Mike Riley led off his mid-week press conference by thanking Arkansas State for taking the time to come play at Memorial Stadium.
“We appreciate the effort they showed traveling up here,” Riley said. “That’s not an easy drive, I know. My wife and I have done it a couple of times — she has family in Jonesboro.”
Asked if he felt like the 43-36 loss was a moral victory for Arky State, Riley replied. “Every football victory should be a moral victory.”
Riley also thanked his staff for doing everything they could to make ASU feel welcome.
“I only saw winners out on that field,” Riley said. “Those folks are invited back anytime.”
>> Riley went on to praise the Arkansas State passing offense, which tallied 425 yards.
“They were a lot of fun to watch, weren’t they?” said Riley. “Normally, we like to give up about 300 yards, tops, through the air. But in this case, we felt like being generous.”
>> Asked about the play of starting cornerbacks Lamar Jackson and Eric Lee, as well as redshirt freshman Dicaprio Bootle, who played nickel, Riley was effusive.
“I thought it was a terrific game for our new cornerbacks who played,” Riley said, “and it was an especially great game for our cornerbacks who didn’t play. You really have to give them the lion’s share of the credit.”
“I know of one, Mike Ravencroft, he organized a fundraiser for Houston victims right there on the sidelines,” Riley said. “Those are the kind of things that stand out to me as a coach.”
Riley said he would definitely consider not starting Ravencroft in the future, noting he was too valuable to society as a person.
>> Asked about the explosive plays that the Nebraska defense surrendered, Riley chided the reporter’s triggering language.
“Do you mind not using that word, explosive?” Riley asked. “Thank you.”
>> Asked why defensive coordinator Bob Diaco did not give a press conference after the game, Riley said that Diaco received a phone call from his former boss, Brian Kelly, before the game that left him “visibly shaken.”
“We’re giving Bob some time to recuperate,” said Riley. “We wish him the best.”
>> When a reporter inquired why Stanley Morgan, Jr. wasn’t on the hands team for the onside kick, Riley replied: “Stanley used foul language after he fielded that last punt and got a little twisted up. He wasn’t happy, but I told him there’s no excuse.”
>> On a positive note, Riley said the coaching staff was impressed with the respect JD Spielman showed for injured players in his first career start.
“[JD] knew when to kneel, when to clap, when to come over and pat a guy on the shoulder,” Riley said. “He looked like an upperclassmen out there.”
>> Riley also offered kind words for Tanner Lee, who went 19/32 for 238 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions.
“I thought Tanner showed great empathy in the pocket,” said Riley. “You saw that in the one sack he took. When he got up, he helped the defensive lineman back to his feet. That’s true character.”
>> Riley also shared some interesting news about a gameday tradition of his that many may not know about.
“When I’m down on the field, I pick out a family in the stands — usually not too far away, given my eyesight. I like to put myself in their shoes, imagine their perspective, just as they’re imagining being me and making these calls. On Saturday night, I saw two parents with their young boy, maybe 3 or 4. I saw him hug his father’s neck after Tre took one in, and I got a bit choked up. I thought about this precious child and all the meanness he’ll encounter in the world.”
Riley paused for several moments. “It isn’t right,” he said. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, well…think of something.”
>> Asked about the tailback rotation and the status of Tre Bryant going into the Oregon game, Riley instead offered an analysis of Devine Ozigbo’s character.
“Devine came in to fall camp a little mean,” said Riley. “Looked like he’d slipped over the winter. I remember one day we were both coming into the practice facility, and Devine was ahead of me — he didn’t hold the door.”
“That’s going to work against your success here,” said Riley. “We aim for better.”
Asked whether Nebraska would deploy a committee approach at RB going forward, Riley played coy, instead breaking into song.
“If you get caught between Mikale Wilbon and Tre Bryant, the best that you can do, the best that you can do, is Devine Ozigbo,” he sang, before flashing his trademark grin.