Pierce Is Producing Another Budding Star Set to Rise in Lincoln

By Shawn Ekwall

Mark Brahmer has coached his share of talented football players.

Over his 27 seasons as the head man at Pierce High, which has gone 221-66 under his tutelage, two players stand above the rest.

One is tight end Matt Herian, who possessed an uncommon combination of size, speed and athleticism that eventually landed him at Nebraska where he was on the edge of stardom in the early-2000s before a nasty leg injury all but derailed his career.

The other is Brahmer’s son, Ben, also a tight end, who plays a little receiver, too. He has size (6-foot-6, 220 pounds), speed and athleticism. Ben will head to Nebraska on scholarship next fall. The comparisons are hard to avoid.

“Matt … we had to move him around more,” Coach Brahmer said. “The game has changed for Ben. He learned wide receiver play as a young guy, where Matt was a more straight ahead kind of guy early on. We had to move Matt around as he got older and he learned the receiver position later. Both had those attributes – good speed, could jump and catch.”

Herian’s years under Brahmer at Pierce were from 1998-2001. In that span, the Bluejays earned a pair of Class C-1 runner-up finishes in 1999 and 2001.

Ben and his 2022 senior teammates will be looking to add a second state title in their four years. They finished as runner-up a year ago, losing to Columbus Lakeview in the finals at Memorial Stadium.

* * *

At first, Coach Brahmer had a tough time convincing people how good Herian was.

He posted eye-popping stats, sure, but the conventional wisdom was that he was doing it against small schools.

“Nobody believed how good he was,” Brahmer said. 

That changed one day in 2001, when Herian and his coach were at a summer football camp at NU. After one session, Husker receivers coach Ron Brown asked Herian to stay late with a few other receivers and tight ends.

“I think it was Day 2 of camp, and Coach Brown asked Matt to stay back and run one more drill,” Brahmer said. “Coach was throwing behind receivers forcing them to adjust to make a tough catch. He throws high and way behind Matt, and Matt reaches back with his left hand and makes a one-handed, bare-hand catch.

“I was standing by (recruiting coordinator) Jeff Jamrog and prior to that play, he asked me point blank, ‘Can Matt play here?’ I told him, ‘Yes, I believe he can.’

“After that play, Jamrog grinned and shook his head and said, ‘I think you’re right.’”

Herian, while vaguely recalling the moment, said it was indeed the summer camp circuit prior to his senior year that elevated his stock.

“I had a breakout year my sophomore year (1999) but didn’t go to camps that summer because I pulled a hamstring in track that spring,” Herian said. “So the next summer I was on a few schools’ radars and had an offer from Coach (Dan) McCarney after Iowa State’s camp. Then I went to camp at UNL and really put my best foot forward and tested out well. That’s when Coach Solich told me I’d be getting a letter in the mail and to make sure I read it.”

Herian went on to play for the Huskers from 2002-2006. He was on pace for a monster year in 2004 before suffering a compound fracture of his left leg against Missouri in late October. The injury forced him to miss the entire 2005 season before playing in 2006 as a senior.

He finished with a modest 12 catches and two touchdowns as a senior after tallying 46 catches for 792 yards and six TDs his sophomore and junior years.

Tampa Bay signed him as a free agent in 2007, but an Achilles injury at the tail end of training camp ended his hopes of making the team.

Herian has since made peace with his unfortunate injury situations.

“There’s always what-ifs in the back of your mind,” Herian said. “But by that time Coach Callahan was on board and they brought in some other guys like Maurice (Purify), Nate (Swift) and Marlon (Lucky).

“They maybe depended on me more before my injury, but things happen.”

* * *

Like so many small-town Nebraska kids, Ben Brahmer’s life-long goal was to play for the home-state Huskers.

That dream will become a reality after Ben committed to Nebraska back in April of 2021.

Growing up with older sisters Jaci and Maggie, both college volleyball players, along with mom Carmen, a former Doane track standout, it was the ladies of the household who many times set the tone for Ben as far as work ethic.

“It’s every little kid’s dream growing up to play in Memorial Stadium,” Ben said. “And I credit my sisters who helped me become a better athlete. They showed me early on how hard you had to work. I knew I had to put that work in to get where I wanted.”

Jaci and Maggie both were standout athletes at Pierce High and both continued their volleyball careers at Wayne State. They spent many hours in the gym, practicing not only volleyball, but also basketball while training to build speed and agility.

Ben credits his parents for providing him the support he’s needed over the years, saying they’ve “pushed me to work hard and helped me become a man.”

Coach Brahmer says wife, the former Carmen Kapke,  provides the “softer” side of the two. He admittedly tends to have a rougher edge. And he readily acknowledges that whatever athletic talents his kids have comes from mom.

“She was a great athlete in high school (Fairbury High) and in college. An All-American,” he said. “A lot of the kids’ abilities come from her. I was a two-hour a day weight room guy just to keep up.”

* * *

One of Ben’s favorite plays is one his dad put in years ago for Herian. It’s a play the Bluejays still use today. Its name won’t be revealed here due to the up-tempo offense and vocal calls the Bluejays make at the line of scrimmage. But it’s no surprise it’s still successful with Ben as the target.

“We still run it quite a bit and even scored a TD against Wahoo,” Ben said. “We run a no-huddle offense so we can make the call right at the line.”

Ben’s 142 receiving yards and two TDs on an opening-night 38-7 win over the Warriors showcased his growth over his four years in high school.

While his receiving stats have logically trended upward each of his three seasons, he will have his hands full improving on last year’s 63 catches for 1,119 yards and 13 TDs.

In a Week 2 win over Columbus Scotus, Ben lined up not only at tight end, but receiver, H-back and punt returner.

Speed and strength gains are evident. Hard work in the weight room will do that. Time spent lifting continues to push his game to higher levels.

Herian, who spends many Friday nights on the chain gang at Pierce games, has noticed the continued growth.

“He’s probably a bit taller than me, but he’s definitely a more defined route runner than I was,” said Herian, who was listed at Nebraska in 2004 at 6-5, 240. “I was more straight away, speed, off play-action. Ben is just so technically sound in what he does.

“He’s still developing. You can see his body has more muscle mass, and he’s not afraid to mix it up.”

There are similarities, sure, but Coach Brahmer also sees differences between Ben and Herian.

“Ben has good agility and can change directions,” the elder Brahmer said. ”Both those guys jump really well and are physical blockers. Both catch it real well. Matt’s hands were so soft. They both did, and do, so many things well.”

For Ben that includes running intermediate routes or beating the defense over the top. With his added size, he’s also a ready and able blocker on running plays.

“I feel like I’m pretty versatile,” Ben said. “We run the ball a lot here, and I’m the main blocking tight end, but I can also get behind the defense on my routes if needed.”

* * *

Having your father as your coach can test one’s resolve. There are highs and lows. It isn’t always smooth sailing.

But Ben wouldn’t have it any other way. Playing for his dad has been a great experience, even if it’s not always easy.

“He has to be harder on me,” Ben said. “If he wasn’t, others wouldn’t have as much respect for me.”

Said his dad: “It’s been very enjoyable, but it hasn’t been easy on us. He knows I’m not going to play favorites and he’s had to earn it. But I think it’s helped prepare him for the next step to be coached up hard.”

That next step is fast approaching. And Ben feels like he’s ready to take his game to the next level in Lincoln.

“I know the competition is a lot better, but as long as I can catch the ball and get open, I can fit in,” Ben said. “I talk with Thomas (Fidone, an NU tight end) quite a bit, and he’s a great guy. In talking with Coach Whipple, he loves to use his tight ends. I just need to get down there and get some more weight on me. I hope to add 20 pounds and still run pretty well.”

Before graduating to his life as a Husker, a senior season full of individual and team goals at Pierce plays out. The ultimate aspiration? Capturing another state title.

“Personally, I’m kind of a quiet guy,” Ben said. “I want to get out of my shell and be more of a vocal leader. But as a team our two goals are simple: go undefeated and win state.”

According to Coach Brahmer, his son is blessed to play with a talented group of senior teammates.

“Ben’s fortunate he has a lot of good athletes in his class,” Brahmer said. “(Quarterback) Abram Scholting’s been pitching to him for a while. We have good running backs, are lucky to have a good line and some other talented receivers. Ben’s fortunate things have fallen into place for him.”

* * *

Herian knows the leap from Class C-1 high school football to a Power Five school is difficult. Yet he sees the tools Ben brings to the table. He’s convinced he has what it takes to succeed at NU.

