Iowa Football

Iowa football: 5 Things to know about Nebraska

Cornhuskers are riding high after win over Michigan State

Nebraska Coach Scott Frost, watching Saturday’s game against Michigan State, once coached at UNI before embarking on a career that led him to Oregon and Central Florida. (USA Today Sports)
Nebraska Coach Scott Frost, watching Saturday’s game against Michigan State, once coached at UNI before embarking on a career that led him to Oregon and Central Florida. (USA Today Sports)

It’s funny what a little winning can do.

Nebraska (4-7, 3-5), which visits Kinnick Stadium on Friday (11 a.m., KFXA) for a Big Ten regular-season football finale, was the butt of many jokes earlier this season, but now has won four of its last five. Iowa (7-4, 4-4) looked like a team ready for its season to end after losing three straight, but found a little cure for its November blues with a 63-0 shellacking of Illinois.

Here are 5 Things about Nebraska heading into the Black Friday Heroes Game:

1. Hot Huskers

Is it fair to call it a roller-coaster season when the first part of this ride was a nose dive down a very steep hill?

Nebraska started the season with six straight losses. Couple that with losing the final four games of 2017 and the Cornhuskers were on a 10-game skid.

Head coach Scott Frost has righted this ship a bit since a 34-31 overtime loss to Big Ten West champion Northwestern.

Nebraska has won two in a row, including last Saturday’s 9-6 victory over Michigan State.

“Some of the growing things we had to go through were necessary ...” Frost said after Saturday’s win. “This team has been through so much and to be where it is right now and have the second half of the season it’s been having, it makes it really special.”

Frost is a native of Wood River, Neb., a former Cornhusker quarterback who started his collegiate career at Stanford, completing 35 of 86 passes with two touchdowns and five interceptions over two seasons in Palo Alto, Calif. He was 24-2 as Nebraska’s QB in 1996 and ’97, completing 192 of 359 passes for 2,677 yards with 18 TDs and seven picks. He also rushed for 1,095 yards in ’97.

Transferring back home, it appears, was the right move. Some wondered if Frost made the wrong move this fall when he left Central Florida after a two-year stint that included last year’s 13-0 season.

These recent wins, it seems, has answered that question, too.

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“Every week I have been coaching them, I think there is a little more fight,” Frost said. “ ... I haven’t seen these guys quit. I’ve seen them keep practicing better and better. I’ve seen them keep playing harder. I’ve seen them come together better as a team.”

Frost was a graduate assistant at Nebraska and Kansas State, but started his coaching career at Northern Iowa. He coached linebackers in 2007 for Mark Farley, then spent a season as co-defensive coordinator for the Panthers before moving on to Oregon and Central Florida. UNI was 24-4 in Frost’s two seasons on staff.

2. State connection

Iowa and Nebraska, the states not the teams, are connected, of course.

But the Nebraska roster and staff also has a connection to Iowa, outside of Frost.

Three Iowans are members of the Nebraska team — redshirt freshman Ben Ligenfelter of Cherokee, sophomore Ben Perez of Hartley and sophomore John Raridon of West Des Moines. Perez and Raridon are offensive linemen, Raridon appearing in three games this season. Ligenfelter is a defensive lineman.

Mario Verduzco is the quarterbacks coach, the same position he held at Northern Iowa under Farley from 2001 through 2014 (and when Frost was on staff). He spent a season at Missouri State before joining Frost at Central Florida for two years.

3. History lesson

Few programs have accomplished what Nebraska has on the football field.

Since fielding a program in 1890, the Cornhuskers or Bugeaters (see below) have won more than 800 games, 46 conference titles and five national titles. They won three national titles in a four-year run matched only by Notre Dame in the late 1940s.

Nebraska’s first national titles came after the 1970 and ’71 seasons, under the direction of Bob Devaney. Tom Osborne coached the last championship teams in 1994, ’95 and ’97.

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Devaney and Osborne are two of the most famous coaches in college football. Devaney coached the Huskers for 11 seasons, compiling a 101-20-2 record. Osborne was there for 25 seasons, winning 255 of 307 games.

The recent history hasn’t been so kind to the Huskers. Frank Solich, Bill Callahan, Bo Pelini, Mike Riley and Frost have followed Osborne and the success has been hit and miss. While Solich and Pelini had decent records, Riley was 19-19 in his three seasons and Callahan 27-22 in his four.

And the one thing missing from Nebraska’s resume is a Big Ten title, although it did win the Legends division a year after joining the league in 2012.

4. The series

This is not a series steeped in history, but the two teams have met 48 times and every year since 2011.

Iowa actually leads the series this decade 4-3, and has won three in a row. That’s Iowa’s longest streak in the series, matched from 1942 to ’44 and in 1918, ’19 and ’30. There was a 12-year gap between an 18-0 Hawkeye win in 1919 and a 12-7 win in 1930.

But the Cornhuskers own this series, 29-16-3, and once won eight in a row (1931 through 1941).

These teams first met in 1891, a 22-0 Hawkeye win. After a tie in 1892, Nebraska won three in a row. They tied again, 0-0, in 1896, the first of two games that November. The Hawks won the second date, two days later. 6-0. Apparently the two teams weren’t satisfied with the tie — or the weather on Nov. 26 — and agreed to play again.

5. Name game

Nebraska hasn’t always been the Cornhuskers (or, if you prefer, Huskers).

The school didn’t adopt that name until 1900, thanks to a sports writer with the Nebraska State Journal. Before it was the Cornhuskers, Nebraska teams were called the Hawkeyes, Antelopes, Old Gold Knights, Bugeaters and Mankilling Mastodons, a name that was suggested but apparently never officially used.

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The Bugeaters, according to Nebraska Athletics, were named after the “insect-devouring bull bats that hovered over the plains.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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