Mike Riley didn’t hire Mike Riley. Remember that as the lights go out, when they start passing the hat and wiping away the tears.
Nebraska football is in a ditch, upside down, wheels spinning upright, as the rest of the Big Ten passes it by. The Cornhuskers will lose eight games in a season for the first time in 60 years. The Big Red will post two seasons of 7 or more losses under the same coach for the first time since Bill Jennings in 1957 and ’58.
Iowa 56, Nebraska 14 is on Riley, the head man who never should have been.
It’s on Bob Diaco, the defensive coordinator who promised rain and brought #TheStrain.
It’s on Danny Langsdorf.
It’s on Mike Cavanaugh.
It’s on The Tanner Lee Hype Train, which found a ditch to call its very own ages ago.
But mostly, it’s on Shawn Eichorst.
The man who once fired a coach who went 9-3 after beating the Hawkeyes and tried to rationalize it, in part, because he “wanted to evaluate where Iowa was.”
The Hawkeyes are bowling, Shawn.
The program you left behind looks like King Kong just sat on it.
Another one: Nebraska is about to be 19-19 and 0-3 vs Iowa since A.D. Shawn Eichorst said he had to “evaluate where Iowa was” as reason to fire a 9-3 coach that just beat Iowa 3 out of 4 times they played.
— Not great, Bob! (@HuskerBG) November 24, 2017
In three years of Riley, the Hawkeyes have beaten Nebraska by 8, by 30 and by 42. If this series was a horse, they would have shot it in the third quarter, when Iowa turned a 14-14 halftime draw into a 42-14 laugher.
NFL teams that get quarterback wrong risk running in place for a decade, and that’s if the fates are kind. Power 5 athletic directors who get their coach wrong do the same thing to a football program.
As Nebraska’s current football spiral — sometimes up, sometimes down, always chasing the ghosts of Christmas past — hits 15 seasons and counting, Friday night was Eichorst’s doing, ultimately. Eichorst’s legacy.
And your hell.
— Matthew Kluck (@KCMattKluck) November 24, 2017
— Dallas Beshaler (@DallasBeshaler) November 24, 2017
— Shana Haith (@shanahaith) November 24, 2017
Meanwhile, with the locals keeping one eye on the game and the other one on whatever Scott Frost is doing, news broke via ESPN’s SEC bureau that the former Huskers quarterback’s reps were meeting with the Florida Gators this weekend. And cue the Big Red Twitter flutter:
With the news that Scott Frost’s reps are meeting with @FloridaGators reps, Nebraska cannot fire @Coach_Riley fast enough. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bill Moos is working on it from his booth as we speak. @HuskerExtraSip @Husker247BC @HuskerExtraPG #GBRalways
— Millennial Elephant (@MillenialElph) November 24, 2017
Not big enough, not strong enough, not hungry enough. Again. Friday night was an era compressed into 3 1/2 hours of misery. And the Huskers went into halftime with 3 timeouts in their pocket, which made you wonder what the devil Riley was saving them for.
Even the silver linings of first-half hope came with a cloud attached. Get the other guy off the field on fourth down — only to run into the punter. The other guy’s tailback runs to daylight and coughs it up — right into the waiting arms of a friendly wide receiver.
A one-handed touchdown catch frees the balloons and lifts Memorial Stadium’s aching spirits. The other guy then gets the ball and drives 99 yards on 15 plays the other way.
Where have you gone, Steve Pederson?
A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
Eichorst bought low. No. Eichorst bought low and nice, because a coach to whom he could dictate terms at market price three years ago was a more desirable commodity than the best coach available.
Eichorst put his ego before the football program.
Before the fans.
Before a state.
Riley won’t be forgotten, but he’ll be forgiven. Eventually. He deserved better than this. In the end, Huskers faithful did, too.