LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska coach Mike Riley met with the media just as he does every Monday. It was your average news conference, starting with an opening statement and a list of the Huskers’ most recent injuries.
However, it was the final few minutes of Riley’s nearly 30 minutes at the podium that stood out. He addressed the current state of the Nebraska football team, doing his best to balance what he knows is being said outside of the program with game preparation for Penn State.
“I know everybody — players, coaches, fans, everybody — [is] disappointed in what’s going on,” Riley said. “This place has maintained their passion for their teams for a long time and I’m certain they will continue to do that and they should. I love this team and their approach every week. We have had very few issues, except for the games.
“I appreciate that, the work that they try to do to get ready and same with the coaches. I’m positive the fans will forever love their team.”
As Nebraska now prepares for Penn State and then on a short week for Iowa, Riley is clear that it’s business as usual. He and his staff will do their best to prepare this team, and do so with the intention to win.
“I try not to worry too much about the logistics of what we just did,” Riley said. “We are back here, it’s Monday. The kids were in the training rooms yesterday doing their stuff the day after the game and we’re going to practice today and meet with the team. We have an ample week to prepare. I try not to make a big deal about travel. We’re going to, every Friday night, get on a bus and go to a hotel. There might be a plane ride in between, but trying to minimize that part of it. I don’t think that has to play a big role in it. We’ve already been through one short week. We’ll have a similar pattern of getting ready, so it’s not like we won’t be ready for that. You just have to do this stuff.
“In our state, I could make excuses about it, but it’s shallow. We’ll have a plan for each one of these teams and get ready to win.”
— Kevin Sjuts (@kevinsjuts) November 13, 2017
Other notes from Riley’s news conference:
• Quarterback Tanner Lee did not play the second half against Minnesota because of what Riley called an “impact migraine.” On Monday, Riley confirmed that Lee was in concussion protocol and that redshirt freshman Patrick O’Brien would prepare as if he will start against Penn State.
Andrew Bunch will step into the No. 2 spot at quarterback. As for who will and will not start, more will be known later in the week.
• Nebraska’s defense gave up a staggering 409 rushing yards to Minnesota last weekend, which is a major concern as the Huskers prep for Penn State. Nittany Lions running back Saquon Barkley presents an even tougher challenge, as the junior has been in the Heisman Trophy conversation most of this season.
“There’s no doubt about it,” Riley said. “We’ve just come through a game of 400 rushing yards and we’re playing a back like that, so we’ve got a big job ahead of us.”
• Riley had thought Nebraska would be a more balanced team offensively before the season, even noting he thought the Huskers would be more like Wisconsin. He was realistic about where Nebraska would be on both sides of the ball, but he did think it would be much stronger.
Part of the Huskers’ struggles stem from personnel changes resulting from injuries, but Riley doesn’t see that as an excuse.
“I never anticipated the disruption on the offensive line that we’ve had personnel-wise,” Riley said. “You have to be ready for it, but in saying that, we’re not anywhere offensively as far along as I hoped we would be. We have to score more points. In the future, that part of it has to change. We have to score more points. It’s very interesting to look around at teams that are doing well and what’s their formula. Some teams are just going to outscore people, like Ohio State who goes  against a good team last weekend. They’re just going to score. Other teams are just going to do their thing offensively and play good defense and win, like Wisconsin.
“There’s a formula for it but from where we are right now, we’re not scoring enough points.”