Mike Riley as a Retiree Moonlighting as an Uber Driver
For new retirees who aren’t quite ready to settle down,becoming an Uber driver is quickly becoming a favored option. You can be your own boss and set your own schedule so you’ll never miss out on your grandkids’ events and it’s a great way to get out in the community and interact with a wide variety of folks. Plus, Mike probably has the Riley family Prius paid off so there would be very low overhead to go into business for himself.
I started out with plenty of hope and was looking forward to a dozen chances to hang with friends, eat some snacks, and continue cheering on the first team I ever cheered for.
To say this season has been a bumpy ride is an understatement. My favorite highlight of the year so far has been last week’s bye week. It was a blissful Saturday, completely free of disappointment and pain.
Tonight though, we’re back onboard the suffer train.
When I checked the time for kickoff yesterday, I assumed the marquee matchup of the Huskers vs Boilermakers would get the 9am slot for us West Coast fans but the Big Ten had to go and schedule it against the World Series. It was shrewd move on their part to ensure as few people as possible put their eyes on a slap fight between a Western Division doormats.
Still, when the clock strikes 4:30, I’ll tune in like I always do. Because that’s what you do when you’re a Husker fan.
You show up during good times and bad.
At least until the World Series starts.
BOLD PREDICTION TIME
Mike Riley is spared the indignity of walking home from West Lafayette as the Huskers use their bye week to their advantage and overcome their underdog status to beat Purdue 28 – 14.
Moments before Clayton Kershaw took the mound in game one of the World Series, this commercial for YouTubeTV aired on Fox. Nothing like seeing the Huskers used as punching bag by Ohio State. Again.
Welcome to the greatest weekend of the season, Husker fans.
It’s bye week!
There’s not even a chance the Huskers are going to lose another game.
And because we all need a second favorite team to root for so we can have a reason to avoid mowing the lawn for another week, I interviewed Austin Heffernan, a die hard UCF fan to get the scoop on the Knights football program and their currently undefeated season thanks in no small part to their upstart coach Scott Frost. (You may have heard of him.)
Speaking of Scott, I met Austin on Twitter the day he was hired away from Oregon. Somehow, we found each other’s tweets and traded some thoughts about Scott. (There’s a good chance I told him to make sure UCF takes good care of Nebraska’s next head coach. )
Anyway, Austin is a huge UCF fan and cheers for his other local teams in Florida. He’s the kind of ride or die sports fan any team would be proud to have. He was nice enough to answer all my dumb questions with some valuable insight about the Knights so you’ll enjoy watching UCF (and Scott Frost) take on Navy Saturday afternoon.
1. Along with being a UCF fan long before the Knights cracked the top 25, you’re a fan of your local teams across the sports spectrum which is something of a rarity these days as sports fans aren’t as tied to geography as they were before. As background, how would you describe your fandom and what it’s like to be such a dedicated fan of Florida teams? (For the record, I was pulling for the Marlins when they went on their late summer run.)
Austin: Growing up in Miami was really fun. In my younger elementary school days, I was blessed with nationally dominant Miami Hurricanes teams that set the city on fire. [Ed note: Husker fans remember the that 2001 team. Too bad you’re too young to have missed those 80s teams.] Rumor has it that those Hurricanes players from the early 2000s were skipping Dolphins players in the club. We then had the Marlins make their run in 2003 and the Heat in 2006 and also again in 2012/2013. Miami definitely has the most diverse sports fan base in terms of ethnic backgrounds. The best picture I can paint of Miami sports fandom is pots and pans in musical rhythmic unison while celebrating.
Since I moved to Orlando, I’ve been a part of the soccer movement and have attended a handful of Orlando City Soccer games. We have the 2nd highest attendance in the MLS despite not having made the playoffs in the 3 years we’ve been in the MLS. That has been a fun experience and celebrating a scored goal is unlike anything I’ve been a part of as a sports fan.
2. Florida certainly has its share of college football teams. What was it that made you pick UCF, or did the Knights pick you?
Austin: I decided to not attend an American school and I got into a school in Rome, Italy at the last minute. UCF still had open rolling applications and decided to roll with them instead. I was still rooting for the Canes up until the 3rd home game of my freshman year, where we beat Boston College by 40+ points. We ended up winning the C-USA championship that year and that season cemented my passion for the University and all of their sports teams.
