A Timeline of the Mike Riley Era at Nebraska
Photo Credit:

A Timeline of the Mike Riley Era at Nebraska

November 25, 2017

Dec. 4, 2014: Five days after firing Bo Pelini, Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst, in a move almost nobody saw coming, announces the hire of Mike Riley.

Dec. 5, 2014: Riley meets with the media for the first time. “It’s getting to the point that at the stage of my career, it was an opportunity to try something one more time,” Riley said. “You know, we’ve had a great experience and I have enjoyed every one that I think have all built to who we are as people, as a family and as a career. So if you’re going to do it one more time, this is obviously a great chance to do that. It’s a great place.”

Feb. 4, 2015: Riley signs his first recruiting class at Nebraska. It’s a blend of Pelini commits the staff was able to keep in the class (including Aaron Williams, Carlos and Khalil Davis), and Riley commits (Devine Ozigbo, Stanley Morgan) who would go on to be key contributors in the seasons to come.

April 11, 2015: Nearly 77,000 fans show up for Riley’s first spring game, which is televised by the Big Ten Network. “There’s nothing like being around people that care in general, when you are a football coach and there’s this much support it’s pretty neat,” Riley said after the game.

John S. Peterson
The BYU Hail Mary in 2015 that delivered a loss in Mike Riley’s first game as Nebraska coach.

Sept. 5, 2015: Nebraska loses to BYU on a Hail Mary in Riley’s first game as coach. The loss was Nebraska’s first in a season opener since 1985.

Oct. 3, 2015: Riley and Nebraska open Big Ten play 0-1 with a 14-13 loss at Illinois. The key moment was a miscommunication on a play call that led to a clock-stopping incompletion, setting up the Illini’s game-winning drive. Four of Riley’s first five games at Nebraska were decided on the final play.

Oct. 31, 2015: Nebraska falls to 3-6 overall and 1-4 in Big Ten play with a 55-45 loss at Purdue. Starting quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. missed the game due to injury.

Aaron Babcock
Mike Riley hugs Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio following the Huskers’ upset of the sixth-ranked Spartans at Memorial Stadium in 2015.

Nov. 7, 2015: Needing to win out to become bowl eligible, Nebraska scores two touchdowns in the final 2 minutes and knocks off No. 6 Michigan State 39-38 at Memorial Stadium. The win was the Huskers’ first over a team ranked sixth or better since 2001.

Nov. 27, 2015: Nebraska loses to No. 3 Iowa to finish the regular season with a losing record (5-7) for the first time since 2007.

Dec. 26, 2015: With not enough bowl eligible teams, Nebraska earns a bowl due to its Academic Progress Rate. The Huskers beat UCLA 37-29 in the Foster Farms Bowl, rolling to 326 rushing yards. The total would be the best of the Riley era.

Feb. 4, 2016: Riley makes the first change to his initial staff, firing defensive line coach Hank Hughes two days after National Signing Day. Twenty days later, Riley announces the addition of former Husker John Parrella (replacing Hughes) and Billy Devaney, a former NFL GM and scout.

Aaron Babcock
Mementos outside Memorial Stadium following the death of punter Sam Foltz in July of 2016.

July 23, 2016: Tragedy strikes Husker Nation as punter Sam Foltz dies in a car accident. “We lost one of the best young men who I have ever had the honor to coach and who has ever worn the Nebraska uniform.  Sam was universally loved and respected by everyone he touched and on whom he had a positive influence each and every day,” Riley said.

Sept. 3, 2016: Nebraska opens Riley’s second season with a 43-10 win over Fresno State. The game is highlighted by the Huskers’ “missing-man” formation on the first punt of the game to honor Foltz.

Sept. 17, 2016: Nebraska rallies from down 20-7 in the second quarter to beat Oregon 35-32 at Memorial Stadium. The win was Riley’s first over the Ducks in eight tries dating back to his days at Oregon State. Nebraska enters the following week’s Associated Press poll at No. 20 for the first ranking of the Riley era.

Huskers exit the field at Camp Randall Stadium following an overtime loss to Wisconsin in 2016.

Aaron Babcock
Huskers exit the field at Camp Randall Stadium following an overtime loss to Wisconsin in 2016.

Oct. 29, 2016: Undefeated (7-0) and ranked seventh in the AP poll, Nebraska heads to Madison to face No. 11 Wisconsin. The Huskers fall in overtime 23-17.

Nov. 5, 2016: Nebraska, ranked 10th in the first College Football Playoff ranking of the season, gives up 31 first-half points to sixth-ranked Ohio State on the way to a 62-3 loss in Columbus.

Nov. 25, 2016: The Huskers finish the regular season 9-3 following a 40-10 loss at Iowa.

