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.