Nebraska football gives away game it couldn’t afford to lose

LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 04: Linebacker Chris Weber
LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 04: Linebacker Chris Weber /

It sure feels like we just saw the game that clinched a change in the Nebraska football program

Mike Riley didn’t save his job as the head coach of the Nebraska football program last week but it felt like he took a step forward. Mike Riley probably didn’t end his coaching career with the loss to Northwestern today but that resolution took a big step forward.

That has been the story of the Riley regime almost since he got here. Some good feelings, some appearance that the program is moving forward and then two massive steps backward. Nebraska had no business losing the game to Northwestern.

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The Huskers, despite once again having no running game to speak of, had the Wildcats on the ropes most of the second half. They had a chance to go up 28-17 and put the game out of reach. They went on a 17 play drive … that was ended with some play calling that was head-scratchingly bad and settled for a field goal.

After going up 24-17, the Cornhuskers couldn’t muster much offense at all. Northwestern mustered just enough to tie it. In overtime, Nebraska looked like it was just ready for the season to be over. The Wildcats made them look overmatched and won the game.

No one for Nebraska played particularly well. If there was one MVP, it had to be JD Spielman. He made some plays as a wide receiver. He also had one particular kick return where he hesitated in the end zone and then brought it out. He got to the 15. There was also a block in the back on that return. One step forward, two steps back.

No one played particularly poorly either. Yes, Lee had three interceptions, but one of those was a throw as he was being hit. Thorson had two interceptions as well and one of his was returned for a TD.

It’s the fact that once again, the Cornhuskers could not do the little things that would give them a win, at home, in what was basically a season-saving game. That especially disappointing considering the team looked like it had at least figured out how to win the close games against mediocre teams last week when it rallied against Purdue. One step forward, two steps back.

After last week’s game, I thought 7-5 just might save Riley’s job. Now, we’re going to have to win two of our final three to even become bowl eligible. That means we need to beat either Penn State, or an Iowa team that just demolished Ohio State.

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The funny thing is, we probably will beat one of those teams, in the most improbable fashion possible and then the Nebraska football team will lose to Minnesota. One step forward, two steps back.