LINCOLN, Neb. – At 3-6 on the year, Nebraska head coach Mike Riley faced somewhat of a firing squad on Monday when meeting with reporters during his weekly press conference.
Riley was asked to compare the culture of his football team this year compared to that of Bo Pelini’s Nebraska squad in 2014, who finished 9-4 overall.
The longtime head coach wasn’t looking to go there.
“Part of my deal about that is I’m not going to compare and contrast,” said Riley. “I said this right off the bat to you and I said it to the players, I never want to talk about good and bad. It will be different because we are different people. I doesn’t even matter if I replaced Bo (Pelini) or if I replaced Nick Saban. We’re going to have a program of things we believe in.
After a rocky season, that isn’t over, it’s sometimes easy to forget Riley has only been here 11 months. It’s probably unrealistic to think his culture and way has been completely implemented.
“That’s an interesting thing that probably they can only answer,” said Riley, when asked how the players have handled the situation. “Every one of you has a personal approach to your job. You all do. So do I. You probably study it and you maybe change once in a while, which I will do. With 130 plus kids, you’re going to encounter lots of different circumstances. So there’s just going to be ways that you do things. Maybe part of it is belief, maybe part of it is personality. I know in the end you have to win in order to have a program in order to do all that. That’s easy to say. That’s one of the reasons we do it.”
Beyond just a culture, Riley and his staff are teaching new schemes on both sides of the ball.
“Not good enough, obviously because of where we are,” said Riley. “At the same time, if you look offensively, I don’t like to throw statistics to necessarily make all the points but our production offensively in the league is pretty good. We’re up there in the top three in total offense. The only thing I don’t like is we’re not running the ball enough. Our production is good. Our red zone offense is up there at the top. Our third down is in pretty good shape. Statistically, whether it’s passing, whether it’s total offense, there’s stuff that’s there. Now am I happy with it? No, but it’s not like there’s not production.”
Riley admits the defense is a different story.
“We have to play better defense. Our defensive stats are down,” said Riley. “We’ve given up too many big plays. Not enough good defense in the fourth quarter to win games. We can go on and on about that. Has it meshed? I know the quality of instruction going on, and I know the work that goes in. We’re just going to keep talking about coaching our kids. That’s all I can do. We can do better. We’ll see if we never stop trying to improve even though it’s this point in the season.”
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Josh Harvey has been the publisher of BigRedReport.com since 2011. You can follow him on Twitter at @joshharveyscout.