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LINCOLN — Days like Saturday are a reminder for Nebraska that the meshing process is still very much ongoing.
An offseason’s worth of preparation served as a ramp-up for a school-record 16 transfers and five new assistant coaches. But all parties agreed following a closer-than-expected win over North Dakota that there’s no simulating the critical moments that determine just how strong all the fresh relationships are.
“We’re still figuring it out together,” NU coach Scott Frost said. “And the team’s still figuring it out together. And the players are still figuring it out together. In some ways I thought we made some big strides from last week but there’s still a lot to fix.”
Defensive lineman Stephon Wynn — an Alabama transfer — said Nebraska is doing well, all things considered, because it didn’t crumble under pressure when an FCS team threatened to land an upset in the second half.
The D-line rotated in players better, Wynn said, with himself and Texas Tech transfer Devin Drew seeing more snaps than in the opener. The offense continued to cycle in players as well, particularly at the skill positions. Six players in all started Saturday who weren’t with the program last year. Seventeen cracked the initial depth chart released this week.
“We’ve got a lot of new guys, a lot of people meshing together who’ve never been around each other,” Wynn said. “Coaches meshing with new players, players meshing with new players. Honestly, as much turnover as we’ve had as a team, I think we’re doing pretty well.”
If Nebraska isn’t a great team but can be — as Frost said afterward — much of that potential lies within how well and fast the parts come together. Quarterback Casey Thompson told the story that his improvised, scrambling deep ball last week to New Mexico State transfer Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda was the first such pass he ever threw to the receiver.
Thompson actually thought it was Alante Brown in the game. Nebraska players are still getting reps with each other “on the fly” in live action. They have to come together “very quickly” if that potential and collection of talent is to turn into anything more.
“Practice is one thing, but working together in a game is a whole different thing,” Thompson said. “It’s going to battle, going to war with guys you find out you can trust and lean on.”
If you were waiting for reasons to believe that the turning point is coming soon, that Dublin was merely a blip on the comeback trail, well, you’re still waiting writes Dirk Chatelain.
The World-Herald's Sam McKewon hands out his Husker Report Card, assessing Nebraska's performance in several areas after each game. Here are the grades coming out of the win over North Dakota.