Category Archives: Mike Riley

As Christmas Approaches, are Husker Fans Seeing Ghosts of Seasons Past?

If you’ve had a nagging sense of deja vu over the last few weeks, our friend, Tony, has a theory as to why.

Consider the following uncanny similarities between the end of the season in 2003 and the end of 2014:

On November 30th, Nebraska fires a coach that just finished a 9-3 season, dividing Husker fan loyalties. (At least until a secret recording was made public.) The head coach of Arkansas obfuscates the coaching search for personal gain. A coach from the West Coast with a good recruiting acumen and an NFL pedigree is hired and many wonder if he’s good enough for Nebraska. The former coach returns to his home state of Ohio to coach a lesser conference/division school.

Spooky, isn’t it?

But what does it mean? Is Husker Nation trapped inside of some kind of time loop with the only way out being our ability to repeat our actions in an exact synchronized ballet?

If we fail to break the cycle, does that mean Mike Riley is the second coming of — DEAR GOD! BILL CALLAHAN?!?!?!

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We sincerely hope not.

Before we all throw the panic switch, we should also acknowledge the many differences so far displayed between the events of 2003 and 2014.

First and foremost, the number of days Shawn Eichorst spent searching for the new “most important man in Nebraska” was FIVE.

The number of days it took Steve Pederson to pin down Bill Callahan was FORTY ONE.

Eichorst clearly had a contingency for replacing a relatively successful, if frustratingly plateaued, head coach. Pederson, not so much.

NCAA head coaching experience.

While both Riley and Callahan had brief stints as NFL head coaches, only Riley has had extensive time coaching a Division 1 football team before landing at Nebraska. Riley clearly knows what it takes to run a college program and he will not try to force an NFL template over it — as Callahan did. Respect for long-held traditions such as the vaunted walk-on system should stay intact under Riley. Whereas under Callahan, the walk-ons were encouraged to keep on walking, right out of the program.

No square pegs for round holes.

Does anybody remember October 9, 2004? If that date doesn’t jog your memory, maybe it’s because you, as a Husker fan, have repressed that date as a natural defense trigger. There’s nothing wrong if you do. That’s just the PTSD doing its thing.

October 9, 2004 happens to be the day that the Bill Callahan era of Husker football made its conference road trip debut. In Lubbock, Texas.

Ringing a bell now? Yep, this was the 10 – 70  loss to the Red Raiders that started those first few whispers in Lincoln. The same voices that would grow into a cacophony of discontent by mid-season 2007. The voices saying:

“What the fuck have we gotten ourselves into!”

But, while that embarrassing score looks horrific on paper (it’s still the largest margin of loss in the post Osborne era, despite so many other blowout debacles), what some people forget is that this game was far from looking like a blow out mid-way through the third quarter.

Trailing 21-3 at half time, Nebraska opened the third quarter with a 74-yard touchdown pass from Joe Dailey to Mark LeFlore. Down by less than two touchdowns, Nebraska’s defense gave the Huskers a chance to get back into the game by holding Tech scoreless on their next two possessions.

Everything looked in place for a respectable performance (if not a win) against a formidable conference opponent at their house.

So what happened? How did the following 19 minutes produce a 60-point final deficit? Callahan pulled Joe Dailey from the game as punishment for not being able to master his West Coast offense in half a season. Dailey was 14 of 34 in passing for 187 yards with one interception. Not bad for a kid who’d been recruited to run the option. But not good enough for Callahan.

Wise old Bill took out Joe and put in Beau Davis, a freshman who knew even less about running the West Coast offense than Daily. Davis finished the game with four completions. Three of which went to Red Raiders.

With three consecutive picks setting up three easy touchdowns, the Husker defense folded and let Tech (now up 42-10 going into the fourth) pound in four more touchdowns in the final period.

