Published 2:37 a.m. ET Sept. 24, 2018 |Updated 3:54 p.m. ET Sept. 24, 2018
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — First-year coach Scott Frost warned last week things could get worse for winless Nebraska before they get better.
Anyone who watched 14th-ranked Michigan’s 56-10 throttling of the Cornhuskers on Saturday would be hard-pressed to imagine how things could get worse than they are now.
The Huskers (0-3, 0-1 Big Ten) are off to their worst start since George “Potsy” Clark’s 1945 team opened 0-5.
They’ve lost seven straight games since last season, with the opponents scoring 31, 54, 56, 56, 33, 24 and 56 points.
A loss at home to Purdue this Saturday would give Nebraska an eight-game losing streak and seven-game home losing streak, both unprecedented in the program’s 129 seasons.
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Purdue (1-3, 0-1) happens to be the only team Nebraska has beaten in its current nine-losses-in-10-games stretch. The Huskers won 25-24 in West Lafayette, Indiana, last October on a touchdown with 14 seconds left.
“We’ve got a chance to get reset next week,” Frost said. “This is a really good (Michigan) team we played. We get a game that we can win next week.
“We’ve got to find a way to get better. We’re not ready to beat a team like (Michigan) yet, but the key word is yet. Because I know where it’s going. Certainly it isn’t happening as quickly as I would like, but I’m kind of excited because it’s not going to get worse than this. It’s only up from here.”
The Huskers’ 39-0 halftime deficit was their largest on record, their 39 rushing yards were fewest since managing 31 against Southern California in 2007, and their 132 total yards were fewest since finishing with 106 against Texas in 2009.
“We’re not going to go any lower than this,” offensive lineman Jerald Foster said. “We talked about how if you’re in a swimming pool, this is the bottom of the pool. You’re finally touching the feet on the ground. At that point, you’re finally able to push off. It’s not about swimming, it’s about getting back to the top.”
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Special teams struggled again. Return man Tyjon Lindsey muffed a punt to set up a Michigan touchdown, the Huskers gave up Donovan Peoples-Jones’ 60-yard punt return for a TD, and Nebraska’s Jaron Woodyard interfered with Peoples-Jones as he tried to catch another punt. The Huskers also were penalized on three other special teams plays.
“More than a few breakdowns,” Frost said. “We’re a team, so it’s on all of us. There’s some things that just keep happening and that means guys either can’t do it or won’t do it right. We can’t keep kicking the ball down the middle of the field 50 yards and give athletes like they had back deep a chance to return it. We got to be able to field a punt when it’s bouncing on the ground and not muff it and give it to them. We can’t have penalties.”
Frost said he wasn’t concerned about having players check out mentally, as some admittedly did last year when the losses began piling up at the end of Mike Riley’s time as coach.
“The only ones we would lose are the ones we never really had,” Frost said, “and that’s probably better in the long run. If there’s guys that jump off ship, then we never really had them. The guys that we’re actually going to win with and win championships with would never do that. Inevitably that’s going to happen. The wrong type of people are going to jump off if they’re not having the results they want. And that’s healthy for the team.”
The Huskers enter this week 11th or lower in the Big Ten in three of the four major offensive categories and 10th or lower in three of the four on defense.
They’ll be trying for their first win in 336 days, almost an unfathomable dry spell for a program that ranks fifth in all-time wins.
“We’re not giving up, we’re going to get this thing right,” Frost said. “They brought us in here to get it right; we’re going to get it right. We knew it was a big job because there’s just so much that needed to be fixed and changed. We’re not there yet.”