3. In 2013, UCF went 12-1 and ended their season by beating Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl and finishing in the AP Top 10. Then in 2014 they when 9-4 and followed that up with an 0-12 season in 2015. Last year Scott Frost got things turned around and the Knights posted a 6-7 record. Now, they’re 5-0 and ranking in the top 20. What’s this roller coaster ride been like for you and how does it to have been on it the whole time?
Austin: The 12-1 year, or as we call it, “the dream season,” was my senior year at UCF. That year was so incredible and the campus was electric all the time. If you would’ve told me before I went to UCF that we would win a BCS game while I was there, I would’ve recommended you take me to the local mental hospital called Lakeside. The following year we won the AAC again but it took some miraculous plays, including the miracle we needed to clinch a share of the conference championship.
And then we hit rock bottom. Our head football coach at the time, George O’Leary, was acting as the school athletic director at the time. His attention wasn’t fully set on the team, and the team suffered mightily. Following that year, the Lincoln Legend himself, Scott Frost, made his way to UCF. Since we hired Frost, the football team’s confidence appeared to have instantly jumped to the ceiling. Since then, I’ve had no complaints and have been following along for this fantastic ride that I never want to end.
4. Two things Nebraska fans take a lot of pride in are a sellout streak that’s been going since 1962 and having a reputation as being the “greatest fans in college football.” How would you describe the UCF fanbase? Are there a lot of dedicated, hardcore fans like you, or is the bulk of the fanbase more casual? And how has the the momentum and energy been this season? Is the bandwagon running out of room?
Austin: The fan base is really young. The school opened up in 1963 so our alumni base isn’t as strong as most other schools. Orlando is mostly a Gator town, which makes it tough to get local non-students and non-alumni into the stadium. Last year, following a winless season, I was surprised at how many people were in the stands at all the home games. It made me proud to be a Knight fan to see everyone screaming at the top of their lungs despite the product the team produced the year prior. [Ed note: Just like Nebraska!] 5. The UCF program started out as a Division III team in 1979 and steadily worked its way up to Division !. What are some traditions, both for the program and during games, that the rest of the world should know about?
Austin: My favorite tradition is Spirit Splash. Every Friday of homecoming week, students gather around the fountain called the Reflecting Pond in the middle of campus and there’s a pep rally of sorts. Then a countdown starts, and all the students gathered around the Reflecting Pond run into it. A video will explain it better than I can.
6. What’s a game day like at Spectrum Stadium? How would you describe the atmosphere? And I gotta know, how did Zombie Nation’s song Kernkraft 400 become an anthem?
Austin: Tailgating at UCF is my favorite hobby. The whole campus is wet and you can bring an open container anywhere, so it makes for a great atmosphere. I actually have no idea how Kernkraft 400 became our pre-kickoff anthem but I just found myself joining in my freshman year back in 2010.
7. A lot of Nebraska fans will probably be spending their Husker free Saturday watching UCF take on Navy. What should they know about the Knights’ offense and defense in terms of attitude and identity and who are some of the key playmakers they should keep an eye on?
Austin:McKenzie Milton, our quarterback, has progressed in a way that I didn’t think was possible. He has brought life to the passing game, so I would definitely keep an eye on him. Tre’Quan Smith is probably our best wide receiver. I would also pay attention to our defense. A couple of players I would pay attention to are Mike Hughes, a cornerback, and Shaquem Griffin, a linebacker. Those two are both playmakers and will be huge factors in stopping Navy’s triple option.
8. Nebraska fans have prior experience with UCF when Dante Culpepper came to Lincoln in 1997 and roasted the Nebraska defense (we call them the Blackshirts) for 318 passing yards in what turned out to be a very close (by Nebraska standards) 24 – 38 loss. (Btw, Scott Frost put up 120 passing yards and ran for another 50.) Who are some of UCF’s other legends that Nebraska fans should be aware of?
Austin:Blake Bortles led us to a Fiesta Bowl win so he’s probably going to have a statue on campus at some point. [Ed note: OMG.] Coach George O’Leary put us in the national spotlight by winning 4 conference championships during his tenure. Kevin Smith finished the highest in the school’s history in Heisman voting at 8th place. He had insane rushing numbers and is our best running back in school history. Brandon Marshall, the wide receiver who now plays for the New York Giants, is probably the best professional player to come out of UCF. Another great NFL pro was Asante Samuel.
9. What would you like to say to Nebraska fans (or Florida or Tennessee fans) who have their eye on Scott Frost? Do you think he’ll be temped to jump to a new program or will he stay put and keep building what he started?
