LINCOLN, Neb. — Don’t get him wrong, coach Mike Riley thinks a lot of Indiana.
But there were plenty of opportunities left out on the field in Bloomington on Saturday, and Riley didn’t hesitate to sound of on them at his Monday news conference.
Now, did say that he loved the play of the Blackshirts, and how his secondary slowed down Indiana QB Richard Lagow. They also kept the Hoosiers’ rushing attack below its average in total yards (88 on Saturday versus an average of 160 entering the game), and redshirt freshman DT Carlos Davis had his best day this season.
But for every positive in Nebraska’s 27-22 win, there was a negative. Specifically, Riley lamented two big plays that led to a closer game than he wanted, and the second-year coach said kick returns were “average at best.” A punt block was a disaster, leaving Riley to be thankful it became a safety not a touchdown for Indiana.
“Otherwise we would have lost,” Riley said.
Inconsistency was the biggest factor the other day, Riley said. But when Nebraska (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) needed consistency in the fourth quarter, the Huskers got it, Riley said. But offensively, drive by drive, Riley didn’t like how the Huskers played.
“We did it in the fourth quarter to ice them and win the game, which I appreciate,” Riley said. “But I would like to be more consistent throughout the game.”
Specifically, Riley thought a few jet-sweet runs should have gone for touchdowns instead of 5-yard gains. He thought one more block on a punt return could have resulted in a touchdown against Indiana (3-3, 1-2). He’s happy with how Drew Brown has kicked this year, but not thrilled with the blocking.
Nebraska is 6-0 for the first time since 2001 and No. 8 in the Associated Press Poll, but Riley sees plenty to improve upon for the second half of the season.
“We like the identity of this team on how they play and how they win games,” Riley said. “We watch the film and we have to help them get better. They have to have the willingness to be better. It can get harder, it can be hard when you’re distracted by the noise when you’re losing, it can be hard and distracting when you start to believe how good you are and don’t work at it anymore, whatever the situation is you can’t be distracted, you have to get better.”
Nebraska will host Purdue this week, a 3-3 program which fired head coach Darrell Hazell on Sunday. Nebraska is a 24-point favorite and playing at home for the first time in three weeks. But Riley isn’t taking the Boilermakers lightly, especially after last year’s 55-45 loss in West Lafayette.
“We got to kind of start over and getting ready for that game tomorrow with our team,” Riley said. “The intentions of this team are great. They want information and coaches continue to work and stay the course. Those are key factors in hard times. And they’re also key right now.”