As the night went on with P.J. Fleck's Minnesota team successfully — and almost too easily — rowing their boat past Scott Frost's Nebraska Cornhuskers, far too much looked out of place for the visitors. In contrast to the Golden Gophers, the Big Red appeared lost, confused, and even apathetic towards the game's end.
Now 4-3, the Big Red must regroup, pull together and find a sense of purpose among each other. For a moment, Frost is going to allow what appears to be a badly-needed mental respite over a perfectly placed bye week.
Taking personal time is severely underrated in our society. But when Nebraska has to scrape together two wins to even be entertained as a bowl participant, the Big Red can't afford to get too lost in the mental wilderness. And that's the fine line that Frost must ensure is walked.
Keep in mind that this should be a stretch where Nebraska, the coaches, and everyone involved go back to the drawing board before too long. What part of the equation needs to be tweaked? It exists. Something's not right in Lincoln. Getting chewed out won't help the Huskers. Running extra plays fresh out of the locker room at halftime didn't.
But there is a reason. Maybe two or three. And perhaps they're not ones that anyone deep within the program wants to utter halfway through a coach's second year at the helm. Something isn't working. What happened versus the Golden Gophers could've been a bad dream as opposed to a stark reality.
And what we saw as Minnesota shoved Nebraska around this past Saturday wasn't just a mismatch in physicality. The effort showed — or lack thereof — is not lost on those who've seen it before.
But before we trot out what happened just before previous head coaches Bill Callahan or Mike Riley were axed, let's get something straight: this Nebraska team didn't quit versus Minnesota. These Huskers had the fun and passion ripped away from them ounce by ounce over a few hours that seemed to span a week. But quit? No.
There were players gutting it out. JoJo Domann, Kade Warner, Garrett Nelson, etc. They were there. Heck, Broc Bando looked pretty good in relief of starting left guard Trent Hixson. But for every one of them, a few didn't seem fully engaged, especially on defense.
And their weariness saw them get punched in the mouth even harder by a Gopher team having all the fun. It's another hard lesson on the road to a rebuild. But this one only leaves more questions.
Whatever the Huskers are being taught, some aspect — however big or small — doesn't seem to be resonating. Not as loudly as it did in late 2018, anyway. Following the game, Frost noted surprise as his team was bulldozed in the manner it was. His strength and conditioning program apparently seemed to show the Big Red might be ahead of schedule thanks to a heavy injection of old-fashioned Husker Power.
Obviously, this isn't the case.
Does this mean the Huskers would've locked down an easy victory over Fleck's crew if their mindset was different? Not necessarily. But one has to think the viewing audience and everyone in attendance would see two teams that were interested in trading shots instead of one and what eventually appeared to be a fraction of another.
If Minnesota can put Nebraska down for the count, what happens when Iowa comes to town? What happens when Wisconsin and their grind-it-out style lines up opposite the Big Red in front of another sold-out Memorial Stadium? The former will be happy to oblige in another 56-14 demolishing if it can. You'd best believe Jonathan Taylor is licking his chops for what could be a Heisman-caliber performance.
But that doesn't have to be. Nebraska has pride like any other football team. It hasn't been on the surface of every game played recently, but it's there. Frost and the cast he brought with him from Orlando have to figure out how to tap into that again. Now is when adjustments must be made to the team, however necessary, severe, and from whatever level.
Let the players get their minds right with some comfort food and shake every poor memory from the past seven games loose. Then it's time to reconvene and deduce how to get two more wins at the very least. This program can't afford to stay home during the postseason for the third straight year.