Head coach Mike Riley isn’t afraid to call Oregon a “big game.” In fact, he embraces it.1
“I think that this is a great game for our team,” Riley said. “For this early in the season, it’s just a great benchmark for us. To win this game would be awesome for this particular team.”
Meeting with members of the media after practice in Memorial Stadium, Riley spoke at length about what a win against Oregon would mean for the Huskers. He sees it as an opportunity to build momentum for the season.
“With this being a ranked team and a team ranked nationally for a long time, it’s a really good time for our team,” Riley said.
He also thinks letting it feel like a big game allows his team to “play up to the level” of a program like Oregon. If a game like this is “big,” he feels it will eventually build in to even bigger games, like championships.
“I think more games that people perceive as big games, those are the games we want to play in. If that’s either perception or the reality of where you are in the season, I think it’s all real good for your team.
“That’s eventually what we want to do, right? We want to get to a game like this where the hype is really obvious, like a championship game and win it.”
Plus, Riley’s always been partial to these type of games. They grow teams.
“I’ve always liked them,” Riley said. “You’re seeing a lot of them not more and more in college football. It adds a lot early in the season.”
>> Riley provided a brief injury update after practice, starting with defensive lineman Mick Stoltenberg.
“I believe Mick Stoltenberg is going to be OK to play,” Riley said. “How much and what we do with that right off the bat, I’m not sure yet. We have high expectations after today.”
As for wide receiver Brandon Reilly, Riley called him “questionable at best” for Saturday. He did not practice on Thursday. Wide receiver Alonzo Moore practice Wednesday and Thursday full speed and looks good to go. Defensive back Lamar Jackson has practice all week and is available against Oregon.
>> How can Nebraska defeat Oregon? Riley listed several ways, including a balanced offensive approach by the Huskers. He also spoke about being sound down the field to prevent big plays by Oregon, something he expects from the Ducks.
“This team has made a living on big plays over the years,” Riley said. “It’s a big part of their identity. It will be a big part of the game for us.”
>> Riley wouldn’t mind the Huskers to score first on Saturday, but he’s not worried if that doesn’t happen.
“Obviously it’d be great,” Riley said. “I think whatever shape the game takes, we’ll play it out. It’s always nice, and I suppose against an offense that has always been a high-powered offense for a long time, it’d be nice to get a good confident first start.”
>> Saturday’s game will be officiated by Pac-12 referees. Riley says every league interprets Oregon’s pace differently, which is something Nebraska has to be prepared for. Riley also believes Pac-12 officials are a little more liberal than other conference officials when it comes to letting the play get going.
“We do talk to every officials group about how they’re going to call it because it is a little bit different,” Riley said. “When the other team substitutes, you’re supposed to be allowed to substitute yourself and a lot of people handle that timing over the ball, with what they call the iron cross, a little differently. You try to get interpretation on how it’s going to be handled that day. That’s a big deal. For the most part then, it’s on us to get lined up and play.”
>> What about the #NoSitSaturday movement?2 Riley said he believes it’s in response to the type of game Saturday could be and fans wanting to be more involved.
“Everyone’s looking for that little extra something to do because it is that kind of game,” Riley said.
Erin is the Deputy Editor and Digital Marketing Strategist for Hail Varsity. She has covered Nebraska athletics since 2012, which has included stops at Bleacher Report, Cox Media Group’s Land of 10, and even Hail Varsity (previously from 2012-2017). She has also been featured on the Big Ten Network, NET’s Big Red Wrap-Up, and a varsity of radio shows nationwide. When not covering the Huskers, Erin is probably at Chipotle.