Illinois Recap 2021

Well… here we go again. “Should be 3-0 heading to Oklahoma” and “it just feels different this year” are all things we said and we were duped again. I’m really regretting stating in my preview that if we can’t beat Illinois, probably time to start looking for a new staff. But I don’t think I was wrong when I typed that (even though after game 1 you don’t start looking).

Illinois fired their coach from last year because they were so bad, had a new coach game 1, and either outcoached us, outprepared us, or have better players than us. Any of those in our year 4 compared to their game 1 is unacceptable. Let’s dive into a few things I heard or saw:

So what Frost is referencing here, is that they prepared for an odd front (3 man line as they were running 3-4), but they saw mostly an even front (4 man front). I really struggle with that. I have helped coach from 8 man, to Class A, even have a college teams HUDL access. Every single one of them has 5 or 6 base run plays that they rep the piss out of against every single front. Even the 8 man team has the offensive line come up to the line of scrimmage and call out even or odd front for how they are blocking it, and what they call lets the RB know if it will hit straight on and fast (odd front) or if the cutback will most likely be there (even front). Literally the OL says what to look for, as they can get their angles on an odd front where against an even front it’s tough for them to get to it. I just don’t know a team I help that it would throw them that far off. Further, so our OL was so bad compared to Illinois DL that we couldn’t just move the guys in front of us? Here’s a picture for you:

They have 6 guys in the box! This isn’t stacking the box with 8 or 9 guys. There’s 6 guys there, we have 5 blockers, and the QB on a zone read holds one of them, so it’s 5 v 5 with a RB. We can’t block this because we prepared wrong?!?! By the way, we didn’t block the noseguard, ran an OZ, and got gobbled way up:

That is just so bad. Nebraska’s RBs had 19 carries for 55 yards. What the hell is that? And then you take away the times where Martinez actually scrambled on a pass (like his 75 yard TD run) and we were awful running the ball when we wanted to run. But save all that… “we just fell behind” was what he said, when in reality we were up 9-2 until about 3 minutes in the second quarter. And it was tied until the sack/scoop and score with a minute left! We weren’t behind!

And what the hell was going on with our special teams? We had 3 punts under 30 yards! How does that happen? One of our returners taking a safety but hucking the ball forward was about like those youtube videos where a kid will hit the teeball and then take off running to 3rd base. But this was a D1 athlete. I just don’t know what we are doing? Typically for your returners in every level of football you put your heels on the line (used to be 10 yard line but with the backspin punts sometimes the 5) but we are fielding a ball at the 1 yard line? All of a sudden our 1st team all-conference kicker is missing 2 XPs? Holy buckets.

I did see some good things! Defensively, I thought we played well. Heck we had two missed XPs and a scoop and score for 9 points… take away those we win. They gave up less than 350 yards of total offense. Heck, we had 3 sacks in less than a quarter of football!

But with all that pressure, we take out their starting QB. So in comes a guy, that left where he was because our backup QB (Noah Vedral) showed up at Rutgers. The dude had 4 TDs and 18 INTs in 2018. Sitkowski comes in and beats us. How?!? I’ll tell you how… Bielema found out we were getting pressure so he basically started max protecting. The video above is 4 wide. Take a look at this one, 2 TEs and a RB protecting and only a 2 man route:

So they took a shot deep, on some of our deepest positions (DBs), and a guy that couldn’t beat out Noah Vedral drops a dime and we get scored on. Also, they schemed away from JoJo Domann who had only 1 tackle.

Nick Henrich led our team in tackles, just like he did each of the two games to end the season in 2020. Garrett Nelson appeared to play well. But something was just off. I don’t get it.

Where do we go from here? To get to a bowl game, we probably needed to beat Illinois who was theoretically our 3rd/4th easiest game on our schedule. And everyone says “if not for a few plays we win” or “another one score loss”. Is that a positive? We should be able to have a dozen plays that don’t go right and still beat a team that is playing their backup QB and just fired their coach from the previous year, right? Hell, there’s 140 other plays out there for us to do well, isn’t there?

You now have to beat Fordham, Buffalo, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue, and Minnesota just to get bowl eligible. I promise you a couple of those teams are better than Illinois. I golfed with a local media personality that said it had to be catastrophic for us to get rid of Frost, but we were both counting Illinois as a win. It could get catastrophic. We will be at best 2-2 heading to East Lansing, things could go off the rails before October if things go bad.