Austin: This is a conversation UCF fans have been having frequently lately. It’s impossible to know at this point what the man is thinking. All that I know is that I will be OK with whatever decision he makes. He’s done more for this program than I ever expected him to do. I will always admire Frost, whether it is here or at another institution.
10.Finally, what’s your prediction for Saturday? Do you think the Knights will be able to handle Navy’s option attack and a hostile road environment? Oh, and what did you think of Scott Frost playing QB on the scout team?
Austin: I think we have the personnel to stop the triple option and the offensive weapons to put up enough points to win. However, playing on the road is its own animal but Frost has our kids focused. Also, Navy’s Coach Ken Niumatalolo has his team playing as probably the most disciplined team in the country.
The only way to recover from two consecutive beat downs under the Memorial Stadium lights (not to mention 15 years of WTF) is to scrap the whole damn thing and rebuild the Husker football program from the ground up.
Last week’s Badger buggering should have been enough to make the current staff and team gather in a circle of trust and vow to do whatever it takes to ensure something like that never happens again.
Well, it continued to happen against Ohio State from the opening kickoff to the final whistle. The only merciful thing about last night’s pummeling is that the Buckeyes didn’t wait until the second half to take the Huskers to the woodshed. They were Mike Tyson in the ring against Michael Spinks. This game was over the moment it began and it was a welcome relief. With the Huskers getting their ass kicked from the get go, I was able to fully enjoy our evening at Dodger Stadium instead of having to obsessively check on the Huskers every 10 seconds like I did during the Wisconsin game.
And that really sucks because for as long as I can remember, every Husker loss has been a brutal gut punch that has left me sick to my stomach for days after.
Last night was the first time I’ve ever felt a sense of relief that the Huskers lost. That didn’t even happen in the dregs of the Bill Callahan era.
Since I started writing this, the University of Nebraska announced that Washington State Athletic Director Bill Moos has been hired as the new AD.
Well Bill, if you happen to read this while you’re getting up to speed on all things Huskers, here’s are five things you need to do.
1. Reassign Mike Riley to Head Coach of Righteous Good Times and Other Fun Stuff. Riley’s body language sideline demeanor during this season’s blowouts clearly says he’s over it. While he still has some gas in the tank, Riley can be the cuddly grandpa that the players turn to when the coach you inevitably hire is being too much of a hard ass on their fragile psyches. He can spend his newfound free time organizing field trips and hooking the team up with Kendrick Lamar tickets and continuing to be the coolest old guy in football.
2. Ditch the social media department until the Huskers start winning. The goddamn easiest job in the athletic department without question belongs to whoever runs the Huskers’ Instagram account. With the team in the shitter they’ve all but stopped posting so what’s the point of having #OnBrand #Content when the team is so bad there’s nothing worth sharing?
2b. Whoever the next coach is has to go out there and find guys on each side of the ball who could care less about social media. The players who will be the foundation for turning the program around are the kind of psychos who have better things to do than spend their free time tweeting their recruiting offers and fishing for likes and retweets from thirsty adult fans. Oh, and find a QB who can run the ball and throw the ball.
3. Close the Ndamukong Suh Center For Enhanced Athletic Excellence (or whatever it’s called) until the players earn the right to workout on fancy and clean exercise equipment. Go steal a stack of hay bales from East Campus and poach some cinder blocks and rebar from a construction site and pile everything up behind the stadium and tell the players to bulk up prison style. If they really want to get bigger, faster, and stronger, they’ll find a way to make it happen without the Ivan Drago Signature Series line of weights.
4. Find coaches on both sides of the ball who understand simpler is better in the college game. No scheme should take years to implement. It’s football. You run the ball, you throw the ball, you tackle whoever has the ball, and sometimes you kick the ball. The dynasty era Husker playbook was easy enough for anyone to understand and execute and it worked pretty good.
MIKE RILEY’S BALLOON WATCH™
It’s going to be hard to get any worse than it is now.
This time last Saturday morning I was doing the exact same thing that I’m doing right now- sitting on the couch in our TV room, drinking coffee, watching a college football game I don’t care about, and writing a half assed blog about the misery I will be enduring in a few hours.
The only indicator that this is indeed a new Saturday is the palm sweat that breaks out whenever I think about what’s in store for the evening. The stakes for my two favorite teams have been ratcheted up a little higher. The Dodgers are one step closer to the World Series and the Huskers have the potential to pull off an upset against Ohio State, or have their season get even worse.