If Bill Callahan had not tried to force an option team to learn his uber-complicated West Coast Offense right out of the gate, the 5-6 2004 Huskers probably would have finished with a respectable eight or nine win season. The schedule that year was certainly no beast (Oklahoma was the only ranked team they faced). Callahan could have eased those players into his system while recruiting specifically to foster his chosen style. But, instead, he wailed a square peg through a round hole, causing the first Husker squad in forty years to sit home for the bowl season. The shame of it left a few seniors crying after the final loss — in Lincoln vs. Colorado — with one player wishing that fans would just forget about the 2004 team.

Already, Mike Riley has said things which should allay fears that this kind of bullshit will never happen again. He will customize his strategies around the strength of the team. Always. Hallelujah!

So, for those of you with an itchy sense that history is repeating itself, just relax. This bout of deja vu is but an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. The specter of Bill Callahan is no more real than a ghost of seasons past. Try not to think about it, otherwise…

nightmares

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Coach Riley Holding Staff Tryouts

While Coach Mike Riley strikes us as more of a Riddler than a Joker, the idea of him strolling into the lame duck coaching staff holding pen and busting a pool cue over his knee and announcing he’s gonna have tryouts makes us giggle.

Mike Riley Joker
“Which one of you fine gentlemen would like to join our team?”

According to reports based off of text messages from recruits, newcomer Charlton Warren won the battle royal to stay on as part of Riley’s staff.

Will another current coach be signing on as well, possibly on the offensive side of the ball?

Easy money would say that coach would be Ron Brown but that would all depend on what Ron Brown wants to do. If Ron Brown doesn’t feel like going anywhere, Ron Brown isn’t going anywhere.

RON BROWNGood luck telling this guy to go kick rocks. 

If Coach Riley “chooses” not to retain Ron Brown, don’t be surprised if the hottest recruit for 2016 is a seemingly out-of-nowhere Ron Brownstein.

Ron Brown 2
Even at 58-years-old, Ron Brown is just a fake ID and passable ACT score from becoming a college football player all over again.

In other coaching news: If you haven’t grown tired of getting duped by Football Scoop, reports are saying interim head coach Barney Cotton and John Garrison will be landing at UNLV. If that’s the case, this might a genius trolling power move. For as much of a barren wasteland the UNLV campus is, it has the rare distinction of boasting its very own In-N-Out burger. Even the students at UCLA have to walk a few blocks off campus to get their Double Double fix. We can’t wait to see the taunting tweets Cotton and Garrison fire off in the direction of Coach Riley every day at lunchtime.

Meanwhile, John Papuchis remains locked in Bo Pelini’s basement getting the Buffalo Bill treatment.

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A Digression on In-N-Out

Nebraska’s hiring of Mike Riley and his reported love affair with In-N-Out Burgerd has raised an old puzzlement of mine. One that manifested soon after moving to Los Angeles 15 years ago.

In-N-Out. What’s the big fucking deal?

Mike Riley digs into a double-double.
Mike Riley digs into a double-double.

Now, for those of you who regularly read this blog, you probably noticed that we typically write in first person plural. In this case, I’m going singular because Big Red Fury is divided on this issue. Just wanted to be clear.

For folks who’ve never seen In-N-Out’s most popular sandwich (the Double Double — which if you ask me, should mean FOUR patties, not two) here it is.

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Yep. That’s what all the fuss is about. And I say “fuss” because I just don’t get it. The same way I don’t get why “Crash” won Best Picture in 2005. It’s a patently unremarkable movie. Just as the Double Double is an unremarkable burger.

It’s not a bad burger, by any means. I ate probably a dozen of them during the ten years I lived in California. But that’s just 1.2 a year, despite having had an In-N-Out five blocks from my house for four of those years.

As I think about it, the Double Double is really the Bo Pelini of burgers. As satisfying as any 9 or 10 win season, but — gosh darn it — never rising to a level of greatness.

How’s that for irony?

