Husker Dan: Could Two Plays Have Kept Frost From Coming to NU?
Recently, a good friend of mine offered a theory that he believes may have kept Scott Frost from being hired last December as the new Husker head football coach.
A KEYSTONE THEORY
Bill Moran, who is a Husker Super Fan from the Keystone state of Pennsylvania, says that had two plays gone differently for Nebraska last season, there is a chance that Mike Riley would still be coaching the Huskers. (That’s a scary thought, isn’t it?)
“Let’s suppose that in the Northern Illinois game — a game Nebraska lost 21-17 — Tanner Lee didn’t throw the 87 yard pick six early in the first quarter when Nebraska was getting ready to score. That game would likely have been a win for the Huskers.” Bill claims.
“And, what if Nebraska had beaten Northwestern in overtime in Lincoln? That would have put the Huskers at 6-6 in the regular season and they would have been bowl eligible.” Bill adds that Riley might not have been fired (and maybe even Shawn Eichorst) and therefore no coaching change would have been necessary.
Interesting stuff. At first glance, his theory does make some sense. But after further review, the more I believe Riley and Eichorst would have been fired anyway and here’s why:
First of all, what’s missing from Bill’s theory is that a 6-6 or even a 7-6 season wouldn’t have been enough (IMO) to save either Riley’s or Eichorst’s jobs.
In order to not make changes last season, UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green and President Hank Bounds would have had to overlook last year’s brutal Husker losses.
Nebraska barely beat Arkansas State at home to start the season; fell behind 42-14 at the half at Oregon, lost at home to Ohio State, 56-14; lost at Penn State 56-44 and 38-17 at home to Wisconsin and got mauled once again by Iowa in a 56-14 home loss to end the season.
THE LAST STRAW
The crowning blow for Riley was losing on the road to a hapless Minnesota team by a score of 54-21. The 2017 Husker defense (?) surrendered 50-plus points to four opponents. Diaco wasn’t cutting it, Riley wasn’t in charge of his team, chemistry was bad among the coaching staff, Eichort’s scheduling a Friday night game at Illinois and his dismantling of future season-ending games with Iowa the day after Thanksgiving were ample reasons to fire both Riley and Eichorst.
Secondly, the overtime loss to Northwestern would have required more than just one play for Nebraska. The Wildcats scored in the OT, and NU didn’t. A big sack of Husker QB Tanner Lee put Nebraska in fourth and forever where a desperation pass fell incomplete, sealing the win for Northwestern. (Nebraska would had to have scored in the first OT, stopped NW in the 2nd OT and then found a way to score themselves in the second OT.)
And it’s not a stretch to say that Eichorst already had been skating on thin ice, even the year before. Go back to the the spring of 2017, after the Husker basketball season had ended. If you will recall, Eichorst unceremoniously gave a one year extension to Tim Miles’ contract. At the time, it seemed odd that Miles would or should be retained — especially after a disappointing 12-19 record overall and 8-8 in B1G play.
So why was Miles retained? Hmmm. Could it have been that Eichorst’s days were already numbered at that time? Did Green and Bounds not want Eichorst to hire a new basketball coach before they could fire him? Were they waiting to see how the Husker football program would perform in the 2017 season before they fired him?
It seems plausible that Bounds and Green could see the wheels falling off the program early last season and knew they had to make a change. I believe they knew that if they were going to try to lure Scott Frost to Nebraska, Eichorst was going to have to go. And once SE was gone, Green and Bounds got probably the most ideal AD candidate (Bill Moos) who they felt would give the Huskers their best chance to lure Scott Frost to Lincoln.
Even if Nebraska had gone 7-6 last year, I think Eichorst would still have been fired in mid-season and Mike Riley would have been fired at the end of the regular season. (I don’t believe Riley would have coached the bowl game.) I’m not too sure that the outcomes of the Northern Illinois and Northwestern games would have changed a thing last year. Eichorst and Riley were still going to be fired and Bill Moos was still going to be hired and Scott Frost was still coming to Nebraska.
And for that, we should all be thankful.
THE STREAK GOES ON
Thank goodness Tanner Lee transferred from Tulane in 2016 to Nebraska and then opted out of his senior year at Nebraska to enter this year’s NFL draft. Had he not pursued that course of action, NU’s 50-plus year streak of having at least one Husker player chosen in the NFL draft would have come to a screeching halt over the weekend. Best of luck to Tanner and thanks for the memories. And thanks for being drafted!
You may contact the writer at HuskerDan@cox.net