Welcome back for another installment in Talking 10’s “Nebraska Week” series. Although most of our articles for “Nebraska Week” are focusing on football, this is our weekly chance to check in on all the other athletic success stories going on in Lincoln.
Let’s take a look at some of the highlights of 2015-16 and how that will project forward for Husker fans in 2016-17. Unlike two of the three programs which have been covered to start this series of articles, the Cornhuskers put together some notable conference and national achievements this school year. Read on to see more!
(A successful season deserves a White House trip, courtesy Huskers.com)
There’s no place to begin other than the women’s volleyball team, which brought home one of the few national championships won by the Big Ten Conference this year. Before getting there, this team played against a tough non-conference schedule yet survived with a 9-1 record. The only loss came against old rival Texas, which would come up again later in the season.
Entering Big Ten play, Nebraska pulled off a rare feat in sweeping the season series from perennial powerhouse Penn State, only the second such season sweep the Nittany Lions program has suffered since 2002. Although a couple of home losses in the middle of the season led to a second-place finish in the conference at 17-3, the Cornhuskers ended on a hit streak of 10 straight match victories and the best record since joining the Big Ten. Plus, in that hot streak only Michigan State forced Nebraska into a fifth set, so the wins were largely dominant.
The roll kept on going in the NCAA Tournament as well. Following two easy wins at home, the Huskers traveled to Lexington, Kentucky for the Regional. There, the Huskers took down nationally ranked No. 11 BYU and No. 1 Washington. With the top-ranked team knocked off, the Huskers became a local favorite with the national championship finals being held in Omaha. After winning a four-set match against Kansas, Nebraska swept Texas 3-0 in the championship match to avenge the earlier loss and bring home the title.
This was the first national championship in 10 years for the program, and the 32-4 record is one of the best in Nebraska history. Freshman Mikaela Foecke led the way in the NCAA Tournament, winning the Most Outstanding Player award for her efforts. Kelly Hunter, Amber Rolfzen, and Justine Wong-Orantes also made the all-tournament team.
Thus, the team made their way to DC for a trip to see some of the sights like the White House and to celebrate this first title since 2006. It may not be so long until the next title, with the superstar of the team Foecke being only a sophomore next year, and the other three all-tournament team awardees entering their junior and senior years.
With all the talent coming back, coach John Cook will have huge expectations and a serious chance to repeat next season (perhaps also with a Big Ten Championship this time).
Men’s Track and Field
(Winning the Big Ten indoor title, photo courtesy Huskers.com)
Coming off a 2014-2015 season where the Husker men won the Big Ten indoor track and field championship by a wide margin, there were questions about whether long-time head coach Gary Pepin could get his team back on top for a second-straight conference championship. However, the Huskers actually increased their margin of victory this year, finishing with 116 points and a 43 point margin over Wisconsin in second place.
It was dominance all around, but it all started with sophomore Kaiwan Culmer winning the triple jump individual championship. Another sophomore Landon Bartel achieved a personal-best high jump at over 7 feet in order to take home another individual title in that event. The various running teams then racked up enough points to salt the team title away. With many of the same athletes back again next year, Nebraska has to be considered a heavy favorite for yet another indoor title next year.
Although the indoor team did not end up with a great finish at the NCAA Championships (44th place), the outdoor team kept running with the positive momentum and ended the season on a high note with another huge victory and the Big Ten Championships. The Huskers outpaced Michigan by 50 points, the largest margin of victory in over 10 years at the Big Ten event.
The highlight of the outdoor championships was the last event, the 4×400 relay, in which a squad led by seniors Levi Gipson and Cody Rush set a Big Ten record and won an event title which has eluded both the indoor and outdoor teams for years. Despite not taking home any individual titles like the Cornhusker women, the men still finished well enough across the board in all events to win by the large margin over the Wolverines.
The NCAA Championships went much better for outdoor than indoor, with a 10th place team finish. Sophomore Nick Percy won the individual national title in discus throw.
With team captain Cody Rush leaving to graduation and some other key contributors also heading out of the program, the outdoor track and field team will need to reload some heading into 2016-17. However, with a coach that has won 72 team conference titles in indoor or outdoor seasons, this track and field program can never be counted out in the Big Ten.
(team photo courtesy Huskers.com)
One of the best part of covering the Huskers for this series each year is the look at the outside-the-box sports Nebraska participates in, including Beach Volleyball (which we covered last year) and bowling. Turns out Nebraska is pretty good at the quintessential midwestern “beer and pretzels” sport. It’s certainly a more natural fit than beach volleyball because Nebraska is cold in the winter and is hundreds of miles away from any beachfront!
Getting back to the bowling team, the team started the season with six-straight top-4 finishes in events ranging from northern Indiana to Houston, Texas. That helped the team maintain a top-2 national ranking throughout nearly all of the regular season.
