Hames on the mend, possibly out for Kentucky

By Lincoln Arneal

Nebraska might be without Nicklin Hames this weekend.  

The senior setter left Tuesday’s match with an injury and NU coach John Cook said he didn’t know how long she would be out of action. However, based on his comments on his weekly radio show, Hames is unlikely to play in the Huskers’ match at No. 13 Kentucky at 2 p.m. on Sunday. 

“She’s out for right now,” Cook said. “So I don’t know. It’s one of those things. She just needs some rest. Time.”

After starting the season as a defensive specialist, Hames moved back to setting against Loyola Marymount earlier this month. She had started the previous five matches while the Huskers ran a two-setter offense. 

Against Stanford on Tuesday, Cook said he noticed Hames’ sets were getting lower and tighter as the match progressed. Finally, with the Huskers leading 20-18 in the third set, Hames told Cook that she was struggling to move and couldn’t continue. Sophomore Kennedi Orr entered the game and helped NU claim the set. She finished with eight sets in her first action in 10 days. 

Cook said he was impressed with Orr’s performance after standing around for almost two hours.

“She stepped up and really helped us when we needed it because we could have imploded right then or folded up,” Cook said. 

NU will rely on Orr and junior Anni Evans to run the offense with Hames unlikely to play. The Huskers work on both in practice because if they run out of subs in a set, they need to reverse to a 5-1. Cook said they could stick with the 6-2 or go back to a one-setter system depending on how practice goes. 

“If one setter can really separate and show that they can be a difference-maker and make all those hitters better, it’s better to always go with a one-setter offense,” Cook said. “If they are both a wash, then it’s better to go with a 6-2. We will see how practice goes tomorrow and the next day and decide. We can flip in and out of either one.”

BATENHORST ON THE MEND

Sophomore outside hitter Ally Batenhorts is getting closer to making a return, but Cook is still uncertain when she will be available. 

Batenhorst missed the Red-White scrimmage as a precaution with an abdominal injury. She then left NU’s match against Creighton after reaggravating it and didn’t play in the two subsequent matches. 

“She’s slowly coming back,” Cook said. “These soft tissue injuries (need) just rest. So it depends on how long it takes the body to heal, but she’s doing more and more every day.”

HORD HOMECOMING

 While Nebraska makes its first big road trip of the year this weekend, one Huskers player will be making a homecoming. 

Senior middle blocker Kaitlyn Hord will return to Lexington, Kentucky. Hord said she is excited to have some friendly faces in the crowd while playing in her hometown. 

Hord first learned Nebraska would be playing on the Wildcats’ home court while she took an official visit there earlier this year. Eventually, the former Penn State All-American committed to the Huskers in January. 

“Hopefully all my family comes. I mean, they better come,” she said. “Now they don’t have an excuse not to see me play. So I’m very excited to see some old friends.”

FIXING THE SERVE

On Tuesday, Stanford and Nebraska set a new low for serving futility. The teams combined for 37 errors, which set a Nebraska record for a match during the Cook era. Stanford’s 24 errors were a new high for an NU opponent during that time frame. 

Cook was not pleased with the showing, so the Huskers spent even more time working on serving. He calls their serving the most important drill they do every day in practice. He guided them through their pre-serve routine by verbalizing it to a teammate. Cook compared it to shooting a free throw or kicking a field goal and finding a way to develop consistency no matter the score.  

“It’s just trying to get them to trust their routine and trust what they’re doing,” Cook said. “Technically we worked on a couple of things today to help some of them out so they’d be more consistent. It’s a fine-tuning process because you’re just always living on the edge. If you serve too tough and it goes out or if you serve too easy, then you’re going to pay for it. 

LEAVING THE GOOD LIFE

Sunday’s match at Kentucky will be Nebraska’s first time leaving the state, but not its first away match. 

The Huskers’ only match outside the Devaney Center this year was in front of an NCAA-record crowd of 15,979 at the CHI Health Center. While it was officially a Creighton home game, most of the crowd was cheering for NU. 

Both teams enter the match following home losses. The Wildcats (5-3) are coming off a five-set setback to No. 3 Louisville, while Nebraska suffered its first loss of the season against Stanford on Tuesday. 

Because of the odd schedule of matches on Tuesday-Sunday, NU altered its regular practice schedule. The Huskers took off Wednesday before returning to the gym on Thursday to prep for their last nonconference game. 

“The ante goes up every week, and it goes up more this week,” Cook said. “(Kentucky) will be a great road test for us leading into the Big Ten. They’re a team that’s in the hunt right now.”

Errors at critical times doom Huskers against No. 9 Stanford

By Lincoln Arneal

In Nebraska’s locker room hangs a poster with the motto “Two points better.” It’s there to remind the Huskers to rise to the occasion in close matches after they lost 15 sets by two points last season.

However, in the first test of their mantra this year, the second-ranked Huskers couldn’t deliver in the clutch moments as No. 9 Stanford handed the Huskers a 27-25, 25-22, 19-25, 27-25 loss Tuesday night at the Devaney Center.

NU coach John Cook said they didn’t put enough pressure on Stanford and got tentative in the match’s biggest moments. 

“We just didn’t execute at end game and play our best when it mattered most,” Cook said. “That’s something we’ve been working on. We got a lot of young players out there and this was the first time in that big-time environment. We had our chances and just couldn’t capitalize.”

