We asked Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star columnist Steve Sipple for his thoughts on the Cornhuskers going into Saturday’s Illinois-Nebraska game at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.
What did the win against Penn State mean for Nebraska?
It relieved a lot of pressure. If you look back, Nebraska had only won one game since beating Northwestern last October. Scott Frost needed it to validate what he said about making progress. Falling to 0-3 would have made it difficult for him to sell the idea of progress. Last week he said, “We’re going to turn the corner. And when we turn it, it will be big time.” People were kind of skeptical. When you can pull out a game like that, people are less skeptical.
Was Frost feeling any heat from the fans before the game?
Not firing heat. It’s interesting, he puts so much heat on himself because of his background. I never worry about Frost feeling external heat. The concern I would have is he puts too much on himself.
What did you think of quarterback Luke McCaffrey in his first start last Saturday?
It worked pretty well. I wouldn’t call it a resounding success. He gives you something that is really important to Frost and that is he can operate that offense quickly. Scott wants the offense to click, move fast. He wants the quarterback to make quick decision with his eyes. Adrian Martinez wasn’t necessarily doing that as well. Something about McCaffrey that’s important: It takes a lot of energy to turn around a program. What you always hear about McCaffrey is how energetic he is. Coming out at halftime, he literally sprinted to the field. His teammates notice that sort of thing.
Who is one under-the-radar Nebraska player Illinois fans should keep an eye on?
Tight end Austin Allen. He can be a downfield threat, and he’s made big plays this year already.
I don’t think Nebraska is ready to run away from anybody. They have a lot of issues on offense right now. If they play well on special teams and defense that would be enough to get by Illinois. I don’t think the game will be pretty. Nebraska’s offense doesn’t lend itself to being pretty right now. Nebraska’s defense, though it ranks 84th nationally, is much better. They hit you. They are rallying to the ball. Nebraska 28, Illinois 21.