Scott Frost

Nebraska’s better as a team heading into a marquee matchup with No. 5 Ohio State on Saturday than it was before the South Alabama game, Scott Frost said.

LINCOLN — Scott Frost is aware of the narratives.

He knows his play-calling has been called into question through the first few weeks of the season. He knows what has been said about quarterback Adrian Martinez and his perceived struggles.

Frost has a Ph.D. in Nebraska football narratives. He grew up with them, sitting in the stands in the 1980s. He was on the team during the 1995 season with all its glory and controversy. He bore the brunt of the criticism after the 1996 Arizona State loss and was the focus of booing inside Memorial Stadium against Central Florida in 1997, a season he’d finish by lobbying on national television that Nebraska — and Tom Osborne — deserved a national title.

Frost understands the Husker bubble better than any coach in the school’s history. Knows lucky bounce off a cleat for a touchdown in Columbia, Missouri, is the difference between fervor and fury.

Which is why he’ll take 3-1 as 3-1. Because Frost knows what it could be.

“We are where we are,” Frost said after Nebraska’s 42-38 win at Illinois. “We could easily be 4-0 and everyone would be saying how great we are, we’d be a top-15 team. We could easily be 2-2 and everyone would be talking about how it’s not any better and the sky is falling. We are where we are.”

Nebraska’s better as a team heading into a marquee matchup with No. 5 Ohio State on Saturday than it was before the South Alabama game, he said.

“We’re a lot better four games into (this) season, for sure,” Frost added.

And that’s enough for now. Because Frost knows the alternative.

After a storm took away the 2018 opener, a fourth-quarter pick sealed a Game 2 loss and a 56-10 beating in the Big House, Frost said Nebraska had a winnable game in Week 4 against Purdue.

The Boilermakers shredded Nebraska 42-28 at home.

Before that, the narratives around Nebraska and Frost had been packed with confidence. Frost told Sports Illustrated Year 2 would be when Nebraska really took off. He told everyone at Big Ten media day teams should get Nebraska now, because they were only going to get better.

But after staring at 0-4, the narrative changed.

Flustered at the podium, Frost said players dancing on the sideline during the game looked like they loved losing. He called out players for penalties.

“We look like one of the most undisciplined teams in the country,” Frost said. “There’s really no difference from a coaching perspective between I can’t do it and I won’t do it. And the people that won’t make good decisions, the people that are hitting people three yards out of bounds, if that keeps up, I’m just gonna ride with the guys that do it the right way.”

Players transferred. The roster flipped. Frost has said multiple times the culture changed after that Purdue loss. And even after the 4-2 finish, and through  the hype of the offseason, Frost has kept it steady.

No more talk about winning down the road. It’s been about taking the good of the moment, and moving on.

“I know we’re better than we were a year ago, but we still have to go out and earn (it),” Frost said at media day this July.

And that’s remained the message this year. And why when asked how good it was to break the eight-game road losing streak Saturday, Frost shrugged.

“Listen,” he said. “We are where we are.”

And where Nebraska stands after four weeks is a flawed football team with specks of hope.

The Huskers are last — 128th — in the FBS with nine fumbles and tied for second in the country with 10 takeaways. A safety is currently the starting kicker. Martinez leads the Big Ten in passing yards, and is last in the country with five fumbles. The offense put up 690 yards Saturday, the most against a conference opponent since 2007, but has snapping issues and can’t get out of its own way.

But 3-1 is 3-1.

It’s progress. Something worth hanging a hat on, even if it isn’t quite the hat you expected to wear.

“As long as we keep getting better,” Frost said Saturday. “Good things are in the future.”

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Chris Heady covers Husker football and is the Nebraska men's basketball beat writer. He started at The World-Herald in 2017. Follow him on Twitter @heady_chris. Email: chris.heady@owh.com.

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