But mention In-N-Out to any native Californian, whether living there now or transplanted somewhere else, and their eyes will immediately roll into the back of their heads, their jaws will dip down to their sternums, drool will spill out and they will utter in one octave lower than their usual tone of speech “Ohh God! Double Double’s soooooooo yummy!”

I guess. If you say so.

Now, initially I figured maybe because California is not in the beef belt people there aren’t use to “grade A” red meat the way we are back in Big Red country and that’s why West Coasters have gone nuts for a decidedly average hamburger. But no. Most of the Nebraska transplants I knew living in the LA basin were also gaga for double doubles. And since moving to Omaha, I’ve listened to no less than three native Nebraskans still living in Nebraska get as gooey for In-N-Out as anybody.

To each their own, obviously.

On one level, I guess I can relate, because I’ve professed my love for Runzas to non-Nebraskans before only to be met with a “what’s the big fucking deal” expression in response. And to me, if you don’t like Runzas, well then you’re just an asshole. Probably a pretentious one, too.

So far as I know, Mike Riley hasn’t given his verdict on Runzas. But I hope he likes them, because I really want to like Mike. And I can appreciate the idea of knowing the head coach’s favorite food. It makes me think of when Ronald Reagan was President and everybody knew that he liked jelly beans. The press of the 1980s was so transfixed by this tidbit that they were sure to ask Reagan’s successor, George HW Bush, what his favorite food was right off the bat. Bush 41 said, “Pork rinds.”

Somehow this was not as charming as jelly beans. And so the press never bothered to find out what Clinton’s, Bush 43’s or Obama’s favorite snacks were (although I’d bet hard money that W’s was not pretzels).

I do wonder what Mike will do now that there is not a single In-N-Out Burger joint in the entire Big 10 footprint. The nearest restaurants are in Dallas and Salt Lake City. Not exactly wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-and-kill-your-craving distance. But then, there are no In-N-Outs in the state of Oregon, either. So I suppose Mike probably knows how to bed his appetite back down when he needs to. But without the option of getting a fix at least on conference road trips, one has to wonder how long before the new “Most Important Man in the Entire State of Nebraska” goes stark raving crazy.

I guess he’ll have to stock up during his West Coast recruiting trips. Just as long as he doesn’t let slip Lincoln’s lack of double doubles to those In-N-Out crazy California prospects.

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Welcome to Nebraska, Mike Riley. Here’s a Survival Guide.

Dear Coach Riley,

Welcome to Nebraska and the Cornhuskers. After we wrapped our head around your out-of-the-blue hiring, we must say we became very interested and excited to see what you can do for the Big Red.

Moving from Oregon to Nebraska will no doubt require a bit of readjustment on your part. To help make the transition as seamless as possible, we’ve taken the liberty of writing up a handy little Nebraska Survival Guide for you.

THE NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS – Your new team is the biggest attraction in America’s 37th state by a country mile.  Note that we didn’t qualify that statement by saying “sports attraction.” To explain just how obsessed the state is with the Big Red would require 5,000 words to barely scrape the surface. You know how bananas those hippies in Portland go for cruelty-free artisan vegan cheese? Multiply that excitement by a factor of 100 and you’re getting close to how the average Nebraskan feels about the Huskers.

Be careful with the alternate uniform thing. While we think it’s a great change of pace to see a fresh look once a year, any deviation from the classic scarlet and cream will bring out the fashion critics and staunch traditionalists. Or, you could simply order adidas to stop making borderline hideous uniforms.

MEMORIAL STADIUM – Those empty seats at Reser Stadium when the Ducks were in Corvallis last week? Not going to happen at your new home. Not even Bill Callahan could stop a sellout streak that currently stands at 340 consecutive games. When it began back in 1962, the stadium’s capacity was just a little bigger than Reser Stadium at 48,000.

Now 87,000 fans pack the joint every game day. Many will stand up the whole time, except for the people on the west side of the stadium. That’s where the blue hairs (old folks) all sit. Try not to complain about them too much. They write big checks in exchange for getting to complain about all the hip hop and yell witty things such as “Sit down. We can’t see through you.” when young and rowdy fans (anyone under 75) make the mistake of sitting among the elderly.

