The 11 games that explain the downfall of Nebraska football

    Bill Connelly is a staff writer for

Editor’s note: Nebraska fired Scott Frost on Sunday after falling to Georgia Southern. This piece was originally published after the Huskers’ Week 0 loss to Northwestern and has been updated.

The rally never came to pass for Scott Frost at Nebraska. The progression to the mean never came. But the ending did. After a 45-42 loss to Georgia Southern on Saturday night — the Cornhuskers’ eighth consecutive loss to an FBS opponent, seven of which somehow came by seven or fewer points — Frost was fired on Sunday.

Frost departs with a 16-31 record at his alma mater; the fact that only Bill Jennings (1957-61) has a worse win percentage in Lincoln brings about one last piece of symmetry. The life cycle that saw the school hire Bob Devaney to replace Jennings in 1962, succeed the retiring Devaney with Tom Osborne in the 1970s and then watch each coach hired after Osborne’s retirement take the program further and further from success, has reached a fitting end.

Nebraska has attempted many resets and fresh starts since Osborne’s retirement. But it has lacked a cogent plan, it has been torn between the distinct style of its past winners and the modern style of the day, and it has lots of former players hovering around and pointing out everything it is doing wrong at all times.

When one coach doesn’t work out, the Huskers attempt the exact opposite. When that doesn’t work, they careen to something else. They are case studies for how to lose your way. And as such, it might be useful to step back and work through how they got here, even if it doesn’t help to prescribe how to solve their problems moving forward.

How did Nebraska fall so far? Here are 11 games that help to tell the story.

Nov. 23, 2001: Colorado 62, Nebraska 36

Nebraska won three national titles in four seasons, and after Osborne rode off into the sunset in 1997, longtime assistant Frank Solich mostly maintained a high level. The Huskers briefly ceded the Big 12 North to Kansas State in 1998, losing to the Wildcats and dropping three other games by a total of 14 points. But they stormed back, winning 34 of their next 37 games. Quarterback Eric Crouch danced his way to a Heisman run in 2001, and the Huskers began that season 11-0. They were second in the AP poll behind only an incredible Miami team that they would eventually lose to in the BCS Championship. They were no longer the most dominant team in the sport, but there are worse things in the world than three straight top-10 finishes.

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