As a result, the Huskers lost their first match of the year. Stanford picked up its second road win over a top-five Big Ten team after it took out then-No. 3 Minnesota on Saturday. 

The Huskers (7-1) took control early in the first set and jumped out to an 18-12 lead. However, the Cardinal stormed back with a 6-1 run that included three NU hitting errors and a service error. 

NU hung tough and still led 23-21, but Stanford ran off three points to go in front. After fighting off two set points, Stanford scored the final two points of the set on another NU service error and a hitting error.

“I think we just got a little too comfortable and weren’t really bringing the same intensity which allowed them to close that lead that we had,” sophomore Lexi Rodriguez said. “We got to learn from that and learn how to close matches.”

After trailing almost all of the second set, Nebraska rallied to tie it at 20-all. However, the Huskers couldn’t slow down Stanford’s offense late, and the set ended on another hitting error. NU hit negative for the set, recording 11 errors to just 10 kills. 

The Huskers finally found the right combination in the third set. It used a 5-0 run to take a 15-13 lead to re-energize the crowd of 8,385, the largest since the 2019 season. After Stanford tied the set at 18-all, NU took over. The Huskers won seven of the next eight rallies, including the final two on ace serves by Whitney Lauenstein. 

Senior setter Nicklin Hames didn’t finish the third set as she remained on the bench following a timeout at 20-18. Cook said he didn’t know the issue with Hames, but he was told she couldn’t play anymore. He did not have an update on her status following the match.

Sophomore Kennedi Orr finished the third set and played the entire fourth set. Hames finished with 19 assists, while junior Anni Evans added 12 assists and 12 digs. Orr recorded eight assists. 

In the fourth set, Nebraska rallied to grab a 21-20 lead after two blocks by freshman Bekka Allick. However, the Cardinal took the upper hand after a kill and an NU hitting error. After trading four side outs, Lindsay Krause fended off the first match point and gave NU a set point at 25-24, but Stanford delivered kills on the final three rallies to emerge with its fifth straight victory over the Huskers. 

Rodriguez, who had 13 digs, said the team needs players to rise to the occasion in those close moments.

“When we’re in a rut or in a rotation where we can’t really side out, someone has to step up,” Rodriguez said.

Kubik led NU with 13 kills and 15 digs, while Lauenstein added 11 kills. Krause came on late with nine kills, and Maggie Mendelson had six kills and four blocks. 

Nebraska’s middles were largely absent from the offense. Kaitlyn Hord and Allick both finished with five kills and five blocks. Hord tallied just 11 swings, while Allick had 17.

“We wanted to set more middle tonight and we didn’t set it enough. (The setters) went away from it,” Cook said. “We kept telling them to run middle, run middle, and Kaitlyn’s got 11 sets. That’s not a great night by our setters and we passed pretty well tonight – good enough to run more middle.”

Senior opposite Kendall Kipp paced the Cardinal with 15 kills as outside hitters Elia Rubin and Catie Baird also reached double figures with 13 and 10 kills, respectively. 

Stanford wasn’t sharp from the service line with 23 service errors. Combined with 21 hitting errors, it gave Nebraska plenty of free points during the match. 

“It should haunt us,” Cook said about the Cardinal’s almost-set worth of service errors. “We should win that match. But, we made errors at critical times.”

During A Whirlwind Week, Mickey Joseph Stepping Up To Lead Huskers And Has Already Made Some Tweaks

By Steve Beideck

It was clear during Mickey Joseph’s news conference in front of about 80 media members Monday who he is worried about most in the sudden upheaval of the Husker program.

The players.

“Right now my number one focus and the staff focus is the boys,” he said. “The players. That we make sure that they are OK.”

The Huskers are 2-11 against FCS opponents since the start of the 2021 season. Each of those losses, all by nine or fewer points, has been a punch in the gut. And now the coach that recruited them is gone.

In his place is Joseph, who seemed to intuitively hit the right notes in his first meeting with the media as interim head coach.

“This is about Nebraska football. It is bigger than me or than anyone else,” he said. “I want you all to understand that. It is bigger than me or than anyone else.”

He thanked fans for sticking with the team and recognized his family for supporting him.

But he said the players come first as he shared the first menu items he has fed his charges prior to Saturday’s 11 a.m. showdown against No. 6 Oklahoma.

“Confidence and let them know that I believe in them,” he said. “Block out the noise of what everybody’s saying and come to the building every day prepared to win that practice knowing that you’re capable of getting the job done and don’t doubt yourself.

“That’s what I’m feeding them. I’m feeding them confidence.”

Two losses – by a combined six points – in the first three weeks have a way of robbing any swagger the team managed to muster in the offseason.

Preaching a fresh start and a few new ideas are just about the only things on which an interim coach can hang his hat.

“We tell them we start from scratch,” Joseph said. “We move everything to the past and we start from here. We have nine more opportunities, and we are capable of winning games, and that is why they understand the first opportunity is this weekend against OU, a really good football team.”

One structural change Joseph announced is that practices will be held on Sundays. Under former head coach Scott Frost, Sundays were the off day. For the next two-plus months, Monday will be the day the Huskers don’t practice.

