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  • Scott Frost said it could get worse for the Huskers after they lost to Troy. And then it did.
By Scooby Axson
September 22, 2018

When asked about Nebraska’s early season struggles this week, Cornhuskers head coach Scott Frost told SI’s Andy Staples, “This could get worse before it gets better.” Those words were disappointingly prophetic for the fans in red in Ann Arbor on Saturday. After coming up short in a last-minute thriller against Colorado and following that with a loss to Troy, Saturday marked a new low for Nebraska’s rough 2018, as the Huskers were hammered in their Big Ten opener by Michigan, 56–10.

It was Nebraska’s worst lost since ... well, last season, when Iowa destroyed the Huskers 56–14 in Lincoln, the final game of Mike Riley’s tenure.

It’s not only that Nebraska couldn’t compete physically with the Wolverines, but the afternoon was littered with blunt reminders that at least this year, Frost’s team doesn’t belong on the same field.

Nebraska finished the first half with 17 total yards of offense (including minus-six yards rushing), four sacks allowed and two turnovers. On the other side, all Michigan needed was running back Karan Higdon, who gained 92 yards on his first three carries and finished the day averaging 11.3 yards per rush, and fullback Ben Mason, who entered the game with three carries all year but scored three touchdowns on short runs by the end of the second quarter.

Making his return from a right leg injury that sidelined him for the Troy game, Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez became the victim of the day’s most embarrassing highlight, when he caught a pass that was batted back at him and tried to throw it again. Because the second forward pass, which was illegal, happened in the end zone, Michigan was awarded a safety, making the score 39–0 going into the break.

At halftime, Frost pulled Martinez to protect him. The Huskers’ offense finished the game with a total of 132 yards, gaining a measly 39 yards on the ground.

The special teams made sure each unit played a part in the debacle, allowing a 60-yard punt return touchdown by Donovan Peoples-Jones to open the scoring in the second half. Out of pride, Nebraska elected to kick a field goal in the third quarter to trim the lead to 46–3.

The Huskers are 0–3 for the first time since 1945, and they will be hard-pressed to win a game before November. Over the next month, Nebraska has road games at Wisconsin, Northwestern and Ohio State, plus home dates with Purdue and Minnesota.

Frost worked miracles in his two seasons at UCF, bringing the Knights to the top of the AAC with an uptempo offense designed to put maximum pressure on the defense by allowing speedy skill position players to exploit mismatches in space. Nebraska fans expect those results eventually, but outside of senior wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr., the current roster doesn’t have the talent to create those mismatches.

Frost was given a seven-year, $35 million deal to bring the magic back to Lincoln, which has hoisted five national championships, the most recent of which coming when Frost was the quarterback in 1997.

“I honestly believe this is going to be the bottom right here,” Frost said after Saturday’s game. Huskers fans certainly hope so.

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