Sideline Report: A coaching decision gone wrong — Nebraska Edition


Braden Shaw, JagWire editor-in-chief

Through the first three weeks of the college football season, the Nebraska Cornhuskers have gone 1-2 — the first time since 1981. They’ve lost on a hail mary against BYU and in overtime against Miami (Florida). But, hey, at least they have a win against South Alabama, a team who’s only had a football team since 2009. Nebraska officials had high expectations for this season, and the team has yet to meet them.

As a Nebraska fan, the record definitely is a good representation of the play on the field thus far. The play-calling has been dreadful and head coach Mike Riley has been lackluster. Riley came into this season with a losing record, yet Nebraska still had faith in him to produce a winning squad this season. He has no real experience of winning the games that matter most, and, with this less-than-stellar start, his inexperience with winning is showing through.

To be honest with you, fans should have seen this coming. This strange coaching hire, paired with a brand new system in a tough conference, wasn’t going to turn out well. Riley completely changed the offense from a run-first, intermediate-passing offense to a pro-style offense. In case you haven’t watched Nebraska, this is not how this team is designed to play. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong does live up to his namesake, but he’s more known for being a mobile quarterback. Also, running backs have led the offense to victory in the past. Abandoning this methodology was not going to end well.

Along with the change of offense, the team has changed on defense. Instead of bombarding the opposing team with aggressive blitzes and solid man-to-man coverage, this team plays lots of zone coverage, and is sometimes, dare I say, lackadaisical on defense. This team doesn’t look the same on defense and isn’t attacking as much as they used to. Defensive coordinator Mark Banker, one of Mike Riley’s coaching friends from Oregon State, has failed to live up to expectations. He is conservative and has allowed the team to be repeatedly beat on run and pass plays, resulting in two losses.

But all that doesn’t bother me as much as Mike Riley’s style of head coaching. He doesn’t seem to have a great relationship with players and seems to not know what he’s doing. I don’t know if he’s realized yet, but this isn’t Oregon State. Nebraska is a whole other beast in itself in a much better conference. He doesn’t have the fire and passion for success and has failed to manage games effectively. Riley and his coaching staff just don’t have what it takes to contend in the Big Ten.

Overall, this is exactly what Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst should have seen coming when he switched out former head coach Bo Pelini for Riley. Pelini was only the fourth-winningest coach in college football over the last five seasons, but Riley (93-80 at Oregon State; six losing seasons) was given the mantle of the program. This all boils down to Eichorst not knowing how to handle this football team and just finding a quick solution for good publicity. I don’t blame Riley for taking this great job, but I do blame him for his ineptitude on the sideline.

The season can’t get worse, right?

Junior Braden Shaw is a passionate sports fan who follows sports at both the college and professional level. He loves to defend his unpopular opinions on the University of Nebraska, Sporting KC, Chiefs and Royals and is always up for a debate over any game or team.

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