Joseph’s answers to the questions he fielded Tuesday were direct and succinct. When Joseph says something, there won’t be a need to guess what he means. Athletic Director Trev Alberts alluded to that during his Sunday press conference.

“Mickey is an energetic guy,” Alberts said. “He is pretty black and white. I think he has an infectious personality. I think that is important. He had a very poignant conversation with the team (Sunday) that I thought they took really well.

“At the same time like Scott, Mickey will love them and seek to serve them.”

An immediate concern for players, coaches and fans alike is what can be done to fix a Nebraska defense that gave up 642 yards of total offense Sept. 10 in a 45-42 loss to Georgia Southern that eventually led Alberts to fire Frost the following day.

Joseph said the defense is  going to “play faster” and will tackle in practice. The biggest defensive coaching change is having Erik Chinander coach the safeties and Travis Fisher coach the corners and nickels.

“If you look around the country, everybody in the country has two defensive back coaches because it is two different positions. Safeties and corners,” Joseph said. “If you look at the NFL they have two defensive back coaches. We were the only one in the country I think that had one defensive back coach.”  

Joseph said that his background as primarily an offensive coach won’t hinder his ability to make suggestions for changes when the Blackshirts take the field.

“When you’re an offensive coach, you better understand defense and what it should be,” Joseph said. “And I always use my brother (Vance) for example. He was a college quarterback, but he was a defensive back in the NFL … and now he’s a defensive coordinator in the NFL.

“You have to know what’s going on on the other side of the ball. You know what it should be. It’s football, guys. It’s either fourth down or third down. It’s either two high or one high.”

On offense, Joseph, the former receivers coach, said Mike Cassano, a four-year offensive analyst at NU who had worked under Frost for seven years, will handle the day-to-day operations at receiver, “but I’ll still be involved with it.”

When asked if Cassano is now a full-time assistant, Joseph said, “Yes sir.” 

Keeping a one-game-at-a-time approach is the way Joseph said is best to determine how the next nine games will turn out.

“As a coach, you have to stand up and say we’re trying to win nine games, but you’re not worried about nine games right now,” Joseph said. “We’re worried about this game, this week. So we have to take it one week at a time and we’ll see where we’re at. But this week, the most important thing is preparing to get ready for OU.”

The Letter Trev Alberts sent to season ticket holders Monday

Husker Fans,

First and foremost, thank you again for your passion and loyalty for our football program and for all Husker teams. Your support is unmatched in college athletics, and it will never be taken for granted by our athletic staff, coaches and student-athletes.

Sunday was a difficult day for Nebraska football and one that I hoped would not come. Coach Frost poured his heart and soul into our program as both a player and head coach, and I appreciate his hard work and dedication to Nebraska. Scott will always be a Husker and a Nebraskan, and I hope you join me in thanking him for his service to our program. College athletics is a bottom-line business and ultimately, we did not win enough football games, and it was necessary to move in another direction.

I appreciate Mickey Joseph’s willingness to step into the interim head coach role for the remainder of this season. Mickey and our staff will work tirelessly to serve our players and help our team improve. We still have nine opportunities ahead in the 2022 season and our players deserve the best opportunity to have a successful season.

Moving forward we will have the benefit of time to do a thorough national search for our next head coach. In large part thanks to our great fanbase, this is a special place that provides a great opportunity to build a successful program. We will find a coach that shares the values of the people of this great state – qualities such as hard work, discipline and servant leadership.

There is no doubt the circumstances are different than we expected, but this will be an exciting week in Lincoln and a great Saturday at Memorial Stadium. College football is tradition-filled, and Nebraska-Oklahoma can’t help but make you think of the great history of the sport.

In addition to welcoming our visitors from Oklahoma and Fox Big Noon Kickoff, we will also have some great celebrations on Saturday. Our 1970 and 1971 national championship teams will have a reunion on Friday night and be recognized on Saturday at the game. We will have a special recognition for Johnny Rodgers on the 50th anniversary of his Heisman Trophy, and Zach Wiegert, our newest College Football Hall of Famer, will be recognized with an On-Campus Salute.

Thanks again for your support. Go Big Red!

Trev Alberts

NU Looks To Take Control of Stanford

By Lincoln Arneal

After two strange, COVID-19-impacted seasons, Stanford is back to its old habits. 

In the spring 2020-21 season, the Cardinal went 2-8 and missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history. Stanford then made a quiet exit in the second round of the 2021 NCAA tournament with a sweep by No. 12 Minnesota. 

However, the Cardinal avenged the loss this past weekend by knocking off the then-third-ranked Gophers Friday night. Stanford also owns a win over No. 13 Florida. 

It’s fitting that only two teams ranked in the Top 10 for more than 500 weeks will square off  as No. 2 Nebraska hosts the ninth-rated Cardinal Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Deveney Center. 

“You can’t beat him if you don’t play him,” coach John Cook said. “We want to play these guys at Stanford. It’s a great program. They’re one of the teams that’s in the hunt every year for  a national championship. We like playing them and it’s great competition.”

Stanford has owned the rivalry with NU lately, winning the last four matches, including last year’s meeting in four sets. 

In that match, Nebraska experimented with its lineup and started three freshmen attackers plus freshman libero Lexi Rodriguez. Lindsay Krause, Ally Batenhorst and Whitney Lauenstein combined for 25 kills, 15 errors and a .111 hitting percentage. 

