Bill Jennings Went 1-9 in 1957; Mike Riley Will Top That But Not By Much

Since Frank Solich left Lincoln in 2003, the Nebraska Cornhuskers have been in a free fall.

Many of us, myself included, have been in various states of denial about the truth of this, but the fall finally became an undeniable reality yesterday, in the most unlikely of places. West Lafayette, Indiana is not the place where football players from opposing teams go to be humbled. And Nebraska wasn’t humbled, it was decapitated in a real life Halloween massacre.

The Huskers were down 26 points to Purdue to start the fourth quarter. The previous sentence would have been impossible to write, much less comprehend, until now. Now, it’s all too easy to comprehend. The football program is in utter shambles. Nebraska hired an arrogant Loserhan, replaced him with “needs professional help” Pelini, and now Grandpa Riley wanders the sideline, slackjawed and in seeming disbelief.

Whatever Coach Riley is pondering as his team gets pounded on the field is his private reserve. What the public sees is clear as day. Nebraska football is now in the most pathetic, clueless state it’s been in since the late 1950s. The only fans who can relate to this are 60-plus years old. That was the last time the Cornhuskers stunk up the place this badly.

Only once has Nebraska ever had nine losses in a season, which is a very real possibility this season. That was in 1957 under head coach Bill Jennings, who coached from 1957-1961. He was given a long leash, given his record during that span. Leashes do not come in that size today. Today, Nebraska football is a big business and losing is bad for business.

Let’s look at The Daily Nebraskan’s reaction, for one:

Nebraska let me introduced you to rock bottom. Rock bottom, meet Nebraska.

…There’s no sugarcoating it: Nebraska is no longer a team to reckon with in college football.

It’s important to bring the historical perspective into view. Before Bob Devaney came to town from Wyoming and turned the program around, the Huskers were laggards.


The Huskers are laggards again. For the first time in many fans’ lives the expectation to win when the team takes the field isn’t there. As a fan we wish for a win but we know how unlikely it is.

Michigan State and Iowa are coming to Lincoln this month and they’re not going to show Nebraska any mercy. Unless something major changes today, the team that got pummeled by Purdue will be crushed into oblivion by Sparty and the Hawkeyes.

Where might this change come from, if it comes at all? The Regents, the University’s new President, the A.D. who wants to keep his job? Time will tell, but the clock’s ticking. Football players will go elsewhere, students will go elsewhere, and believe it or not fans will too. Nebraska is the only game in town, and that’s been a large part of its build to national prominence, but football at Nebraska is no longer the only game in town.

Maybe it’s natural and good that football is put in its place. When it means so much, perspective is lost. In the end, it’s a game among many others. At the same time, it would be foolish to deny how Husker pride is about much more than football. Thus, losing football games is about much more than losing football games.

Husker Nation Is Hurting After Team Carelessly Tosses Away Another Victory

I’m glad Tom Shatel is pissed off. He’s the senior writer on the Huskers’ beat and if he’s not spitting venom after yesterday’s debacle in Lincoln, then Husker Nation would truly be at a loss.

Let’s observe some of Shatel’s keen observations:

Let’s not waste our time talking about bowl scenarios.
Nebraska just lost, 30-28, to a Northwestern team that was beaten 78-10 the previous two games.


The Husker team that showed up didn’t show a great deal of interest in blocking, catching passes, covering kickoffs or making smart decisions with the ball.
Not a lot of urgency, period, and there’s absolutely no reason for that in this program, ever.

Shatel goes on to question whether Tommy Armstrong will be the QB next year. It’s the right question. I can hardly remember the last time the Huskers had a real QB under center. Let me be generous and give the nod to Joe Ganz. Crafty and intelligent Ganz left the field of play in 2008. Since then, Nebraska has been outplayed at QB in just about every game. It’s more than a little embarrassing.