Nov. 27, 2016: Riley fires special teams coordinator Bruce Read. His salary, $450,000, had become shorthand for Husker fans frustrated by Nebraska’s struggles on special teams. Read was a Riley assistant at Oregon State and with the San Diego Chargers.

Dec. 30, 2016: Tennessee cruises to a 38-24 win over Nebraska in the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tennessee. The loss is the Huskers’ fourth over the final six games of the season. “It’s kind of the end of one team and the beginning of another, as leadership emerges right after the results of this game are in and we get back to campus,” Riley said after the game. “It should be a great motivator for the guys that were playing in this game that are coming back for next year’s team.”

Aaron Babcock
Assistants Mike Cavanaugh, Reggie Davis and Mark Banker (left-to-right) at an event prior to the Music City Bowl.

Jan. 11, 2017: Riley announces that defensive coordinator Mark Banker’s contract has not been renewed. The pair spent more than a decade together at various stops during Riley’s career. Banker reveals in subsequent interviews that he was informed of the decision over the phone, fueling speculation as to the motive for the move.

Jan. 14, 2017: Nebraska announces the hire of defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, brought in to transition the Huskers to a 3-4 defense. The former Connecticut head coach, who had been fired the day after Christmas, was in demand as a coordinator thanks to the defenses he built at Notre Dame, where he won the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant in 2012.

Feb. 1, 2017: Riley signs his first top-25 recruiting class and increases the Huskers’ standing in the national recruiting rankings for the third straight year.

April 15, 2017: Nebraska fans get their first extended look at quarterback Tanner Lee. The Tulane transfer completes 13-of-19 passes for 190 yards and three touchdowns in the scrimmage. Four days later, Riley names Lee the starter via Twitter.

July 9, 2017: Bob Elliott, one of Diaco’s handpicked assistants, passes away at age 64. The Huskers’ safeties coach during the spring, Elliott was moved into an analyst role in June as he battled cancer. Scott Booker, on staff as a special teams consultant, was promoted to safeties coach after Elliott stepped down.

Aaron Babcock
A Nebraska staff member wears a patch to honor Bob Elliott during the Huskers’ 2017 season opener against Arkansas State.

Sept. 9, 2017: A week after hanging on for a 43-36 win over Arkansas State to start the season 1-0, Riley returns to his home state to take on Oregon. The Ducks raced out to a 42-14 halftime lead before the Huskers battled back. A Lee interception, his fourth on the day, ends Nebraska’s rally and Oregon wins 42-35.

Sept. 16, 2017: Northern Illinois upsets Nebraska 21-17 at Memorial Stadium. The Huskies returned two first-half interceptions for touchdowns, Lee’s fifth and sixth on the young season. “Frustrated, angry, unacceptable, disappointed,” Eichorst says of the loss in a rare postgame interview appearance. “Hang in there. We have a good group of young men in that locker room who are working hard to represent us and win ball games, and I would say the same thing about our staff.”

Sept. 21, 2017: Eichorst is fired. “Our fans and our student-athletes deserve leadership that drives the highest levels of competitiveness, as well as excellence across all facets of Husker Athletics,” Chancellor Ronnie Green said.

Oct. 7, 2017: Nebraska, 2-0 in conference play and 3-2 on the year, goes toe-to-toe with ninth-ranked Wisconsin for a half before the Badgers’ punishing run game takes control in the fourth quarter for 31-17 win. The loss drops Riley to 0-3 against the West Division leader coached by his former offensive coordinator Paul Chryst.

Eric Francis
Memorial Stadium after halftime of Nebraska’s 56-14 loss to Ohio State on Oct. 14, 2017.

Oct. 14, 2017: The Huskers fail to prevent a touchdown on Ohio State’s first eight drives of the game as the ninth-ranked Buckeyes roll to a 56-14 win. Combined with the 2016 game, Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes outscored Riley’s Huskers 118-17 over eight quarters.

Oct. 15, 2017: Bill Moos is named as Nebraska’s new athletic director. Previously at Washington State, where he played as an offensive lineman for the Cougars, describes himself as “fiercely competitive” at his first press conference. Asked about Riley’s status, Moos says, “As we speak right now, he’s my football coach and I’m going to support him.”

Nov. 11, 2017: Nebraska falls to 4-6 with a 54-21 loss at Minnesota. The Gophers outrush the Huskers by 340 yards, 409-to-69.

Nov. 24, 2017: After being tied 14-14 at halftime, the Huskers surrender 42 second-half points to Iowa in a 56-14 loss. It’s the Hawkeyes’ third win over Riley and the Huskers finish the season 4-8, the most losses in a season at Nebraska since 1957.

Nov. 25, 2017: Moos announces the firing of Riley. He finished his Nebraska career with a 19-19 record.

  • Never miss the latest news from Hail Varsity!

    Join our free email list by signing up below.

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap