Scott Frost said no message to explain last year’s 4-8 Nebraska season was crafted as an explainer because none was necessary.
“We have smart football fans,” Frost said on a recent post-signing day visit to Kansas City. “They saw the improvement, and the way we progressed was pretty clear.”
After the first 0-6 start in program history, the Huskers won four of their final six with competitive losses on the road to Ohio State and Iowa.
“The product on the field looked better, more energized,” athletic director Bill Moos said.
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There’s been carryover in offseason perspective. Nebraska has popped up on a few of the earliest preseason top 25 lists, and those were out before some recruiting rankings placed the Cornhuskers in the top 20.
Frost’s first season back at the school he led to the 1997 national championship as a quarterback got off lousy start. Bad weather just after kickoff forced the cancellation of the season opener against Akron, a game in which Nebraska was favored by 18.
Instead of a working-out-the-kinks opener, Nebraska dropped close home games to Colorado and Troy to start the season. Adrian Martinez, who won the job in fall camp and became the program’s first true freshman to start at quarterback, was injured late against the Buffs. He missed the Troy game and returned in time for the Huskers to get demolished at Michigan.
Three more losses followed but Nebraska was getting closer before finally breaking through for a win at home against Minnesota.
Nebraska’s fortunes improved with Martinez’s improved play. He finished the year with 2,617 passing yards, 17 touchdowns and eight interceptions along with 629 rushing yards and eight more scores. He was second in the Big Ten in total offense per game, No. 12 nationally, and received all-conference honorable mention.
Frost thought about that position as he watched Clemson and freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence defeat Alabama in the College Football Playoff championship game.
“It’s hard to make any arguments against (Lawrence), but I felt like we had one of the top if not the top freshman quarterback in the country,” Frost said.
The Football Writers Association of America agreed and chose both players to the organization’s freshman All-America team.
Frost is stoked about the Cornhuskers’ offense, which may not start a senior this season, although the status of the team’s top returning running back, Maurice Washington, is unknown as he faces charges tied to a sexual assault video.
“Just being in year two, guys are more familiar with your scheme, they’ve had two years of strength and conditioning, two years of our culture. I just know we’re in a better place, miles ahead of where we were a year ago.”
When he returned to Nebraska after leading Central Florida to a 13-0 record in 2017, Frost didn’t temper expectations. He’s not doing that now as spring football approaches. More than 80,000 tickets have been sold for the April 14 spring game in Lincoln.
“We have everything we need to put Nebraska back on the map and get us winning at the clip people are expecting,” Frost said. “First years are hard, trying to reset everything, to set a new direction and have everybody pulling in the right direction. It’s pointed in the right direction now.
“I think we’ll surprise people with how much better we get and how quickly it happens. We didn’t have the type of (first) year we wanted but by the end of the year we were playing with about anyone in our conference.”