Another week, another example of how the mighty have fallen.
The Iowa football team faces another once-proud program that is struggling in 2020, but unlike Penn State, this week’s foe has been sliding for several years.
Nebraska, winners of at least five national championships (more on that later), comes to Iowa City for its Black Friday “Heroes Game” against the Hawkeyes with a 1-3 record. The Cornhuskers were 5-7 last season, 4-8 in 2018.
Nebraska hasn’t had a winning season since going 9-4 in 2016 and that followed a 6-7 campaign. Its last bowl game was a 38-24 loss to Tennessee in 2016. Its best record since joining the Big Ten is 10-4 in 2012.
Here are 5 Things about the Cornhuskers.
1. Scott Frost’s seat is getting hot
Scott Frost if officially on the hot seat, according to CBS Sports.
Although most national pundits are giving coaches a pass in this strange, pandemic season, Frost is just 10-18 in his three seasons in Lincoln.
That is unacceptable in Husker Country.
CBS Sports college football reporter Dennis Dodd listed Frost in his “win or be fired” category after Saturday’s 41-23 loss to Illinois.
“You knew things slid at Nebraska when Frost said his program can be the new Wisconsin in the Big Ten West,” Dodd wrote. “What about the old Nebraska? Frost is one of the smartest, most refreshing coaches out there, but the turnaround hasn’t happened. It almost hurts. Frost is better than this. Nebraska should be better than this. ... If Frost (a native son) can’t get it done, who can? A bowl game — at least — is needed.”
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Frost returned to his alma mater after leading Central Florida to a 13-0 record in 2017 — his second as a head coach.
Frost, by the way, got his first full-time coaching job in Iowa — under Mark Farley at UNI. Frost spent two seasons on the Panthers’ defensive staff, coaching linebackers in 2007. He was named co-defensive coordinator in 2008 and helped UNI to a 24-4 record in two seasons.
2. Nebraska’s Iowa connection
Frost isn’t the only member of the coaching staff with an Iowa connection.
Defensive coordinator Erik Chinander played at Iowa from 1998 to 2002, a walk-on lineman who was named “Offensive Team Leader” after helping the Hawkeyes to an Orange Bowl appearance following the 2002 season.
Chinander coached with Frost at UCF, Oregon and Northern Iowa. He was the Panthers’ tight ends coach for six seasons from 2004 to 2009 and helped them to the FCS championship game in 2005 and to the semifinals in 2008.
Chinander’s first coaching job was as the offensive and defensive line coach for Ellsworth Community College.
Nebraska quarterbacks coach Marion Verduzco is another former UNI assistant. He was co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2006 to ’14 after spending his first five seasons on Farley’s staff as quarterbacks coach.
3. Iowans on Nebraska’s roster
There also are eight Iowans on the Nebraska roster, the most prominent being wide receiver Oliver Martin.
A former football, swimming and baseball standout at Iowa City West, Martin started his college football career at Michigan in 2017, transferred to Iowa before the 2019 season and walked on at Nebraska before the start of this season.
He caught five passes for 28 yards at Iowa last year, playing in eight games. At Michigan, he had 11 receptions for 125 yards in 13 games after redshirting in 2017.
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He caught two passes for 30 yards and returned a punt for 7 yards last Saturday against Illinois — his first action of 2020.
Other Iowans on the Cornhuskers roster are former Clear Creek Amana prep Darius Moore, Blaise Gunnerson of Carroll Kuemper, Chase Contreraz of Missouri Valley, Brian Perez of Hartley HMS, Mosai Newsom of Waverly-Shell Rock, Ezra Miller of Ridge View (another former Iowa player) and Ben Lingenfelter of Cherokee.
4. Why Nebraska is struggling
Nebraska’s woes this year appear to be plenty.
The Cornhuskers are averaging just 20.75 points per game (13th in the Big Ten), allowing 34.25 (ninth). They are averaging 375.5 yards of offense (10th and just ahead of Iowa), including 198.8 on the ground (fourth). But they are allowing 449.8 (12th).
Luke McCaffrey, the brother of NFL star Christian McCaffrey (who dominated Iowa in the 2016 Rose Bowl), leads the team with 318 rushing yards in four games and also has completed 65 percent of his 68 passes for 434 yards. He has one touchdown and five interceptions, however.
5. Nebraska football history lesson
As mentioned above, Nebraska has a rich football history.
The Cornhuskers won a pair of undisputed national titles under Bob Devaney in 1970 and ’71, then captured three under Tom Osborne (1994, ’95 and ’97). All five teams were unbeaten and declared champions by the Associated Press and/or coaches poll.
The program has nine other national titles it does not claim, however — the first in 1915 after Ewald O. Stiehm led the team to an 8-0 record. Osborne led the team to six of these “unclaimed” titles from 1980 to ’93, and Frank Solich led the team to a 12-1 record in 1999, its last “national title.”
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