Husker overhaul, patrol turmoil, downtown development and more of Nebraska’s top stories of 2017

Beer sales to Native Americans. Prison riots. The Keystone XL pipeline. The list of top stories for 2017 includes its share of weighty and divisive subjects. But the story that perhaps struck people most involved yet another disappointing football season and the changes at the top that Husker fans hope will restore the team to glory. Here are the news stories of the year, as selected by The World-Herald. Husker overhaul The applause grew louder the farther he walked into the room. The native son had come home with hopes of resurrecting the state’s cultural pride and joy: its college football team. The hiring of former Nebraska quarterback Scott Frost to coach the Husker football team was, for many fans, a joyous end to what had been the gloomiest season in decades. Nebraska finished with a 4-8 record under then-coach Mike Riley, who was fired the day after his final game by new Athletic Director Bill Moos. Close 1 of 49 Buy Now Scott Frost is officially introduced as Nebraska's football coach during a press conference at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017. BRENDAN SULLIVAN/THE WORLD-HERALD Facebook Twitter Email Print Save Buy Now New Nebraska head football coach Scott Frost arrives at Memorial Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Lincoln. RYAN SODERLIN/THE WORLD-HERALD Facebook Twitter Email Print Save Buy Now New Nebraska football coach Scott Frost arrives at Memorial Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Lincoln. RYAN SODERLIN/THE WORLD-HERALD Facebook Twitter Email Print Save Buy Now Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos arrives at MemorialStadium on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Lincoln. RYAN SODERLIN/THE WORLD-HERALD Facebook Twitter Email Print Save Buy Now Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee fields questions about his new football coach Scott Continue Reading

Tanner Lee has Nebraska teammates’ full support in leaving for NFL

Tanner Lee made a point to thank his teammates in announcing his decision to declare for the NFL draft. "Thank you for letting me into your locker room (two) years ago and coming out with brothers and friends for life," Lee wrote in a Twitter post. And it's clear his teammates felt the same way. In the minutes after Lee's announcement, several Huskers took to Twitter to share their thoughts on the former Husker quarterback and to wish him well in the future. Below is a collection of reaction from Lee's Husker teammates: Ball out brotha we’re all behind you succeeding #GBR— Jerald Foster (@JeraldFoster) December 28, 2017 Good luck T Lee! Great competitor and leader right here. Was a blessing playing ball with you. @TannerLee13_— Mick Stoltenberg (@big_MICKet) December 28, 2017 Dont listen to what nobody says brodie.....ur real family knows the kind of potential you have! Good luck in the draft. Love you brother‼️✊🏾— JD Spielman🃏 (@jdspielman10) December 28, 2017 Give this man a chance and he’ll drop some jaws along with dropping DIMES!💰 Good Luck my guy T Sleazy!!!!— Huncho Zig⚡️ (@TrulyDevine_22) December 28, 2017 Remember what we talked about bro, now go be great and stunt on every doubter out there ✊🏾💯💯💯— Chris Jones (@C_Jon8) December 28, 2017 Great football player and better person! Can’t wait to watch you sling it at the next level. Good luck bro! @TannerLee13_— Luke Gifford (@luke_gifford) December 28, 2017 It has been awesome to get to know you these past two years I wish you nothing but the best #gbr— Patrick O'Brien™ (@oneandonlyPOB) December 28, 2017 Tanner Lee has what it takes to be something special at the Continue Reading