Fast forward to this season, Lauenstein leads the Huskers with 3.74 kills per set and a .367 hitting percentage. Krause is third with 2.25 kills per set. Batenhorst is doubtful with an abdominal injury. 

Cook was coy on how much progress NU’s attackers have made since that match a year ago. Cook liked facing a tough challenge as they prepared for the conference schedule. In addition, The Huskers take on No. 13 Kentucky, the 2020 national champion, Sunday. 

“The ante goes up every week, and it goes up more this week,” Cook said. “We’ve got to have these tests to prepare for the Big Ten. I’ve liked how our schedule has gone and how it’s built. This is a big week for us in learning how to win against great teams.”

Stanford features senior opposite Kendall Kipp, who is averaging four kills per set on just nine attacks. 

“She’s a great player, and she hits all over the court – front row and back,” Cook said. “She’s getting a lot of swings. She plays like a true opposite in the men’s game. Those guys are in there to hit and block and they don’t have to pass. She has to play defense, obviously, but she’s a very good defensive player for size.”

Stanford has lost twice this season – to No. 1 Texas and to No. 11 Penn State. 

Senior Kaitlyn Hord, who transferred from PSU, said she planned to talk to her old teammates Monday night to get a scouting report. From what she’s seen on film, the Cardinal are tall and athletic. 

Hord said she is looking forward to taking on Stanford with a packed Devaney Center.  

“I’m actually really excited because I’ve never beat Stanford,” Hord said. “I have that picking me up, that fire behind my back.”

HUSKERS REMAIN NO. 2 — Nebraska lost one first-place vote but remained in second place behind Texas in this week’s AVCA Coaches poll. 

While the top two spots remained steady, the rest of the Top 10 changed. Louisville, Wisconsin and Ohio State all moved into the top five. Minnesota fell to No. 6. Georgia Tech suffered its first loss of the year to Ohio State and fell two spots to No. 7. San Diego and Stanford entered the top group and skipped ahead of No. 10 Purdue. 

The biggest riser was No. 11 Penn State, which moved up nine spots after wins against the Cardinal and No. 20 Oregon. Creighton, which lost in five sets to Nebraska on Wednesday, remained at No. 17.

1K KUBIK — On Saturday, senior Madi Kubik became the 24th Nebraska player to reach 1,000 career kills. 

The 6-foot-2 outside hitter took the set from Nicklin Hames and powered through the Long Beach State block with the ball hitting the middle of the court to finish the second set.  

Last year, both Lexi Sun and Lauren Stivrins reached the milestone. 

“It’s really cool.  I don’t think a lot of people have done this,” Kubik said on Monday. 

Kubik said one of her most memorable kills came during her freshman year against Penn State. In the fifth set, with Nebraska leading 14-13, Kubik ended the match against the Nittany Lions with her 217th career kill. 

Cook sent Kubik that video recently.  “He was like, ‘Big girl swing,’”  Kubik said. “It just made me think about that and how fast the last four years have gone.”

Cook said the bigger accomplishment would be for her to reach the 1K mark for both kills and digs. Only three players have made that exclusive club: Jordan Larson (1,600 kills/1,410 digs ), Kadie Rolfzen (1,564/1,255) and Hannah Werth (1,286/1,367). 

Kubik has 751 career digs entering Tuesday’s match. 

“Talk to me when she gets the 1,000/1,000 club,” Cook said. “That’s Jordan Larson territory.” 

Frost is out, Mickey Joseph is in and a search will start

By Steve Beideck

Following the announcement Sunday that Scott Frost had been fired as head coach of the Nebraska football team, there was only one remnant on Level 6 of Memorial Stadium of the native son’s 47-game tenure as the leader of the storied Husker program.

A large, framed photo of Frost leading the Huskers onto the Memorial Stadium field was still hanging on the wall between the south and north entrances to the room where weekly media conferences are conducted.

In the photo, Frost is wearing a gray Nebraska football sweatshirt and that stern, determined look that defined his time as both a Husker player and coach.

Removed was the sign by the door of Suite 612 that let people know this was the suite reserved for members of Frost’s family and guests.

That suite will now be occupied by family and friends of interim head coach Mickey Joseph, who was elevated to that role Sunday by Athletic Director Trev Alberts. Nebraska’s next game is Saturday at 11 a.m. against historic rival Oklahoma.

“I want to thank Mickey Joseph for taking on this role,” Alberts said during a hastily called news conference that summoned about 80 members of the media Sunday afternoon. “There’s nine games left in the season. I think we owe it to the players, we owe it to our fans, to give these players an opportunity in these last nine games.

“We have good players on this football team. So having a different voice and having some new energy and enthusiasm we’re hoping can make a difference for this team.” 

When announcing his decision to fire Frost after a 1-2 start to the 2022 season, Alberts, himself a decorated Nebraska football legend, said it was a long night trying to decide what was best for the program following the Huskers’ 45-42 loss to Georgia Southern.

Frost was notified of his dismissal by Alberts just more than 12 hours after the Huskers had lost their second game of the young season, both against underdogs.