That ranking was a No. 1 ranking heading into the NCAA Championships, and the Huskers did not disappoint. In 2015 this team played against Stephen F. Austin for the national championship, and those familiar foes were back at it again in this year’s championship match. It was a back-and-forth affair in a best of seven series, with Nebraska winning game 1 and then rebounding to even the series twice after falling behind 2-1 and 3-2.
The decisive game 7 was one in which Nebraska could not string together many strikes, and that proved to be the difference. SFA won 247-192 to avenge last season’s loss and give Nebraska its second runner-up finish in the last three years. Still, with a title in that mix as well, coach Bill Straub definitely has a national bowling dynasty going in women’s bowling.
Looking ahead to 2016-17, the two best players who made the all-tournament team at nationals will return in Gazmine Mason and Julia Bond. There’s only a couple of seniors departing this team, so expect another top finish next season for this program.
Honorable mentions go to the Husker baseball and women’s gymnastics squads. Both finished in second place in the Big Ten, racking up the points in the race for The Delany award. However, both did not perform incredibly well in the remainder of the post-season, so they unfortunately get left as honorable mentions this year.
Be sure to continue to support and enjoy these other achievements that the student athletes are bringing home to Cornhusker Nation now and in the near future.
Stay tuned next week as we jump all the way across the country to the East Coast and Maryland for our next in the ATC article series. Also, check out previous 2016 ATC articles already done (Michigan State, Minnesota, Purdue). Have a great week!
Keyshawn Johnson Jr. unsurprisingly transferring from Huskers
Following a summer pot citation and his dad pulling him from school, Keyshawn Johnson Jr. announces his transfer.
Did you know that Keyshawn Johnson Jr. was a member of the Nebraska Cornhuskers program? Chances are, if you blinked you missed his time on campus.
That’s what happens when you get busted for pot possession and your dad brings you home to teach you a lesson or two.
The elder Johnson made sure to make a statement when pulling his kid out of school just days in to his time there. He made it clear that there were higher (no pun intended) expectations of his son.
“One thing you will not do as my son is you will not embarrass Nebraska, you will not embarrass Mike Riley and you will not embarrass this family,” Johnson Sr. told the Omaha World-Herald. “If you mature and you’re ready to resume your football career and academic goals, then Nebraska will be ready to embrace you.”
So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the former 4-star recruit with the famous name isn’t going to continue his career at Nebraska.
On Friday, the younger Johnson announced his decision to not return to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Trust the process… pic.twitter.com/xus0UQOmb4
— Keyshawn Jr. (@keyshawnnnn) December 15, 2017
The combination of his citation for marijuana possession and the coaching change likely sealed the deal for this move.
Johnson Jr. enrolled early, coming to Lincoln in January, but suffered an illness that he couldn’t shake for parts of spring practice. He appeared in the spring game, but caught just one pass for 7 yards.
Nebraska could use the depth at wide receiver, but with a new regime in place and his father having no relationship with the new staff this move is not surprising.
Frost turning to Florida to bring speed to Huskers program
Frost is leaning on his Florida ties in hoping to shape his roster in his image quicker than expected.
Scott Frost has technically only been on the job for the Nebraska Cornhuskers for less than a week, but he clearly has had a gameplan in place for a while now.
That much is evident not only by how quickly he’s gotten a staff together, but by the details on the recruiting trail.
Normally it takes time to evaluate what is on a roster in front of you and figure out what is needed. That process didn’t take long (or likely took place last week as he waited to take the job formally), because Frost has attacked the recruiting trail hard in his first week on the job.
So, what is his evaluation of the Huskers program? It is in need of speed, speed and more speed.
Frost has decided that in order to get his team up to speed he needs to do so buy finding that speed right in his old back yard.
It’s a move that makes sense, as Frost has built good relationships in Florida and that is where some of the best high school talent in the country exists today.
Nebraska’s 247Sports site, Huskers Illustrated, had a really good talk on the inner workings of what Frost has done already on the recruiting trail on this week’s Notorious B1G Podcast (because who doesn’t love an all-Big Ten recruiting podcast?)
Mike Riley and Co. spent less time on Florida and more time on the West Coast, which should’ve been expected given Riley’s ties in that direction. But, the crop of pure athletes out West is nothing compared to the depth of speed and athleticism that exists in Florida.
Ironically, Frost’s first offer came from out West as the No. 8-ranked dual-threat quarterback, Adrian Martinez, was offered within hours of Frost getting the job.
That move and all the ones made since his hire show Frost has come in with a clear knowledge of his system, who fits it on the recruiting trail and who fits it currently on the roster. Having that kind of confidence and work-rate are a welcome sight in Lincoln.
But, Frost isn’t just hitting the ground running on the recruiting trail either.
