No fear of failure.
That’s been a motto for Nebraska head coach Scott Frost and his team for quite some time.
But it doesn’t always seem as if the Huskers have been playing that way.
Or, as sophomore tight end Austin Allen put it, just letting it rip.
“That’s what we preach all the time. Letting it rip allows you to play just a little bit faster and sometimes just a little bit faster is what it takes to get a play executed,” Frost said.
The Huskers have lacked the execution they’ve needed down the stretch to win some close games this season. They fell to Colorado 34-31 in overtime, to Indiana 38-31 and to Purdue 31-27.
Flip those results around and the Huskers … never mind.
But oh what could have been. A 7-2 record at this point would have the Huskers bowl eligible and Husker Nation would have been pleased.
Instead, this season seems to be slip sliding away.
Now the Huskers are 4-5 and have No. 15 Wisconsin coming to town on Saturday. It’s going to take the team’s best game of the season to beat the Badgers.
“We haven’t been very far away in several games,” Frost said. “We haven’t been very far away on quite a few plays and just a little more is (going to) get us around the corner and get us over the hump.”
The Huskers are using many young players this season, especially on the offensive side where receiver Kanawai Noa is the only senior starter.
So it could be that fear of failure is there because some of the younger players haven’t learned how to deal with it yet.
“I think maybe a little bit of fear of making a mistake is from being young players, too.” Frost said. “When those guys are out there you learn as a player, not every play is going to be perfect. All you can do is your best on every play and that‘s how we’re going to continue to try to get our guys to play.”
In any event, the Huskers are tired of beating themselves. Offensive tackle Matt Farniok said that earlier this week, and Frost backed him up.
“Well we are all tired of it,” Frost said. “Not to take anything away from anyone else, there are several games this year that if we just didn’t make some mistakes the outcome could have been different. I think everybody sees that.”
That lack of execution at key points has hurt the Huskers, but Frost also said he’s not sure they have the right attitude all the time.
“I wish the team just had a little bit more conviction to get it done at times, and I wish we would get to a point where some of those mistakes aren’t happening,” he said. “We are addressing them, we are teaching them, the guys are tired of little mistakes here and there and part of that is having a young team in a lot of places and that has cost us some.
“But part of it is just a mindset to do jobs perfectly and we have to continue to be better as coaches to make sure that happens, and the players have to help us with it.”
Linebacker JoJo Domann said he can see the program is headed in the right direction, just like his head coach.
“I absolutely see it the same way. We are close,” Domann said. “A game is a culmination of who wins each and every play and whoever has the highest score at the end. It’s a planned playout game and every play matters. We are close and our offense is close and our defense is close. We’ve just got to step up and be convicted to do our jobs.”
But the team’s goal heading into the final three games are simple.
“Stop making the same mistakes as we did before and just go out there and execute to finish games,” defensive back Dicaprio Bootle said. “Just end the season the right way. We have three games and we are looking to go 3-0, taking it one game at a time. This week we are looking to do 1-0. After that, then we will look to the next game and try to finish out the season strong.”
So now, the Huskers just want to go out and let it rip.
“Leave it all out on the field,” quarterback Adrian Martinez said. “We have a guaranteed three games left. All three good opponents that we are excited about. There is no reason to not go out there and give it our all and leave it all out there on the field.”