Homecoming or Not
Photo Credit: Jaime Valdez - USA TODAY Sports

Homecoming or Not, Nebraska’s Game with Oregon is Up in the Air

September 06, 2017

With wildfires burning some 20,000 acres of land in the Eagle Creek Trail in Oregon, the status of the Huskers' Sep. 9 game against the Ducks has come into question.

Tuesday morning, the Oregonian’s Andrew Greif shared a statement from the Pac-12 on the game’s status, as well as a chart from the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency. The chart listed the air quality in Eugene as hazardous, thanks to smoke and ash pollution from the fire.

“It’s been bad out there,” offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said. “We’ve got a lot of friends and family that are close out there and they said it’s pretty bad so hopefully we’ll get to play it.”

During head coach Mike Riley’s weekly teleconference call, he said that he doesn’t have any more information, at this point, than the public does.

“I was talking to my daughter [Monday] about the fires and the smoke in the valley, so I’m not surprised by it,” he said. “Then I read an article about it this morning, but I don’t know anything else about it.”

Riley said that Nebraska officials “may be” in talks with Oregon’s athletic department regarding steps to take should the air quality not improve, but he is unaware of any information that may have come from those talks. If the game has to be moved, Riley is taking a care-free approach.

“What I know enough about in these situations is you just plan for what’s ahead and adjust if need be,” he said.

As of Wednesday morning, the air quality appears to have improved from “hazardous” to “unhealthy,” per Greif, but in a statement to ESPN, the Pac-12 said the situation would be monitored up until the morning of the games in question (Oregon State also hosts Minnesota Saturday night).

"Based upon information provided by air protection agency, athletic departments and expert health and safety advice of university medical professionals, a decision will be made on whether an event may be postponed or rescheduled if it is too dangerous to play. The universities playing the games make the ultimate decision and that will be made sometime before Saturday morning. Depending on the situation, an event may be postponed or rescheduled if it is too dangerous to play."

If the game remains in Eugene, at Autzen Stadium, it would mark a homecoming of sorts for Riley and Langsdorf.

Riley coached at Oregon State from 1997 to 1998 and then again from 2003 through the 2014 season. Langsdorf was on Riley’s staff from 2005 to 2013. Both have fond memories of their old in-state rival.

“I do like revisiting that history because I appreciated it so much,” Riley said. “All those games were special. I watched games in that stadium when I was a kid.”

Even though the ticket requests are pouring in from friends and family, something Riley joked he’s “not that fired up about,” the personal opportunity to go back to Oregon and compete in Autzen is something Riley said he’s embracing. He said the game is about Nebraska versus Oregon and not about him going back, but he’s going to enjoy it nonetheless.

Langsdorf said it will be a nice change of pace to hit the road for a game and not be completely lost in a new environment.

“We’re familiar with the surroundings, with the hotel we’ve stayed at, we’ve stayed there every time,” he said. “Sometimes you’re going to a new place and you have no idea where you are, there willl be a lot of familiar sites and faces so it’s a lot of fun.”

Both Riley and Langsdorf have labeled Oregon as one of their five toughest places they’ve had to play at in their careers, citing the noise of the fans as a major factor. The Huskers have been trying to simulate the Autzen atmosphere during practices since the beginning of camp. They know it’ll be a challenge, but they appear excited for it.

“It’s one of those deals where it’s a tough place to play and they’re a good team,” Langsdorf said. “It’ll be a good challenge for us.”

Saturday's game is scheduled for a 3:30 p.m. CT kick on FOX.

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