College Football

Path to Victory: Mike Riley vs Losing His Job

Nebraska football has the week off, so to speak, but the PtV marches on. Why? Because there’s still a lot going on around the Husker football program and it just wouldn’t fit into a regular edition of the Path to Victory.

A lot has been made of the talent gap between Ohio State (6-1, 4-0) and Nebraska (3-4, 2-2). “Why should Nebraska expect to win when ‘crootin ain’t good!” the message boards wail week after week after week. Is Nebraska on the same level as OSU?  No, not close.  Should Nebraska be a 25-point home underdog and lose 56-14 to Ohio State? Also no.  Never. You can be completely outmatched and still have fight from your players. You can be a less talented team and still have competent coaching. The Huskers have had neither for 4 of their 7 games this season. There are a million excuses on why Nebraska continues to struggle under Mike Riley but, at some point, all he has to do is win.

Fans are already looking ahead to Scott Frost and the 2018 season (not a given so be careful, Husker Nation) but the coaching staff has five games left to try and salvage their jobs. Make no mistake about it; an 8-4 Mike Riley has a good chance of impressing new athletic director Bill Moos and getting another season at Nebraska. Moos was most definitely not brought in to rubber-stamp the football program and say everything is just A-OK. He was brought in to evaluate and, potentially, make a very tough decision at the end of November. How can the coaching staff turn around the season? Follow me on a special Path to Victory!

Just Do It

Mike Riley spends a lot of post practice telling us what he’d “like to see” from his offense. Mike Riley might need to be reminded that he is the Head Coach of the Nebraska Cornhusker football team. If he wants to see Devine Ozigbo starting then he needs to make sure Devine Ozigbo is starting. If he wants to see a more consistent running game, work on a more consistent running game in practice. Tell your offensive coordinator that you need to focus on the running game. Tell your defensive coordinator that you need to focus on tackling. It’s your ship, Mike, so grab the wheel.

Personnel Decisions

Why, after 2 consecutive 100-yard games from Ozigbo coupled with Mikale Wilbon missing an entire week of practice, did we see Wilbon start the game against Ohio State? More than that, why did it take 2 more offensive series for Ozigbo to get into the game? If Lamar Jackson is struggling at cornerback, why did the coaching staff move DiCaprio Bootle to safety against OSU? Kieron Williams, Nebraska’s top safety last season, can’t get into the game? Nebraska continues to make bizarre decisions when it comes to personnel and, when they do answer why, the answers fall flat. Bootle plays safety because he’s good in man coverage…yet he spends most of the game in a zone. Wilbon is hurt and Ozigbo is rolling…yet Wilbon plays significant early snaps while Nebraska falls behind 14-0. That’s not to mention how much better the offensive line has gotten now that injuries have forced back-ups to fill in over the last few weeks. Baffling.

Put the Fun in Fundamentals

It’s only Year 3 under Mike Riley, that’s absolutely fair to say. However, it’s already Year 3 under Mike Riley. We can boo-hoo forever about how many Power 5 offers each player may or may not have but the simple fact is that the players aren’t doing the little things well. Wide Receivers are dropping easy passes, offensive linemen with multiple holding penalties, defensive backs are missing tackles and linebackers are missing assignments. At what point, in “Rebuilding Year”number 3, do we get to ask for progress in the fundamentals of football?

Three Stats

  • 60.4 – Completion percentage for QB Tanner Lee in the last 3 games (Lee was at 52.3 in the previous 4 games).
  • 200 – Receiving yards against Ohio State for wide receiver JD Spielman, a career-high and Nebraska record.
  • 87 – Points given up by Nebraska’s defense in the last two games (Had given up 94 in the previous five, excluding pick-sixes by the offense).

Three Guarantees

  • A lot of Scott Frost talk by the Husker media corp.
  • A lot of consternation about all of the Scott Frost talk by the Husker media corp.
  • A 2-3 finish to the season.

Prediction –

Another edition of the PtV next Thursday.  Same Path time, same Victory channel!


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