“You can see each year he’s built better,” Herian said. “Personally, I see him as a possession receiver at Nebraska. He’s not gonna blow the top off a defense, but he’ll be that guy that consistently gets open on those 5-, 8- and 10-yard routes.”

Herian also mentioned the culture of the Pierce community and the work ethic ingrained in the kids for decades as being factors that will help Ben at NU.

Visit with anyone from Pierce, he says, and sooner or later a consistent theme will surface: Hard work.

The northeast Nebraska town of 1,973 is proud of its hard-working, punch-the-clock culture, whether it’s working in agriculture or in a large plant in nearby Norfolk. Culture is one of the reasons the Bluejays are always at or near the top of Class C-1. And also why many Pierce alumni come back rather than leave their small town for perceived greener pastures.

Herian has returned home to farm and raise a family of four children with wife Lynsey.

“There’s just a lot of pride here. A blue-collar mentality,” he said. He points out that there are a lot of dads who played in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s whose sons also played or are playing now. It’s tradition. “You have so many believers in the program, and Coach Brahmer has a special talent in bringing out the best in his players.”

“Sometimes people will say to me, ‘Pierce is a football town,’ Brahmer said. “I don’t see it that way. We’re a community that wants to do well in everything we do, not just football.”

Herian played his part more than 20 years ago. An example for future Bluejays. Now it’s Ben who carries the torch.

“We both grew up in Pierce as small town kids,” Ben said. “We’re just hard workers that go to work every single day.”

Somewhere the next great Pierce tight end is watching.

Big Ten Announces 2023 Football Schedule

Nebraska Sports Information

Big Ten Announces 2023 Football Schedule

The Big Ten Conference announced its 2023 football schedule Wednesday morning, with Nebraska set to play host to five conference games next fall.

Nebraska will begin the season with a Big Ten game for the fourth consecutive season, opening at Minnesota on Thursday, Aug. 31. Nebraska played at Ohio State in 2020, traveled to Illinois in 2021 and met Northwestern in Dublin, Ireland, to open the 2022 season.

Following its season opener against Minnesota, Nebraska will play three non-conference games beginning with a Sept. 9 game at Colorado, followed by home contests against Northern Illinois (Sept. 16) and Louisiana Tech (Sept. 23).  The Sept. 16 home opener will be Nebraska’s latest in full-season schedule since also opening on Sept. 16 in 1995.

23 FBSCHED

Nebraska resumes Big Ten play with a Sept. 30 home game against Michigan at Memorial Stadium. The Huskers return to the road for an Oct. 7 game at Illinois, followed by their lone bye week of the season on Oct. 14.

Following its bye, Nebraska plays three of its next four contests in Memorial Stadium, starting with a two-game October homestand against Northwestern (Oct. 21) and Purdue (Oct. 28). The Huskers travel to Michigan State on Nov. 4, before returning home to face Maryland on Nov. 11.  

For the third straight year, Nebraska will finish with Big Ten West foes Wisconsin and Iowa. Nebraska will travel to Madison on Nov. 18, before the Huskers finish the regular season by hosting their traditional Black Friday matchup with Iowa on Nov. 24.

The 2023 football season will be the initial season with the Big Ten’s recently announced media rights partners, CBS, FOX, NBC, Peacock and BTN. Plans regarding the format of future Big Ten football schedules for 2024 and beyond will be announced at a later date

The 2023 season will mark the 100th Anniversary of Memorial Stadium. Fans interested in becoming Nebraska season ticket holders should visit Huskers.com/tickets and join the 2023 Season Ticket Request List.

2023 Nebraska Football Schedule

Aug. 31—at Minnesota (Thursday)

Sept. 9—at Colorado

Sept. 16—Northern Illinois

Sept. 23—Louisiana Tech

Sept. 30—Michigan

Oct. 7—at Illinois

Oct. 14—BYE

Oct. 21—Northwestern

Oct. 28—Purdue

Nov. 4—at Michigan State

Nov. 11—Maryland

Nov. 18—at Wisconsin

Nov. 24—Iowa (Friday)

After NU’s Quick Start, Sooners Leave Huskers In The Dust

By Steve Beideck

Once upon a time in Lincoln, Nebraska fans eagerly anticipated the next time Oklahoma would roll into town for a Big Eight or Big 12 showdown.

