Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, December 16, 2017
The hiring of Mike Riley was an outside-the-box move by then-A.D. Shawn Eichorst that never took root. So, after three forgettable seasons, the plug was pulled on Riley. Before that merciful end, Eichorst cleaned out his office.
How will the Riley tenure be remembered? Awful. Just awful. Riley is a nice guy and solid coach who offered a stark contrast to Bo Pelini, but it just didn?t click in Lincoln. Riley went 19-19 overall and 12-14 in the Big Ten in what only can be described as a dismal era.
How bad had it gotten? The 2016 loss at Iowa began a 10-losses-in-14-games slide to end the dubious Riley tenure. Go back further, and the Huskers dropped 12 of 18 since opening 2016 with a 7-0 mark and climbing to No. 7. Remember that? Maybe not.
The 2017 season was the nadir, as Nebraska went 4-8 overall and 3-6 in the Big Ten. Fans had inkling things were gonna be bad when the Huskers almost got dumped in their season opener vs. ? Arkansas State. Nebraska had a nice passing game in 2017 behind QB Tanner Lee, who is No. 2 in the Big Ten in passing yards (3,143) but has a league-high 16 picks. Other than that, however, the team floundered.
The defense was especially atrocious under the guidance of glitzy new coordinator Bob Diaco, who with a salary of $825,000 was the highest paid assistant in Nebraska history. What did the Cornhuskers get for their money? The worst defense in the Big Ten (436.2 ypg). NU was 13th in scoring defense (36.4 ppg). The Huskers allowed five opponents to score more than 40 points, and they became the second team in program history to allow more than 400 points in a season. Nebraska allowed at least 199 yards rushing in the last seven games. Should I go on?
New A.D. Bill Moos quickly tabbed former Husker Scott Frost, who arrives from Central Florida bright, shiny and new, brimming with potential. Frost brings hope to a beleaguered fan base and program that?s looking to recapture lost glory and to become nationally relevant once again.
Record: 4-8 overall; 3-6 Big Ten/5th West
High point: Perhaps it was the merciful end to the season. But let?s try to be a bit positive ? if that?s possible. If you can remember, Nebraska actually started Big Ten play 2-0. Really. It happened. Look it up. NU beat Rutgers and then won at Illinois. It wasn?t like beating Ohio State and Wisconsin, but for Nebraska, it was a nice beginning. Alas, right after that, the Huskers got whipped by Wisconsin (38-17) and destroyed vs. Ohio State (56-14). Sigh.
Low point: Take your pick of most any dreary Saturday. A 54-21 loss at Minnesota was depressing, as was a 21-17 home loss to Northern Illinois. But let?s go with the season-ending Black Friday 56-14 home loss to Iowa. It was Nebraska?s fourth defeat in succession, as the Cornhuskers finished with their fewest wins since 1961 and lost five home games for the first time since 1957. Nebraska gave up 50 points in three straight games to end the season and four times in all — both firsts in the program's 128-year history.
Offensive MVP: WR Stanley Morgan, Jr. The 6-1, 195-pound junior was sensational in earning consensus second-team All-Big Ten honors. Morgan is fourth in the Big Ten with 61 catches, which went for 986 yards and 10 TDs. Morgan teamed with redshirt freshman JD Spielman (55 catches for 830 yards) to give the Huskers a potent 1-2 punch at wideout.
Defensive MVP: LB Chris Weber. It is difficult to pick anyone, as Nebraska didn?t have one defensive player earn even honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. What a fall from grace for a once-proud defense famed for its ?Black Shirt? tradition. Weber was the closest thing to a star on this abysmal defense. The 6-3, 240-pound senior led Nebraska with 95 tackles with nine TFLs.