This intro will be short and sweet. I’ve done this a few times in the past, always based on more successful seasons and usually with quotes from comedies. This is neither. It was a dark season and The Walking Dead is a dark show. For those who don’t watch, I hope you still appreciate how the quotes fit. Trust me, the humor is dark as well and after looking it over, it’s obvious the emotions are still raw. I don’t apologize.
If you are still a Riley apologist who ignores simple numbers and thought he was an improvement on Bo, feel free to rage the comments, but you’ll probably be more stress free if you move on to the next Nebraska county article.
Anyway, here are the games and here are the quotes. If you can make it through this house of horrors, I promise a happy ending. Let us begin…
ARKANSAS ST 43-36
“Pissing our pants yet? Boy, do I have a feeling we’re getting close.…Yep, it’s gonna be pee-pee pants city here real soon.” – Negan
Coming off the heels of a 9-4 season that was far worse than anything his predecessor produced, Riley rolled out his 1st true NFL offense and his former defensive coordinator of the year for the season opener against Arky St. And it became quickly apparent that things on defensive side of the ball were wrong. Very wrong. Like the fact that this pretty, new elite defensive guru seemed completely flummoxed by bubble screens. And everything else. (Hint: After a rough first game of a defensive rebuild? Take a little responsibility. Don’t throw your players under the bus, asshole.)
If Negan had been standing around our post-game tailgate, he might might have noticed some mental readjustments of our pre-season predictions of 8-4 and 9-3. We were starting to sense our expectations were going to get treated like Lucille treated Abe and Glen’s heads after that near debacle. And Husker fans’ pants were definitely showing some stainage.
“I’ll bake them a cake, with pink frosting. Would they like that?” – Merle
Willie Taggert and Mike Riley faced off in the battle of the nice guys. Diaco’s defense again resembled the construction paper that high school teams run through in their pre-game intros as the Ducks stormed to a 42-14 halftime lead. Taggert went for the throat by basically refusing to pass after halftime. And after ending Tre Bryant’s season by having his I-Back with chronic knee issues carry 51 times in about 6 quarters, Riley’s Huskers took advantage of Oregon’s run-out-the-clock-with-30-minutes-left-strategy by staging a rally that fell just short.
Merle Dixon would have agreed that football should be nastier than this.
NORTHERN ILLINOIS 17-21
“If I had known the world was ending, I would’ve brought better books.” — Dale
Yes, we found out the hard way that not taking the Huskies seriously can bite a team in the ass. Hell, ask Iowa, right? The world may not have been ending, but it sure felt that way at the time and I damn sure would have had a better afternoon reading Mr. Mercedes or You Gotta Play Hurt. I don’t want to relive this, let’s move on.
(Did we ever confirm that Tanner Lee set the NCAA single season record for pick-6’s?)
“Oh-ho-holy shit! Everybody hold your fire. It’s Carl!! Look at you. Answering the door like a big boy. I am so proud.” - Negan
Yes, Nebraska – for some reason, finding themselves in a late game battle with a team that couldn’t crack the top 20 in 1-AA – turned it on late to put away Rutgers. It turned out that Diaco’s vaunted 3-4 could stop a team with literally no weapons on offense. Although it was becoming very clear where this season was headed, the Big Red stood tall when it counted even if it wasn’t exactly Negan knocking at the door. Spencer, maybe.
“Oh, come on. Why don’t you just piss in my ear and tell me it’s raining.” – Merle
The Huskers got their only convincing win of the season against an Illinois team saddled with 16(?) freshman starters and Lovie Smith, but to read the local fishwrap and watch local hype stations, you would have thought that the 2001 Hurricanes would have had no chance against the Huskers that night.
Many of us were unimpressed, saw the schedule remaining and weren’t buying an ounce of that shit. Especially with the Badgers and Buckeyes up back-to-back. It was not raining.
“They’re gonna feel really stupid when they find out… They are screwing with the wrong people.” — Rick
It was only 17-24 entering the 4th quarter. But c’mon, now.
For me, this was truly the beginning of the end. I know, I know, we were a week from getting the Ed Norton American History X shower treatment from the Buckeyes for the 2nd straight year, but this was worse. Remember when lesser teams would hang around the old Huskers for a few quarters and then just spend the last 10-15 minutes looking like fresh snow getting rolled over by a boulder?
That was truly us. That was the night where we looked like the team that lifted when we felt like it and were just physically and mentally inferior in every way when push came to shove. This wasn’t goddamned Illinois or Rutgers.
We were screwing with the wrong people.
AN OHIO ST UNIVERSITY 14-56
“You didn’t see Reg the night he got it. That was a mess. And Pete. His face just blowing up like Pompeii right when we were cheek to cheek. I still think I got some of his brains in my ear.” – Abraham
It wasn’t just that we weren’t in their league. It wasn’t about losing to a smug, greasy, dickwit beerfart imitation of a human being like Urbs (and I’ve been saying that for 10 years, many thanks for finally going superego career-meltdown misjudgment like JoePa), I’d had experience with that.
