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For three quarters, a new quarterback provided hope, but a new leak sprung by the Nebraska special teams doused it. Cue the same movie, with the same wretched ending. A come-from-ahead 28-21 loss to Iowa put an all-too-fitting bow on the Cornhuskers’ most disappointing season yet under Scott Frost.

I may have a future as a “B” movie script writer. I really can’t believe that a team could kill itself off in so many ways, but somehow I’ve gotten away with serving up the same unbelievable story line week after week, with only minor plot twists. After all, as they say, truth is stranger than fiction.

That’s right, unbelievable. And until this year, I’d have said it wasn’t even possible, but this massively underachieving team proved me wrong. A team that had enough talent to win eight games has finished with a 3-9 record, the worst performance for a Nebraska football team since the Dark Ages of 1957.

Nebraska has spent much of this season scrambling from behind. This time, the Huskers figured out a way to lose while playing from ahead — 15 points ahead. Normally undisciplined Nebraska played disciplined football for three quarters behind backup quarterback Logan Smothers, who filled in for the injured Adrian Martinez. Unfortunately, Nebraska reverted to form after Iowa blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown. Yep, that’s all it took, one mistake, for the Husker psyche to shake.

“That blocked punt was the game,” coach Scott Frost said in his postgame press conference.

It didn’t have to be.

There’s no denying that the inept Husker kicking game gave the Hawkeyes an invitation back into the contest, but it took one more mistake — a fumble by Smothers on the next series — for the Cornhuskers to completely fracture. It was an epic meltdown led by Frost, who was shaken enough by the back-to-back errors to abandon what had been working well. He didn’t have to. He still had the lead. But you wouldn’t have known it by the decisions he made.

Frost said the Huskers’ momentum disappeared after the blocked punt, and I agree, but it’s largely because Frost panicked and needlessly erased Jaquez Yant from the game plan. Ironically, Frost, who had done a great job scripting Smothers’ role in the game, got way off script after his midfield fumble early in the fourth quarter with the Huskers still leading 21-16. Yant rushed for 44 yards on 13 carries with one touchdown, yet Frost erased him. It was a huge unforced error, and it put needless pressure on Smothers, who to that point, had done a better-than-expected job in his debut as a starter.

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The Blackshirts stepped up and forced a three-and-out, and the Hawkeyes punted the Huskers back to their 7-yard line. At that point, Frost decided to roll the dice, shut down the running game and depend on the offensive line’s ability to pass block, the thing it is worst at doing. It quickly led to a two-point safety, closing the gap to 21-18. And after that, in the final 10 minutes of the game, Frost inexplicably called only two more running plays. Why?

Meanwhile, a beat-up Iowa secondary kept the Husker passing attack at bay. Smothers, who had completed seven of seven passes entering the fourth quarter, was nine of 15 for only 73 yards (less than five yards per attempt), with an interception, in the final period.

It’s time for Frost to write himself out of his role as play caller. He failed badly in those duties as the Black Friday game came down the homestretch. All Kirk Ferentz had to do was apply some pressure, and Frost predictably started outsmarting himself. It was a tremendous favor to the Hawkeyes, who gladly accepted Frost’s gift of a 10-win season.

Frost hamstrung himself and his team by failing to pay proper attention to special teams during his first three years on the job. He treated the whole concept like an unwanted stepson. Frost acted like Mike Dawson had drawn the short straw when he finally gave him primary oversight of special teams, although we were told that other coaches were involved as well. Based on the abysmal results, you’ve got to wonder just how clearly Frost defined who was in charge of which portions of the kicking game.

Husker Nation – and more importantly, a talented and excellent group of Husker upperclassmen — paid a devastatingly large price for Frost’s reluctance, and eventual refusal, to hire a special teams coach last January. Also, that ill-advised decision betrayed a fine bunch of Blackshirts.

Roll the credits on a team that turned out to be much less than the sum total of its parts. It lost to Wisconsin for the eighth consecutive time and to Iowa for the seventh. It lost eight of its last nine games. This was an almost unfathomably unclutch team, the first team in college football history to lose eight one-score games in the same season.

This is a team that played its scripted part as a doomed loser far too well. So it’s time to change the script in two key areas. It’s time for Frost to remove himself from play calling, something he already said he was going to do so he can concentrate on running the whole program better. But he cannot stop there.

One thing that blocked punt should do — must do, actually — is to finally convince Frost that he needs to hire a full time coach devoted entirely to special teams. Nebraska doesn’t just have a problem with its specialists. It has a systemic problem with its entire kicking game. It’s rotten to the core, and it ruined a season