It seems like it has been forever since the Huskers and Hawkeyes met on the gridiron, and to be fair, a lot has happened since the season-concluding 56-14 loss to Iowa on Black Friday.
Hail Varsity's Greg Smith, Jacob Padilla and Derek Peterson offer three final takeaways from the weekend.
When I sat down to write this, I had to remind myself that there was a game played on Friday. I don’t know how much you’d like me to recap that debacle but as Bill Moos summed up the second half of that game well yesterday.
“I think yesterday was an illustration of how the season has gone," he said. "We were holding on and then a series of mistakes turned momentum to the opponent and we never got it back.”
Before I look to the future a bit, let me say that the football was not good enough under Mike Riley. Derek did a great job of illustrating the numbers and when looking at the cold hard facts, you realize there was no other conclusion than the one we got yesterday. However, I don’t believe I’ll ever see a football coach handle his dismissal with as much class and grace. By now you have heard about Riley lining up to shake hands with media members after his press conference but his wife Dee also hung around and gave well wishes. Those two are class acts and many of us wish the results were better.
As for the future, Nebraska has now “officially” entered into coaching search silly season. We know that Moos has been quietly conducting his search for Nebraska’s next head coach behind the scenes for weeks now. So the million-dollar question is, did that search lead him to Scott Frost, Justin Fuente, Matt Campbell or an off-the-board name? I expect all to be revealed in about a week’s time.
The 14-all tie at halftime of Nebraska’s Black Friday loss to Iowa seems like forever ago. In the 48 or so hours since, the Hawkeyes outscored Nebraska 42-0 and new athletic director Bill Moos fired Coach Mike Riley and his staff. How did we get to this point?
Well, of those six second-half touchdown drives on Friday, three of them took just two plays and a fourth lasted just three. Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco’s bend-but-don’t-break defense broke a ton this season. Nebraska gave up two plays of 70 or more yards, five of 60-plus, eight of 50-plus and 14 of 40 or more this season, all ranking them at the bottom of the Big Ten. Nebraska gave up a whopping 184 gains of 10 or more yards, second behind only a freshman-laden Illinois squad’s 187.
The Bob Diaco experiment was an unmitigated disaster. The players and the scheme just never seemed to click. I can respect Nebraska shooting for the moon and bringing in a man who coached a defense that helped take Notre Dame to the 2013 national championship game, but the risk backfired in a big way.
Under Mark Banker in 2016, Nebraska improved to 30th in the country in total defense and 33rd in scoring defense. But blowout losses in three of Nebraska’s final five games led to a change and here we are.
It’s entirely possible that had Riley kept Banker around, he would still have a job. Banker’s defense wasn’t among the nation’s elite, but it could have been good enough to give Riley and Langsdorf enough time to continue reshaping the offense without the lopsided results we saw this season. But alas, that didn’t happen and here we are.
Jacob and Greg before me are both right, that Black Friday Iowa debacle might not get fully broken down for a while, it’s not the focus anymore. Now, it’s about what this program looks like moving forward and there were some interesting non-Moos, non-Riley things that happened Saturday.
Most notably, it looks like wide receiver coach and top recruiter Keith Williams will be leaving along with Riley, and that wasn’t received well by the players in his room.
I truly enjoyed my time here.
Truly appreciate Coach Riley and the rest of the coaches
Appreciate all the love and support HuskerFamily.
And I definitely appreciate and love the 🦍👐🏾.. We'll always be in touch though . You know it's always
— Keith Williams (@wideouts) November 26, 2017
One thing that is for certain is that God ALWAYS has a plan. All we have to do is follow it. @wideouts isn’t only my coach, but my dad. The best at both. Cant thank you enough. I love you and you already know I’m with you through WHATEVER. WIDEOUTS!! 👐🏽🦍 pic.twitter.com/j0HHRabEAG
— Keyan Williams (@Primetime_IX) November 26, 2017
Dub got a supreme plan for me and we gonna get it how ever wherever ‼️ 🦍 @wideouts
— Jaevon McQuitty (@Yaboyjae19) November 25, 2017
You made me the Wideout I always dreamed of becoming. Still lots of work to do and I know you have the key to get that job done. @wideouts You know im with you till the end ✊🏾🦍👐🏾‼️
— TAZY (@jdspielman10) November 25, 2017
At his press conference Saturday announcing the decision to move on, athletic director Bill Moos left the door open for any assistant coaches to remain with the Huskers into next season, saying that the decision would be that of the incoming head coach to make.
“I hire head coaches and head coaches hire their assistants and I would give the new coach every bit of flexibility to create his staff however he wants,” Moos said. “I think we’ve got some talented coaches here and I think we’ve got coaches that think very highly of Nebraska and feel we can recruit here.”
Cornerback Lamar Jackson told reporters Saturday that Moos addressed the thought of players transferring when he met with the team. Jackson said Moos implored anyone who wanted to request a transfer to remain patient and give him time to bring in a new coach, assuring the players that he was doing what was best for the program.
Freshman defensive lineman Damion Daniels didn’t stop to talk Saturday, but did yell for Nebraska to keep defensive line coach John Parrella and “keep the Blackshirts” as he was getting into his car.
It’s still early, but player movement is typically something that comes with the terrain of transitioning from one coaching staff to the next and it will be something that merits monitoring moving forward. Nebraska’s obviously not going to lose every single wide receiver it has, but it’s noteworthy how vocal that particular group was for its position coach.
Jackson had this to say on player transfers:
“I’m pretty sure there’s a few guys in their head, they’re already planning on leaving and stuff like that but I can only speak for myself, I’m just going to wait it out and see what happens."