With wins over Fresno State, Wyoming and Oregon, No. 20 Nebraska is 3-0 and ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since December 2014. On Saturday, the Cornhuskers overcame a 20-7 deficit late in the first half to give Mike Riley his first career win over Oregon.
He went 0-7 against the Ducks while coaching at Oregon State from 2008-14.
But if you think Riley and the Huskers are resting on their laurels, well, they’re not.
“The most important thing is the next game coming up,” Riley said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “Actually, if you don’t win it, then the other stuff earlier fades anyway. You just got to stay hungry and keep getting better. That’s what a season is about. That’s what we’ve been trying to hit hard with our players this week.”
Riley had a rough first year in Lincoln. He went 5-7 during the regular season, losing several games on the final play. But he didn’t get discouraged. Nebraska beat UCLA, 37-29, in the Foster Farms Bowl, and that success has carried over into this season.
“I think as we went through last season and evaluated it as we went and we got into the last month, I think we did a better job as coaches of basically helping this team with an identity, of what we can do well, and we did better,” Riley said. “We probably played our best game at the very end. It was a good kickoff into the offseason. We evaluated it some more and tried to be definitive for spring fall and into fall camp. Frankly, we’re still learning. This running with the quarterback is pretty new to me, but I love it. I love our quarterback and what he brings to it. So we’re having fun with that and kind of exploring a little bit at the same time, just trying to keep this team on a good edge to keep winning.”
That quarterback, of course, is Tommy Armstrong Jr., who threw for 200 yards, ran for 85 and had four touchdowns (three pass, one rush) against Oregon. He left the game with cramps but returned to lead an 11-play, 65-yard touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter. In fact, his 34-yard touchdown run won the game for Nebraska.
“When I found out it was cramps, I knew Tommy would be back – because it’s Tommy,” Riley said. “He is such a competitor. He loves to play. I think this team really loves him in these situations because they trust him and they know how much he’ll compete. As soon as I knew what it was, I was almost assured he’d be back.”
Nebraska plays at Northwestern (1-2) this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET., followed by games against Illinois (1-2), at Indiana (2-0) and against Purdue (1-1). The Huskers could be 7-0 entering two monumental road tests at No. 11 Wisconsin (3-0) and at No. 2 Ohio State (3-0) on Oct. 29 and Nov. 5, respectively.