Mike Riley had the funnest press conference of his career today, trying to explain what happened; what caused the 62-3 debacle against Ohio State.
What caused it, Mike?
The game started out bad, then progressed to worse. Riley mentioned that the defensive came apart (the word “frantic” was used), and players started trying to do other people’s job. That never works, and when it happens you see what you saw on Saturday night - Ohio State receivers running open all over the place:
We saw so many times in the ball game, where we lost the position we needed to have, whether it was a guy on the defensive line, whether it was a guy in a position in coverage. You know, one of the most elementary things about pass defense is you have to know what you have to take away first. If my job is in a position of coverage and I don’t have any help over the top on the inside, then I've got to be able to play over the top. And that’s the first thing I've got to take care of.
On Tommy And the Quarterbacks
Tommy Armstrong is in concussion protocol, and the earliest any decision could be made on him is Thursday. Ryker Fyfe will be considered the starting quarterback with Zack Darlington another possibility. Pulling Patrick O’ Brien’s redshirt appears to be out of the conversation, so if you want to go all out on that in the comments, feel free, but I think you’re living in some fantasy world if you think a guy who’s expected to not play this year is going to do well being thrown into the fire.
In the meantime, Ryker [Fyfe] will be our starting quarterback and then I think that we are going to get Zack Darlington ready to be his backup. I’m really reluctant at this stage in the year to put Patrick O’Brien in that spot, just because at this stage I’d like to keep his redshirt, if at all possible. And that’s where we’re at with the whole quarterback deal.
I’d be surprised if Armstrong plays Saturday. This season isn’t worth his long-term health, and if Nebraska gets their crap together, they won’t need him against Minnesota.
Riley had this to say about the run game:
“I think that the number one thing we need to do is establish two identity runs that we can repeat better throughout the ballgame that look good. Sometimes when you’re not doing well, you jump around a little bit. So I think establishing identity well in that way and really rehearsing that and practicing that in the course of the next three days is really going to be big for us and proving that and getting back to it.
If you look back before we started with our struggles offensively, we were running for 300 yards. Life is good when that is happening, so when it hasn’t been happening it has been hard. So we kind of know where we have to go. Getting there is another issue, but it certainly has to do with the confidence that we have in it and the physical part that we can bring to it. Whatever you’re trying to do, you have to block guys. So we have to be really confident and making the blocks that we need to block and a couple of run plays that we can call many times in the game and feel good about calling them.”
I believe what Riley is saying here is that the team needs to have a couple plays that they can execute exceptionally well, that those plays will pick up yardage, so they can use those plays to steady themselves and play with more confidence when things aren’t going well.
If you’re thinking, “duh”, you might be right. This also might be more difficult than you think, just like accurately predicting the weather three days out.
Riley provided thoughts on Minnesota:
We’re going to play a good, sound football team, Minnesota. A team, I think that has steadily improved from the beginning of the year to this point. And one game, has put themselves in the position to compete for our division championship. They are best described offensively as a team that will run with the tailback and do a nice job with good players. And then their quarterback is also a runner.
The quarterback is a real good play-action guy. I think the quarterback is one of those guys that is an all-around guy that makes plays. Whether he’s running a play-action pass and boot-legging out of the formation and making a play or running with a quarterback option-type run. He’s kind of one of those gamer guys, that I have a lot of respect for. A year ago, he’s grown into that and he’s done a really great job leading this team.
Defensively, they’ve moved into pretty good company. They are, I think fourth in the league, total defense. So they are playing very sound, good defense. So it will be a tough game, and we’ve got to be really ready if we are going to beat them.
Emphasis is mine.
I said it this morning in Flakes, and I’ll say it again. If Nebraska fails to take this Gopher game serious, it will be a loss. Minnesota has played a number of teams close, but they find ways to win.