Led by Beatrice’s Cameron Jurgens, Huskers stockpiling tight ends in 2018 class

Tight End U? If this recruiting class and roster space are any indication, Nebraska might earn the moniker. Consider that last offseason, the Huskers didn’t have a tight end who had a catch in a college game. Three veterans from 2016 — Cethan Carter, Sam Cotton and Trey Foster — were gone, leaving former fourth-stringer and Wayne State transfer Tyler Hoppes the presumed starter ahead of several unproven options. Now Hoppes — who set a school record for receptions in a season by a tight end (34) — has graduated, along with special-teams regular Connor Ketter. But there is no shortage of options in a Scott Frost offense that asks tight ends to be active in the passing game. UCF lists eight tight ends on its roster, with four registering at least one catch this year. Jordan Akins (6-4, 262) is third on the team with 30 receptions for 459 yards and four touchdowns while Michael Colubiale (6-1, 223) and Jordan Franks (6-3, 239) have combined for 22 catches for 341 yards and a score. Including the early signees, the Huskers are on track to have as many as 11 tight ends — nine on scholarship — heading into 2018. The tight end label could be a loose one for the incoming class. Cameron Jurgens (6-foot-4, 245 pounds) also played linebacker at Beatrice and could move to defensive end in college. Justin McGriff (6-6, 215), who plans to sign with NU on Friday, could start at wideout with an eye on moving inside. Georgia’s Katerian Legrone (6-3, 230) — who signed Wednesday — and New York’s Messiah Swinson (6-8, 232) — who plans to sign Friday — would add to the mix, as well. Legrone, a former UCF pledge who visited Nebraska last weekend, has been called a “tweener” — a player who could move to receiver or H-back — by his high school coach. Barring any transfers, seven other tight ends will be back for the Huskers. Junior Matt Snyder (6-5, 240) will be the only Continue Reading

Tanner Lee, Tre Bryant among offensive stars, but defense has hiccups in wild contest too close for comfort

LINCOLN — Cut, cut, cut, cut, cut cut. As Arkansas State’s spread, no-huddle, hurry-up offense bled Nebraska’s new defense with a series of short, precise passes, Husker fans grew anxious, especially after the Red Wolves recovered an onside kick and threatened to tie the Huskers in a final minute of a four-hour marathon shootout Saturday night. After NU survived 43-36 over ASU, Husker players said they were calm. Assured. “I was very confident,” receiver Stanley Morgan said. “I was chillin. It wasn’t really a big factor to me. I knew we would hold them up.” Cornerback Eric Lee, one of the starters in new coordinator Bob Diaco’s bend-almost-break scheme, believed Nebraska would rise to the moment. “Coach Diaco has said it before: There’s nothing better than having your defense on the field to win the game,” Lee said. “So we definitely kind of embraced it. So when we saw the onside kick get recovered, it was like, all right, this is what we’ve been waiting for, to bow up and show the nation that, when times get tough, the Blackshirts can get the job done.” In those final plays, Nebraska did get it done. Arkansas State threw two passes into the Husker end zone, and both were incomplete. NU’s offense had built up enough of a lead to keep a monumental upset at bay. But Diaco’s defense gave up 497 yards and 32 first downs before all that. The defense’s often tentative performance overshadowed, to some small degree, a sparkling debut for quarterback Tanner Lee — who threw for 238 yards and two touchdowns — a breakout performance from running back Tre Bryant and a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by JD Spielman. NU even had two interceptions and forced a safety. All those little cuts, though. ASU quarterback Justice Hansen threw 68 passes, completing 46. Four Red Wolves receivers caught at least seven passes. Arkansas State converted 7 Continue Reading

Bleak Friday: Nebraska falls apart in second half against Iowa to finish with worst record in 56 years

LINCOLN — As Mike Riley walked off the field of what’s sure to be his final game as Nebraska’s football coach — a 56-14 humiliation at the hands of rival Iowa — a Husker fan wearing a faded, red No. 94 jersey gave an exaggerated wave to Riley from the bleachers.“Bye Mike!” the fan said. “Bye!” He paused as Riley entered the darkness of the northwest tunnel. “Horrible!”A miserable 4-8 season — Nebraska’s worst since 1961 — remained that way to the bitter end. The Huskers gave up 50 points for the third straight game and the fourth time this season — a dubious feat never achieved in school history — and 313 more rushing yards. They allowed 49 straight Hawkeye points. Nebraska’s offense — playing without injured slot receiver JD Spielman — ran 29 plays, gained 82 yards and committed three turnovers in the second half.The 90,046 fans who entered Memorial Stadium on Friday afternoon started leaving midway through the third quarter. Some wore “Frost Warning” shirts in tribute to former Husker quarterback and current Central Florida coach Scott Frost, who is clearly NU’s top coaching target if Athletic Director Bill Moos fires Riley.Riley said he expects to be NU’s coach until Moos tells him he’s not. Riley last talked to Moos early in the week. The conversations have been “private” and “first class,” Riley said. Still, Riley thinks he’s the man for the job, even if two of the four losing seasons since 1962 came on his watch.“When I go to bed tonight, I’ll be hoping for that, because I would love to do this,” Riley said of keeping his job. “I truly believe I’m exactly the right person to do this. The football parts I’ve been doing so long we know how to fix, and we’ve also been doing a good job recruiting. Those two things are going to be the key to Nebraska Continue Reading