The student section is in the south end zone. Be cool to those kids. In fact, be really nice to them. Bring them donuts before games. The seating is general admission and the most rabid fans will sleep on the sidewalk the night before games to lock down a front row seat. They’ve got a such a good thing going with the Iron N Club right now that we’re very tempted to go back to school and deal with being the creepy old guy in class just so we can take part in the fun.

And please, try not to poop your pants the first time you do the Tunnel Walk.

TOM OSBORNETOM OSBORNE 1Do whatever you have to do to get on this man’s good side. Grease him with a Cabela’s gift card if you have to. If you can get him to vouch for you, you’ll be way ahead of the game. A few years ago he ran for governor (after several terms in Congress) and Nebraskans decided to vote for the other guy in hopes that T.O. would return to the Athletic Department. He’s also on the College Football Playoff committee though the can’t “technically” try to “influence” the voting when it comes to the Huskers.

TOMMIE FRAZIER
Tommie Frazier
Yes. That really is the quarterback who lead the Huskers to glory in the mid-90’s. He is not a player’s overly enthusiastic uncle trying to pull your leg. If he ever goes on a Twitter rampage about any standards you’re not living up to, just ask him how his coaching career went.

JASON PETER
Jason Peter
This skinny guy who looks like a Limp Bizkit enthusiast anchored the Huskers’ defensive line for all three national championship seasons in the 90’s. What can we say? Heroin is a hell of a drug. But it’s not as strong as the human spirit. Jason kicked the smack and turned his life around for the better. If you know anyone struggling with addiction, we can personally attest that his book can really be an inspiration. In the photo above, he’s “throwing the bones” the universal symbol for someone-on-the-other-team-just-got-destroyed.

When BYU comes to town to kickoff next season, call a play on their first possession that results in their quarterback being decapitated. We’re not joking. Like, the guy’s head really gets separated from the rest of his body. Yes, it’s rude and may result in having to forfeit the game but if you can pull it off, Jason will gladly do your yard work for the duration of your stay in Lincoln.

NDAMUKONG SUH
SUH
If you see this man working out in your weight room, don’t you dare accuse him of sneaking in. The damn place is named after him. Maybe you remember him from his high school days in Oregon? Even if you don’t, it’s best to let Suh have whatever he wants.

JACK HOFFMAN
Jack Hoffman
If a little dude reports for spring practice with his helmet and pads, you are not being punk’d. His name is Jack. He’s part of the team and he can motor. Maybe you’ve seen his highlight reel?

LARRY THE CABLE GUY
Larry the Cable Guy
This is the Huskers’ celebrity fan base. Good luck with that. Actually, Dan (yes, that’s his real name) is a great guy and a huge supporter. Don’t know if you saw it, but he was so excited about your arrival that he was tweeting rational, complete and fully punctuated sentences.

LINCOLN –Your new home may be five times bigger than Corvallis but don’t think you can simply disappear in the big city. Every move you make will be closely monitored and reported. Did you know Jim Tressel was spotted in Lincoln by multiple sources throughout the week and he wasn’t even in town? That’s how closely fans watch things. Even when you’re in Ohio, you’re really in Lincoln.

The best part of Lincoln for a newcomer is that the streets are laid out on a grid system. Lettered streets run east – west with “O” being the dividing line between the north and south side of town. Numbered streets go north and south. As long as you don’t travel outside of the alphabet, Lincoln is the easiest city in the world to navigate. If some kids invite you to a kegger at 16th and K, those are all the coordinates you need.

THE  NEBRASKA STATE CAPITOL- You’re not imagining things. Everyone thinks it looks like a giant penis.  Some of its popular nicknames are The Penis of the Plains, The Hard-on of The Heartland, The Meat of the Midwest, The Dick of Downtown, The Cock of the Countryside, The Phallus of the Farmland, The Schlong of The City, the list goes on… Inside the Capitol is where America’s only unicameral state legislature does its work.