29 thoughts on “Illinois Recap 2021

  1. why do i feel like AM was just never going to be the answer, he looked horrible. Decent QB play as you mentioned about their back up QB and things would be different. over the years if you get rid of the mistakes, lack of throws when it should have been thrown and we look different on offense.. I get the stupid plays, but how long do we have to watch AM suck so bad… Vedral wins us more games… Sad, coach stuck to his guy who ultimately gets him fired..

  2. Good write-up – thanks. I hear you, trying to temper the loss to Illinois by not jumping on the fire-everyone bandwagon after a must win, but it looks like we may be past the point of no return regarding the key issues you mentioned: Special teams production and decisions, O-line production and readiness, ability to adjust and stick with something simple on O, and I will add a jittery QB who has trouble getting the ball out. Why would anyone not just max pressure us all day…

  3. I know, but why not let Austin go, bench AM move onto Haarberg with a vanilla offense.. Do we lose yeah, maybe but at least it would be something different than what we’ve seen.. 🙂 With Toure and some of these WR’s right now we need a decent passer or at least a guy who won’t be afraid to pass the ball cause he doesn’t know any better..

  4. I don’t understand why everyone always wants to immediately jump to the “Put in the back up QB!” as the solution, especially after watching this team for 4 years. We’ve put in a back up QB and the ultimate results have been the same. I’m by no means arguing that AM is the answer or that he doesn’t bare some blame…but NU is losing for multiple reason in every single phase of the game…for FOUR STRAIGHT YEARS! This isn’t a QB only issue…
    This is a foundational coaching issue, and it has been since CU 2018.

    1. It’s maddening to hear it. Had to tell everyone McCaffrey wasn’t ready, got blasted on the other site for it, now he’s gone. Martinez is the best we got right now, right or wrong. That’s on our HC and QB coach.

    2. I’m with ya. Put HH and Smothers in against Fordham because you have to see what you’ve got and my goodness we better be up enough for us to do that. But to throw them out there in a conference game isn’t wise. It would be different if we had a competent QB coach however.

  5. My thoughts,
    Scott Frost is a young coach that is not good at game planning, game adjustments or game management.
    Erik Chinander is also a young coach who seems to get better every time with game planning and game adjustment. He seems to know his players weakness and strengths and prepares the game plan around that, while the offensive staff does not.
    Adrian Martinez is not an accurate passer and is very slow at making decision. Every team we play knows that and it is very easy for them to defend. He does not have a fast quick step anymore.
    Offensive Line looked horrible, baffled by that.
    Defensive Line looked great but our inside linebackers did not. Yes, Henrich lead the team in tackles but he was not filling the holes and just waited until the RB got to him. Outside backers looked ok, but got out of position trying to make a play. I think that is why Neb was in more of a 4 man line.
    Team speed looked slow
    Special teams was not any better. I blame Frost for that. He stated in his first year, that he does not understand specialist and stays away from it. For our special teams to get better he needs to take ownership of it and be more hands on.
    We were lied to in the off season. We thought they were making changes on special teams, running game on offence, etc. The first drive of the game told me nothing has changed.
    I feel bad for the players, because I do think they are doing everything the coaches are asking them to do. I do not think they are being put in a position to secede.

  6. I’m not sure why people are so shocked that the same people keep getting the same results. You are as you practice and prepare. This is year 4 and we continue to see mind numbing mistakes that largely show a lack of situational awareness and preparation. Each year we hear that Frost has figured out what went wrong and a subtle adjustment will fix it. The issue is much deeper. CTB took that punt for a safety because nobody taught him how to approach it so when he saw the first punt take a crazy bounce, he decided to take action he should have been coached not to do through practice repetition. AM took that snap at the end of the half, ran around backwards and took a hit, because our coaches didn’t teach him how to handle that situation and nobody voiced in take it to the locker room. Watch Reggie Bush at the half; he’s telling the audience this is poor coaching without directly saying it.

