Nebraska football coach Scott Frost accepts responsibility for failed onside kick after stunning upset loss to Northwestern

DUBLIN — Scott Frost hasn’t named any offensive plays this season.

Still, the embattled Nebraska coach made the biggest decision in Saturday’s 31-28 loss to Northwestern in Ireland.

He ordered an onside kick and it didn’t work. Now he faces even more pressure with Nebraska’s seven-game losing streak.

“You have to win in this business to keep your job,” said Frost, who is in his fifth year at the helm. “It’s just the way it is. I love the state of Nebraska. I love these fans who sacrificed themselves to get here. We have to turn that around.”

Ryan Hilinski threw for 314 yards and two touchdowns to help Northwestern Rallye win the season opener in front of 42,699 fans at Aviva Stadium in the Irish capital.

Frost took the blame for a failed onside kick that changed the dynamic of the game in the third quarter.

“I made that call, so that’s on me,” Frost said of the decision after the Huskers took a 28-17 lead. “At that point in the game I thought all the momentum was on our side. I thought if we got him we could end the game.

“They can’t really predict that they’ll score 14 goals in a row and we’re stuttering after playing well to start the second half on offense. Again, these are excuses. If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t call.”

The Wildcats finished with 528 yards and gained a degree of revenge after their humiliating 56-7 loss to the Huskers last October. Nebraska has not won since.

After a 3-9 season, Nebraska was looking to bounce back with a revised offense under new coordinator Mark Whipple — who took over play-calling duties from Frost — but the team and its many fans have made the journey , go home disappointed.

Quarterback Casey Thompson had a big game on his Huskers debut, throwing for 355 yards, but an error in the fourth quarter was costly. Cameron Mitchell intercepted Thompson’s pass and returned it nearly 40 yards. Six games later, Evan Hull ran in from the 4 to give the Wildcats a 31-28 lead. Hull finished with 22 beams for 119 yards.

Xander Mueller hit a pass that bounced off receiver Wyatt Liewer’s hands at 1:27, and the Wildcats sealed the win.

Anthony Grant scored two goals, including a 46-yarder, in the third quarter to give the Huskers a 28-17 lead. He ran it in from 3 yards on the previous drive to put Nebraska ahead after the Wildcats went into halftime with a 17-14 lead. Grant had 19 carries for 101 yards.

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald called the onside kick “a huge swing” in the game.

“We went down and potted it,” he said of Cam Porter’s 3-yard touchdown run with a direct snap to close the gap at 28-24.

Nebraska was still leading at that point, Frost emphasized.

“You don’t win a lot of games in the Big Ten by giving up 31, so we have to answer some things on defense,” he said.

The Huskers had built a 14-3 lead after Thompson threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to transfer colleague Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda and then potted it from 1 early in the second quarter. Garcia-Castaneda ended for 120 yards on four receptions.

But Hilinski capped off a great first half by finding Donny Navarro in the back of the end zone for a 6-yard scoring hit to give the Wildcats a 17-14 lead by 25 seconds at the half.

Previously, Hilinski hit a wide-open Raymond Niro III with a play-action pass for a 41-yard score.

After Niro’s touchdown, Nebraska drove again when linebacker Greyson Metz snatched the ball from Garcia-Castaneda on a 24-yard completion to the northwest 11-yard line.

ALL ABOUT WINNING

Frost said he would not consider stepping down: “Absolutely not. … I’ll fight with the boys while I can fight.” His record as Nebraska coach now stands at 15-30.

PREMIUM PROTECTION

Hilinski credited the offensive line with protecting him — he wasn’t fired.

“If I can sit back there and be patient with the ball and see the field as a quarterback, that’s the best feeling,” he said. “Today I felt so calm in the bag. I felt like I could see the whole field.”

THE TAKE AWAY

Northwestern: The Wildcats look like they’ve found a quarterback in Hilinski, who made 27 of 38 passes.

Nebraska: More questions for Frost. The Huskers lost all their games by single digits last season, and now they’re losing one more. Despite the two interceptions, Thompson made great plays. On their first strike of the third quarter, he climbed on a third and eight left and tossed a pass to Garcia-Castaneda for 58 yards.

FREE BEER

Free beer was being sold at the stalls during the game when the stadium’s internet connection went down. Aviva Stadium is cash-free, so they chose not to turn away thirsty fans. Ronan McGowan said he waited in long lines for 40 minutes and missed parts of the game, but added: “You did the right thing.”

NEXT

Nebraska hosts North Dakota in the first of four straight home games on Saturday, including a Sept. 17 encounter with Oklahoma.

Northwestern has next weekend off and hosts Duke on September 10th in the first of three straight games at Ryan Field.

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https://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/34471381/nebraska-football-coach-scott-frost-accepts-responsibility-failed-onside-kick-stunning-upset-loss-northwestern Nebraska football coach Scott Frost accepts responsibility for failed onside kick after stunning upset loss to Northwestern

Emma Bowman

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