That loss was the first time in the 100-year history of Memorial Stadium that the Huskers had dropped a game in which they had scored at least 35 points. Before Saturday, Nebraska had won 214 previous games when they had reached that 35-point milestone.

Alberts said that kind of performance wasn’t good enough for one of the nine college football programs that have won at least 900 games.

“At the end of the day there has to be accountability,” Alberts said. “We run a professional organization that has high standards. Accountability has to matter. Scott and I talked about this; 16-31 (Frost’s four-plus-year record) obviously was not at a level that was acceptable to us.”

Alberts said he met with Frost at 11 a.m. Sunday and informed him of his decision to end Frost’s time as Nebraska’s 33rd head football coach. The two of them then went to the NU locker room to meet with the team. Alberts said the players were notified via email to come to North Stadium for the meeting.

“I think the team really cares about Scott, and Scott really cares about the team,” Alberts said. “It’s been a tough day for Coach Frost, our coaching staff and our players. This is a day that I hoped would never come.”

After addressing the team, Alberts said he and others with him then left the locker room so Frost could privately address the team.

“Scott spent time with the team, and those conversations will remain with the team and Scott,” Alberts said. “Finally, I invited Mickey Joseph, and he came in about 11:45 and spoke to the team. He walked them through some of the changes he envisioned.”

Alberts told Joseph that he was the head coach and that he wouldn’t meddle in his decision-making process over the next nine games.

“I encouraged Mickey to be the head coach and make decisions as the head coach,” Alberts said. “I think there will be some changes, some structural changes. He will explain that to all of you.”

Joseph didn’t attend Sunday’s news conference. The previously scheduled Monday press conference also was canceled later in the afternoon. The first time Joseph likely will be available to field questions from the media is Tuesday.

There were no other staff changes made Sunday, but Alberts did say that if Joseph believed he needed to make some changes to the coaching staff, he was free to do so.

“If he chooses to make some of those additional changes, we will support those changes as well,” Alberts said. “But I’m not aware of any of those that he anticipates at this time.”

Frost is due to receive a $15 million buyout because he was fired before Oct. 1. Had Alberts waited until after that date, the buyout would have been reduced to $7.5 million. Alberts said Sunday there were no changes to that agreement.

“There is no negotiated settlement,” Alberts said. “The University of Nebraska has a long history of living up to what they agreed to, so the contract is what the contract is, and of course, the university will comply as we always do.”

Alberts said he landed on Joseph to be the interim head coach after reviewing what some of the other members of the coaching staff were responsible for, especially with the next game just six days away and being one of the featured matchups of the weekend.

“Mickey’s not calling the plays,” Alberts said. “Coach (Mark) Whipple is (and) there’s a lot of responsibilities for the head coach that lie outside of football. We need to have Coach Whipple focused on game planning and play calling all week.

“And obviously defensively we have some very significant adjustments to make so (defensive coordinator Erik Chinander) has got to be really focused there.”

The Huskers gave up 642 yards of offense to Georgia Southern, which was just 14 yards shy of the Nebraska school record for most yards allowed in a single game of 656 set by Oklahoma in 1956.

A national search will be conducted for Frost’s permanent replacement. Alberts said third-party help would be used, primarily for logistics. He also knows this search will generate a lot of speculation and rumors.

“There’s going to be a lot of innuendo,” Alberts said. “I want you to know that these sorts of decisions and processes are not made in a silo. I have a lot of great mentors and friends that we’ll be working with.

“I intend to reach out to a lot of people. So if you hear that Trev Alberts reached out to XYZ coach, it doesn’t mean that I’ve offered the job to XYZ coach. It might very well be true (about reaching out) but that doesn’t mean I’m trying to hire that coach.”

Finding out what others think about the Nebraska head coach job is a process he’s looking forward to undertaking.

“I think there’s some fabulous coaches out there that have a perspective about our job that I can benefit from,” Alberts said. “So I’m going to reach out to a lot of people. I’d like to get a perspective of a coach who isn’t here right now about our job, and what the uniqueness is and the needs and those sorts of things.”

For the next two-plus months, Alberts said the top priority needs to be on the next nine games.

“We have said all along I would just love to see this team continue to grow and compete and make progress,” Alberts said. “Be tough. Win the line of scrimmage. Do the fundamental things that teams need to do to win games. I think we can get there.”

Alberts also said tempering of expectations also should be a part of the process.

“We will stop talking about championships,” Alberts said. “We will stop talking about things we used to do. We will just get really process-oriented and detail-oriented. Ultimately when you start doing those fundamental championship-type things, those types of wins follow.

“We need to stop focusing on that and start focusing on those small fundamental things that ultimately lead to those types of things. So those are the things we will do.”

Alberts tabbs Joseph to lead Huskers

By Lincoln Arneal

After firing Scott Frost, Nebraska Athletic Director Trev Alberts had multiple options on who to name as the interim head coach. 

However, with No. 6 Oklahoma coming to Lincoln on Saturday for a nationally-televised game, Alberts said most of the staff has much on their plates this week. Offensive coordinator Mark Whipple would need to devote his attention to developing a game plan to attack the Sooners. In addition, the defensive staff needed to make adjustments after the Huskers were shredded for 45 points and 642 yards by Georgia Southern. 

