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.

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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.