Photo by Kelly Mosier

Going Deep: Frost Leads UCF to Perfection

By Brian Rosenthal

Twenty years ago on this day, senior quarterback Scott Frost made an impassionate postgame plea to voters of the Associated Press poll and USA Today/ESPN coaches’ poll to vote unbeaten Orange Bowl champion Nebraska and its retiring coach, Tom Osborne, the No. 1 team in the nation.

The coaches listened, voting Nebraska No. 1 and giving the Huskers a share of the 1997 national championship with the Associated Press No. 1 team, undefeated Rose Bowl champion Michigan.

You may have half-wondered Monday if Frost would do something similar again.

Now Nebraska’s football coach, Frost went out on top with his former UCF team, leading the Knights to perfection, a 13-0 season, capped with a 34-27 Peach Bowl victory over SEC West Champion Auburn.

That, by the way, is the same Auburn team that handed the two participants in next week’s College Football Playoffs national championship game, Georgia and Alabama, its only defeats this season.

Yet, because of the current college football playoff system, UCF never had a realistic chance at playing for a national championship. Football isn’t like NCAA basketball, where the Cinderella-ist of Cinderellas have an equal opportunity of winning everything.

Sure, Associated Press voters could give UCF a few No. 1 votes in its final poll, but no passionate speech by Frost would change the fact that either Georgia or Alabama will be the 2017 national champion.

That didn’t keep Frost from finally voicing his opinion on the situation, an opinion he had kept silent throughout the season.

“It looked like a conscious effort to me to make sure that they didn’t have a problem if they put us too high and a couple teams ahead of us lost,” Frost said. “And oh, no, now we have to put them in a playoff. But we just beat a team that beat two playoff teams and lost to another one by six points and we beat them by seven.

“And Auburn is a great team. I’m not taking anything away from them. I give them a ton of credit. But these guys deserve everything they get, and they deserve more credit from the Committee than what they got.”

Many national pundits and analysts did give UCF and Frost major kudos for the perfect season, and for slaying an SEC power in the process. Those same people made ample mention of Nebraska too, and how the Huskers’ future is bright with Frost at the helm.

Finally, Frost and his entire coaching staff coming from UCF can focus 100 percent on Nebraska, after he masterfully and meticulously split duties throughout December.

“I hold my head high because through this whole process and decisions, I tried to do everything the right way the best that I knew how,” Frost said. “It was the right thing to do to come coach these guys. I’m not happy for me. I’m so happy for these guys.

“I told them it’s onward and upward from here for UCF. I expect to turn on the TV and watch them keep getting better and keep winning, and I look forward to going and hopefully turning another group of guys (at Nebraska) into the same type of family that has love for each other like these guys do.”

 

Going pro

Over the last week, Nebraska has lost two underclassmen to the NFL Draft, most recently junior tackle Nick Gates, who announced his decision in the wee hours of Tuesday morning via Twitter.

Gates started 36 games, making him Nebraska’s most experienced linemen by the end of 2017. He earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors by the conference’s coaches and media this season.

Gates posted the following message:

My time at Nebraska has been essential to my growth, both as a football player and as a person. I would not be in the position I am in without those who have guided me along the way.

A special thank you to my family, my team, Nebraska fans and our former football staff. Coach Riley and Coach Cavanaugh, you gave me a chance I never thought I would have, and it is because of you I now get to pursue my dreams.

It has taken me a long time to make this decision. I believe Coach Frost will take Husker Nation to where we need to go! However, after talking it over with my family, friends and coaches, I have officially decided to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft.

I couldn’t be more excited for this next chapter in my life. #GBR

Gates, of course, joins quarterback Tanner Lee in declaring early for the draft. Lee, a transfer from Tulane, spent one season playing for the Huskers, throwing for 3,143 yards and 23 touchdowns as a junior.

He, too, issued a message via Twitter:

After weeks of prayer and consideration with my family, I’ve decided to enter the NFL Draft and pursue an opportunity that I feel is best for myself and my family at this time.

I want to say thank you to Coach Riley, Coach Langsdorf, Coach Keith Williams, and all my coaches for the opportunity to play for Nebraska. It was the opportunity of a lifetime. Thank you to my teammates. Thank you for letting me into your locker room two years ago and coming out with brothers and friends for life.

I cannot thank Husker Nation enough for making it so special. I will be a Husker for life. I want to wish Coach Frost and his staff the best of luck. Nebraska is in great hands.

Thank you to everyone that has been a part of my college career. I honestly couldn’t have done it without you.

GO BIG RED

 

Gill’s rise

Big Ten Conference play is just now resuming after its unusual early-December start, but already the Nebraska men’s basketball team has a leading candidate for the leagues' annual Sixth Man of the Year award.

Senior guard Anton Gill not only leads Nebraska with 31 three-pointers through 15 games, he’s the only Big Ten player who hasn’t started at least one game but still averages double-figure scoring. Gill enters Nebraska’s game Tuesday night at Northwestern averaging 10.6 points per game.

Gill averages 23 minutes off the bench. He’s pushed his average into double figures with totals of 21, 14 and 17 points over Nebraska’s last three games. He’s made 11 of his 3-pointers in that stretch, and for the season is shooting 47 percent from 3-point range.

Nebraska (10-5, 1-1 Big Ten) is seeking to end a four-game losing streak to Northwestern (10-5, 1-1). Tuesday night’s game will be played at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois, as Northwestern’s home arena is undergoing major renovations. Tip-off is 8:01 p.m. on BTN.

 

Borchardt earns scholarship

Nebraska coach Tim Miles dressed as Santa Claus when he met with his team after the Huskers’ 85-68 victory over Delaware State on Dec. 22. He called Tanner Borchardt, a junior from Gothenburg, to the front of the room, to present him with his Christmas cookie.

Turns out, this cookie box came with a surprise – a full scholarship.

The jaw-dropping look on Borchardt’s face showed his utter surprise as teammates cheered and left their seats to mob the now former walk-on.

Borchardt, a 6-foot-8, 265-pound forward, initially made the team through a tryout for the 2015-16 season, left to focus on school, and then returned last Febuary. He’s lived to his word of making the most of his second opportunity, too.

In his first game on scholarship, Borchardt had eight points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots in 14 minutes off the bench, giving Nebraska a much-needed boost in its 71-62 victory over Stetson to close nonconference play.

“Whatever Coach wants of me, I’m going to go in there and do,” Borchardt said in the postgame news conference. “And he told me coming out of halftime he was going to use me off the bench, so I just had to stay ready. It’s all those reps on scout team getting ready for this moment.”

 

Road warriors

Give credit to second-year Nebraska women’s basketball coach Amy Williams for instilling more mental toughness with her team. At least, that’s surely one reason the Huskers have won five straight road games, including Sunday’s 79-74 victory at Minnesota.

The Gophers (12-3, 1-1 Big Ten Conference) hadn’t yet lost at Williams Arena this season. Nebraska, meanwhile, improved to 10-5 overall, and 1-1 in the Big Ten. The Huskers have the week off before hitting the road again Sunday at Northwestern.

Reach Brian at brosenthal@huskers.com or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.

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