In the end, Mickey Joseph, associate head coach and wide receiver coach, was promoted to interim head coach on Sunday. Alberts said Joseph’s personality, energy and enthusiasm should serve him well as the program’s leader.

“We needed a different voice. We need to provide hope for these young men,” Alberts said. “Football is a tough sport. You have to force yourself to do things you don’t want to do physically. Having somebody that can pull that out of you and motivate you to do that, in my observations of Coach Joseph, I think he has some of those attributes. I’d like to see him function in that role.”

Joseph faces a tall task to right the Huskers’ ship after a 1-2 start. While no other personnel changes were announced, Alberts said Joseph has the full authority to reorganize the staff. 

Mickey
MICKEY JOSEPH

Alberts and Joseph met with the players on Sunday morning to discuss the path forward with Frost no longer involved with the program. 

“There’ll be some immediate, fairly significant changes in his approach,” Alberts said. “He had a very poignant conversation with the team today that I thought they took very well.”

Nebraska hired Joseph, a New Orleans native, in December after spending the past five years at LSU under Ed Orgeron, including the last two as assistant head coach.

Joseph served as the head coach at Langston University, an NAIA school in Oklahoma, from 2011-12. He went 13-7 before leaving to coach at Alcorn State. Joseph also made stops at Grambling State and  Louisiana Tech. In addition, he was the head coach and athletic director of Desire Street Academy in New Orleans for four years from 2005-08 before the school closed.

Alberts and Joseph overlapped during their playing careers at Nebraska. Joseph started nine games for the Huskers, rushing for 1,091 yards and 16 touchdowns while passing for 909 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Going forward, Alberts said he plans to conduct a national search and talk to many people, but Joseph could make himself a candidate with how he leads the program during the next few months. 

“I think we have an opportunity to hire an outstanding coach that can lead the program,” Alberts said. “I’d love to see Mickey grow into that, and we’ll see where it goes. But again, we’ll do a national search, and at that point, if Mickey is an obvious candidate, he will be part of that conversation as well.”

In the interim, Joseph and the Nebraska staff will have to solve many challenges to turn around the season. Still, Alberts said he plans to keep a consistent approach and offer any support they need, including contacting recruits.

“I’ll do whatever Mickey and the staff ask me to do,” Alberts said.

FROST OUT AT NEBRASKA

By staff reports

N9Z2411 2

The Scott Frost era is over at Nebraska.

The morning after Nebraska’s upset loss to Georgia Southern, Athletic Director Trev Alberts pulled the plug.

The press release landed in newsrooms at 12:30 Sunday afternoon. It took only five minutes for the state to buzz with the news of the former star quarterback who returned home to revitalize a sagging program was no longer at the helm. Alberts then named another former Husker quarterback as the interim head coach: Mickey Joseph, who left LSU last season to become the Huskers’ passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach.

FB Spring Practice 28Feb SB 0232
Nebraska Cornhuskers Associate Head Coach Mickey Joseph FB Spring Practice Nebraska Football

Joseph has nearly three decades of coaching experience, including time as a collegiate head coach at Langston University in Oklahoma. 

Alberts set a press conference for 3 p.m. Sunday to meet with the media.

“Earlier today I met with Coach Frost and informed him we were making a change in the leadership of our football program, effective immediately,” Alberts said in a release. “Scott has poured his heart and soul into the Nebraska football program both as a quarterback and head coach, and I appreciate his work and dedication.

“After the disappointing start to our season, I decided the best path forward for our program was to make a change in our head coaching position. Associate Head Coach Mickey Joseph will serve as our interim head coach for the remainder of the 2022 season.”

Nebraska is 1-2 on the season and was favored in its two losses. It’s one win was closer than expected, 38-17, over FCS North Dakota. 

Ted Carter, University of Nebraska president, issued a series of Tweets Sunday afternoon:

“We’re grateful for everything Scott Frost has done for the University of Nebraska and the Huskers — as a player, coach and leader of our young men.

“Unfortunately, the results on the field just aren’t there. Nebraskans expect us to compete for championships, as do I.

“We had all hoped to see our program move in the right direction, but w/ Oklahoma & Big Ten play still ahead of us, it’s clear we need to make a change. Difficult as this decision is, I fully support AD Alberts’ path fwd, & I have complete confidence in Interim Coach Joseph.

“There’s lots of football left to be played. Now is the time to rally around our players and give them our full support.

“All of us at the University of Nebraska wish Coach Frost and his family the very best. We look forward to continuing to cheer on our Huskers.”

Georgia Southern defeats Nebraska 45-42

By Steve Beideck

Georgia Southern finished an astounding hat trick for the Sun Belt Conference Saturday with its 45-42 upset victory over Nebraska.

Earlier in the day, the Eagles’ conference brethren Marshall and Appalachian State pulled off monumental victories over rated foe’s Notre Dame and Texas A&M, respectively.

The upset of the Huskers will be remembered as the least surprising of the three Sun Belt stunners if only because the Nebraska program is a shell of its former self.

Consider this: Since the beginning of the 2021 season, the Huskers are 2-11 against FBS teams. All 11 losses have been by single digits, with 10 of those being eight points or less. (Note: Fordham and North Dakota are FCS schools).

Here’s another stunner: This was the first time in 215 games that Nebraska has ever lost when scoring 35 or more points at Memorial Stadium. This is the 100th season of football at Memorial Stadium and the 133rd in the history of the program.

