Pressure to win comes early for some college coaches

After a loss to Northern Illinois, Nebraska coach Mike Riley’s status quickly moved to the hot seat.
(Chris Pietsch / Associated Press)

If you own a car with heated seats, then you know how it feels. Things can get warm awfully quick.

Heading into late September, the switch has definitely flicked “on” for several top college coaches around the country, beginning with Nebraska’s Mike Riley.

One of the nicest guys in the game, Riley got a one-year contract extension last week but understood the magnitude of Saturday’s 21-17 loss to Northern Illinois when he said: “This will sound like an understatement but we are just really, bitterly disappointed.”

More importantly, his boss – athletic director Shawn Eichorst – echoed that sentiment to reporters, saying that he was “angry” and “frustrated” and that “we have to get heading in the right direction.”


That means fixing the offensive line and eliminating the turnovers by quarterback Tanner Lee.

At least Riley has a chance to get well as a two-touchdown favorite against Rutgers at home next weekend. Other embattled coaches don’t figure to get as big a break from the schedule.

Must-Win Situation

The pressure on Kevin Sumlin turned up a notch with Texas A&M’s fourth-quarter collapse against UCLA in Week 1. After a brief reprieve against the likes of Nicholls State and Louisiana Lafayette, the Aggies now play Arkansas to begin an always tough Southeastern Conference schedule.

“We’ve got to get better at a lot of different things,” Sumlin. “We are a work in progress.”


Two coaches in the Pac-12 face a similarly daunting situation as UCLA’s Jim Mora must prepare his team for an angry Stanford and Arizona State’s Todd Graham looks for some answers — any answers — against resurgent Oregon.


Jeff Brohm, by contrast, is a coach on the rise with a Purdue team that is showing life on offense.

The Boilermakers seem to be quick learners, embracing the high-scoring scheme that Brohm brought over from Western Kentucky and are 2-1 after a 35-3 victory over Missouri.

“I think they’re starting to believe,” Brohm said.

Now, they have an opportunity to show their new look in an unexpectedly interesting Big Ten matchup against No. 8 Michigan.

The Wolverines appear to have taken a step backward when it comes to moving the ball, as quarterback Wilton Speight continued to struggle in a 29-13 victory over Air Force on Saturday. Red-zone efficiency has been a particular concern.

Shrimp soup, shrimp stew …

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen sounded a little like that Bubba Blue character from “Forrest Gump” when he was describing his team’s ground game.

“We had tailback runs, quarterback runs, option runs, read-zone runs,” he said.


Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald leads an impressive team that is 3-0 and jumped into the Top 25 on Sunday, debuting at No. 17.

After trampling a ranked Louisiana State team last weekend, the Bulldogs now visit No. 11 Georgia looking to show they can — potentially — challenge Alabama in the SEC West.

It might seem like a stretch, but Mississippi State players seem ready for their turn in the spotlight.

Running back Aeris Williams said: “I promise you that we’re excited.”

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