ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Back in 2016, the last time that Nebraska head coach Scott Frost was in Michigan Stadium, as the head coach of UCF, he claimed, after a 51-14 loss, that his Golden Knights actually were the more physical team of the two on the field.
“It’s hard to say when the score is what it is, but we came in here and outhit those guys today,” Frost said. “Standing on the sideline, there was no doubt who was hitting harder.”
And those words came back to haunt him on Saturday.
Michigan absolutely dismantled Nebraska, thoroughly and systematically, on Saturday, 56-10 — and the Huskers are lucky it was even that close.
According to Michigan left tackle Jon Runyan Jr., who had his best game of the season on Saturday, Frost’s comments lingered with those players who were on the team back in 2016. So, when they lined up against Big Red, these Wolverines didn’t forget.
“We took that to heart,” Runyan said. “We didn’t forget that. We remembered. Over there, the coaches commented the last time we played against them.
“We were going to go out there – all week. Coach Harbaugh, Coach Warinner talked about being tough and out-toughing them. And that’s what we did. We proved that today.”
But one person supposedly did forget — Jim Harbaugh.
After the game, Harbaugh says he doesn’t remember Frost making those comments. But still, he did emphasize, regardless of past remarks, that he wanted his team to play with a certain level of toughness.
Well, mission accomplished.
“I don’t remember that,” Harbaugh said. “I’m surprised that they remembered that. Did you remind them? I haven’t even thought of that.
“Not until you mentioned it, no, it’s not something that I spoke about or anything. It’s what you want – you want your team to be tough, real physical.”
And Michigan made a statement of that toughness.
Junior safety Josh Metellus said after the game that it was apparent that Nebraska wanted to quit offensively after the first series.
Devin Bush Jr. said that it was his and his team’s goal to play physical. And, on the offensive side of the ball, Michigan wanted to assert its will.
It did just that, surprisingly so, even, given Nebraska’s penchant for stopping the run. The Huskers had held Colorado to just 43 yards rushing in Week Two and Troy to 143, a week after the Trojans put up 292 against Florida A&M.
Nebraska was the nation’s 20th-best team at stopping the run coming into Saturday’s matchup. Key word, in past-participle: was.
Michigan quickly gouged Big Red for 285 yards on the ground, led by senior team captain Karan Higdon who had 136 and a touchdown, on just 12 carries. He averaged 11.3 yards every time he touched the ball.
Higdon said he wanted to make a statement, especially considering it was Big Ten play.
“Very important – like I said, this was a statement game,” Higdon said. “There’s more to come. I think other people we’ve got to play will watch this film and go, ‘Wow, those guys are fun and bringing it.’”
But, in the back — well, maybe the front — of his mind, Higdon, who was a sophomore at the time, remembered those comments Scott Frost made.
“Yeah, he said he felt like they outhit us, or whatever,” Higdon said. “I remember that.”
In the end, Higdon did corroborate Harbaugh’s story that Frost’s comments weren’t a focal point of this team this week.
But, that doesn’t mean that he isn’t happy about the way things turned out.
“We don’t look back. But, I think he can eat his words!”