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A wise man once said, never bother a sports writer when he’s looking for food. But this week, a guy at Hy-Vee saw the old scribe and yelled, “Hey, Tom. Do you still think Scott Frost is going to get it done?”

The scribe answered, “Yes.” To which the man replied:


I’m not sure when Frost transitioned from messiah to mere football coach. It usually works the other way around.

More and more, Husker fans are questioning Frost. It’s natural. It means he’s an official football coach.

Frost got a lot of credit when he was hired. The old scribe was part of that. But the scribe is old enough to have doubted Frost early in his playing career, and the scribe has no comment on how that turned out.

Frost could have had any job in the country three years ago. He’s smart. He has a plan. Will he have to adjust it?

He’s shown he can recruit. He had some bad breaks. He made mistakes. He has been humbled.


Here in Year 3, he’s 0-2 in a pandemic season. He’s got good young players. He’s grinding. He’s trying to figure out how to get his team from here to there.

And as Nebraska enters Saturday’s game with Penn State, he’s faced with the classic coaching dilemma.

Frost has to choose a quarterback. He has to make someone’s day. He has to break someone’s heart.

This is difficult enough because Frost was a quarterback who competed hard, won and lost on the scoreboard, got criticized, lay awake at night wondering if he was doing enough, saw his coach stick by him. Frost remembers how much it all meant.

But now he’s the head guy, the one the quarterbacks are watching and trying to impress. He’s the one who has to choose.

Frost loves them both. He recruited both to run his offense. He feels a certain loyalty to both.

When you’re the assistant or the coordinator, this doesn’t fall in your lap. When you’re the head coach, it keeps you up at night.

Now add the variable that this decision could change the team, set it on course.

If it’s the right decision.

Coaches make these calls up and down the roster every year. Maybe the veteran coaches get used to it. Maybe they never do. But these decisions must be made.

Because the college football coach is being paid to win. And there’s a stadium — a state — full of people like the one at Hy-Vee counting on him to do it.

The quarterbacks are one piece of the puzzle. Frost and his staff have to teach the Huskers how to make plays that win games. They have to make winning a habit. An expectation.

Through it all, Frost also has to figure out if his plan can work: Fitting the Oregon offense into a league of rock ’em, sock ’em robots who tend to clog the lanes inside the red zone.


That’s why Matt Lubick’s eyes and expertise are so important.

If tweaks are required, nobody knows the Frost offense better. Except Frost.

Lubick’s hiring was a necessary adjustment. Will more be required?

It’s important not to forget Frost’s great potential, but also understand the reality. He might have underestimated the Big Ten, he’s had some hard luck and now his first hand-picked quarterback has developed issues.

It seems like it’s one thing after another and it’s Frost’s job to make the tough decisions to fix it.

Ultimately, college football is a player’s game. The smartest coaches recruit the best players and put them in position to succeed.

McKenzie Milton, the quarterback at Central Florida who seemed to energize the entire team with his playmaking, made Frost look smart.

Frost did not come to Nebraska with all the answers. But maybe he’ll find one Saturday.


Tom's Takes

» Remember that old-school Nebraska look that Frost dropped into the Ohio State game last year? The one that had the Buckeyes’ defense scrambling?

Just a thought: Why not install that as a curve ball, perhaps down near the goal line, as a way to drive defenses nuts?

» Also: If Luke McCaffrey gets the starting job, find a way to put Adrian Martinez’s legs into the offense. Wildcat. Option. Jet sweep.

Don’t worry. Frost would never take my advice.

» There’s a lot of attention on the quarterback, but he can’t stop the penalties from happening, can he?

Yes, if the quarterback is making plays that wins games. Winning breeds winning plays and vice versa with losing. Teams that expect to win don’t false start. Teams that expect to lose figure out ways to do it.

» Does this game mean the end of the Huskers’ vaunted sell out streak? No.

You will see family members scattered in Memorial Stadium on Saturday. But a sellout can only be measured if tickets are sold to the public. They aren’t.

And even then, you’d measure the sellout by how many tickets were sold and how many showed up.

The Streak can resume next year — if and when fans are allowed back into Memorial Stadium.

Meanwhile, it’s going to be incredibly strange to watch Nebraska and Penn State play in an empty stadium.

» Ohio State coach Ryan Day, whose Buckeyes had their game canceled due to Maryland's positive tests, said he would welcome the chance to play a nonconference game Saturday.

I would love to see the Buckeyes push the matter.

» You heard it here last: This is the Mystery Bowl. I’m not sure what to expect from 0-3 Penn State. You’d think they’ll come out clawing, but would they wilt if they fall behind early? Not sure how mistake-prone Nebraska will react to the quarterback decision.

But until they win, I can’t pick the Huskers. Penn State 28, Nebraska 21.