Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

Nebraska vs. Iowa, 11/24/17

Nebraska coach Mike Riley leaves Memorial Stadium for what could be the last time on Friday.

FRANCIS GARDLER, Journal Star

It was merely another dispiriting loss for the Nebraska football team.

We're used to this stuff, right?

Wait a second. Nebraska fans hopefully will never get used to these beatings. Please tell me they're not already used to them. They should never feel the slightest bit OK with Iowa winning 56-14 at Memorial Stadium, as was the case Friday. They should never casually shrug their shoulders at the Hawkeyes outscoring the Huskers 96-24 during a two-year span, as has been the case in 2016 and 2017.

On the other hand, Nebraska has been enduring such beatings from a variety of opponents on a fairly regular basis since about 2002. Younger fans are accustomed to the pain. Even so, I never seem to get used to writing about the Huskers' embarrassing losses because I covered the program's glory days in the 1990s.

So, yeah, writing about Iowa dominating Nebraska — 6.7 yards per rush! — still feels weird and awkward.

By the way, awkward is the best way to describe Friday. It's also going to be the best way to describe the coming week, as reports and rumors about Scott Frost's coaching future continue to surface. At this point, I'll believe he's Nebraska's next head coach when he's standing somewhere inside Memorial Stadium in a suit answering reporters' questions.

Let's stay in the moment, though. You want awkward? Try witnessing Nebraska third-year head coach Mike Riley essentially lobbying for another year in charge. After the Huskers finished the season 4-8 overall and 3-6 in the Big Ten — the program's first eight-loss season since going 1-9 under Bill Jennings in 1957 — Riley stood at a podium and played the "Year-One" card. You know the spiel. He said it's essentially his first year at NU because it's his first go-around here with a true pro-style quarterback who fits his system.

What's more, it's the Nebraska defense's first season in a 3-4 system under first-year coordinator Bob Diaco.

"Defensively, I don't have any regrets about the 3-4, about what we did," Riley said. "It is just very, very painfully obvious that this group, on defense, needs to continue to grow and practice and lift weights and be able to withstand strong players like we played tonight, and that's what I would be all in for is that development with those guys. You know, it's a very, very young defense and could be exciting."

It was somewhat hard to watch Riley go down swinging. But he kept on with his spiel, saying he would go to bed hoping new Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos will retain him as head coach. Riley said he's gotten no indication from Moos one way or the other. But let's be real, it would be an all-time shocker if Riley was brought back for a fourth season. After all, he's 19-19 at the school, and the Huskers have dropped six of their past seven games while surrendering 50-plus points in four of those contests.

Of course, Riley came from Oregon State used to this stuff. Used to plenty of losing and plenty of explaining away bad defeats.

But Nebraska can't get used to Friday's level of inept play. Ever.

Against an ordinary Iowa team (7-5, 4-5), things started going south for Nebraska late in the second quarter. Coincidentally, that's about the time an ESPN report surfaced that Florida appears ready to amp up its pursuit of Frost, the former Husker great, to fill its head-coaching vacancy. According to the report, Florida officials are expected to meet with Frost this weekend.

Nebraska fans hoping to land Frost surely became uneasy if they saw the ESPN report, but perhaps felt better after the game when Lars Anderson of Bleacher Report tweeted, "I've heard from a source that I trust that Scott Frost to Nebraska is a done deal."

This is where it gets awkward. Frost guided 15th-ranked Central Florida to a 49-42 win Friday against South Florida, meaning UCF (11-0, 8-0) will play Memphis (9-1, 6-1) next Saturday in the AAC Championship Game. That means Frost likely isn't going to be announced as any team's coach until after that game, assuming he takes another job at all.

Frost, as one would expect, brushed off Friday's reports/rumors, telling reporters in Orlando, Florida, "We don't even think about it. I owe these players that have given me their all my 100 percent. That's what I'm giving them, and I'm going to keep giving it to them."

Think about it. The 42-year-old Frost has an undefeated team on Nov. 25. It's conceivable he may never again have an undefeated team this late in a season. And yet, he will continue to have to field questions about the Florida and Nebraska jobs — and perhaps others — until there's resolution.

He will shoot down the questions and reports as best he can because he's right, his entire focus should be on his team.

Meanwhile, Nebraska fans are left to wait and wonder. It won't be easy.

But it can't be much harder than watching Iowa take Memorial Stadium by storm, unless they're getting used to the beatings.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.

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