Nebraska needed when he recovered the ball in his 17 with 40 seconds left in the game. But Oklahoma sacked Martinez twice in the final series, and the Cornhuskers failed to get even a first down in what could have been a breakthrough series. Nebraska’s return attempt ended with a 14-yard complete pass to Rahmir Johnson at the Nebraska 25.

No. 20 Michigan State

Two plays showed the biggest difference in a 23-20 loss to the Spartans. The first was a 62-yard punt return touchdown by Jayden Reed, with little coverage from Nebraska, to tie the game at 20-20 with just 3:47 left in the game.

Neither team could muster another scoring series before the end of regulation time. Nebraska got the ball first in overtime, but Martinez threw a costly interception to Chester Kimbrough, who jumped a steep route and gave his team a chance to win the game with a field goal. Matt Coghlin sank it from 21 yards, giving the Cornhuskers another narrow loss.

No. 9 Michigan

Another hard-fought game that saw Nebraska show considerable heart in defeat. The Cornhuskers overcame a 13-0 deficit at halftime to score 22 points in the third quarter and take a 22-19 lead in the fourth quarter. But Michigan refused to allow Nebraska to complete the comeback, scoring two late field goals to tie the game and then win it.

The play in question for this loss came at the 1:59 mark in the fourth quarter. Martinez gained 3 yards on third and 1, apparently giving the Cornhuskers another series of tries and giving the team a chance to break into field goal range with time running out. But Michigan linebacker Brad Hawkins dropped the ball on the play (Martinez later said he thought the play was over) and returned it at 19 yards to 18 at Nebraska.

Michigan’s Jake Moody hit the field goal from a 39-yard lead; Nebraska’s next series ended in a turnover, securing Michigan’s victory.

PLUS: Pressure on Scott Frost, Nebraska to avoid sinking feeling in Big Ten opener

Minnesota

The missed opportunities are what ultimately cost Nebraska a win over Minnesota. The Cornhuskers made it to the Golden Gophers red zone twice on shortstop, and twice they were rejected with no points. Nebraska’s offense was stopped three times at the goal line by a fumble on downs with 3:44 left in the third quarter. On the next drive, Connor Culp missed a 27-yard field goal from the 10. That’s a 10-point swing that would have given the Cornhuskers a 26-21 lead.

Another key play came on the next series, when Martinez was intentionally grounded in the end zone. That gave Minnesota a 23-16 lead, which the Golden Gophers lengthened with a touchdown on their next drive. Nebraska made it a one-possession game after Martinez’s 9-yard touchdown to Austin Allen with 1:12 left in regulation, but was unable to recover the ball in time for a score that tied the game.

Purdue

No loss will come down to the performance of either player, but Martinez picked a bad time to put out his worst performance of the year with a two-touchdown, four-interception outing against the Boilermakers. Still, only one of those interceptions, the first, resulted in points for Purdue. The other three resulted in a punt, a failed field goal attempt and another punt. But that first one was returned 45 yards by Jalen Graham to tie the game at 7-7.

From there, the Boilermakers simply outscored Frost’s team on the road to victory 28-23.

No. 5 Ohio State

It’s hard to pinpoint one play that resulted in the Huskers’ loss on Saturday – it’s No. 5 Ohio State, after all, but it’s worth noting that kicker Chase Contreraz had his first chance to kick field goals in the entirety of season against the Buckeyes. He replaced Culp, who was 6 of 12 on the season. Contreraz went 1 of 3 in the loss. If it had gone 3 out of 3, things would certainly have played out differently.

Who knows how those scores would have affected the outcome of the game, if at all. In fact, Nebraska’s final offense ended with an interception. But the opportunity to drive for a game-winning touchdown is better than driving for a touchdown that makes the score look better.

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