Nebraska’s Riley on his players: ‘I’m sorry for those guys’
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Nebraska is at the halfway point of the season, and there aren’t many who believed the Cornhuskers would have just two victories after six games – especially the way they’ve been losing.
One way to view it is that Nebraska is less than 20 seconds and an overtime from being 6-0. The reality is that new coach Mike Riley’s team must win four of its last six games just to become bowl eligible.
The latest final-seconds loss came Saturday, when Wisconsin’s Rafael Gaglianone kicked a 46-yard field goal for a 23-21 win – the fourth time the Huskers lost on the opponent’s final offensive play.
”I’m sorry for those guys,” Riley said of his players. ”I want to help them more, so we’re going to keep working. That’s going to be our coaches’ job, just to keep working and get a good plan together and make it get better.”
Next up is Saturday’s visit to Minnesota (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten), which has won two straight over Nebraska. Last year’s 28-24 loss to the Gophers in Lincoln was almost as deflating as any of the four this season. Minnesota took its first lead with 3:25 left. Nebraska looked to be on its way to the winning touchdown when De’Mornay Pierson-El fumbled inside the Gophers’ 5-yard line, and Minnesota ran out the clock.
The Huskers have lost seven of their last 10, matching the program’s worst 10-game stretch since the 1959-60 seasons. This year’s four losses have come on a Hail Mary by BYU with no time left, in overtime against Miami and with 10 seconds left against Illinois and 4 seconds left against Wisconsin.
SMU in 2007 is the only FBS team besides Nebraska to lose four games in a season in the last 10 seconds or overtime, according to STATS records dating to 1996.
”Moving forward through this week the message is going to be, it’s another week, it’s a new life,” defensive end Jack Gangwish said. ”We still have goals. You know we want to come out next week firing on all cylinders.”
Nebraska, at 0-2 in the Big Ten, already is two games behind Iowa in the West Division. The Huskers hadn’t lost their first two conference games since 2008 in Bo Pelini’s first season, and the only years since 1968 they haven’t gone to a bowl were 2004 and 2007 under Bill Callahan.
The Huskers have been hurt by injuries on defense, and Riley said he expects the team’s health to be much improved this week.
Still, Nebraska would have been in position to win the last two weeks if it could have made one more first down or played stronger defense as time was winding down.
”There’s not anything you can say. You just drive on,” quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. said. ”You can’t dwell on the past, you can’t sit up here and pout about what was happening last week, because we’ve got another opponent that’s preparing for us.”
AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org