Huskers' Riley learning fast magnitude of game against Miami
Sep. 14, 2015
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Having spent most of his career on the West Coast, first-year Nebraska coach Mike Riley initially didn't grasp how a nonconference game against Miami could stir so much emotion in and around the Cornhuskers' program.
He gained a much better understanding last month when De'Mornay Pierson-El got the news that a foot injury would keep him out at least until the Big Ten schedule started.
"First thing De'Mornay said when he got hurt is, 'I really want to play in that Miami game,'" Riley said Monday.
The Huskers (1-1) and Hurricanes (2-0) meet Saturday night at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, to complete a two-year, home-and-home series. Nebraska won 41-31 in Lincoln last year in a heated game that ended with only the captains and head coaches shaking hands.
Saturday's game will mark the first time Nebraska plays a regular-season game in the Sunshine State since a 19-7 loss at Miami in 1951. Before last year's meeting, the previous five had come in bowls, with four deciding national championships. The Huskers have won six of 11 all-time games.
Riley, who never faced Miami when he was head coach at Oregon State or offensive coordinator at Southern California, said he watched Tom Osborne's 1980s and '90s teams play the 'Canes in Orange Bowls. Don't quiz him on specifics, though. He said he only has general memories.
"I understand the great history of this game and some of the historical ramifications of the game against Miami, being played for national championships," Riley said. "That's pretty good stuff, and it's led to a nice current-day rivalry."
Even though players like the 19-year-old Pierson-El weren't born or were in diapers during the Huskers-Hurricanes heyday, they know the history of "The U" and how a game between these teams has extra meaning.
That much was apparent last year, when a Memorial Stadium-record 91,585 turned out, including New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez and U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who was the guest of Justice Clarence Thomas, an ardent Nebraska fan.
Brad Kaaya passed for 359 yards and three touchdowns for Miami, but he was trumped by Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah, who ran for 229 yards and had 313 all-purpose yards.
Five personal fouls were called on Miami in the second half alone, and other than the coaches and captains, the teams had to be separated and sent directly to their locker rooms after time ran out. The Nebraska fans, among the most genial in college football, booed the Hurricanes as they exited.
After the Huskers beat South Alabama 48-9 last Saturday, their thoughts turned immediately to Miami.
"We have to bring home the 'W' in this historic game," defensive tackle Maliek Collins said.
Abdullah, who ran through and around the 'Canes last year, is now with the Detroit Lions. But after Terrell Newby had 198 of the Huskers' 258 rushing yards against South Alabama, the Huskers hope they can run effectively against Miami again.
"Miami is always going to be a good team, always going to be a trash-talking team," offensive lineman Alex Lewis said, "so there's nothing better than running it down their throat."