Everyone fortunate enough to have a ticket knew they would be treated to a competitive game, one that often-decided which team and its fan base would get to go to Miami for the Orange Bowl as conference champions.

Two Orange Bowl representatives were in Lincoln Saturday, but they were focused on only one of the combatants in the latest iteration of one of college football’s most historic rivalries.

That focus was on No. 6 Oklahoma, primarily because it wasn’t a competitive game.

After scoring on its opening drive Saturday, elevating the hopes of Husker fans in the Memorial Stadium crowd of 87,161, Oklahoma controlled the action for the final 56-plus minutes while rolling to a 49-14 victory.

“This comes back to me,” Interim head coach Mickey Joseph said. “It’s not my kids’ fault, it’s not my assistant coaches’ fault, this is on me. I’ve got to accept responsibility for it, and I have. We’re going to get better next week. We’ve got eight games left. We’re going to get ready to win some games.”

Oklahoma now has won the last three games between the two teams. The Sooners lead the all-time series 47-38-3. Nebraska still has a 22-19-2 advantage in games played in Lincoln after losing the 88th game in the series, and this was just the second loss for the Huskers to OU in the last nine games played in Lincoln.

The loss dropped Nebraska’s record at the start of its 133rd season of football to 1-3, a record that includes a 1-2 finish in the nonconference schedule. The final eight games of the season are against Big Ten foes.

Following a bye week, the week in which Nebraska would have traveled to Evanston, Illinois, to play Northwestern if the teams had not opened the season in Dublin, Ireland, the Huskers play two games in six days.

Indiana travels to Lincoln for the Huskers’ Oct. 1 homecoming game, which will begin at either 6 or 6:30 p.m. Then it’s a short week to get ready for the first true conference road game on Friday, Oct. 7 at Rutgers. That game will kick off at 6 p.m. CDT and be televised on FS1.

There’s plenty for the Huskers to work on during the bye week as Joseph will be able to make more adjustments leading up to the final eight games.

Joseph said the focus during the bye week – and even beyond, if necessary – is more drill work instead of team work.

“We have to do some individual work, some more drill work next week, less team work and get some fundamentals straightened up,” Joseph said. “More 9-on-7 drills, more turnover drills, less team work. Because the teamwork doesn’t matter if they don’t do the individual work.

“Nobody played very good with a score like that. We’re going to dissect this film. We’re going to find the kids who were doing what we asked them to do, kids that can tackle and that can block.”

Oklahoma made the necessary in-game adjustments to overcome being stopped on its opening drive, a stop that was followed by Nebraska’s only touchdown drive until the final four minutes of the game.

The Sooner offense racked up 355 yards of total offense in the first 30 minutes to put themselves in position to reset the program’s record 656 yards offense the 1956 Sooners hung on the Huskers nearly 66 years ago.

As both teams turned to their backups for the final 20 minutes, that 1956 mark still stands. The 3-0 Sooners had third-team offensive linemen in the game for the final few plays after the Huskers scored their second touchdown.

The final total for the Sooners, after taking a knee on the final two plays, was 580 yards on 84 plays. The totals were evenly distributed – 312 rushing and 268 passing.

NU gave up 642 last week in a 45-42 loss to Georgia Southern. Combine that with OU’s 580 yards, and that’s 1,222 total yards allowed by the Blackshirts the past two games.

Senior running back Eric Gray led the Sooners with 113 yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns. Ten different players had at least one reception for OU, with Marvin Mims leading the way with four catches for 66 yards.

Quarterback Dillon Gabriel dissected the Nebraska back seven through the first three quarters, completing 16-of-27 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns. The junior transfer from Central Florida, who hails from Mililani, Hawaii, also scored a rushing touchdown and finished with 55 yards on six carries.

It was Gabriel’s 61-yard TD run down the west sideline that muted any momentum Nebraska had after scoring its first touchdown. That score came just 1:49 after Casey Thompson finished the Huskers six-play, 77-yard opening drive with a 32-yard TD pass to Trey Palmer.

Oklahoma did what none of Nebraska’s first three opponents could do – slow the Huskers’ running game. In the first half, NU’s Anthony Grant was limited to 30 yards on 11 carries.

In Nebraska’s first three games, Grant averaged 142.7 yards per game. Ajay Allen was Nebraska’s leading rushing in the first 30 minutes, gaining 40 yards on nine carries.