At least there was a little breathing room between the Huskers and the Dodgers last Saturday night. Thanks to the magic of living in the future I was able to stream most of the first half of the Wisconsin game. For the first four plays the offense was rolling on a gravy train with biscuit wheels and all was right with the world.
My reflexive yell scared the bejeesus out of the fella we’ve sat next to for the past four seasons. As a Dodger fan, I’ve been through thick and thin with Don but it always surprises him when Crazy Husker Fan Todd makes an appearance at the ballpark. Adding to my personal hell was the fact that his wife is as big an Iowa fan as he is a Dodger fan so she was having a mighty good time at the Huskers’ expense.
If you’re keeping score at home, the stress eating stopped when the baseball game started. The playoffs make me way too nervous to eat anything other than my rally towel.
After Stanley Morgan Jr. took a terrific 80 yard reception to the end zone, it was time for Dodger baseball so I tucked my iPad under my seat and felt good about Huskers only being down 10-7 at halftime.
Somehow that halftime score became 17-10 but I was feeling really good when Aaron Williams tied it up with a pick six of his own. The Dodgers were on the board and the Huskers were setting the table for an upset.
Then the Badgers remembered their playbook was full of unstoppable running plays and spent the remainder of the game shoving the ball down the Blackshirts’ throat. Meanwhile, the Dodgers methodically hung up six runs over two innings with a lone double as the biggest hit. If there was a baseball equivalent of three yards and a cloud of dust, the Dodgers were doing it.
I learned last Saturday night that there’s no weirder purgatory of a feeling than screaming your head off for one team while feeling completely miserable about the other.
Will tonight be any different?
It will either be really good, really craptastic, or somewhere in the middle. Whatever I gain by not having to deal with the trash Ohio State fans who overtake our shared watch site, I lose by having to deal with obnoxious Cubs fans who always swarm Dodger Stadium.
At least the Dodgers added a new churro sundae served in a helmet to the menu for this weekend. If I shovel one of these down between kickoff and first pitch I’ll be ready for anything tonight.
Go Huskers. Let’s go Dodgers.
One of these years they’ll both win on the same night.
In what has been a semi-regular tradition since 2008, the Huskers will be playing at the exact same time the Los Angeles Dodgers are battling in the playoffs.
If you want a portal into what personal hell looks like, this is it. No sports fan should ever have to deal the the anguish and suspense of their two favorite teams playing simultaneously.
After a spending late night at Dodger Stadium, I woke up at the crack of noon today and have been pacing around the house until it’s time to make the four mile drive back to the ballpark.
By this point, my wife and I have the crossing of team streams down to a semi-exact science. We’ll be in our seats in time for kickoff and I’ll proceed to spend the next hour screaming into a rally towel as I watch the game unfold a few plays behind real-time on my iPad. Once the it’s time for Dodger baseball, I do my best to put the Husker game in the hands of the Football Gods but that never works and I devolve into stress eating garlic fries.
Out of all the times my two worlds have collided, neither the Huskers or the Dodgers have managed to both win. Tonight’s as good as a night as any for that to change.
The Dodgers will be going up against Dbacks pitcher Robbie Ray who is 3-0 against the Boys in Blue this season and has posted a 0.92 ERA in his three starts at Dodger Stadium in 2017.
Meanwhile, the Huskers are trying to avoid making it five losses in a row to those goddamn Badgers including back-to-back heartbreakers. Well, here’s the deal nobody is talking about.
Those goddamn Badgers aren’t that good. They had to rely on Northwestern’s screw ups to win last week and their signature victory was against a BYU team that is 1-5 and all kinds of shitty. As long as Tanner Lee doesn’t score more points for the Badgers than his own offense, the Huskers should win tonight.
Welp. It’s time for the Huskers’ annual showdown with the Badgers and the return of Cousin Ben, the biggest Wisconsin fan this Husker blog knows.
Ben was gracious enough to take time out of his busy senior year of high school to write up a little preview of what Husker Nation can expect when the Badgers take the field Saturday night. What follows is his preview along with my commentary in italics.
Take it away Cousin Ben…
Hello everyone- welcome to your least favorite article of the season. This year does feel a bit different, however. Night game. Lincoln Stadium. [I know you’re just trolling with this “Lincoln Stadium” business. Well played.]