Coach Scott Frost reiterated that he doesn’t believe all those close losses are somehow keeping the team from winning.

“The new guys in the program, they don’t even remember those things,” Frost said. “The old guys I don’t think have that attitude right now. We just simply didn’t get a stop and we had a lot of chances to get a stop.

“You can’t give up that many yards and that many points and win very many games.”

The Georgia Southern setback is undoubtedly the most devastating of them all and will land in the history books next to the 2017 loss to Northern Illinois as evidence that the Huskers are in their worst stretch of football since the 1950s.

Scoring 42 points should be good enough to win most any game. Frost said that during his brief postgame media session. As 86,852 at Memorial Stadium witnessed, this time it wasn’t.

It wasn’t the fault of the offense, or even the special teams. This one all goes on the defense that gave up 642 yards of total offense to a program that is in just its ninth season of FBS play, formerly known as Division 1-A.

The Eagles missed being the team that gained the most yards in a single game against the Huskers by 14 yards. Oklahoma gained 656 yards in a 54-6 victory over the Huskers in 1956.

Georgia Southern’s offense was led by a player who was the quarterback for one of those FBS opponents Nebraska defeated last season. Kyle Vantrease was at Buffalo last season when the Huskers defeated the Bulls 28-3.

Exactly 364 days later, Vantrease is a top candidate for National Player of the Week after completing 37-of-56 passes for 409 yards and one touchdown. His completion percentage was .661, and his quarterback rating was 126.2.

Nebraska simply could never shake the Eagles. Derwin Burgess Jr., caught 12 passes for 119 yards. Jeremy Singleton had nine catches for 89 yards. The six passes Khaleb Hood caught from Vantrease accounted for 82 yards.

Trying to stop the ground game was just as difficult for the Blackshirts. The Eagles averaged 7.8 yards per carry gobbling up 233 yards on 30 carries. Gerald Green (10 carries for 132 yards) and Jalen White (17-85) both scored two touchdowns.

“I don’t think we got off blocks very well,” Frost said. “I expect more out of that group.”

Huskers quarterback Casey Thompson was again outstanding, guiding the NU offense to 575 yards of total offense, including his second consecutive game of 300 or more passing yards. The Texas transfer completed 23-of-34 passes for 318 yards and one touchdown, along with a passer rating of 155.9 and no turnovers.

Anthony Grant became the first Husker to rush for 100 yards in the first three games of his Nebraska career since Taylor Martinez in 2010. The last NU running back to accomplish that feat was Bobby Reynolds in 1950.

The stats are nice and show there’s at least some hope the next nine games. Barring some unforeseen changes in fortunes, it already appears that the Huskers are headed for a sixth consecutive sub-.500 season and no bowl appearance.

The immediate reality is that Nebraska is 1-2 when many preseason prognostications had the Huskers riding high at 3-0 entering Oklahoma week. What Nebraska used to be is certainly why the NU-OU game is the Fox feature game at 11 a.m.

What Nebraska is now continues to disappoint everyone tangentially attached to the program. 

Huskers Sweep Long Beach State

By Lincoln Arneal

With one of his top outside hitters out, Nebraska coach John Cook could have played it safe and used the same lineup that defeated No. 17 Creighton.

However, Cook mixed up the lineup again and added another wrinkle to a deep and talented NU squad.

With sophomore outside hitter Ally Batenhorst out with an abdominal injury, Cook inserted freshman Maggie Mendelson on the right side and flipped Lindsay Krause back to the left pin. The result was another sweep as the second-ranked Huskers dispatched Long Beach State 25-16, 25-22, 25-14 Saturday afternoon at the Devaney Center.

Mendelson, who had been training as a middle blocker, practiced just once as an opposite before Saturday’s match. However, she had played the position with her club team before coming to NU.

While her stat line of four kills and two blocks weren’t overwhelming, Cook said Mendelson stepped up and performed well on short notice. Cook wanted to play Mendelson at the right pin to create matchup problems and a big block for opponents to deal with.

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AARON BECKMAN Nebraska vs Long Beach State

“I actually talked to her when we were recruiting her about potentially putting her in the opposite position,” Cook said. “That kid’s a competitor. You can have her do anything. You saw her compete and make all those kind-of-funky plays at the net. She’s flying around, popping one-armed balls up. She competes.”

It took a little time for Nebraska to get into the match as Long Beach took an 11-9 lead in the first set after three straight hitting errors. However, NU settled into its offense and didn’t commit another miscue for the rest of the set. With the Huskers leading 15-14, the Huskers won nine of the next 10 rallies, including six straight points served by junior setter Anni Evans.

With the second set tied at 10-all, Nebraska ran off four straight points thanks to three Long Beach errors and a kill from sophomore opposite Whitney Lauenstein. The Long Beach got as close as two at 24-22, but Madi Kubik slammed home her 1,000 career kill. The senior outside hitter, who finished with eight kills, is the 24th Husker player to reach that milestone.

The Huskers jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the third set to take control. After notching just two blocks in the first two sets, they recorded three during that run. NU finished with seven blocks, including four from Lauenstein and senior middle blocker Kaitlyn Hord.

Lauenstein also paced the NU offense with 12 kills on a .381 hitting percentage.

