It’s a tough time for Husker nation. Going into a bye week, Nebraska football is on a three-game losing streak, and fans and the media are finding few positive things to be thinking about, currently.
After making a car trip to West Lafayette, Indiana with his colleagues this past weekend to cover Purdue’s 31-27 victory over the Huskers, Lincoln Journal Star beat writer Parker Gabriel was not sure how to feel about the Big Red.
“We’re at the beginning of the second bye week, which is a quirk in this year’s schedule,” Gabriel said to Executive Club members on Monday, Nov. 4, at their weekly luncheon in downtown Lincoln at the Nebraska Club. "It comes at a pretty good time. They (Huskers) are going to be trying to figure out a lot of things. It’s been a pretty tough stretch over the past month. It’s been pretty much you name it, and it has been a challenge.”
This weekend’s bye is the second in four weeks. The first one came the week after the 34-7 loss at Minnesota.
“It’s a balancing act between getting enough work in to get better or giving the players a break allowing them rest,” Gabriel said about how to best utilize bye weeks for the betterment of the team physically and mentally.
Gabriel did point to some bright things to look for in the present and future of the Huskers. He likes what he sees among the young quarterbacks on the roster.
“NU has a remarkable quarterback room,” Gabriel said in referring to sophomores Adrian Martinez and Noah Vedral and freshman Luke McCaffrey. “I don’t think around the country you’re going to see a lot better talent at that position.”
To which the club’s banquet room erupted with murmurs and comments about Purdue’s stable of young leaders that just bested the Huskers. The Boilermakers played the game without their fifth-year senior starter at QB in Elijah Sindelar. Redshirt freshman Jack Plummer got the start and made it into the fourth quarter before suffering a likely season-ending injury to a broken ankle that required surgery. Sophomore Aidan O’Connell filled in admirably, going 6-7 passing with 62 yards in leading the game-winning drive.
Back to the Nebraska quarterback room, Gabriel believes when the season is complete and the weather warms up, the competition might just heat up in 2020.
“It could get interesting in the offseason,” said Gabriel, who came to Lincoln in August of 2017 from Montana, where he wrote for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. “The competition could turn it wide open this spring.”
Even though Gabriel gets excited about the abundant talent and threat of a quarterback controversy, he does not believe that Husker Head Coach Scott Frost wants anything to do with a two-quarterback system. He believes that point was proved out when Martinez was chosen over Tristen Gebbia by Frost in the fall of 2018.
“But, everyone is malleable,” said Gabriel. “And I believe we saw that after the two-quarterback usage in the (2019) Indiana game.”
Also, in referring to the Hoosiers’ game against the Huskers after the first bye this year, Gabriel noticed a bit of an aberration in the Nebraska offense. It didn’t quite look the same.
“Coming off the bye week against Indiana, the offense looked different. Especially in the first 10 plays or so from scrimmage of which are scripted.”
So, maybe Husker fans may see something different in the offense the next week off the bye.