Mike Riley/Ohio St

Nebraska coach Mike Riley gestures during the first half of the game Saturday against Ohio State in Lincoln. Ohio State won 56-14. 

LINCOLN — Mike Riley rested his elbows on the podium, leaned forward and bowed his head.

A reporter asked the question on the minds of many across the state following Nebraska's ugly 56-14 loss to No. 9 Ohio State in Memorial Stadium on Saturday: "Do you have enough time to be able to do what you want to do here?"

The third-year coach, now 18-15 in his tenure, responded, "I don't personally think about that. It's probably a topic and that's kind of natural."

He then said, "I am doing this as if we are going to keep building, building and building — both in the football part and in the recruiting."

Riley's demeanor was remarkably calm, too. He said with the team's first bye week ahead, now is the time for a reboot. 

"For us, now, as coaches, we can learn some stuff from this game and use it with the bye week coming, " he said. "I know not everybody wants to hear that right now but that's where I'm at. I'm thinking about what's best mentally and physically for this team. That's where I'm at."

The players who spoke afterward shared a similar forward-thinking vibe as their coach.

"We will get rejuvenated for the second half of the season," said linebacker Chris Weber. "We can be a resilient group who can change the narrative."

"All of our energy needs to go into the next game," said quarterback Tanner Lee.

"I think we are moving in the right direction," said fullback Luke McNitt.

Many Nebraska fans, however, may disagree. They let it be known Saturday night.

By the time players ran out onto to the field to begin the second half, maybe half of the announced crowd of 89,346 was left.

By game's end, it was maybe down to a third of that.

"We want to play well for them," Lee said. "We didn't do it today."

As the Husker offense struggled to gain ground against the Buckeyes in the first couple of quarters, fans released the red balloons saved for touchdowns on the team's first first down instead.

Ohio State's offense, guided by quarterback JT Barrett and head coach Urban Mayer, never let up. The Buckeyes were predicted to beat Nebraska by 24 points. They had that covered by the 8:20 mark of the second quarter.

The visitors scored touchdowns on their first eight drives, covering 96, 85, 80, 71, 59, 75, 75 and 66 yards and finished with 633 yards of total offense.

"You never want to see Nebraska football like that," McNitt said.

Back inside the postgame press conference, a reporter asked for Riley's perspective on where his team stands compared to Ohio State's.

"It certainly does paint of picture of where you have to go if you really want to do what everybody wants to do here," he said. "That's the realism of it. It's a measuring stick."

It's unknown where Riley's employment stands at this point. But after the firing last month of athletic director Shawn Eichorst, some believe his time is also running out.

Yet, Riley talked about the "big picture" moving forward.

Nebraska (3-4 overall, 2-2 Big Ten) has five games left on the regular season schedule, which resumes in two weeks at Purdue.

"Particularly right now, it's all about growth," Riley said. "For me now, that's the deal. The results that we want with that growth is winning the games, but it's still all about growth."


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