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Report Card: Minnesota Golden Gophers 54, Huskers 21

It “started bad and went from there.” Now the question regarding Mike Riley being dismissed goes from “if” to “when”.

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Minnesota
Who’s your daddy?
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Riley opened his postgame comments by saying that this game “started bad and went from there.” Downhill.

I’d argue that this was Nebraska’s worst loss since 2004’s 70-10 shellacking by Texas Tech. Some people might compare it to 2007’s 76-39 loss to Kansas, but the Jayhawks won the Orange Bowl and ended the season ranked seventh.

Minnesota is 5-5 and still needs to beat either Northwestern or Wisconsin to become bowl eligible. This isn’t a great Big Ten team that boat-raced the Huskers; the Gophers have been pretty mediocre this season.

Not in this game though. The Gophers rushed for 409 yards, more than double their 175 yard per game average. Quarterback Demry Croft had rushed for 152 yards this season; he scorched the Huskers for 183. Croft had been a 42% passer before completing 60% of his passes.

In their last three games combined, Minnesota scored 37 points.

Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said a lot of things this week, but nobody can take issue with his assessment of his defense’s play this week:

Spectacularly unacceptable.

In comparison, the offense wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t really the problem in the game. Some might choose to focus on that, but that’s like asking Mary Todd Lincoln “how was the play?”

Last week’s loss to Northwestern pretty much ended any hopes that some had for Mike Riley to keep his job after this season; this loss might be severe enough to force athletic director Bill Moos to make a decision now. Staying silent could be interpreted by some as tacit approval of what happened.

That being said, there’s two more games in the season, and nobody really wants to see Diaco or Danny Langsdorf elevated to the interim role. It’s not unprecedented to announce that a coach would be allowed to finish out the season, but no further.

Back to this game and the report card. I have to admit that this game was tough to watch, and as such, I didn’t have the stomach to focus on the failures, which were pretty much across the board on defense. And really, does it really matter? So here’s the report card, we’ll focus on things that weren’t so bad, and not belabor the point. As always, your comments welcome:

Quarterback: Tanner Lee bounced back from a bad game against Northwestern with a pretty good first half. But somewhere along the way, Lee must have taken too hard of a hit and never came back after halftime. Patrick O’Brien actually played pretty well in relief, though he did get sacked six (SIX!) times. If Lee can’t go next week, I’m not sure Nebraska loses all that much going with O’Brien; remember the spring talk of “Patrick Lee & Tanner O’Brien”? Grade: B

I-Back: Ineffective once again, though I still believe the biggest problem with the Husker’s backs is scheme related, not the actual backs themselves. Take that fourth and inches playcall early in the second quarter; who really thought that a handoff would work in that situation? A quarterback sneak would be the simplest, safest and probably most successful option here. If you are going to use an I-back here, why the shifty Mikale Wilbon instead of Devine Ozigbo? At the very least, put Boe Wilson back out there as a fullback to clear the way. Any momentum Nebraska had at that point was gone, and Minnesota took advantage. Five plays later, Demry Croft went untouched up the middle through Bob Diaco’s colon, and the Gophers never looked back, except to laugh. Grade: D

Wide Receivers: J.D. Spielman had another good performance on offense, not so much on special teams. His decision to reverse field on a kick return was a really poor one. Still, he’s a freshman and should be an exciting weapon for the next coaching staff to exploit. I thought Stanley Morgan and De’Mornay Pierson-El played fine, though some online criticized Morgan’s route into the end zone on Nebraska’s first series. Not sure what Morgan was supposed to do since there was double coverage there; the criticism here was Lee’s decision to throw to Morgan. Grade: B

Offensive Line: Allowed six sacks and 12 total tackles for loss. Rushing for only 69 yards against a team that struggles to stop the run. Why is Mike Cavanaugh still allowed into One Memorial Stadium? Grade: F

Defensive Line: 10 years ago, after the Huskers only allowed one punt by Kansas, I gave zeroes across the board on defense. Guess what happened again? Grade: 0

Linebackers: How do I embed the poo emoji here? Grade: 0

Secondary: Ditto. Grade: 0.

Overall: F The offense was probably C+ or B- on the day, but defensive ineptitude leaves no other option.


We know what the grade should be. When should the decision about Mike Riley be announced?

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    Mike Riley shouldn’t coach another game at Nebraska.
    (794 votes)
  • 31%
    Announce that Riley won’t be back in 2018, but allow him to finish the season.
    (903 votes)
  • 28%
    Wait until after the Iowa game. Why the rush?
    (808 votes)
  • 12%
    No way Nebraska can fire a coach after just 3 years. Announce that Mike Riley is Nebraska’s head coach.
    (370 votes)
2875 votes total Vote Now

Elsewhere in College Football

Miami: A+ If you had a hot take about Mark Richt about his time at Georgia, delete your account.

Ohio State: A+ Sparty felt the wrath of cold pizza Urbz.

Top Ten: D- Only Alabama’s comeback keeps this from being an “F”

College Football: A+ If you wasted your Saturday watching soccer or doing projects to save your freetime for Sunday, it was your loss.