Scott Frost lamented his team’s inability to play complementary football in Saturday’s loss to Purdue and said it’s been a recurring issue this season.
Early in the game, the Husker defense generated five straight stops, two turnovers and special teams added two blocked punts, but the offense didn’t capitalize, scoring only 10 first-half points.
Then when the offense got rolling in the fourth quarter, the defense surrendered 17 points on the Boilermakers' final three possessions.
“That’s kind of been the story, is we can’t seem to, as a team, play great at the same time,” Frost said.
Frost pointed to coverage problems against Purdue, which regularly worked over the second level of the defense. Nebraska gave up 10 catches for 120 yards to the Boilermakers’ tight ends.
On the day, Purdue had 31 completions for 304 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Of those totals, 18 catches and 200 yards were recorded by tight ends and running backs.
“There were some serious breakdowns in coverage that I think needed to be addressed on the coaching staff and on the team in that game,” Frost said. “We gave up too many easy things and there’s simple things we can do to fix that.”
Frost is adamantly optimistic, though, about the prospect of improvement in the long term.
“When this thing turns, it’s really going to turn,” he said.
Recruiting push: NU has 13 verbal pledges so far this season and will host a group of talented prospects next weekend when Wisconsin comes to town, though that task gets easier if kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. rather than 11 a.m.
The early group is expected to include four-star wide receiver Lavon Bunkley-Shelton, four-star defensive back Darrion Green-Warren and four-star defensive lineman DeShawn Lynch.
Frost said he didn’t think the Huskers’ current slump will be detrimental to this year’s recruiting efforts.
“No. People see where this is going,” Frost said. “We’re not going to lose sight of that. This group has done an unbelievable job getting the program turned and it’s certainly not happening as fast as I want it to, but we’re going to get it done. That’s why I’m here. Knew this thing wasn’t in great shape when we took over and we knew we had a lot of things to fix. We’re in the process of doing that.”
An interesting wrinkle on the recruiting calendar: There are only two weekends this year between the end of the regular season and the early signing date on Dec. 18.
Johnson usage: Rahmir Johnson has now played in three games after one snap against Purdue, meaning the freshman running back has just one remaining game available this fall.
“I think Rahmir is really close. We’ve been trying to limit it to four games this year,” Frost said.
Johnson got three carries against Northern Illinois and saw minimal time against both Northwestern and Purdue. Last week, he entered when Wan’Dale Robinson was in the medical tent and Dedrick Mills’ shoe came off.
Overall, the plan remains to keep as many redshirts intact as possible. Nebraska has used just four true freshmen in more than four games — Robinson, outside linebacker Garrett Nelson, cornerback Quinton Newsome and walk-on linebacker Luke Reimer — and won’t go beyond that.
“We’re going to try to use as many guys as we can without wasting a year,” Frost said. “If guys are going to get limited reps, it doesn’t make any sense to play 30 snaps all year and have that be one of the years of eligibility. So we’ve got to look out for the team No. 1, but also those guys’ well-being.”
Similar bye week on Round 2: Nebraska’s second bye week is structured in a similar way to its first. The Huskers practiced Tuesday and Wednesday and there’s a heavy recruiting emphasis from the coaching staff.
“We shortened practice up just a little bit (Tuesday) and today,” Frost said. “A lot of the coaches are out on the road, we have one more practice Friday and we’ll give the guys some time off to get ready for Wisconsin.”