LINCOLN — Mike Riley watched his future team practice Tuesday, and the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27 will be the Huskers’ last game before the former Oregon State head coach takes over for good.
But NU sophomore quarterback Tommy Armstrong said returning Huskers aren’t worried about the Holiday Bowl being their first chance to make a good impression on the new staff.
“We’re going to play our game; we’re going to do what we always do,” Armstrong said. “We’re not trying to make a statement. We’re just trying to go out there and have fun, and we’re going to enjoy this last game with our coaching staff.”
Then the team can look ahead.
“We just got to make sure that we all stick together, and we welcome all the new coaches,” Armstrong said. “We just got to make sure we all have open arms and be respectful, and just be able to overcome everything that’s happened.”
Starting shots on line
Two Huskers staring at big opportunities in San Diego and during bowl practices will be offensive linemen Paul Thurston and Matt Finnin, who both could be in line for their first starts.
Injuries to Mark Pelini and Ryne Reeves have cleared the way for Thurston at center. The sophomore from Arvada, Colorado, finished the Iowa game after an early injury to Reeves.
“It’ll be a good challenge for Paul, and help Paul get ready for next year,” right guard Mike Moudy said.
Nebraska has Finnin and Givens Price at right tackle with Zach Sterup out. NU turned to Finnin, a junior from Crete, Illinois, after Price started at Iowa.
“Matt did a great job for us going in there, for a guy that’s had limited reps throughout the course of the year,” offensive coordinator Tim Beck said. “I think he’s real excited, kind of got a renewed spirit, with the opportunity to go out and start a game and play against an excellent football team.”
Offer pulled for Dillman
A former Nebraska recruit and his guardian weren’t pleased Tuesday that a long-standing scholarship offer had been pulled by the Huskers.
Kevin Dillman, a Swedish import and former five-star quarterback prospect who’d been downgraded to a three-star prospect, announced on Twitter Tuesday that Nebraska had rescinded the scholarship offer he accepted last spring. At the time, Dillman had committed to NU as a quarterback prospect, but he also could have played tight end.
Dillman’s guardian, Peter Dames, told The World-Herald via text that Dillman’s coach at Denton (Texas) Guyer High School informed the family that Nebraska was no longer willing to honor the scholarship. Dames thought NU would honor the scholarship offer based on a statement made by Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst at the press conference after he’d fired former coach Bo Pelini.
“Recruiting is important, and we will honor any commitments we have made, and we would hope those young people have looked at Nebraska as a place to get an education and play football at the highest level,” Eichorst said Nov. 30.
It is unclear whether Eichorst was referring to any verbal commitments already made — which would include Dillman — or financial commitments already extended to defensive backs Eric Lee, Avery Anderson and Aaron Williams, who each signed financial aid agreements binding Nebraska to offering scholarships. NU couldn’t have chosen not to honor those agreements.
“We are disappointed, especially after the A.D. stated that all scholarships would be honored,” Dames wrote. “But Kevin is a great kid with an incredible attitude and lots of athletic talent. So I guess he’s back on the market for now.”
Requests to Dillman for comment were not immediately answered. But Dillman told Husker Online he’d like to know why Nebraska rescinded the scholarship offer.
A request for comment from either Eichorst or Riley was not immediately answered.
Bits and pieces
» Interim head coach Barney Cotton and assistant John Garrison will join the UNLV staff after they finish their duties at the Holiday Bowl. The Rebels made the announcement official Tuesday afternoon.
Cotton, who’ll be UNLV’s offensive coordinator, declined to comment specifically on his new job.
» Cotton indicated Tuesday that he spoke with redshirt freshmen Courtney Love and Greg Hart before both decided to transfer, but the two Ohioans ultimately decided that Nebraska wasn’t where they wanted to continue their college careers.
Love and Hart both plan to join Kentucky’s program. Kentucky tight ends coach Vince Marrow, a former NU graduate assistant, originally helped recruit them.