Will Mike Riley fix this problem at QB? Yes, he already has and we will see the results of this focused recruiting when a real QB takes the field next season. Tommy Armstrong is a tough player. If I was the coach I’d want him on the field, but not at QB. Maybe he can play cornerback? Nebraska certainly needs a lot of help in that area.

Honestly, there are so many things wrong with this team, it is hard to pick the most meddlesome problem to tackle. Nevertheless, let’s select mental toughness or the lack thereof. Maliek Collins’like Alex Lewis before him at Miami’was flagged for a personal foul at most inopportune time possible on Saturday. I’m not hanging these two losses on these two 4th quarter plays. What I will do is point to these two plays and ask, is this the Ghost of Pelini? The fact is Nebraska is playing almost exclusively with players recruited by the coach who can’t keep his composure.

In Lewis’s case, the offensive lineman from the state of Colorado made matters much worse by blasting Nebraska fans on social media. “I’m done playing for the state of the Nebraska!” his Facebook post began. It’s since been deleted. But yes, from the looks of things, he is done playing for the state of Nebraska. The Huskers O-line was completely dominated by Northwestern. It wasn’t pretty, and it’s going to take some time for that particular sting to work its way out.

Here is another fact that no one likes. Mike Riley is left to clean up one of the messiest scenes of his career and redeem a program that has been splintering for more than a decade. To make matters worse, the fan base can’t see why Riley was entrusted with this job, based on his mediocre W-L record at Oregon State.

I saw a comment somewhere in the social stream that this job is going to make Mike Riley old. That saddens me, but I can also see the truth in it. Lincoln is only three hours by private jet from Corvallis, but when it comes to the game of football, it might as well be on a different planet. In Corvallis, it truly is all good, whether the Beavers win or lose. I can see how a competitive man like Mike Riley would want a greater challenge that that, and now he has one. It’s clearly not all good in Lincoln, and it won’t be until the Nebraska Cornhuskers blow people off the ball and win.

Huskers Piece It Together In Minneapolis; Statement Win Builds Confidence

Well, that was satisfying.

The Huskers traveled to Minneapolis with a clear purpose in mind, and the team took care of business.

Heading into the game, the Huskers were the second-worst team in college football when it came to penalties. Coming in with an average of 10 penalties per game, the Huskers committed just two penalties on Saturday.

The improvements didn’t stop there. The offense was balanced, and in rhythm. Receivers caught the balls thrown to them. Linemen opened holes for the running backs to blast through. Our backs made people miss.

Perhaps, the most satisfying improvement came from the Blackshirts. After rushing for 271 yards in a victory over Nebraska two years ago, and then again for 281 yards in the Golden Gopher’s win in Lincoln last season, Minnesota was stymied for just 65 yards on 26 attempts. Defensive tackles Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine plugged the middle and played with the ferociousness that’s needed to win in the Big 10.

“It’s fun to watch Nebraska be Nebraska again,” said Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman and former Nebraska player, Jeremiah Sirles, who watched the game from the Huskers’ sideline. Truer words have rarely been spoken.

Go Big Red.

Momentum Will Swing Nebraska’s Way, But When?

Nebraska’s last three losses have been by a total of six points, and all four losses have been by a total of 11 points. The ball hasn’t bounced our way. While can discuss poor play calling, and poor execution until the cows come home, the fact is the Huskers beat themselves in all four losses this season, but just barely.

One voice I enjoy hearing from during this Current Corn Crisis is Adam Carriker’s. He’s a Husker legend and he was born in Hastings.

Basically, the sky is falling, the apocalypse is near and the sun will never shine again. Now that we’ve got that out of our system, let’s look at the whole picture.

…It’s a small victory, but we’re not getting blown out like we have on more than a few occurrences in recent memory, at least so far this season. A few things go differently and this season looks a lot different.

We all know how bad it sucks to be 2-4 right now. No one’s saying it doesn’t suck, but sucking is by degrees and for me personally, I can see the brighter future that has yet to dawn in Lincoln. Let’s keep the faith, shall we? As the players and coaches are tested, so are we, “the best fans in college football.”