YIA-YIA’S – Best pizza in town. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

THE NIGHT BEFORE LOUNGE – While the downtown location is convenient, Shaker’s is worth the drive. The last time we were at The Night Before, a dancer answered a phone call from her kid while on-stage. We are not making that up.

OMAHA – About 50 miles to the east is Nebraska’s largest city. It’s a chunk smaller than Portland. The good news for you is that neither of its big colleges have football teams, unlike that Eugene place just up the road from your old stomping grounds. UNO (aka University of No Opportunity) cut its football program and Creighton only has a basketball team to boast about. You’ll find there’s a section of fans who split their loyalty between Husker football and Creighton basketball. Never listen to a single word these people say.

If you need help with your finances, find a guy named Warren who lives there. He apparently has a knack for that sort of stuff.

BEAVER CROSSING – If you ever get homesick, there’s a little slice of home about 35 miles west of Lincoln.

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THE MEDIA – As we said earlier, your new team is the state’s main event and as such it requires dozens of reporters to cover your every move. Thanks to an unquenchable thirst for Husker news, the journalism industry is staying alive and well in Nebraska. (At least when it comes to the Huskers.) All those people who were at your introductory press conference will be there every week. (Free sandwiches draw them in like moths to a flame.)

Here’s who you need to know-

TOM SHATEL
23
While he can seem easily confused by technology, Tom is still the gold standard for Husker beat writers. For the big-monied boosters out west who still prefer to read their news to be in print the day after it happens, his word is gospel. If you can refrain from ever passing the ball on second and 1, you’ll stay in his good graces for a longtime.

SAM McKEWON
SAM M
Sam is the most talented and consistently rational writer on the Husker beat. He could write for the New Yorker if he wanted to. He calls things how he sees them and his opinion doesn’t pendulum from week to week. If you want to blow his mind, talk movies with him sometime. Anything from Paul Thomas Anderson, the Coen Brothers or Richard Linklater would be a good starting point. If you lead with Lars von Trier, he might get suspicious.

STEVEN M. SIPPLE
LINCOLN, NEB. - 8/12/2011 - Steve Sipple ERIC GREGORY/Lincoln Journal Star
The guy at your press conference who looks like he slept in his car (he did and it’s a good story) goes by the nickname Sip. His office is two arm punts from yours so if you ever need to get some news out quick, hit him up. If you need to get some news out really quick, take him out a few times and he’ll give you his log in credentials so you can write what you want him to say yourself. In all seriousness, Sip really knows his stuff and is a solid reporter.

DIRK CHATELAIN
dirk
Dirk is like the old guy Kane from Poltergeist 2. He’ll show up on your porch with good intentions but is really just biding his time before he unleashes hell. If he looked tired at your press conference, it’s because he was up all night breaking down game film from your time with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to find tendencies in your coaching methods and demeanor that can be exploited at a later date. As the “Nebraska Sportswriter of the Year,” you need to show this man respect. He had to beat out 12 other writers to earn that title. To the “serious” Husker bloggers this man is Tyler Durden. They’ll parrot whatever he says and defend his honor to the death.

SEAN CALLAHAN
sean callahan
Sean is your nosy neighbor who chopped down a 50-year-old oak tree in his backyard so that it’s easier to keep tabs on you. His sources’, sources have sources, so good luck keeping anything under wraps.

FANS
Fans 1

Nebraska fans can be so nice that it’s alarming. They can also be so vindictive they’ll secretly record a private conversation and sit on it for a couple years before leaking it to Deadspin. In their eyes, there’s no such thing as running the ball too much or scoring too many points. Should your team ever make a bad play, make a good play ASAP.

If you continue to have your practices open to the public, don’t be surprised if they show up. All of them.

