Iowa Football

Iowa football look ahead: Scott Frost year 2 is more about the whole of Nebraska

Quarterback Adrian Martinez might be a national talent; some pressure on defensive coordinator Erik Chinander this year

Nebraska head coach Scott Frost chats with Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz prior to a game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Friday, Nov. 23, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette
Nebraska head coach Scott Frost chats with Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz prior to a game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Friday, Nov. 23, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette
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In year one of Scott Frost, Nebraska had to be about Scott Frost.

Of course, most Nebraska fans believe their true and native son no matter what. Still, they had to see how Frost would handle the competition and how he would do head football coach things on this level.

Quick review of year one: Frost knows offense and the Cornhuskers are there. Already.

Frost made Nebraska’s offense dynamic in year one. Wait, that’s an undersell. Frost recruited, signed and gave quarterback Adrian Martinez the first chair. The 6-2, 220-pounder from Fresno, Calif., infused every corner of the Huskers’ fan base with light.

Year two of Frost is going to be more about Martinez.

Martinez became the first true freshman to start at the school. He set 11 records, and not records like “most completions into the sun in the first half.” Martinez has more games of 400 yards total offense (three) than anyone in Huskers history. Also, 295.1 yards of total offense per game, season record for 300 yards of total offense (seven game) and game completion percentage (86.2 vs. the Gophers).

In year one of Frost with Martinez at QB, the Huskers were a top-25 offense, averaging 456.2 yards per game. That’s No. 25 in the nation and more than Mike Leach’s dance party at Washington State.

Frost in year two also has to be more about Erik Chinander, the Huskers defensive coordinator and Allison native and former Hawkeye walk-on offensive lineman.

Nebraska wasn’t good on defense last season. It was 12th in the league and 94th nationally in total defense. The Huskers sunk defensively under former coach Mike Riley, who hired another former Hawkeye, Bob Diaco, before the 2017 season. It didn’t work, and now Chinander is fitting the uneven pieces together.

Does the fact that Chinander is a branch off the Kirk Ferentz tree make you nervous? What about the part where Chinander wouldn’t know a silver spoon if it were in his cereal?

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He started his coaching career as defensive and offensive line coach at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls.

No, there wasn’t a lot of money, but it was the type of intro to the profession that lights the fire or puts it out. Before the Huskers visited Kinnick last fall, Chinander had already coached against the Hawkeyes. He was tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator when Northern Iowa played in Iowa City in 2005.

In the run-up, Chinander wouldn’t allow himself to reference Iowa, but, at the time, he could still hear his old Iowa coaches.

“I’ll go on a big speech about getting to class and taking school seriously,” Chinander said, “and then I’ll think, ‘Did I just say that?’”

So, a former Ferentz player who’s been there and back is now at a place with mega-resources. Defense does seem to take longer than offense. Last year, UNL’s offense scored almost five more points per game and gained 71 more yards than 2017.

On the flip side, the Huskers allowed 17 fourth-quarter points in an overtime loss to Northwestern. In the postgame, Frost was asked about that and responded, “I don’t call the defense.”

It wasn’t “blood bath.” You remember “blood bath?” A Nebraska defensive coordinator made that observation about Iowa after the Hawkeyes clobbered the Huskers, 40-10, at Kinnick in 2016. That coordinator was unceremoniously fired.

The trick for Frost and Nebraska nation in year two is balancing the patience it’s going to take to build a defense capable of winning the Big Ten West with the clock every Husker can clearly hear ticking with Martinez, who’s already a sophomore.

Or wait.

The Huskers could just try to outscore everyone.

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Nebraska skill players

The first number that stands out with Martinez is total offense. His 295.1 yards per game was No. 2 to Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins and 75 more yards per game that Iowa QB Nate Stanley.

The other number that gets your attention is completion percentage. His 64.6 percent was fourth in the Big Ten. His feet just accentuate his talent as a yards ATM. Martinez was second on the team with 629 yards and eight TDs. He averaged 12.7 rush attempts per game. Not only is he a good runner, he’s willing.

Running back is sort of a question mark. Maurice Washington might be in the mix, but he’s back home in California dealing with charges he faces for sending a 10-second video of a sex act to the girl who was in the video.

Juco transfer Dedrick Mills (5-11, 215) could make a push. He was a top junior college running back transfer, joining Nebraska from Garden City (Kan.) Community College. He played as a true freshman at Georgia Tech, leading the Yellow Jackets with 771 yards, 5.1 yards per carry and 12 touchdowns.

J.D. Spielman is Husker target No. 1. He had 818 yards and 66 receptions last season despite missing the final two games. Spielman also will bring value to special teams as a punt returner.

One note on where the ball went for Frost through the air: Running backs were extremely productive in the passing game (47 receptions from the top two) and tight ends were not (27 receptions among three players).

Nebraska defense

The Huskers have bodies up front and that’s a start. Senior Darrion Daniels transferred in from Oklahoma State. Senior twins Carlos and Khalil Davis along with Ben Stille and Damion Daniels, Darrion’s brother, give the Huskers bodies that should be able to hold their ground.

Junior Lamar Jackson and sophomore Dicaprio Bootle give Nebraska a pair of experienced corners.

And, who knows, maybe the Huskers’ best defense this season is Martinez.

Super hot, possibly relevant take on this game that’s 100-something days away: If this comes down to two QBs taking over, who do you like? Martinez has great feet and has shown accuracy. Stanley has had brilliant and broken moments.

It won’t come down to two QBs taking over.

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Hawkeyes Look Ahead

Nov. 29 Nebraska at Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Neb.)

Week before: Illinois at Kinnick

On the horizon: Bowl game, probably

For Nebraska

Week before: At Maryland (Maryland Stadium)

On the horizon: Bowl game, probably

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Game: Nov. 29 at Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Neb.)

Coach: Scott Frost (4-8, 2nd season at Nebraska)

2018 record: 4-8, 3-6 in Big Ten West Division

Scoring offense: 30.0 points per game (6th in B1G, 58th nationally — Wisconsin was 62nd at 29.7)

Total offense: 456.2 yards per game (2nd B1G, 25th nationally — Washington State was 27th at 451.5)

Scoring defense: 31.3 points allowed per game (12th B1G, 88th nationally — Rutgers was 89th at 31.4)

Total defense: 433.5 yards allowed per game (12th B1G, 94th nationally — Central Florida, where Scott Frost was before Nebraska, was 95th at 433.7)

Series: Nebraska leads, 29-17-3.

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Last meeting: Weird game. Iowa was in control. It went for a fourth down inside Nebraska’s 5. Iowa skipped the 21-yard field goal and the three-score lead in the second quarter. It almost cost them. Nebraska QB Adrian Martinez, who piled up 336 yards of total offense, tied the game on a 3-yard run with about three minutes left.

Senior Miguel Recinos kicked a 41-yard field goal to win it for Iowa as time expired.

It was one of those games that was fun and had a big, brilliant end that you really enjoyed if you won. If you lost, you know, worst day ever.

This is where Iowa-Nebraska is headed. Win, greatest day. Lose, worst day.

Super early, totally unofficial spread prediction: Last game of the year. The complexion of these teams will be shaped by the rigors of 2019 by this point. That’s impossible to predict. Matching schedules? Nebraska’s crossovers are Indiana, Maryland and a home game against Ohio State.

The Huskers also get Iowa, Wisconsin and Northwestern in Lincoln. It’s a schedule that sets up to keep the Huskers interesting in November.

In Lincoln, Nebraska probably will be favored. Probably by 3.

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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