Dealing with the ups and downs of a college football season can be difficult.
Those in the Nebraska football program certainly know that. Dating back to the end of the 2016 season, the Huskers are now 9-19 in their last 28 games.
The Huskers have had to deal with a lot of losses in recent times. They face that again this week after letting a 10-point fourth-quarter lead slip away to Colorado which turned into a 34-31 loss at Folsom Field in Boulder.
Senior linebacker and co-captain Mahomed Barry said the Huskers just have to finish games.
“Just finishing,” Barry said on Monday. “Simple as that, 17-0 with a minute or so to go in the third quarter and we have to finish. There’s nothing magical about that, you just have to do it.
“Honestly, there’s so many factors that go into that and it wouldn’t be right for me as a player to point out one particular factor, but our coaches do a good job in correcting those problems and telling us what we can fix individually to prevent that from happening and actually finishing.”
The Huskers dominated the first half of play, but the offense stalled in the third quarter. Nothing went right from the time they called a timeout before the first play from scrimmage.
It was a tough quarter for junior tackle Matt Farniok and the rest of his teammates on the offensive side.
“Just keep going,” Farniok said. “That’s all it comes down to. For whatever reason we throttled down and that’s what happens when you throttle down. It’s been preached to us time and time again that you’ve always got to go and we failed to do that. In the third quarter we failed that and that’s on us.”
But that game is over. While coaches want players to learn from their mistakes, they also want them to focus their attention on the next opponent. In this case it’s Northern Illinois Saturday night in Lincoln.
One tool the coaches use is the 24-hour rule. Good or bad, you put that last game behind you after 24 hours.
“I would say there is no exception, 24 hours, put it behind us,” quarterback Adrian Martinez said. “It is what it is, and we have Northern Illinois this week and they’re a good football team, so we are going to have to come prepared and come to play.”
Cornerback Dicaprio Bootle supports that 24-hour rule.
“Whether it is good or bad, that 24-hour rule is still in place.” Bootle said. “Good? Okay cool. We can be happy with it. Bad? Okay, cool. Soak in it. Feel it. Roll around in it a little bit, but once those 24 hours are over, you have to snap back because we have a whole different opponent this week.
“We’ve got Northern Illinois coming in here. Last time they were here, they put our face in the mud, and we weren’t happy. That’s something to be mindful of.”
You could tell after the game that the Huskers took the loss hard. They dwelled on it for 24 hours, Farniok said, and that was that.
“You can be mad, you can be angry about it but once that 24 hours is up, now it’s time to get to work,” he said. “You’ve got to throw away your feelings and you’ve just got to attack the day, attack tomorrow and that’s really all that matters.
“You can’t brood over the past. Like I said, the past is the past, you can’t change it. Change today.”
And now today means Northern Illinois.
You can bet the veterans on the team won’t forget about the Huskies. They came into Lincoln in 2017, returned two first-quarter interceptions for touchdowns and left town with a 21-17 win.
That could be looked at as the beginning of the end of the Mike Riley era in Lincoln.
Barry remembers that game all too well.
“When I look back on that loss, I think about how we didn’t give them the respect that they deserved,” he said. “I feel like practice was very loose that week and that people were like ‘Oh it’s the Sun Belt Conference or whatever, we’re going to beat them, we’re going to dust them, we can play relaxed football, we should beat them by 40.’
“Again, every team we’re facing this year, we’re going to give them the respect that they deserve like they’re the best team. That’s how we’re preparing for NIU.”
As the Huskers prepare for Northern Illinois, they are also remembering what they went through just last weekend.
“We’ve learned our lesson,” Farniok said. “There can’t be a let up for any reason, no matter what the scoreboard says. There’s no such thing as a throttle down and that’s where we failed.”
There can be no let down, coach Scott Frost said. The offense played well enough to win for three quarters and the defense played well for three quarters.
Of course the game isn’t over after three quarters.
“We’ve got to do it for four, but we’re also not so good that we can have penalties and setbacks on offense and overcome second-and-16,” Frost said. “And we’re not so good that we can make mistakes and give people big plays and expect to win.
“Everything else in that game stays the same and we win the turnover margin, like we’ve talked about a hundred times in meetings and we probably win the game.”
Maybe when Frost and his coaches get the talent level up to where they want it, things will be different. The margin for error will be a bit greater.
“It’ll be nice in the days around here when we’ve got so much talent we go out and play like we’re supposed to and hopefully people won’t have a chance,” Frost said. “ Right now, no matter who you’re playing, you have to play well, and if our margins are small we need to execute well.”