Gabe Ervin Jr. finished as Nebraska’s leading rusher, gaining 60 yards on seven second-half carries. Allen finished with 49 yards on 11 carries while Grant gained 36 on 13. NU totaled just 163 rushing yards on 45 carries.

NU’s passing game netted just one more yard than the running game. Thompson completed 14-of-20 passes for 129 yards and one touchdown; he also was sacked four times.

Chubba Purdy saw his first action as a Husker quarterback. The Florida State transfer was 7-of-11 with one interception for 35 yards. Purdy also scored Nebraska’s second TD on an 8-yard run around the right end with 3:17 remaining in the game.

Joseph said Purdy played in the second half because he needed some reps, not because Thompson was hurt.

“I thought Chubba played OK when he got in there,” Joseph said. “He made some mistakes, but I thought he was aggressive and he gave us a chance to sustain drives.”

Does that mean there might be a change at quarterback on the horizon to give Purdy a bigger opportunity to show what he could do?

Would Joseph be bold enough to try what Jim Harbaugh did at Michigan at the start of the season, giving his top two quarterbacks a chance to start one game and decide on a starter for the final six games?

It’s the kind of decision an interim coach faces with the primary goal of finding the best way to win games.

And right now, Nebraska seems a long way from winning anything.

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

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 Turn Close Game Into Runaway – Finally

By Steve Beideck

While there is still so much to fix, the big dose of success Nebraska eventually earned Saturday helped calm the collective nerves of an anxious Husker Nation.

Tied 7-7 at halftime with FCS foe North Dakota one week after coughing up a pair of 11-point leads in a gut-wrenching loss to Northwestern, a few boo-birds began chirping from the Memorial Stadium stands.

It was not near the extent of the 2007 boos, nor to the level that rang down near the end of the Mike Riley experiment in 2017, but it was noticeable from the crowd of 86,590. Still, In the end, the Huskers overwhelmed North Dakota 38-17 to even their record at 1-1.

Nebraska coach Scott Frost said that while the overall performance produced a mixed bag, the Huskers did snap a seven-game losing streak dating back to last season, the benefits of which outweigh the negatives.

“A lot of good and a lot of bad,” Frost said. “We had a lot better rhythm in the second half. It’s better to learn with a win than a loss. There are a lot of things we can fix and become a better football team.”

The outlook wasn’t good heading into the intermission, especially with the Fighting Hawks having their way against the Nebraska Blackshirts on a 16-play, 80-yard drive that tied the score just 13 seconds before the break.

That march by UND gave the Huskers one of the most lopsided time-of-possession deficits they have faced in a single half – 20:38 to 9:22. The Huskers only had four offensive possessions in the first 30 minutes.

And remember, this was an FCS foe, which has a limit of 63  “equilivancy” scholarships – which means they can be divided up between more than 63 players – compared to FBS schools that can offer 85 full rides.  

Things got tense when Nebraska stumbled after taking a 17-7 lead early in the third quarter and allowed the Fighting Hawks to rally and tie the game after NU QB Casey Thompson threw an interception deep in Nebraska’s own end which led to UND’s second touchdown.

After that, Nebraska began to dominate on both sides of the ball. The NU offense responded with a five-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 46-yard touchdown run by running back Anthony Grant.

The 5-foot-11, 200-pound junior from Buford, Georgia, was Nebraska’s steadiest weapon throughout the entire game. Grant, who also scored Nebraska’s lone first half TD on a 19-yard run, led all players with 189 rushing yards on 23 carries.

Nebraska secured the victory with a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns; one by running back Ajay Allen on a 14-yard run and the other on a 5-yard pass from Thompson to tight end Chancellor Brewington with 2:07 remaining in the game.

The Huskers finished with 437 yards of total offense. Thompson was 14-of-21 for 193 yards and two touchdowns. His other TD pass was a 1-yard toss to Nate Boerkircher that came on the sixth play of NU’s opening drive of the second half.

“Overall I thought the defense hung in there, but we can be better,” Frost said. “(There were) some dumb plays on special teams that I know are getting coached in the meetings. I’m listening to them.”

Still, Frost saw plenty of things to believe things will get better.

“My message to the team, I don’t mind sharing with you, it’s been an interesting campaign,” Frost said. “We have a lot of new guys on the team and on the staff. We’ve got some old guys who have battled through a lot of adversity and been a good team before and haven’t won.