He’s also been taking time to speak to the national media and spread the gospel of what he wants to build at Nebraska. Frost spoke on the Jim Rome Show on Thursday and didn’t buy the notion that recruiting to Lincoln, Neb. is a difficult task.
“There’s absolutely no reason we can’t get kids to Lincoln, Nebraska,” Frost said, via Land of 10. “Kids leave places right now and go everywhere around the country. There’s no reason kids won’t go to Lincoln if they’re going to Columbus, Ann Arbor, and Eugene, Oregon.
“And I think we’re going to create an environment, a football environment in Lincoln that people are going to want to be a part of.”
Success in turning a program around often hinges on the first recruiting class to come in. That’s not to say this class should be put at the feet of Frost and his staff entirely, but if they can put a stamp on an already nice class it could be the one that breaks a mediocre mold for the Huskers program.
No matter what, Frost and his staff aren’t afraid to be aggressive and go after the type of player they need. That alone has to be a refreshing sign of change for the Husker faithful.
Huskers hope Scott Frost hire brings back glory days
Native son returns home to lead program he once was the star quarterback of. Can the glory days return with the Huskers dipping in to their past?
What had become the worst-kept secret in college football’s coaching carousel became official on Saturday afternoon. Just hours after leading his UCF Knights to a crazy 62-55 double overtime win over Memphis in the American Athletic Conference championship game, Frost bolted for a gig back home.
UCF’s 247sports site announced the news, noting that Forst will not coach the team in the upcoming bowl game. However, after the AAC championship game, UCF’s AD noted that Frost and the entire coaching staff would coach through the Peach Bowl.
Nebraska athletics director Bill Moos named Frost the new Huskers head coach, ending a search many thought would start and end with Frost first.
There is no place like home.
There is no place like Nebraska.
— ❄️ Nebraska Football ❄️ (@HuskerFBNation) December 2, 2017
“It is a great honor and privilege to have the opportunity to return to Nebraska and to lead the Husker football program,” Frost said in a statement released by the school. “I have been fortunate to be at a wonderful school the last two years, but Nebraska is a special place with a storied tradition and a fan base which is second to none. I am truly humbled to be hereee. The state of Nebraska and the Husker program mean a great deal to me. This is home.
“I am appreciative of the confidence Bill Moos and our University leadership have in me to lead this program. I would not have the opportunity to be in this position without a lot of great people who have helped me throughout my career. Specifically, I would like to thank Coach Osborne who has played such an integral role in my life over the past two decades, both on and off the field. Go Big Red!”
In bringing a native son and former Huskers quarterback in to the fold to lead the program, Nebraska is clearly hoping the magic of the mid 1990’s can rub off on the program once again.
Frost was integral in the Huskers success in the 90’s, where he was a star quarterback for two years after transferring home from Stanford. He led the program to a 24-2 record as the starter and became just the 10th player in major college football history to pass for 1,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards.
He had a cup of coffee in the NFL, but was moved from quarterback to safety and just couldn’t find his way in the league.
While thoughts of Frost leading the Huskers offense are likely to bring smiles back to the Husker faithful, the reality of today’s program won’t.
It’s been a rough go since the calendar turned over to the year 2000, as the Huskers haven’t won a single conference championship since 1999.
Frost faces a big challenge, as the Huskers vaunted defense has fallen on hard times and the program just got done with a 4-8 season under Mike Riley. Luckily for the Husker faithful, Frost isn’t going to be caught off-guard by the challenges of a turnaround.
He took over a UCF program that went winless the year before he came to campus and had them 6-7 and going bowling in his first season. This year his team went undefeated in the regular season, joining the Wisconsin Badgers as the only two undefeated teams in the country after the regular season finished up.
Frost also led the Knights to the AAC championship despite a ton of off-field distraction surrounding his job status and rumors about Florida, Nebraska and Oregon interest in his services.
Now the pressure will be on to get the Huskers back to championship football, and soon.
3 names Nebraska Cornhuskers should consider in replacing Mike Riley
Does the Huskers coaching search really begin and end with Scott Frost?
Most of the time, head coaching searches and the media equal a whole lot of names and not a lot of facts to back them up. Thankfully, with Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos being so candid in his press conference yesterday, we know exactly what Moos is looking for and don’t have to speculate.
What you won’t see here is a list of hot assistant coaches or lower-level names looking to make a big jump into FBS football. Moos let us all know it’s a pool of six names and that he’s looking for someone with previous head coaching experience.
Knowing there are six names in the top drawer of Moos’ desk, we’re here to let you know the three names we hope will be on the list and the names we’d be considering if we were in his shoes.
Of course, this list isn’t to say others aren’t on it, but again this is our opinion on who should be there for the Huskers.
