The 2015 Nebraska Cornhuskers are a team proving that truth can be stranger than fiction.
If you thought up a team that lost almost all its games on the final plays of games, it would be the most unbelievable thing. But yet we have the Huskers, who on Saturday again fell with the clock at just about zero.
Rafael Gaglianone’s field goal with four seconds left pushed Wisconsin past Nebraska, 23-21, in Lincoln, adding another grueling chapter to the first season of the Mike Riley Era.
Last week, the Huskers lost, 14-13, when the Illini scored a game-winning touchdown with 10 seconds left. Two weeks before that, a furious Nebraska comeback forced overtime at Miami, only for Tommy Armstrong to throw an interception on the first play of overtime and the Hurricanes to kick a game-winning field goal. And two weeks before that, the Huskers lost on BYU’s Hail Mary in one of the more memorable moments of the season’s opening week.
So four losses, all coming on the final play or just about the final play of games. The Huskers are 2-4, and no one is happy about it.
“I don't think I've ever really seen this before,” Riley said. “But, we're in it. When you've had games like we've had, you will look at many different circumstances on how your playing or coaching could make a difference. I feel like there are tangible things we've just got to do better.”
"We've got to all stick in this together. We've said from Day 1, seasons are unexpected. You've got to expect the unexpected. We really didn't think that we would have a season like this. It's heartbreaking to look at it this way, but we've just got to stick together and drive on to next week. We're going to try to progress and improve."
As we did last week, we’ll check things out a little closer, and it doesn’t take much searching to find that Nebraska once again made its own bed. After the touchdown that gave the Huskers a 21-20 lead — a 55-yard run by Andy Janovich — the defense benefitted from Gaglianone’s second missed field goal of the day. Problem was, the Nebraska offense immediately went three and out, burning just 23 seconds of clock and giving the ball right back to Wisconsin. The Huskers’ defense then allowed the Badgers to go 42 yards in just over a minute and kick the game-winning field goal.
Again, Armstrong was woefully inaccurate, completing just 11 of 28 passes for 129 yards. This after completing 10 of 31 passes for 105 yards in the loss to Illinois.
"We put ourselves in that situation to lose the game, offensive-wise, by not capitalizing when we needed to, not getting first downs when we needed to, not being smart on certain situations," Armstrong said.
The Nebraska defense was up to its old tricks again, too, allowing Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave to pass for 322 yards, the fifth time in six games the Huskers have allowed an opponent to rack up at least 300 yards through the air.
It's a solid win for Wisconsin, and the Badgers are still firmly in the Big Ten West race. Nebraska? Maybe not so much. Just like last week, the questions arise about Riley, who was brought on after Bo Pelini got the axe. No matter what you think of the Huskers replacing Pelini, a perennial nine-game winner, with the much more pleasing personality of Riley, it certainly appears that the new coach will fail to match the old one's annual win total in his first season in Lincoln.