LINCOLN, Neb. -- Facing mounting pressure with Nebraska on the cusp of a fifth straight losing season, coach Scott Frost acknowledged this year has fallen far short of his expectations.
"I thought this year it would pop," Frost said Monday at his weekly news conference.
The Cornhuskers are 3-6 overall and in last place in the Big Ten West at 1-5 entering their home game against No. 6 Ohio State on Saturday.
A road loss to Minnesota followed by a home loss to Purdue have ratcheted up fan and media speculation that the clock is ticking for Frost.
His hiring in December 2017 was much celebrated. He's a native of Nebraska, he quarterbacked the Huskers to a national championship in 1997 and he returned to Lincoln after leading Central Florida to a 13-0 season in 2017.
Frost is 15-26 with the Huskers and has never won more than three Big Ten games in a season. Worse, they're 6-10 against Illinois, Minnesota, Northwestern and Purdue and winless against Iowa and Wisconsin.
Nebraska would have to beat Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa to achieve bowl eligibility for the first time in five years. With eligibility rules tweaked last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nebraska elected not to participate in bowl season despite winning their regular-season finale.
"I think we know we've got to get the wins. The wins take care of everything," Frost said. "And despite all the improvement that I've seen, that hasn't improved. We've had a tough schedule and played some really good teams and we've been so close. Got to get them done."
New athletic director Trev Alberts, a star defensive player for the Huskers in the early 1990s, has been supportive of Frost in his public comments but noncommittal about the future.
Asked about speculation regarding his status, Frost said: "You know, I don't pay any attention to it. It's kind of hard to ignore. There was an article written about me six games into my first year -- we came off undefeated [at UCF] and lost our first six here -- and they were already writing stuff.
"You learn as a coach not to pay any attention to that. I owe it to the kids to give them my everything. So do the coaches, and we are, and the kids are giving us everything they got right back because of our relationship with those guys. Everything else doesn't matter. We can only control what we can control."
The Huskers were expected to be better this season because most of the defensive starters returned and they have a fourth-year starting quarterback in Adrian Martinez.
The defense is middle-of-the-pack in the Big Ten but has kept he Huskers in a lot of games. However, Martinez has had a knack for fumbling, throwing interceptions and making other bad decisions at the worst possible times.
The Huskers are 5-18 in one-score games since 2018, and Frost has said repeatedly that he believes the program is about to turn the corner.
"I don't want to overstep here, but I'm really excited about the rest of this year," Frost said. "I'm really excited about next year. I hope we get it. I think we should. With the young guys we've got coming back ... I think this thing could be really good."
The waiting, he said, has been the hardest part.
"Unfortunately, you have a mindset when we got here that we've been beat a lot," he said, referring to losses in six of the last seven games under former coach Mike Riley. "Winning is a habit. Losing is a habit. Trying to break that cycle. Just takes a few wins in a row. I just want to see it happen for these guys."
Recruiting plays into Nebraska's situation as well, and not in a good way. The Cornhuskers are not yet ranked in ESPN's Top 40 2022 classes, and the 2021 class finished at No. 29.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.