“This team can be a great team, it’s not right now, and that was my message to them. That puts us in a perfect position to have the potential to be good but know that we have a lot of work to do and a lot of things to fix.”

Huskers Take The ‘L’ in Ireland As Northwestern Grinds out 528 Yards Of Offense

By Steve Beideck

Find a new starting quarterback, bring two dozen new players into the program, make sweeping changes to the offensive coaching staff.


All those things happened in the offseason, but none of the moves made a difference in the second half Saturday as Nebraska squandered a pair of 11-point leads before dropping a 31-28 decision to Northwestern in the 2022 football season opener for both teams.

The result wasn’t all on an offense that gained just 84 yards in 23 plays the final 6:41 – drives that ended with four punts and two interceptions. Or that tight end Travis Vokolek left the game in the second half with an injury.

It also wasn’t just on the defense, which did a nice job stopping ball carriers around the line of scrimmage. It was in the back seven where receivers and runners got free after catching one of the 27 passes Northwestern quarterback Ryan Hilinski completed.

After scoring 28 points in the first 35-plus minutes of the game played at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland, the Nebraska offense crumbled, and the defense continued to miss tackles as the Wildcats shredded the Blackshirts for 528 total yards.


That total includes 313 yards from a program not known as a pass-oriented offense.


Nebraska racked up 465 yards of offense, including 355 through the air by QB Casey Thompson. That total obliterated the school record of 238 set by Tanner Lee against Arkansas State in 2017 for the most passing yards by a Nebraska quarterback in their Huskers debut.


There also was Anthony Grant, who rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. He accounted for all but nine of Nebraska’s total rushing yards.


Sadly, those won’t be the numbers most people reflect on as preparations begin Monday for Nebraska’s Sept. 3 home opener against North Dakota and the other 10 games on the regular season schedule.

Instead it will be numbers like these that will stick in the craw of Nebraska fans, players, coaches and administrators as they evaluate how a game like this could seemingly slip away after so much early game success:


•       Northwestern possessed the ball for 34:14 and ran 12 more plays than the Huskers (85-73)

•       Wildcats quarterback Ryan Hilinski was 20-of-23 passing at halftime (87%) and finished the game 27-of-38 (71.1%) for 313 yards while toying with the Nebraska secondary

•       This was Nebraska’s seventh consecutive loss by nine points or less, and 10th loss in 11 games, dating back to the 2021 season.

•       Worst of all, Nebraska committed three turnovers, compared to one for Northwestern.


Nebraska seemed to be poised for a victory after taking a 28-17 lead less than six minutes into the third quarter. Instead of kicking the ball deep, the Huskers attempted an onside kick after locking down the game’s momentum with that TD run by Grant following Northwestern’s lone turnover.


The Wildcats took advantage of Nebraska’s head-scratching decision and went 44 yards in five plays to get those seven points back, never again surrendering the momentum.

“Any time something doesn’t work, you want it back,” Nebraska coach Scott Frost said. “We’ve been talking to the kids about being aggressive and attacking this thing for weeks. We got a look that was good for it, and I made the call, so it’s on me.

“At that point in the game, I thought all the momentum was on our side. I felt at that point we had a really good chance of winning the game. You can’t really foresee them scoring 14 points and us sputtering after we played well to start the second half on offense.”

Northwestern rallied in the battle of teams that went 3-9 and 1-8 in Big Ten play in 2021. The setback was Nebraska’s 10th loss – all by nine points or less – in the past 11 games. The lone win in that stretch? A 56-7 victory over Northwestern on Oct. 2, 2021.


Nebraska (0-1)…7 7 14 0 – 28

Northwestern (1-0)…3 14 14 7 – 31

At Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland

Neb-Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda 32 pass from Casey Thompson (Timmy Bleekrode kick)

No-Adam Stage 35 FG

Neb-Thompson 1 run (Bleekrode kick)

No-Raymond Niro 43 pass from Ryan Hilinski (Stage kick)

No-Donny Navarro 6 pass from Hilinski (Stage kick)

Neb-Anthony Grant 3 run (Bleekrode kick)

Neb-Grant 46 run (Bleekrode kick)

No-Cam Porter 3 run (Stage kick)

No-Evan Hull 4 run (Stage kick)