Out of the fire: Tanner Lee leads fourth-quarter rally to help Huskers earn comeback victory at Purdue

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Ten minutes after the best drive of his football life, Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee stood on the field waiting to give an interview to the Big Ten Network. Purdue’s band — with the tubas and horns and that giant, loud drum — surrounded him and started playing. The band wasn’t moving. Neither was Lee. He stood in the noise and traffic like he had all night. Always calm, always understated, Cool Hand Lee rescued the Huskers’ season and coach Mike Riley’s tenure — at least for one week — with a stirring 25-24 comeback win over the Boilermakers. For all the sloppiness in NU’s game — the 95 penalty yards, the nonexistent run blocking, the shoddy tackling on defense — Lee’s 431 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns left Nebraska coaches and players celebrating like they haven’t this season. “Never, never, never, never, never quit!” Riley told his players in the locker room. “Never! That was beautiful! That can set a tone for who this team is!” With reporters, Lee didn’t betray much emotion. Not his style. Never his style. He drove NU 70 yards in just over one minute for the game-winning touchdown. He completed seven of eight passes, the last of which went to his fellow New Orleans native, Stanley Morgan, on a quick post, a pass that Lee fit in between three Purdue defenders with 14 seconds left. “That was a lot of fun,” Lee said. “Been wantin’ one like that. You don’t want to win that way, but we’ve been practicing it every day, the two-minute drill, every day, every day. We finally had a chance to use what we’ve been practicing.” “That’s a Tom Brady-type drive right there,” linebacker Mohamed Barry said. “When you have ice water in your veins and make that kind of drive.” “I don’t like just giving the ball to the quarterback 50 Continue Reading

Nebraska comes up short as OT loss to Northwestern puts ‘strain’ on Husker season

LINCOLN — Bob Diaco is a believer. After Nebraska’s 31-24 overtime loss to Northwestern, the defensive coordinator, with the calm ferocity of a convert, explained to reporters the struggles of his run defense, where linebackers can’t shed blockers, linemen lose ground and the unit has allowed 1,063 rushing yards and 5.93 yards per carry in its last four games.When the Huskers and Wildcats reached the extra period, tied at 24, the end nearly seemed preordained. Northwestern had run the ball with confidence and downhill momentum all afternoon. Aside from one pretty jet sweep, Nebraska hadn’t. And the overtime played out just like that. Northwestern ran seven times, gained 25 yards and scored a touchdown. Nebraska didn’t call a single run play, lost two yards on four snaps, and left the field in dejection.Diaco, afterward, said he was disappointed but his demeanor was resolute: His defense is right on schedule. So is Husker football, at 4-5 overall and in danger of missing a bowl bid. “There’s no reasonable reason — considering where the defensive program was at — to believe that they should be able to do everything that needs to be done in the game, to win the game,” he said. “The strain was spectacular, right? So we could just go back and look at the game.”He looked at various reporters.“Do you see the strain? Do you see it, or no?”Oh, Husker nation sees it. The strain is real. All aboard the struggle bus.In a game that featured five combined interceptions, 13 penalties and a combined 23 percent third-down conversion rate, Nebraska was outgained by 138 yards and still squandered two chances to build on a touchdown lead. NU then wasted a chance, on its final possession of regulation, to drive for the game-winning field goal.“Probably lots of things to look back on and talk about in that game,” coach Mike Riley said. “Had an opportunity to win and let that slip away Continue Reading