Now, let’s hear directly from another local, Jack Gangwish, on the difficulties the team is having and how it hurts, especially for the Nebraska-born-and-raised players.

It’s weird to badly need a win at Minnesota and another win at home against Northwestern in order to right the ship. But that’s the deal in 2015.

Go Big Red.

Time To Mount The Badgers

Last year in Madison, the Badgers delivered the Huskers a bitter pill on an icy cold November day. In case you need a refresher, Melvin Gordon had a game for the ages, rushing for an NCAA-record 408 yards and four touchdowns. Against the Blackshirts.

Now here they come again, but this time both teams have first-year coaches and an 0-1 record in the Big 10 coming in to the game.

One startling difference in this year’s game (that will hopefully be the difference maker) is Nebraska’s ability to stop the run. Nebraska is only allowing an average of 85 rushing yards per game, ranking the Huskers third in the Big Ten and 12th nationally against the run. Ergo, there will be no running back heroics from Wisconsin this time. Instead, look for the Huskers’ true freshman Devine Ozigbo to bust loose.

Defensive end Jack Gangwish points to what he calls Wisconsin’s tradition. ‘They have a great fan base,’ he said. ‘There’s a lot of similarities between Wisconsin and Nebraska, and I think since we’ve been in the Big Ten there’s been a lot of good battles. I think all those things contribute to that hype that surrounds this game.’

It’s clear that the 2015 Huskers have yet to gel and find a winning identity. It’s also clear that the team is scrappy and in every game until the last second ticks off the clock. We have talent, and we have a plan. This season is far from over.

Nebraska fans have endured plenty of heartache over the years; perhaps this year we get that out of the way early? How we finish the season from here will tell us plenty about the character and determination of this team.

Wisconsin leads the all-time series, 5-4, including a 3-1 edge in Big Ten regular-season matchups. The Badgers have won four of the last five meetings, but the Huskers are 3-0 all-time versus Wisconsin in Lincoln.

Go Big Red.

I Miss Bo

I missed this last week, but given the game this past weekend, it has a stronger delivery this week. Local sports radio host Scott Voorhees sings “I Miss Bo” to the tune of “Let it Go” from Disney’s Frozen and an Omaha Press Club event. Enjoy.


Now It Gets Real…Last In the Nation In Past Defense? Painful Penalties? Horrible Game Management? Are You Kidding Me?

How the mighty have fallen. Nebraska no longer makes headlines for its gridiron glory. After yesterday’s debacle at Illinois, the program has reached a new low.

Today the program is “making news” as part of USA TODAY’s Misery Index: Week 5.

Poor, poor Nebraska. We aren’t even sure what to say anymore. Well, we can say this. Mike Riley’s honeymoon lasted all of a month.

…It’s inexcusable. And now Riley has dug a hole with the Nebraska fan base before his tenure has even gotten off the ground. You can’t lose games that winnable to opponents that mediocre in a fashion that crushing. Not at Nebraska. Not ever.

Rule number one for all players, coaches and fans of the Nebraska Cornhuskers: Thou Shall Not Embarrass The Program.

All the Huskers had to do was run the ball around either end, all day long. The Illini had no answer for that play. Yet, the game plan was never adjusted for the conditions on the field (windy and wet). That’s on the coaches.

One of the things I said before this season started is, “Nebraska will not be blown out under Mike Riley.” And what an improvement not being blown out is!

Of course, I had no way of knowing we would begin the Mike Riley-era by letting three inferior teams beat us in the last seconds of the game. Mental toughness is something I’m weighing in Riley’s favor, and we saw this on display early on against a tough BYU team and again in Miami. But the past two weeks have been pathetic. Nebraska goes up 22-0 in the first half against Southern Miss at home, only to lose the second half 14-28 and almost lose the game. This week the team goes up 10-0 at the half, and I say to myself I hope that’s enough of a lead to see the team through to victory.

It was not enough of a lead.

