Notebook: Huskers downplaying significance of Oregon week
Nebraska (2-0) head coach Mike Riley and his team can say "this is just another game" against No. 22 ranked Oregon (2-0) on Saturday, but lets not kid ourselves, this is a huge opportunity for the program.
Riley holds an all-time record of 4-10 vs. the Ducks from his time at Oregon State, and you can argue their recent success played a factor in him leaving a job many people expected him to retire at.
The pressure placed by Team Nike in Eugene arguably put Riley in a place where he was going to be forced by the administration to possibly have to make some tough staff changes, which many Beaver insiders say played a factor in him leaving for Nebraska - a huge shock back in December of 2014.
That's why it was only fitting that the Ducks are on the schedule for the Huskers in Riley's second season.
"Somebody told me like right after," Riley said when asked how soon he knew Oregon was on the 2016 schedule. "It is exciting. We didn't fare all that well through the many years with them, but it was a great rivalry. We saw changes through both programs as we went forward.
"It was one of the deals where you didn't necessarily like it, but you had to admire the work that was going on in that program when Mike (Bellotti) hired Chip Kelly as an assistant as things grew and changed there."
The key is this is an "opportunity" for Nebraska to regain back some national confidence after last year's shaky 6-7 season.
At this point nobody will buy into the Huskers until they can prove they can play at a high level on a more consistent basis.
"It's an exciting opportunity for our team right now," Riley said. "We've put ourselves in a good position to play this game, and now it will just be exciting and a great opportunity for our team to play the Ducks here this weekend."
The Husker players are doing their best not to over-hype the task at hand this week, but it's hard not to knowing the recent history of the Ducks and the history they have with Riley.
"It's like any other week," senior quarterback Tommy Armstrong said. "Like Coach Riley has always told us, every game matters. It's a big game, of course it's a big game with two 2-0 teams coming together. Oregon is known for their past winning (Pac-12 championships) and going to the Rose Bowl every year. We just have to make sure we stay together and let all that outside hype be."
"It's a big game, but every game is a big game," senior wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp said. "We are just going to have to continue what we do normally and work our tails off during the week. Obviously they are a ranked opponent and it would be awesome for us as a program to be able to beat them and put our name out there nationally and get into those rankings."
Several injury questions remain for this week
A handful of injuries came out of this past Saturday's Wyoming game. Riley announced on Monday that freshman corner Lamar Jackson (groin) and senior wide receivers Brandon Reilly (hamstring) and Alonzo Moore (shoulder) all suffered setbacks in the win over the Cowboys.
"We hope they turn to probable real fast," Riley said of the injured trio. "As of today they would be questionable."
The one of the group that seems most severe is Reilly's hamstring injury. He injured it on the overturned catch as he laid out for the football. On Monday Reilly said he wasn't sure at this point if his hamstring would be recovered in time for Saturday, but he plans to "live in the training room" in order to get back.
Riley also said that they should know more later in the week on if sophomore defensive tackle Mick Stoltenberg will be available for Saturday after having his knee scoped last week.
"Mick will be kind of day to day," Riley said. "As we go through the week we'll probably be able know to know on him probably by Thursday. So when I talk to you again on Thursday, we'll have made a decision by then."
Getting a scout team look not easy this week
One of the big challenges this week for Nebraska will be getting prepared for Oregon's tempo on offense.
The Ducks are considered the "gold standard" for running the no-huddle, which can bring it's challenges when trying to prepare.
"I think that it's definitely an issue," Riley said. "You are not going to simulate everything perfectly because of speed. What you can simulate is just being in good position. We'll have good looks at what Oregon does, and I think defensive players are taught and have to realize all the time the other team is going to be a lot better than the scout team at what they are doing."
One thing though that should help the scout team not just this week, but going forward is having a Division I starting QB in Tanner Lee take all the snaps. He can at least give the defense a solid look.
"He definitely throws it low and away a lot, and he makes it tough on you to be able to make plays on balls," junior safety Keiron Williams said of Lee. "I think it makes it 'game like,' because that dude was a starting quarterback for another team. It helps us when he's on point and it helps us get ready for games."
Gates was the first victim of the new personal foul rule
Through two games Nebraska has committed 10 personal foul penalties. It's become a very concerning trend, and one of the things Riley implemented this past was week was removing you from the game after a personal foul.
The first victim of that rule was starting left tackle Nick Gates, who came out after he committed a 15 yard personal foul penalty.
"I think we have to cut down the penalties as a whole all together," Gates said. "I kind of like the way we are playing. We are playing mean and aggressive, but we probably shouldn't get those penalties. We are playing football though. We are playing aggressive and it's a contact sport. Things happen."
With that said, Gates will be the first to admit having 10 as a team in two games is way too many.
"Yeah, I probably shouldn't have done what I did," Gates said. "I was just trying to play physical, play aggressive and play to the whistle. Sometimes I play a little bit after whistle and they got me that time. I'm not going to stop doing what I'm doing and stop playing the way I play, but I have to watch it when I hear the whistle and try to stop after that."
***Gates joked the biggest difference of having offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh back on the sidelines this week vs. the coaching box is "they got yelled at more."
***Oregon was one of Gates top 5 schools coming out of high school, and he actually took an official visit to Eugene. However, he just felt Nebraska was as better fit for him.
***Nebraska is currently tied for the national lead in turnover margin at +7 with Ohio State, and they lead national in total interceptions with seven.
***The announcers for Saturday's ABC game are Bob Wischusen, Brock Huard and Allison Williams.
***Nebraska holds an all-time record of 5-1 vs. Oregon, but the two teams haven't played since 1986. Riley's most recent victory over Oregon came in 2007. He never defeated Chip Kelly.
***Saturday's game in Lincoln will be the 350th sellout in school history.