HUSKERMAX When doomsday preppers need a break from organizing canned goods down in their bunkers, they like to chat in the Huskermax forums. Don’t ever look inside. It can be a dark and scary place that makes moon landing conspiracy theorists seem sane and rational.

I-80 – Nebraska’s mighty interstate that cuts through the middle of the state. If you ever need to test your sanity, drive the length of it some time. Even when you’re not on drugs, crossing the same river five or six times will make you feel like you’re hallucinating.

GRAVEL ROADS – You’re traveling down one of Nebraska’s many gravel roads while on the hunt for the next great lineman and you’re about to cross paths with another vehicle, what do you do?

You lift your index finger off the steering wheel as a means of saying hello and nothing more. If you don’t lift your finger, that farmer will flip a u-turn and chase you down to find out what your problem is.

TORNADOES – If sirens start wailing like the North Koreans are attacking, seek shelter in the nearest basement. They’re easy to find. All houses in Nebraska have basements.

CORN – Can’t miss it. It’s everywhere. The scientific term for the exact amount is “Holy fucking shit, there’s a lot of corn in Nebraska.”

MOUNTAINS AND TREES – Believe it or not, virtually all five of the trees you see in Nebraska were planted by hand which lead to the birth of Arbor Day. If you want to see trees and mountains like back home, drive west on I-80 seven or eight hours. Hang a left for Colorado or continue straight for Wyoming.

SUMMER – It gets so hot you’ll want to carry a spatula so you can peel your balls from your leg.

WINTER – It gets so cold your face will hurt. Like real, genuine pain. And there won’t be a snowflake in sight. The place is like a frozen desert.

SPRING – The second Tuesday in May.

FALL – The third Sunday in October.

BOOSTER’S WIVES – Stay away from them. The same goes for your defensive coordinator, especially him. Whoever that may be. (Please, please, please say Ed Orgeron.)

RUNZA – A big, beefy Twinkie and the official sandwich of Nebraska when the McRib isn’t in season. Go for the Swiss cheese and mushroom.

POP – It’s what Nebraska folk call soda. If you ask for a soda, you’ll be accused of being a Prius driving city slicker. Oh wait.

TIM MILES
TIM MILES
If you become as popular as the basketball coach, check your finger for a ring because you probably won a championship.

Best of luck, Coach and Go Big Red!

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The Best Reaction Tweets to the Mike Riley Hiring

Well, it’s safe to say no one in Husker Nation saw Mike Riley signing on to take over the Big Red.

Even Vegas would have given our off the radar candidates a better chance of ending up in Lincoln than the man who guided the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to two Grey Cups.

And the way Huskers announced the news was about as stealthy as the search itself.

Naturally, such a subtle announcement made fans burned by days of coaching rumors highly skeptical.

Still, Derek remained undeterred by this dose of logic and doubled down by saying a “news source” is better than a Twitter account- even if the people behind the account would be telling the “news sources the news.”

And if Derek trusts, the “news sources” surrounding the Huskers, he clearly wasn’t on Twitter yesterday.

Here’s your “news source”, in action Derek.

Faux Pelini couldn’t believe the news.

(If Faux would have dropped the Twitter mic right here, he would have gone out like a boss but he had to get some things off his chest before apparently peacing out for good.)

Every Day Should Be Saturday couldn’t believe the news either.

But when they did, they got on board the Mike Riley Express quick.

Quick true story that makes us kinda stoked about the Mike Riley hire: The night of the Huskers’ comeback win against Wisconsin, I got too hammed to drive home so stumbled from our watch site to the In-N-Out (a Mike Riley favorite) across the street and told a group of skaters I was buying Double Doubles for whoever could ollie over a bus stop bench. One kid could do it. Good times.

Back to the tweets.

There was disappointment.

Then a great voice of reason chimed in.

Along with some retorts.

And mildly drunken rage.

And a fond remembrance for the dearly departed.

But who has time to get sentimental when there are god damn parody twitter accounts to make?

 

 

 

 

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