Mike Riley is 62 years old; he's been a college head coach for 15 years. Coached three years in the NFL. He oozes experience.
But all of that experience means nothing when you don't have any common sense...and now, everybody who watched Nebraska somehow manage to lose 14-13 to Illinois knows it too.
It was clear from the opening possession that it was going to be a tough day to throw the ball; the winds were whipping around Champaign, and it was swirling. How so? Look at these flags.
Or just look watch the game. Neither quarterback was having much success through the air, and Tommy Armstrong was really struggling. He started 2 for 9, and finished 10 for 30. Some of his passes were pure "YOLO" deep shots that had almost zero chance (save for Cethan Carter's single 55 yarder) to be caught.See the flag in the background on top of the stands? Compare it to the U.S. Flag. Two different directions. pic.twitter.com/p33SIlF904— Husker Mike (@Husker_Mike) October 3, 2015
Yet Nebraska kept throwing the ball. Nebraska was averaging 9.3 yards a rush early, but it was still a 65-35 pass-run mix. Every Husker fan knew it was the wrong thing to do, but Riley and Danny Langsdorf kept dialing up passes.
Fortunately, Nebraska had the lead most of the day, and finally in the closing three minutes, Langsdorf and Riley finally realized that the Big Red could run out the clock on the ground...until Nebraska found themselves with a 3rd and 7 at the Illinois 28 yard line. Illinois has no time outs left, and Tommy Armstrong throws an incomplete pass. Riley tried to throw Armstrong under the bus after the game by saying that Armstrong was supposed to run the ball on that play, but I find that hard to believe that somehow that Armstrong ad-libbed it to a pass in that situation.
Incomplete...and the clock stops with 50 seconds left. Run the ball, and Nebraska snaps the ball on 4th down with under 20 seconds left in the game. At best, Illinois will get the ball with 10 seconds left. So Nebraska punts, right, to pin them at the goal line, right? Nope. They go for it, and throw yet another incomplete pass. (Who didn't see that coming.)
Illinois takes over, and Nebraska's awful secondary takes the field. And you know what happened.
So what happens next? Good question. I never was a big fan of the Mike Riley hire in the first place, so I'm jaded here. My suspicions that hiring Mike Riley at Nebraska was a huge mistake are being confirmed. The evidence is pretty convincing - and damning.
But here's the problem: Nebraska simply can't fire Mike Riley. Not now, not after just five games. That would be the quickest ziggy in the history of college football - and worse, who would take over? There are no free agent head coaches out there, and you certainly don't want Mark Banker or Danny Langsdorf taking over on an interim basis.
And no, before you even begin to say it: Tom Osborne can't come back on an interim basis as head coach.
But that does point out the bigger issue at Nebraska: Shawn Eichorst. You simply cannot allow Eichorst to hire another head football coach after he messed this hire up that badly. Just like you couldn't let Steve Pederson hire another coach, you can't let Eichorst hire another coach.
Does that mean Osborne has to return as interim athletic director? Yes. Put Osborne back in charge, and prepare for the inevitable.