If college football isn’t a Crusade, why are players and coaches so often identified as saviors?
That’s the word being thrown around at Nebraska and Michigan, two storied Big Ten programs that are trying to return to glory.
That obviously is the mission of new Cornhuskers coach Scott Frost, who, let’s face it, worked miracles at Central Florida. The Knights—talk about Crusade references—went from 0-12 in 2015, the year before Frost arrived, to 13-0 last fall, his second season at UCF.
Judging by the response to Frost’s arrival—86,818 tickets were distributed for the Cornhuskers’ spring game—Nebraska fans are expecting similar results in Lincoln.
``We're going to run that up-tempo offense we saw [at the spring game], and we're going to get the Blackshirts [defense] back to being Blackshirts. And that's extremely important,’’ new Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos said at a recent boosters luncheon, the Omaha World-Herald reported. ``You've got Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh thinking, `We better put a little more into that Nebraska game coming up.’ And that's the way we want it. They're running a little bit scared right now. And they won't admit it. We'll leave that at that."
Asked if he really thought Meyer and Harbaugh were running scared, Moos said his comment was ``a bit tongue in cheek.’’
I’m guessing he also was thinking, ``For now.’’
Interestingly, Frost will make his Big Ten debut against Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor on Sept. 22. It will be Harbaugh’s first game against Nebraska.
``Running scared’’ or not, I’m guessing Harbaugh already has his first bulletin-board material, or whatever digitial device passes for a bulletin board these days, for that game.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
While Frost is being viewed as a savior, he at least has some cushion. He doesn’t have to win ‘em all until his second season if he’s going to repeat his UCF magic trick.
At Michigan, the clock starts with the season opener at Notre Dame.
And while experts are cautioning that Shea Patterson, the transfer quarterback from NCAA-sanctioned Ole Miss, should not be regarded as the savior at Michigan, I’m guessing that maize-and-blue wearers would like him to be just that.
Patterson, who received an NCAA waiver on April 27 to play immedately, passed for 2,259 yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions in seven starts for Ole Miss last season before going down with a knee injury in October. In his 10-game career at Ole Miss, Patterson threw for 3,139 yards, 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Three different quarterback starters combined for just nine touchdown passes last season, the fewest at Michigan since 1975, as the Wolverines wound up a disappointing 8-5.
Technically, Patterson is in a four-way battle with third-year sophomore quarterback Brandon Peters, who did some good things and some not-so-good things last season; true freshman Joe Milton, who might be the UM QB of the future, and redshirt freshman Dylan McCaffrey.
But Patterson, 21, who will be playing for his fifth team in seven years, clearty is the QB who will be in the spotlight.
The most experienced quarterback on the Michigan roster, Patterson is athletic enough to improvise. His greatest skill, according quarterback trainer Steve Clarkson, who has worked with Patterson for five years, is his ability to get rid of the ball in a hurry and in a variety of ways.
``He has one of the fastest releases I've ever seen,’’ Clarkson told ESPN.com. ``It's so fast that you really don't see the ball leave his hand. It's like one of those old pitching JUGS machines. It just pops out of there.’’
Michigan has other questions to answer if it’s going to rise to the top of a Big Ten East that is as competitive as any division in the nation that doesn’t play on Sundays.
But clearly, finding a quarterback who can shoulder a big load would be a big plus. That’s one piece Harbaugh has been missing in his first three years at his alma mater. And after losing as many conference games (5-4) last fall as he lost in his first two seasons (13-4), Harbaugh needs a big year to quiet the grumbles.
When he first arrived at Michigan, Harbaugh, like Frost at Nebraska this year, was regarded not merely as a prodigal son. He was supposed to be the savior who would revive a traditional power.
Now it’s looking like the savior coach could use a savior at QB. Someone like Patterson.
It should be an interesting Big Ten opener when Nebraska travels to Michigan. Obviously, the stakes will be higher for the Wolverines. But the opportunity for a splashy debut, however remote, will be fuel for the Cornhuskers’ fire.
Let the Crusades begin.[/membership]