Scott Frost, UCF Head Coach
This is the obvious name that will be on every list, and he should be. He’s got the Nebraska pedigree, he’s got the high-powered offense everyone wants to see and he’s got the UCF Knights in a position to pull off an undefeated season. All that stands in the way of that is the AAC title game and a New Year’s Six bowl game.
Should Frost’s team win the title game next weekend, it begs the question of timing. Would Frost really bolt with a perfect season and a New Year’s Six bowl game on the line? Would Nebraska be willing to wait it out and hope the recruiting class can stay intact until Frost can get to Lincoln in January?
All of those questions are valid, but about the biggest question to be answered is if Frost wants to leave UCF after just two seasons or not. While the money and temptation of “going home” is certainly a big pull, so is building something special at a program like UCF. Is jumping ship so quickly what Frost really wants? Or does he want to build something and wait for the job he really wants?
Money certainly doesn’t seem to be too big an obstacle and with Florida apparently set to hire Dan Mullen, the door seems wide open for Frost if he so chooses.
Craig Bohl, Wyoming Head Coach
This is a name I thought the Huskers should’ve looked at the last time they made a move for a head coach. Hindsight is always 20-20, but the good news is that Bohl has only gone on to do himself a lot of favors in his time as the head coach at Wyoming. The Cowboys have gone from a doormat to a very good Mountain West team in his short time in Laramie.
Oh, and if you need roots in Nebraska, Bohl has them. I mean, he was the linebackers coach while the Huskers were winning national championships in the 1990’s and left after three years as the defensive coordinator (2000-2002) to take over the NDSU program. If you want to bring the blackshirts back, Bohl knows what that is all about.
But, what about recruiting with a “non-sexy” hire like Bohl?
If ever there’s proof that a good coach can recruit to difficult situations and develop talent, it is Bohl at Wyoming. He’s turned a program that is sub .500 in its history in to a program that went 8-6 and 7-5 over the last two seasons. Additionally, the program has finished first or second in the Mountain division each of the past two years.
Then there’s the fact that he turned North Dakota State in to the ultimate power team in the FCS division as well.
Let’s just say, for Midwest coaches it is hard to find a more impressive resume than what Bohl has already put together. His ability to reach recruits and run a fun offense to watch along with quality defense should fit the mold well for the Huskers. The question some may ask if this hire moves the needle enough for the outside world to get on board.
Having been around the game long enough, internally, few coaches are more respected than Bohl, and that can make a lot of difference when you are trying to get everyone pushing in the same direction — from the administration to the boosters and regular fans. Bohl has a lot of what Moos would like to see in a head coach.
Matt Campbell, Iowa State Head Coach
We know this is a name that Moos has high interest in to say the least. Campbell was a big winner at Toledo and he’s gotten the Iowa State Cyclones back to winning football in just two seasons. Wins over both Oklahoma (on the road) and TCU (at home) showcased just what kind of coaching job Campbell is capable of.
But, like Frost, he’s in the middle of rebuilding and building something special right where he is at. Campbell also has one hefty buyout in his contract. While, money again doesn’t seem to be an object, Campbell’s reported $9 million buyout is certainly a hefty price to pay.
Personally, I love what Campbell has been able to do for the Iowa State program and what we’ve seen on the field from the Cyclones would be a great fit for the Huskers too. Campbell’s team played easily the best defense of anyone in the defense-absent Big 12 conference and his offenses showcased speed and power at the same time.
That’s the combination that can win games in Lincoln. But, again there is one big question that only one person can answer and that person is Matt Campbell.
Does Campbell see Nebraska as a step up or a lateral move? We could argue the merits of that all day, but in the end it really depends on if Campbell believes Ames is a place where winning football can become the norm instead of the special season. If he believes in what he’s building there, prying him away from the Cyclones may be hard. As hard as apparently winning conference championships has been for the Huskers.
Analysis of What Will Actually Happen:
In the end, this search begins and ends with Scott Frost. With Florida being reportedly rebuffed by Frost and hiring Dan Mullen away from Mississippi State it seems as if the writing is on the wall.
That said, I also subscribe to the “sometimes the simplest answer is the right answer” philosophy. When it comes to Nebraska’s coaching search that simple answer is Frost.
But, should something crazy happen and the Nebraska alum not want to take the job, it wouldn’t hurt to have Craig Bohl as your backup plan. All the dude does is win football games and win a lot of them. His championship pedigree with Nebraska and North Dakota State should be all that Moos would need to go in his direction should Frost say no.
I’m fully expecting Moos to be able to get his man though. The stars are just aligning too well for it not to happen. Let’s see if the Huskers can get the man they probably should’ve hired the last time, this time around.
As for the timing, I fully expect this deal to be done this time tomorrow (Monday). It also will come with the stipulation that Frost coaches out the season for UCF should they move on to the New Years Six bowl game many expect to happen. That part will be the tricky part of the negotiations if you ask me, especially because of the early signing period that is in place for the first time.