Stubhub tickets were going for $26 on Tuesday. Name another game without having to adjust for 2017 dollars from the Bill Jennings era where THAT ever happened.
I think I still have some brains in my ear after that massacre.
“Winning just means we get tomorrow. Maybe one more night. Maybe one more morning. After that... no guarantees.” – Carol
Carol is such a downer. Yes, it was our last victory of the season, but we got to enjoy it for a whole week. Am I the only one who feels like dental work from Lawrence Olivier in Marathon Man is more enjoyable than seeing this game selected as “Classic Nebraska” on the Big 10 Network?
“So you’re aware, I’m on record as stating that I should not be here. You well know that I’m not combat ready or even for that matter combat inclined.” – Eugene
Yeah, we lost in OT, every time we play Northwestern feels like it will come down to last minute, etc. etc.
I’m just sliding this quote in because to me Mike Riley is Eugene Porter. A sweet intelligent guy – granted, no mullet or southern accent – but absent of the leadership qualities, hard edge and the fight required for the level he was competing in. I first realized this in his opening game with the Huskers. Nebraska looked solid in the first quarter against BYU but as a 2nd quarter which saw Nebraska outscored 17-0 wound down, the camera caught Riley wandering away from everyone, arms crossed, head down in a pose I usually attributed to petulant teens. It became a staple for 3 years and I often referred to it as his surrender-monkey body language.
This quote encapsulated that pose much more eloquently.
“You ever hear the one about the stupid little prick named Rick who thought he knew shit but didn’t know shit and got everyone he cared about killed?” – Negan
If anyone wants to know what quitting on your obnoxious defensive coordinator looks like, go back and watch this debacle if you didn’t erase it from the DVR yet. A team without a running game ran for like 420 yards on us. And began the run of three straight 50+ points given up games. Stupid little Diaco.
PENN ST 44-56
“Why are dingleberries brown?” – Abraham
This was a complete mental check-out game for me. The only emotion I felt all night was rage/embarrassment when Riley left the starters in against Penn St’s backups/senior walk-on’s to pad stats instead of maybe giving some of the Husker kids who never played a chance to hit the field. Good grief, James Franklin actually behaved like not a dick for once and Riley pulled that nonsense.
Anyway, during that game, I mostly just went into disconnect mode and found my mind wandering and thought about a lot of odd shit. Like the hue of a dingleberry. Bless you, Abe.
“Do what what you’re gonna do. Then go to hell.” – Maggie
Maggie Rhee is a poet. Scarlett Johansonn may be the Black Widow, but Maggie is THE Widow and doesn’t need black to let everyone know how she will roll if you cross her.
Fuck you, Iowa. That is all.
So 2017 was the darkest chapter of the worst stretch of Husker football since the Jennings era and let’s face it – the program wasn’t exactly the heart of the state back in those days. Yet, without a game being played, it’s becoming undeniable that this current positive vibe isn’t smoke and mirrors for a change. I’ve spent the last 17 years learning to temper expectations, if nothing else just to keep my bar tabs manageable. I think all but the most deluded of us realize that 7-5 or 8-4 would be a hell of a turnaround and set the table for good things.
But there’s that part of me that’s starting to hope for bigger things despite my common sense and lifelong love of this game.
Like Dan Jenkins said, I have no idea why it’s always been so important to me that the little animal on the pocket of my blazer beats the little animal on the pocket of yours. But it is what it is.
I’m starting to buy in when this staff says this won’t be a “rebuilding year”. I’m not investing in it financially or anything, but I’m feeling the tingling in my arm hair on occasion this fall. So in the spirit of that sort of dipshit, cross-eyed belief in kids doing great things to make us old bastards feel better about ourselves, here’s three more quotes to take you to September:
For every school acting like they should mount a Husker helmet on the wall next to the squirrels they’ve shot because they got over on us the last few years:
“Shoot me again, best pray I’m dead.” – Daryl Dixon
OK, zombie hordes aren’t coming, but still. Rick speaks truth:
“There’s us and the dead. We survive this by pulling together, not apart.” – Rick
And just pretend here, that instead of Negan to Father Gabriel, Scott Frost is addressing every returning Husker who took advantage of Riley placing being everyone’s buddy as a higher priority than busting your ass and, well, “Day by day, getting better and better.”
“The last guy that was in charge, he wasn’t in charge of shit. He allowed people to be weak. I don’t. I make them strong, which makes this world strong. You’re gonna see, Gabby. See, I’m gonna make you my new special project. Gonna make you nice and strong, too. We’re gonna find your special purpose. Hell yes, we are.” - Negan
2018. Bring it on.