Scott Frost: Nebraska to ‘let it rip’ against Northwestern in Ireland

Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska will play a Week Zero game for the second straight season, and coach Scott Frost can’t afford a repeat of what happened a year ago.

The Cornhuskers’ loss at Illinois set the tone for a 3-9 season that ended with Frost clinging to his job after taking a $1 million pay cut and firing four offensive assistants.

Frost’s fifth season begins against Northwestern in Ireland, and another Week Zero flop would be an ominous sign. Frost said his team must play looser than it did in the 30-22 loss to Illinois.

“We’re going to go out there and let it rip,” he said. “I’m going to have more conversations with them about it. They have earned the right to be confident, and I’m sure Northwestern is, too. I think they’re going to be a really good team this year, and I don’t want the guys to worry about anything.”

Nebraska beat Northwestern 56-7 in Lincoln last year and is nearly a two-touchdown favorite for the game at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Northwestern, also looking to bounce back from a 3-9 season, is the home team. With temperatures forecast in the 60s, it should be ideal football weather.

“I’m looking forward to the experience,” Wildcats defensive back Cameron Mitchell said. “I’ve heard a lot of things about the food and the weather. It’s going to be interesting. But it’s a business trip. We’re going to get some revenge on Nebraska.”

The Huskers are scheduled to fly to Dublin and practice at the stadium. Shaking jetlag and getting acclimated to the six-hour time difference is the priority.

The staff has spoken with people from NFL teams that have played in London and consulted with researchers in the Nebraska Athletic Performance Lab to prepare for the trip.

“If you’ve traveled to Europe, I don’t think there is a perfect way to do it,” Frost said. “You’re not going to feel perfect when you get over there.”

Frost said it’s a delicate balance getting ready to play a game while allowing the players to enjoy the experience of visiting the Emerald Isle.

“I think it would be a mistake to go over there and have the guys’ mind on football 24/7,” Frost said. “That is when you do get tight. We’re going to try and enjoy the people and the country and when it’s time to focus I want the guys to be sharp and focused.”

All nine of Nebraska’s losses last year were by single digits, with turnovers at the worst possible times and shoddy special teams play the difference in most.

“Last year was really hard for a lot of people,” linebacker Nick Henrich said, “but we took that and learned a lot of lessons from that, and we are going to take those over to Ireland with us.”

Nebraska brought in 15 players from the transfer portal, and seven or eight likely will be starters. Among them are quarterback Casey Thompson (Texas) and defensive end Ochaun Matthis (TCU).

“Last year is last year,” tight end Travis Vokolek said. “Guys know what we need to get done this year. Obviously, we have thought about it a little bit, but we know how important this first game is. We know how important it is to start on the right track. This first game is huge.”

Minnesota football players’ discrimination lawsuit dismissed

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by nine former University of Minnesota football players who were accused of sexual assault in 2016 in a case that roiled the school’s football program.

The lawsuit against the school claimed that the players faced emotional distress and financial damage after being falsely accused of being sex offenders. The players, who were identified in the lawsuit as John Does, sought unspecified damages for willful and malicious discrimination.

A woman alleged up to a dozen football players raped her or watched and cheered at an off-campus party in 2016. None of the players were ever charged.

The university found that 10 football players committed sexual misconduct. Five of them were expelled or suspended for violating student conduct codes, and the others were cleared on appeal.

In their lawsuit, the players alleged that the woman initiated the sexual encounters with players and an underage recruit.

U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank dismissed the lawsuit last week, saying the former players did not prove any of their claims, including allegations of bias by university investigators or pressure from Athletic Director Mark Coyle and former President Eric Kaler, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

David Madgett, an attorney for the players, said Tuesday that they are considering an appeal but have to determine if it makes sense financially and in terms of letting the former players get on with their lives. He said it was disappointing that the outcome was determined by the judge’s version of events and not decided by a jury.

“It’s disappointing to see disputes decided in this way,” Madgett said. “That’s the way things are decided more and more these days. … It’s disappointing you don’t get your day in court.”

When the allegations became public in 2016, players threatened to boycott the team’s trip to the Holiday Bowl. But after a graphic report of the investigation was released, the players agreed to play in the game.

University of Minnesota spokesman Jake Ricker said the school appreciated the judge’s decision affirming the actions taken in the case. He said the university would continue its work focusing on sexual misconduct awareness, prevention and response.

Frank dismissed the lawsuit in 2019, but an appeals court reinstated part of it in 2021 and returned it to Frank.

The players, all of whom are Black, also initially claimed racial discrimination, but that claim was previously dismissed.

The only remaining claim alleged Title IX gender discrimination. The former players noted that they never faced criminal charges, but Frank’s ruling said that “is certainly not evidence of a judicial adjudication or that plaintiffs ‘were proven innocent.'”

The men also claimed that an investigator for the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action used “manipulative tactics” with them in interviews and that their accuser helped draft the report. The players also alleged that “prior failed investigations motivated” the the school to punish them.

Frank said all the claims were unsupported by the evidence and “no reasonable jury could find that the University disciplined plaintiffs on the basis of sex.”

Michigan State player who swung helmet gets probation

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A Michigan State football player who swung his helmet at a Michigan player in a stadium tunnel expressed regret Tuesday and said he’s “just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue” on the field.

Khary Crump, a defensive back, was sentenced to probation. He was one of seven Michigan State players charged in a skirmish that followed a loss at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 29.

Crump was the only Spartan facing a felony, but that charge was dismissed in an agreement to plead guilty to misdemeanors. His record will be scrubbed clean if he stays out of trouble while on probation.

“Unfortunately, an exchange of words (took place), I felt attacked and unfortunately I did what I did,” Crump said of the tunnel altercation involving Michigan’s Gemon Green. “I’m not proud of that. I’m looking forward to moving forward.”

Crump was suspended by coach Mel Tucker. In addition, the Big Ten has suspended him for eight games in 2023.

“I had difficulties trying to stomach my actions … on that fateful day, but it happened. I can’t take it back,” Crump told after the court hearing. “Honestly, I’m just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue in the future — on the football field, of course.”

At least four other players charged with misdemeanors Will Likely have their cases dismissed in exchange for community service and other conditions. The cases against two others are pending.