I expect the atmosphere to be absolutely electric- which will make it much closer than it should be. Before my predictions, here is a breakdown of the best team in the Big Ten West. [You’re breaking down Nebraska? Nice!]
Wisconsin’s offense comes into the game following a fantastic second half against Northwestern. [You left out the part where the Badgers relied on Northwestern playing like idiots.] This is pretty much your prototypical Badger offense once again. Great line, three good backs, shaky QB play. The line is young, but expect them to get plenty of good pushes. Wisconsin needs to run the ball a lot to win this game, and that all starts with the massive boys up front.
Carrying the ball will be the best freshman RB in the country, Jonathan Taylor, along with Pitt transfer Chris James, and Bradrick Shaw (yes, that random dude who ran for a 21 yard TD last year is our 3rd running back). Taylor has been tremendous, showing a mix of speed, strength and balance that not many freshman show. James has been decent, but a lot of fans had high expectations before the season, so he has underwhelmed a bit. Shaw is a big, powerful dude with underrated speed and elusiveness who could easily be an every down back on a lot of teams.
Now, onto our quarterback Mr. Alex Hornibrook. His inconsistencies have shown way too often this year, even after spending the offseason working with great coaches (including Peyton Manning). [At the Manning Passing Academy? Even T-Magic and Tommy Armstrong got invites to that. Whatever.]
Overall, he’s a really sound quarterback, who makes good decisions but his lack of athleticism and a weak arm make it tough for him to control the game in ways that elite teams quarterbacks often do. [OK. This is good.]
The receiving core is much improved, with all of it centered around the nine fingered wonder Troy Fumagalli (who is questionable for Saturday as of now). [Whoa. He really does only have nine fingers.] The thing Wisconsin has really improved on in recruiting is getting some young guys who can go deep and come up with the ball. Sophomores AJ Taylor and Quintez Cephus, as well as freshman Danny Davis(beast) have been pleasant surprises early in the season, and the seasoned vet Jazz Peavy, [Please tell me his nickname is Autobot.] while under targeted, could go off at anytime and have a big game. This offense as a whole is young, but extremely talented.
Death, Taxes, and Wisconsin having a top 15 defense. [Thanks for being modest by saying top 15 instead of top 5.] This group is similar to recent defenses, but the defensive back play has really stood out. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering Wisconsin’s new DC is former NFL safety Jim Leonhard.
Natrell Jamerson and D’cota Dixon have been fantastic at the safety spots, and corners Nick Nelson and Derrick Tindal have been manning the corner spots well. The linebacking core is absolutely unbelievable once again this year. TJ Edwards and Chris Orr are an elite package of MLB, and Garrett Dooley, Leon Jacobs, and Andrew VanGinkel off the edge give teams offensive lines some serious problems.
The defensive line, while mostly unknown, has been solid this year. The rotation is deep, and every guy does his job as he should. This is a defense who could force 3+ turnovers this weekend if Nebraska isn’t careful with the ball. Based on what I’ve seen in the games I’ve watched (Oregon and N.Illinois) Wisconsin’s defense could have a very good night on Saturday. [Well, you clearly missed what the offense did against Rutgers and Regular Illinois.]
We have a fat kicker who kicks bombs and dances after field goals. Enough said. [Don’t worry. We all remember this tub of love for ripping out our hearts two years ago.]
This is going to be a defensive game, which I believe is going to really help Wisconsin. Nebraska has been way too turnover prone (9 picks in 4 games by Tanner Lee) which will flip field position and give Wisconsin the advantage.
I see this one ending up 24-13 Wisconsin.
Jonathan Taylor runs for 115 yards and a touchdown, and Hornibrook throws for 200 yards and a TD. Tanner Lee throws 3 picks and Wisconsin forces 2 fumbles. I think Nebraska is a much improving team, but I think Wisconsin’s depth is too great. It’ll be very tight until the 4th quarter.
As you may remember, last year, I predicted Nebraska was going to lose 4 out of 5 to end the season… They ended up losing 3 out of 5. This year, I think Nebraska ends up going 3-4 to finish the season, with losses to Wisconsin, OSU, Penn State, and Minnesota. [Wait… so you’re saying the Huskers will finally beat Iowa?]
I think Wisconsin finishes the regular season undefeated, but loses to OSU in the Big Ten Championship. [Another heartbreaking year for the Badgers? This makes me so happy.]