Illinois football isn’t even popular enough to fill the stadium with fans. Yet, the team is 4-1 under its new coach. Meanwhile, the Huskers are 2-3 for the first time since 1959’a year that interestingly pre-dates the nation’s longest sellout record, which didn’t commence until 1962. The ’59 Nebraska team went 4-6 that season, with a 7-6 win over Oregon State.

Okay, let’s compose ourselves and look at what’s coming. It ain’t pretty. Wisconsin will be the first big test this Saturday. This Nebraska team did mount an amazing comeback against Miami. Are they capable of doing it again, and showing up on Saturday in Lincoln as a team reimagined and reinvigorated? Anything is possible.

Go Big Red.

An Ugly Win It Was

Nebraska was up 22-0 at the half last Saturday against an outmanned Souther Miss team; yet, the Huskers managed to lose the second half of the game 14-28.

Luckily, the early 22-point lead was enough to overcome the lackluster performance in the second half, and the Huskers won the game by eight points on Homecoming Saturday.

This might be a good time to remind that Southern Miss did beat Nebraska. Once. The year was 2004’Bill Callahan’s first season in Lincoln. I mention this merely to remind ourselves of the recent past and just how bad it was.

I was glad to see Adam Carriker try to calm fans’ nerves on his Facebook page.

Several people left Memorial Stadium yesterday acting like we had just lost. The sky is not falling. We knew we most likely are a ways away from the national title. Everything that matters most, starts this week when we open Big 10 conference play against Illinois. The Huskers definitely need to improve in some areas, but they have some definite strengths as well. Like I’ve said before, the division is wide open with no clear front runner. I believe we’ll have the advantage at QB in most of our remaining games & our run defense is strong. QB is the most important position on the field & everybody in our division wants to run the ball first. I think 8-4 is a very likely record heading into the bowl game. Whether that happens & whether that gets us into the Big 10 title game, I don’t know. But we’re not Chicken Little & the sky is not falling.

If 8-4 is the outcome, that means we are about to go 6-2 in conference play. I like Carriker’s positive outlook a lot, but I don’t know if this team will win that many games. I think 8-4 is possible, but Nebraska will need to be a much improved team from here on out to beat Minnesota, Iowa, Northwestern and the rest.

One thing that encouraged me greatly against Souther Miss was the play of the fullback. Andy Janovich’s five runs for 68 yards, plus one catch out of the backfield, made a big difference in the game.

Cornhuskers Are 1-2 for the First Time Since 1981. Be Not Concerned.

I saw something on Twitter this morning about how Tommy Armstrong doesn’t look at social media after a game. Smart man.

Husker fans are eternal optimists. Best fans in college football. Gracious hosts to visiting teams. That is the public face of Husker Nation. But there is also a darker, impatient and unhappy face to the program, and that ugly face lives and breathes online, where anonymity and remoteness play a large role in the outspoken, unchallenged nature of the content.

I also think our desire as fans to share joys and frustrations during an emotional game full of momentum swings leads to a fracturing of attention and impulsive split-screen posts that may be relevant to only a few followers. It’s material best suited to one’s living room, or if you must, group chat, not Twitter or Facebook.

Personally, I didn’t imagine this team would go 12-0 in 2015. What I hoped for is that we’d get our sense of self back, and we have. It’s been a long time since we’ve had genuine swagger as a football team. I’m encouraged right now with what I see. Sure, I see the deficits too, like no pass rush to speak of. Nevertheless, the good far outweighs the bad.

We have a team ready for battle. That was in too long in doubt, and now there’s no doubt. I thank the players for embracing change, swiftly. I thank the coaches for knowing what playing on the big stage in Lincoln is all about.

Mike Riley and his coaches are leading Nebraska back to glory right now. That’s what I see and what I believe. There’s reason to doubt it, but I’m done doubting. For me the clouds have lifted. We have our team back, after 11 painful years.

By the way, HailVarsity is doing a great job.