LINCOLN — They dined on August optimism. They gave the unit a captain and each position its own assistant captain. They handed out Blackshirts before the first game. They soothed doubters after the first game was a near-disaster. They used the words “we're close” as a reminder of progress. They celebrated two good performances to start the Big Ten season. Perhaps they relied on a track record established by their head coach: Everywhere Bo Pelini had ever preached his word on stopping college football offenses, his guys had improved as the season wore on.
After all that, Nebraska's defense — the recipient of internal grace and patience for eight weeks despite some unsightly moments — took a 430-yard, 34-23 beating from Minnesota. It joined previous 2013 beatings delivered by Wyoming and UCLA.