Sautter: This season's record hasn't been deterrent for Husker faithful

Scott Frost is college football’s only active head coach at the same school where he won a national championship as a player. 

The new football coach is 1-6. But if anyone thinks Nebraska fans aren’t happy with Scott Frost being back in the state, all they need to do is take a tour of Nebraska and ask.

“He is from the state and knows what built Nebraska,” lifelong Husker fan Clayton Stricker said. “We believe in him.”

Stricker, 34, and Gabe Anaya, 37, have been Husker fans for as long as they can remember. I visited with them last week at a brewery in Scottsbluff.

Like many Husker fans, the two friends did not even seem fazed by what, at the time, was still an 0-6 start.

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“Yeah, there is going to be struggles off of the start,” Stricker said. “Especially offensively, you have a bunch of people that weren’t recruited for the scheme. You just eliminate the silly mistakes. The penalties are killing them. If you clean that up then you would be right in the division race in year one.”

That echoes what I hear from nearly everyone I talk to when I’m out doing my job watching high school games and high school athletes — usually about twice a week this time of year. I also see the enthusiasm behind the scenes when I watch visiting recruits and their families at Nebraska home games on Saturdays.

Like you, I would guess that Frost is among a very short list of coaches who could have started 0-6 at Nebraska and nary an eyebrow would raise around the state. Sure, fans want to win, and they are disappointed, but it’s uncanny how they simply are biding their time, cocksure that Frost and his staff are putting things together slowly but surely. They are willing to endure short-term pain for long-term glory.

“With me, it is 90 percent that Scott Frost is in charge,” Anaya said. “When the season started, I was so excited like everyone else. I have a lot of hope and I hang that on Scott.”

Of course we all know the reasons. Part of it is the rarity of having a coach who gave it his all for NU once already and returned home to do it again.

Frost is college football’s only active head coach at the same school where he won a national championship as a player. Only three current power conference coaches have won a national championship as a player — Frost, Dabo Swinney and Mario Cristobal.

Swinney is the only active head coach who has won as both a player and coach (Alabama 1992, Clemson 2016). Cristobal, now the head coach at Oregon, attended Miami and was a member of the 1989 and 1991 title-winning Hurricanes.

So, Nebraskans are united in knowing and trusting Frost.

As Anaya said: “He knows what it takes. He’s been there.”

And we all know what would happen if NU had hired the garden-variety young coach — not named Frost — who had successfully cut his teeth at the group of five level.

“We would be losing our minds,” Stricker said. “I would totally change. I would not be as content as I am now.”

Content? “No, not at all,” Anaya chimed in.

Support is strong in the eastern part of the state, of course. I see it. That’s where I live. I think the farther you go west, it’s even stronger, if that’s possible.

“Ride or die, man. Scott Frost, baby,” Anaya said.

I believe Stricker’s comments could come from the mouth of just about anyone I talked to in my recent trip to Scottsbluff. See if you agree.

“I know we aren’t going to be where we are at today next year,” he said. “We probably aren’t going to win the division or even the conference. ... I’m not expecting that next year. But you can see this team improving week by week. I have a pretty good feeling (about) the direction they are headed. I don’t see this as being a sustained deal. If we are 0-6 for four straight years, then, yeah, we have an issue. I just don’t see that being possible.”

And there you have it, right?

I think that is the true value of the relationship between Frost and the fan base. It’s something that Bo Pelini and Mike Riley did not bring, and Frost is the beneficiary of their shortcomings, at least as Husker coaches. Longtime watchers of the team saw the program leaking oil under those coaches. Things were slowly getting worse, not better. Yes, Riley was able to boost spirits with some occasional recruiting wins, but the results just weren’t there on the field.

Nebraskans for years watched winning football. It’s hard to get over on them. Their standard is Devaney and Osborne. It just didn’t look the same under Bill Callahan, Pelini and Riley. But in Frost they trust. To many Husker fans, 0-6 is on Riley and Shawn Eichorst. Frost merely is in the process of fixing it and fans have the sense to know that it takes time. These fans are smart enough to see progress even in a loss. They see Frost, his staff and the players putting in the work. They feel they will eventually reap the rewards of remaining faithful.

Just ask Anaya.

“Frost is absolutely right when he says you have to go through these tough times in order to get to where you want to get, and we all believe that,” he told me. “If we have to lose now to be great for the next however many years, why not, who cares?”

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