LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska coach Mike Riley lobbied for his return to coach the Cornhuskers next season after suffering a 56-14 loss to Iowa on Friday that capped the worst year of football at the school since 1961.
“When I go to bed tonight, I’ll be hoping for that, because I would love to do this,” Riley said. “I truly believe I’m exactly the right person to do this. The football parts, I’ve been doing it so long, we know how to fix, and we also are doing a good job recruiting.”
Nebraska is widely expected to cut ties with Riley, who is 19-19 in three seasons. His team finished 4-8 this year, closing the season with four consecutive losses — allowing more than 50 points in each of the final three.
Frost warning: Huskers fans obsessing over idea of Scott Frost coming home
From stalking Scott Frost at UCF games to pleas on social media to nonstop chatter on talk radio about all the #Frumors, Cornhuskers fans have shed their calm demeanor and are going SEC crazy over the thought of Frost taking over as head coach in Lincoln.
The 64-year-old coach said he met early this week with first-year athletic director Bill Moos and received no indication of his job status. Riley said he has enjoyed his communication with Moos, hired last month to replace Shawn Eichorst, the AD who tabbed Riley in 2014 and was fired in September after Nebraska’s loss to Northern Illinois.
Nebraska lost four consecutive home games for the first time since 1968-69.
Attention among fans and media has already turned to UCF coach Scott Frost, the former national champion Nebraska quarterback. Frost coached the Knights in his second season to a No. 15 ranking and an 11-0 mark after a 49-42 win Friday over rival USF.
UCF will play Memphis next week in the American Athletic Conference championship game.
Nebraska crumbled defensively late this season under new coordinator Bob Diaco. Friday in the finale, Iowa gained 505 yards, including 313 rushing after enduring struggles the past two weeks in losses to Wisconsin and Purdue. The Hawkeyes broke open a tie game at halftime with a 28-point third quarter.
“It is just very, very painfully obvious that this group on defense needs to continue to grow,” Riley said. “That’s what I’d be all in for is that development.”
His words apply to the whole team, in fact, Riley said. Nebraska made a four-game improvement last year, finishing 9-4 in Riley’s second season after a 6-7 mark in 2015.
“I’m not going to argue my case here,” Riley said, “but I think we could do the same thing next year. I think this team will do that. I just feel that way. It’s a great group. They will indeed go back to work.”
The Huskers won the most recent of their 46 conference titles in 1999 and have fired three coaches since 2003.