Nebraska Needs To Learn How To Win Close Games
Nebraska's five losses in the 2015 season have come by a combined 13 points.
The latest installment to the Cornhuskers' wild season came Saturday when Northwestern edged out a 30-28 win in Lincoln.
Nebraska head coach Mike Riley has dealt with some tough luck in his first season coming over from Oregon State. Currently, at 3-5 overall and 1-3 in conference, Nebraska's five losses are the most since Bill Callahan's team went 5-7. They'd have to win three of their next four to qualify for a bowl game.
Against Northwestern, the Huskers played very well at times but also saw drops from receivers and miscues on the defensive end. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong finished with two rushing TD's but also had a 50 percent completion rate with a passing touchdown and an interception.
Riley's only Big 10 win has come on the road against Minnesota. The inconsistencies on offense continued on the ground against Northwestern when Nebraska rushed for a season-low 82 yards.
To turn the season around, Nebraska must learn how to win close games. Husker fans have certainly been on a wild ride that saw:
A Hail Mary loss to BYU
A fourth-quarter comeback against Miami only to lose in overtime
A late collapse in a one-point loss to Illinois
- A 46-yard Wisconsin field goal with four seconds left
Throw in some bad luck and some poor late-game execution, and Nebraska is on the brink of not making a bowl game. One of the more historically storied programs in the country, the Huskers have made 51 all-time bowl appearances, and an NCAA-record 35 consecutive bowl games from 1969 to 2003.
Riley, who was deemed Nebraska's savior coming into the job, has underachieved in his first season in Lincoln. It started with this:
Nebraska's remaining schedule will see games at Purdue and Rutgers, and home games against Michigan State and Iowa. Two of those four teams are currently ranked.
There's a good chance that one of those games will go down the wire, and for Nebraska to come out on top, it will need to find ways to win in tight situations. Previously this season, the Huskers dropped a 13-point fourth-quarter lead at Illinois, as well as coming back from 23 points down against Miami, only to lose in overtime on an Armstrong interception.
Under former head coach Bo Pelini, Nebraska lost only three fourth-quarter leads in seven years. A bad year was considered eight or nine wins for the Huskers under Pelini. Now Nebraska can only achieve as many as eight wins with a bowl victory after winning its next four in the regular season.
For Riley, and any other coach in general, it's certainly an adjustment. Coming into a new program and immediately succeeding doesn't happen very often. For the Nebraska faithful, however, it's not a good first impression.
Following the loss to Northwestern, a lot of people took to Twitter to give their thoughts on Nebraska's far too common script this season:
Oh look, Nebraska lost a close game. There's something new.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) October 24, 2015
If nebraska loses this game by a close one again then im moving to another state— Drew (@Drewpetersen__) October 24, 2015
This is the 5th game this season where, when Nebraska's defense was asked to close a game strong, it didn't. NU 1-4 in those games.— Samuel McKewon (@swmckewonOWH) October 24, 2015
Until Nebraska proves it can win late, this ride might get even bumpier.