|All Points West: Serious doubt sets in after loss to Purdue|
|November 05, 2015 Frank Marquez|
If this was the NFL, fans would be demanding to trade the backup QB Ryker Fyfe – disappointing, because he’s a walk-on, and by definition a fighter. This is the Bad News Bears just waiting to be molded. Is Coach Mike Riley a Buttermaker? I’d say the Huskers are short a few pistons if not near a blown engine. Jordan The Stache Westerkamp, who played a little mind out of body in West Lafayette, is just one man. Factor in the desire and execution of the rest of the team.
Riley may be lacking the ability to MOTIVATE the team. Because this is not the NFL, money won’t do it. You can already count out the joy and passion after six losses. Just like the hometown Gering Bulldogs, you have to wonder at some point, how to define the demoralizing losses. This was never in the wildest imaginations or nightmares of any Husker fan. Heck, we were long past nightmare two games ago. Now that Nebraska is headed into November − the teeth of its schedule − fans might wonder if Nebraska will end up with double-digit losses, much less landing a bowl game, a fat paycheck, and the annual notoriety on TV during the holidays, which all are important building blocks for the team’s reputation. Recruits begin to uncheck the block for visits to Lincoln.
Even with wins over the remaining teams on its schedule, Michigan State, Rutgers and Iowa, Nebraska still ends up with a .500 season. If this is the case, Riley may not be the right fit.
Maybe he’s past his prime. Though the losses have not been blowouts (unless you think a 10-point deficit to cellar dweller Purdue counts), thankfully, getting the ‘W’ matters. Without Nebraska’s turnovers, the Boilermakers in all likelihood would have not put up 28 points. The Huskers did most of its scoring in the fourth quarter. Nebraska has not accumulated this many losses since 1961, during a season under the forgettable name of Bill Jennings in his fifth year.
Let’s review Riley’s career, as if that hasn’t been done already.
His best record with the Beavers was 9-4, which Bo Pelini achieved a few times over his career at Nebraska. Looking at Riley’s first stint with Oregon State is telling. He tried running an NFL-style offense with limited success, although the Beavers improved. In 1998, the Beavers went 5-6 with two single-point losses to Washington and California. If Husker Nation isn’t unnerved by this pattern of close losses, we ought to be. There should be some concern about how he plans to MOTIVATE the Huskers.
One of the color commenters for the game against Purdue said, with due respect to Riley, is this all Nebraska, a premiere college could get, or something to that effect?
The burning question in my mind came before the season started.
Did Riley already peak at Oregon State, during his two stints coaching the Beavers and turning the San Diego Charges into losers? Did he give his all in Corvalis? The fandom here in Nebraska doesn’t settle for mediocre seasons because most people in our state believe the Huskers are stitched as sturdy as a quilt into a way of life here. These four losses represent not only lessons for the 2015 team, but a deep tear in the fabric of a people who will never waver in their demand for excellence.
It’s not just a game, but in speaking about bonds in my column last week, Nebraska Cornhusker games are what bring us together.
As I watched a cornfield being harvest the day of the game against Purdue, and wondered about how deep these roots go. When farmers promptly jump off their tractors and combines to get back home in time for kickoff? Well, that should tell you. Once the game was over, work promptly resumed.
Since the start of Riley’s tenure, doubters asked if he could install a program which would result in Nebraska winning right away, since that was or still is the demand of fans. All you had to do is look across the Big Ten, with Urban Myer at Ohio State and Khaki trousers wearing Jim Harbaugh at Michigan, not just a head coach, but one of the Wolverines biggest cheerleaders, and come to the easy conclusion was yes. Yes, you can win right away.
Look at the records of both programs, was it ever a possibility for Riley using recruits brought in by Pelini and other coaches who have since left the Husker program? Some recruits resented a changing of the guard mid-career, but tough corn cob. Stalks and husks dry out and it’s a new season. Maybe that was part of the problem, which prevented teammates from bonding as brothers, and trust takes time.
The players wanted something to work, anything, but when coaches tried to condition minds and bodies to try something new, you need to bring in coaches smart enough to understand as Riley may have realized. The college game plan wasn’t going to quite jibe with his NFL caliber coaches trying to instruct young players out of high school.
Next up: No. 6 Michigan State visits Lincoln. The Spartans dumped Indiana, 62-26, in their last game and may run the table to meet Ohio State in the Big Ten championship.