    Its hard to believe not 1 coach was dismissed after last season. Imagine how bad Walters was to be the 1 guy Frost has fired. If you look at this staff, there are only 2 coaches who could potentially land a similar job at another Big 10 team. Fisher and Tuioti (Chins could but likely not as a coordinator). Both are solid coaches but both have had issues recruiting to Nebraska, largely because neither has any connection to Nebraska or the midwest. Still they are our top 2 recruiters in quality because they know how to do the work to properly analyze the kids they recruit which again comes back to how coaches prepare. Yep the issues seen above are likely attached to the staff struggling to identify kids that fit their program on the trail.

    Its hard to see this team going beyond 2 wins this year but Trev needs to let this staff try to fix it as he does his job scoping out what it would look like to replace them if need be. 1 thing I am quite sure of is whether Frost gets another year or a new head coach is onboarded, there needs to be a complete commitment towards hiring coaches with familiarity to the Big 10 and recruiting territory we play in. Everyone ripped Riley for a west coast, Pac 12 staff then kept their mouths shut when Frost hired 0 coaches with Big 10 coaching experience, had 0 recruiting connections to Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit or the states of OH/PA. And the 1 guy we had assigned to Nebraska is in his first coaching position.

    1. lol I get it. But you have to remember everyone thinks Covid was a year we can’t judge things, even though we are under investigation for working with our coaches when we weren’t supposed to. It’s kind of crazy the mental gymnastics we do to think everything is alright.

      1. You can give a pass on some things in 2020 but I’m not sure how you overlook getting blown out by IL, who felt 2020 was enough to fire their head coach, or overlook losing to MN down 20 players. They were 3-5, would have been 3-6 had WI not been cancelled.

  7. I’m interested to hear others’ take on if you think this could be the case, or if I’m projecting. I believe you like myself isn’t super high on Duval. I won’t claim to know what we do for conditioning outside of lifting, whether that’s good or not.

    Point being my thought in the preseason was we seem to really be bulking up a lot of our dudes, and our linemen are looking really thick. Maybe they are hard to move at the line of scrimmage and perform well 1st quarter. But is our lifting strategy training them to be super big and strong, but lack any sort of longevity/endurance? My guess was that maybe we would look worse in the 2nd half of games due to this. This is why you often don’t see MMA fighters super ripped or jacked, unless it comes naturally. They don’t train to be physical specimens, they train to have functional muscle and endurance – yes that includes strength and getting stronger/bigger, but that’s one part. I understand linemen on some level you’re training to get big and have some explosiveness, but you also can’t be a power lifter and that’s it, a game is 4 quarters, not one play.

    I thought maybe that happened in this game. Our defense seemed to get tons of pressure early, but our linemen faded in the 2nd half. Maybe that was just due to them doing more max protect and adjusting and whatnot. Maybe our lifting methods really didn’t have anything to do with 2nd half performance, but that’s what I thought could be an issue with us with how we train with Duval.

    Would be interested to hear others thoughts.

  8. Good writeup. I don’t know how much bad luck one team can have at the most inopportune times but like they say you create your own luck. You definitely don’t start a coaching search after one game but I really felt like the tide has turned against Frost. So many things about this loss are tough to swallow. Throw in the fact that they have a new coach playing their backup QB (who got beat about by Vedral) just adds extra insult to injury. Barring a huge upset to Oklahoma which doesn’t even seem plausible in the slightest, Frost has his work cut out for him going into the teeth of the conference schedule 2-2 (hopefully). Throw in all the rumors of off the field stuff and this has the makings to be another long season.

  9. hrock, i like it, but maybe they look like they do cause they don’t know what to do.. ?
    HUSKRBNINE – I at this point am not looking at a back up qb to come in and win 9 games throwing over 70% with 25td’s and only 2 int’s.. I’m most looking at the fact that maybe the backup wouldn’t be afraid to throw it, not throw inaccurately.. and maybe not fumble the ball or run around like he is a 18yr freshman getting his first start, but if he did, what would be the difference with what we have in AM now?

    1. Oh I definitely think there are tons of issues and it doesn’t boil down to just our lifting philosophy, but something I thought about and noticed.