Signee Spotlight: Tate Wildeman fits the mold of a Big Ten lineman

The "Signee Spotlight" provides all the information you need on the newest batch of Huskers, including rankings, evaluations and a look at how they landed at Nebraska. Click here to follow The World-Herald's full coverage of the early signing period. * * * Tate Wildeman 6-6, 245, OLB/DE Parker (Colo.) Legend 247Sports Composite: 4 stars Rivals: 4 stars ESPN: 3 stars Other key offers: Washington State, Iowa, Colorado State How he got here: Former defensive coordinator Bob Diaco didn’t do much in his one year at NU, but he did help land this sturdy defensive end whose father, Parker, was one of Diaco’s college teammates at Iowa. Tate, a first-team 5A all-stater in Colorado’s largest class and a member of the Denver Post’s All-Colorado team, had a big senior year with six sacks and 61 tackles. When Diaco was fired along with the rest of former coach Mike Riley’s staff, Wildeman looked at Washington State and Colorado State but stuck with Nebraska. Our take: Wildeman is a Big Ten lineman who will likely grow into a top-end 3-4 defensive end, a set-the-edge type with decent pursuit skills who can take on a tackle/tight end double team and hold up. On film, Wildeman shows a natural understanding for reading a play based on what a lineman is doing — pulling, sealing — and making his move based off the read. Wildeman has a playing style similar to Mick Stoltenberg, but he’s a little quicker. They said it: “The coaching change and the opportunity it gives me is definitely exciting.” — Wildeman Continue Reading

Scott Frost gets to catch his breath during Christmas, but more work awaits in New Year

LINCOLN — When a college football coach holds a signing day press conference, it’s fairly common for him to give a status report on the current roster. Suspensions. Transfers. Injuries. And, now, with the early signing period, an update on bowl preparations. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, for example, gave a 1,362-word opening statement. Two players were suspended for the bowl game. Two more were undergoing medical procedures. And Minnesota coach PJ Fleck, according to media reports, had a 48-minute opening statement. That was 48 minutes longer than new Nebraska coach Scott Frost’s opening statement. Over the phone from a room, Frost went straight to questions, which made sense, at the end of the busiest three weeks of his life. He completed a perfect regular season at Central Florida, accepted the NU job, imported his entire assistant coaching staff from UCF, rebuilt half the Huskers’ 2018 recruiting class and hosted a massive walk-on event that drew praise from prospects who attended. Frost remains in moving phase through the Jan. 1 Peach Bowl. Asked about Husker injuries or pending transfers, Frost said he wasn’t aware of any. “I’m sure there will be attrition,” Frost said. “There always is, but I haven’t been on the ground in Lincoln long enough to know all those things. We’ll deal with those as they come, but I don’t know any of that yet.” That’s not a surprise. When he was introduced as NU’s new head coach, Frost recounted what he told current Huskers. “I let them know that there’s going to be a lot of hard work to be done, that things were going to change, a lot of things are going to change, but it’s going to be a really fun process,” Frost said Dec. 3. “I’ve seen it happen before, and I know it can happen here. They looked excited, a lot of them came to my office afterwards, my new office afterwards, and I talked to them Continue Reading

Leistikow’s DVR Monday: Uncovering the key ingredient to Iowa’s rout of Nebraska

Trying to over-analyze Iowa football’s up-and-down November could easily gobble up a one-hour radio show. OK, maybe two hours.But a one-word analysis might be all that's needed to capture why the Hawkeyes looked so bad against Wisconsin and Purdue but so good against Ohio State and, now, Nebraska:Confidence.You either have it in football, or you don’t. And each week, there are breaking-point moments in gaining or losing that ever-important mental edge in a violent sport centered around aggression.In the 55-24 rout against Ohio State, it was Amani Hooker’s game-opening pick-six that showed Hawkeye players they could slay a college-football giant.In the 38-14 loss to Wisconsin, a blitzing Badger defense sent uncertainty into Iowa's offensive line, quarterback and even play-caller.In the 24-15 loss to Purdue, it was a cornerback being victimized on four straight plays to open the second half that put Iowa on its heels.And in Friday’s 56-14 beat-down of Nebraska, the Hawkeyes established a punishing confidence during a few key moments while systematically taking it away from the 4-8 Cornhuskers.The final regular-season installment of DVR Monday begins with plays that saw 7-5 Iowa tip the scales on the way to a satisfying Heroes Trophy victory.What began with Ihmir Smith-Marsette stepping out of bounds at his own 1-yard line ended up with fellow Weequahic (N.J.) High School alum Akrum Wadley going into the end zone from Nebraska’s 20.Perhaps no more important play on that drive that consumed 7 minutes, 18 seconds occurred on second-and-11— a typically tough down for the Hawkeyes — from Iowa’s 21.Stanley looped a throw up the right sideline to Matt VandeBerg, who was running a fade route and dove to catch the football with his fingertips, keeping it millimeters from the ground, for a 21-yard connection.This play showed growth from Stanley (whose touch had been an early-season problem) and restored Continue Reading