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 football news conference, 11/25/17

Nebraska AD Bill Moos at a press conference in November 2017. 

Things I know, and things I think I know:

Bill Moos won the news conference Saturday.

Notice that the new Nebraska athletic director shifts easily from seriousness to off-the-cuff humor, an indication of self-confidence. He made a lot of statements (and a few quips) that resonated with Husker football fans, including the revelation of his appreciation for Runzas.

His level of transparency eclipses that of his predecessor, Shawn Eichorst, to a startling degree.

Moos smiles and speaks from the heart. Eichorst preferred prepared statements.

By the way, I despise the line "won the news conference." But it has a place in a long line of hackneyed sports writer phrases, so we'll go with it. Plus, a lot of people are gushing about how well Moos conducted himself on a crucial day in the athletic department's history.

Here's what I appreciated most about Moos' time at the podium:

* I seldom get chills anymore when it comes to Nebraska football. I'm 51. Plus, I've dealt extensively with Eichorst, Steve Pederson and Harvey Perlman. Cynicism usually wins the day. 

But I almost got the chills when Moos spoke of the importance of players wearing the Husker uniform with a sense of pride.

"To me, it's like wearing a New York Yankees uniform," he said. "Or Green Bay Packers. Or Boston Celtics."

The Nebraska brand is tarnished. But Moos is right: The brand's enduring strength is such that it can regenerate quickly.

* Moos said he wants to see the football program return to a point where it would be disappointing to go 8-4. If Scott Frost is indeed hired, I'm guessing he would embrace that sort of pressure — and not make excuses. The program desperately needs that sort of unwavering leadership again.

In 23 seasons of covering Nebraska football, I've never seen a softer team than the one I witnessed this season.

* Some fans won't tolerate that softness much longer. You see the empty seats. So does Moos. He sounds mindful of increasing apathy and seems to genuinely care about the fans. You can hear it in his voice when he talks about fans who travel to games from long distances — i.e., the western part of the state.

He's a rancher. We shouldn't be surprised.

* Moos' overall message jibed with that of his bosses. He wants Nebraska to consistently achieve at the level of the Big Ten's elite programs (it was mildly interesting that he mentioned only the East Division powers).

Go back to the Sept. 21 firing of Eichorst, when Chancellor Ronnie Green emphasized the need for Nebraska to improve its level of competitiveness.

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"This is going to sound a little glib, and I don't mean it that way, but I'd love to be back in the mid-90s," Green said. "I don't need to say more than that."

Added NU system President Hank Bounds: "And the truth of the matter is, why not? Why shouldn't we have those aspirations here?"

* Moos offered just the right amount of details regarding why and how he fired Riley and his staff. There was no B.S. But he also showed a degree of sensitivity to the fired coaches.

Nobody asked me, but I agreed with cleaning house. It was appropriate under the circumstances.

* Moos said he wants "Nebraska to get back to being Nebraska." Amen to that. The program bears virtually no resemblance to what it looked like during its glory days in terms of mental and physical toughness.

At age 67, Moos knows well what Nebraska used to look like and play like. He remembers the intimidating Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne teams that physically battered opponents. I wonder at what level Moos was astonished by what he saw this season.

* In that regard, I hope Moos holds the new coaching staff to this mindset: "I think you do need to run the ball," he said. "More importantly, I think you need to stop the run."

Nebraska currently ranks 121st in rushing offense (107.5 yards per game) and 115th in rushing defense (214.75).

You can't get much softer than that.

* Moos has ample respect for Chip Kelly. We're definitely on the same page in that regard.

UCLA got a great one.

"I had people talk to Chip," Moos said.

Does that mean Kelly rejected Nebraska? Absolutely not. I'm told there wasn't an offer or overture for Kelly to reject. It's possible Moos was simply gauging Kelly's interest in a possible job opening. An A.D. needs options. He can't put all his eggs in one basket, so to speak.

"He's a good football coach and he needs to be coaching," Moos said of Kelly. "He's been out of it for a year, and he looks like he's choking to death with that necktie on, on ESPN. I'm sure he wants to get back to the visor and short-sleeve windbreaker."

* High-five to the Nebraska volleyball team for capturing back-to-back Big Ten championships for the first time since joining the league.

"A great setter and every other player getting better from last year is a good recipe," tweeted ex-Husker coach Terry Pettit.

So is having one of the elite head coaches in the sport on the sideline.

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


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