      As far as the QB thing, I feel like there’s a happy medium between the 2 sides. Last year there were people calling for McCaffrey over Martinez. Then McCaffrey didn’t work, and the other side was saying it isn’t Martinez’ fault, McCaffrey was worse, wasn’t ready, etc. I guess to me how it played out was fine. I don’t think trying McCaffrey was a bad idea. Martinez was in his 3rd year, wasn’t doing great, and what I would see of McCaffrey I liked, so I was in the camp of give him a shot. I think he still is a better ‘gamer’ then Martinez, aka finding a way to make plays. But after a couple of games, it became clear to me that his throwing ability was even a bigger liability and teams schemed for that, so yeah put Martinez back in.

      But to me, at least we tried something new. With a 4th year starter now, yeah trying some new QB just to see how it works wouldn’t bother me, but it’s easy to say when I’m not trying to coach for my job so running experiments game to game doesn’t affect me much.

      But at the end of the day, I just am in the opinion that small changes we make is window dressing to our HC problem.

  10. Good analysis, all of which I agree with, and there are other good comments also.

    After watching our IL game on Saturday, I also watched the BTN 60 minute version of it on Sunday. IL was a disciplined, smooth-performing team. They looked well coached, and benefitted from smart half-time adjustments.

    Our team has talented players, but they appear to be poorly coached, even in the basics and even in discipline.

    I have been a Big Red fan since before a certain cowboy rode in from Wyoming and resuscitated a languishing Nebraska squad, and I have never seen any Nebraska squad perform in such a ragged manner.

    I would add that Martinez, for all his faults, was still almost our total offense. Other than his passing and scrambling, what did we accomplish?

    After three years, plainly, our problem is our coaches. I told my wife a week ago that if we couldn’t beat IL this time, Coach Frost should be fired. I like Scott, but he is not the man for this job.
    I hope Trev won’t have to fire him in the middle of the season, but if the right coach becomes available, he may have to do so.

    1. Yeah good post I agree with a lot there. I said before I feel like Martinez’ takes a lot of personal shots he doesn’t deserve, but that’s maybe just the world we live in now with social media/online forums. His play I will openly criticize, and I’m super frustrated watching him usually, but it’s not his fault we don’t have someone better, it’s on the coaches after 4 years to have depth built up.

      But I am in the camp now too that I don’t think it will matter long-term what tweaks we make to assistants, players, etc., I think all of it will fall short if our HC keeps falling short. I doubt anything will happen or open-up midyear, but if we suck really bad again, this offseason will be interesting.

  11. Hi, SSO.
    Suddenly today there seems to be a willingness in the local media to allow the conversation/rumors about Frost’s personal life get some air time.
    At what point does media actually address this stuff? If it’s true, then it’s likely impacting his ability to function as a coach and leader of young men.
    Carl Pelini was fired 10 years ago because of similar allegations…though the alleged drug use had a big part of it, too.
    Anyway, these rumors seem to be far more widely heard than many suspect. I’ve heard this stuff now from multiple sources. In Nebraska, is it just simply off limits or does the media, at some point, need to dig further and let whatever cats there are out of the bag?

    1. I have a hard time with that stuff. The personal things are weighing on him for sure. But I also think a lot of it manifests itself because of how private they try to be. I compared it to when Bo did the bunker mentality for the team of us vs the world.

      I was telling someone take all the rumors out there, cut them in half, then what you’re left with there’s probably some truth but it’s not what it has became. The one of them getting kicked out of a country club for being too drunk is a great example… or did they have a few too many and the manager said “hey guys getting a little loud maybe take the party home” in an effort to protect them? We’ve all been there.

      I dont know if they should be addressed. But they are definitely spiraling. Feel bad for his wife actually.

  12. Yeah. Wow. Love the write up. I’m pretty convinced Frost is a dead man walking. Your commentary just drives the point home. So much that went wrong. It’s brutal to watch and I think the fans are going to show what they think of this sh*tshow soon which will put Trev on the spot. And then his presser today. Frost is just in so far over his head it is just painful at this point.

    1. I just don’t understand how bad we are in some areas. Punting…. we have a dozen punters in Nebraska every year looking for a home that were better than what happened on Saturday.

      1. Great write up as always! I’m pretty much done with this staff. I did all the mental gymnastics to prepare myself for the season. It just looks the same in all areas. They seemed to make progress the back half of 2018. It’s a long season. At least I can enjoy reading good content again.

  13. Appreciate the new blog and analysis SSO!

    Current feels: Whelp, *midwestern knee slap & stand up* “Bout time to mosey on Scott.”

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