Freshman middle blocker Bekka Allick added eight kills and three blocks. Several  kills came on the slide play, which they had not run in a match since they switched to a two-setter system. With Mendleson in the lineup, it opened up the opportunity to run the attack.

“We saw an advantage and we really wanted to abuse that as much as we could,” Allick said. “I felt really confident in that role, and so I’m excited to have it back. It’s kind of terrifying having both Maggie on the B-(hit in the middle) and me on the slide.”

Evans finished with 17 assists, while Nicklin Hames added 15 and nine digs. Lexi Rodriguez led the defense with 15 digs.

Long Beach finished hitting .078 led by nine kills from Natalie Glenn. Former Nebraska player Callie Schwarzenbach finished with one kill and three blocks.

After the final point, the match turned into a family reunion with lots of hugs and tears. Several Huskers returned from the locker room to take a picture with Schwarzenbach and former NU associate head coach Tyler Hildebrand.

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AARON BECKMAN Nebraska vs Long Beach State

Hildebrand has an extensive volleyball resume from his playing days as an All-American setter, the men’s national team and coaching the United States beach team in the Olympics. Still, he said Nebraska holds a special place for him.  

He started to tear up almost immediately after they got off the airplane in Omaha. Hildebrand enjoyed the reception he received from the crowd during the starting lineup and all the support he’s received from the fans even though he’s on the other bench.

“That’s part of what is special about this place and the years I’ve spent here with everyone. There are two places that are emotional for me – Long Beach and Nebraska,” Hildebrand said.

“I’ve played or coached in every gym in the world and there’s not a gym that’s like this, with how (the fans) support.”

He wasn’t the only one getting emotional this weekend. NU coach John Cook said his team was crying before the match and afterward as they reflected on the relationships they built with their former coach and teammate.

Lauenstein said they went to the Long Beach hotel on Friday night, hung Schwarzenbach’s lifter of the year poster on her door, and waited to surprise her. She said moments like that illustrate how much of last year’s theme of “Our roots run deep” still fits the program.

“It just shows how much of a family we are,” Lauenstein said. “No matter where you go and they’re always going to be, they’re always in our hearts. We love Tyler and Callie. We miss them a lot.”

Familiar Name Brings 4-1 Long Beach Into Lincoln On Saturday

By Lincoln Arneal

Tyler Hildebrand only spent three seasons at Nebraska across two stints, but his impact on the current Huskers looms large. 

He was an assistant coach on the 2017 national champion team and returned for the two seasons during the 2021 calendar year, culminating with a national title match appearance last December. 

Senior setter Nicklin Hames said Hildebrand changed her career trajectory, and she owes him a lot of credit for all her success. She significantly changed her technique and style during her first year. 

“I don’t think I could have made the changes I did without him,” Hames said. “I owe a lot to Tyler. (He’s) one of the greatest coaches I’ve ever had and someone I really look up to and respect tremendously.” 

However, those warm feelings may have to be set aside for a few hours this weekend when Hildebrand returns to Nebraska as the Long Beach State head coach. “The Beach” will take on No. 2 Nebraska at 3 p.m. on Saturday at the Devaney Center. 

LBSU has started the season 4-1, with its only loss coming in five sets against No. 18 Oregon. Long Beach has wins over Oregon State and Notre Dame.

MVB Tyler Hildebrand 71
Tyler Hildebrand

Hames said she is a little nervous because Hildebrand knows the Huskers (6-0) and all their tendencies well. She expects Long Beach to have a good defensive plan for NU. 

Hames said she still stays in contact with Hildebrand and texted him a couple of hours before her interview on Monday. She’s watched Long Beach play a few times this year and has been impressed. 

“You can see Tyler’s coaching style all over his team,” she said. “So that’s pretty cool to see. But I’m excited to have him back in Lincoln for a game.”

Callie Schwarzenbach will also make a return to Nebraska with LBSU. Schwarzenbach played four years at Nebraska before transferring for her final season. She even played in the spring exhibition with the Huskers before graduating in May. 

Schwarzenbach is off to a strong start this season. The 6-foot-5 middle blocker is averaging 1.48 kills per set while hitting .406, both of which are career bests and a block per set.

Senior Kenzie Knuckles said she’s excited to see her former coach and teammate this weekend. 

“Tyler built a lot of what we had last year with just his presence and who he is as a human,” she said. “I know that emotional connection he has with all the players is super strong, so we’re really excited to see him.”

NU coach John Cook said when Hildebrand returned to Nebraska as the associate head coach, he planned to stay a long time. However, when his alma mater came calling in the offseason, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. 

Hildebrand was a four-year starting setter for Long Beach and is still the program’s career leader in assists. 

He compared Hildebrand’s sudden departure to when he was a head coach at Wisconsin and almost led the Badgers to the final four but was approached after the season to return to Nebraska, where he was an assistant coach. 

“That’s the dream job,” Cook said. “I had a connection here and always wanted to come back here, and I think he’s got a really strong connection at Long Beach. So I think it was a great opportunity for him and they really wanted him.”

Cook said working with Hildebrand made him a better coach.

“He’s an exceptional coach. I’ve said that many, many times,” he said. “Now he’s getting to run his own program, which is great, and he’s doing a heck of a job.”