LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska abruptly fired athletic director Shawn Eichorst on Thursday, citing a failure to improve the “on-field performance” by the Cornhuskers.
Chancellor Ronnie Green announced the move five days after the football team dropped to 1-2 for the second time in three years after an embarrassing 21-17 home loss to Northern Illinois.
Eichorst joined Nebraska in October 2012, and has about $1.7 million remaining on a contract that runs through June 2019.
“Shawn has led Nebraska athletics in many positive ways, but those efforts have not translated into on-field performance,” Green said. “Our fans and our student-athletes deserve leadership that drives the highest levels of competitiveness, as well as excellence across all facets of Husker athletics.”
Eichorst and football coach Mike Riley have been under increased scrutiny with the continued mediocrity of the program. Eichorst hired Riley away from Oregon State in 2014, replacing the successful but volatile Bo Pelini.
Riley is just 16-13 at Nebraska, a school that has won five national championships, went to bowl games every year from 1969-2003 but has not won a conference title since 1999. Since opening 2016 with seven straight wins, the Cornhuskers have lost six of nine, a stretch that included losses of 59 points to Ohio State and 30 points to Iowa.
Eichorst is a graduate and a former AD at Wisconsin-Whitewater.
NEW COACHES OFF TO GOOD START
Minnesota, Purdue and Indiana are off to good starts under their first-year coaches. P.J. Fleck has the Gophers 3-0, and the Hoosiers are 1-1 under Tom Allen. Purdue is 2-1.
Minnesota is off until its Big Ten opener at home against Maryland next week. The Gophers also were unbeaten through three games last season, but this year’s accomplishment seems greater. The Gophers’ starting quarterback, Conor Rhoda, is a fifth-year senior walk-on who was going to quit football and get a job before Fleck asked him to return. Five players were dismissed last winter following a sexual assault investigation. Nearly two dozen players had offseason surgeries. Running backs Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks have been banged up early in the season.
With Fleck in charge, positivity abounds. Everyone around the programs appears to have bought in to the “Row the Boat” mantra he brought with him from Western Michigan. Season-ticket and merchandise sales are up and the team’s all-gold uniforms and Goldy Gopher helmet were showcased on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” last week. Fleck’s news conference after a 48-14 win at Oregon State drew 52,000 views on the school’s athletic website, “and it was 1:30 a.m. in Minnesota when that was happening,” spokesman Paul Rovnak said.
Indiana plays its last nonconference game at home Saturday against Georgia Southern and opens Big Ten play next week at No. 4 Penn State. The Hoosiers gave Ohio State a tussle into the third quarter of a 49-21 loss in their opener, and they’ve built some momentum with a 34-17 win at Virginia.
Since Purdue coach Jeff Brohm has come along and led the Boilermakers to back-to-back wins for the first time in five years and the biggest margin of victory in a road game since 1999, fans are guardedly optimistic he might be the guy to revive the school’s football tradition.
GREEN BAY — The day after the Green Bay Packers’ season-opening victory over the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field, Mike McCarthy dared to use the “D” word.
“I thought Nick Perry and Mike Daniels had dominating performances,” the Green Bay Packers coach said.
And, he was right. In a game filled with some of the top players in the league, Daniels and Perry were the best two players on the field.
Against the Seahawks, while Daniels controlled the line of scrimmage, Perry set the edge. They had 1.5 sacks apiece, combined for 16 total tackles and six quarterback hits, Daniels forced a fumble that Kyler Fackrell recovered and Perry broke up a pass.
And now, less than two weeks later, neither of them will be on the field for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
McCarthy announced Thursday morning that Perry was set to undergo surgery on his hand, which he injured in last Sunday night’s loss at Atlanta. While McCarthy gave no details about the injury or a timeline for Perry’s return — including whether the injury is to the same hand he broke last season — surgery doesn’t necessarily mean Perry will miss extended time.
Last December, when he broke multiple fingers on his left hand and underwent surgery to insert screws to realign them, Perry missed two games, then played in the remaining games wearing a bulky club cast to protect his hand.
“Nick Perry, he’s a violent football player. He’s physical, he plays the game the right way. If you look at his play style, that’s really part of his game, the violence that he plays with, with his hands,” McCarthy said Thursday. “Until we get through the surgery, I don’t really have a timeline for you.”
Daniels, who went into the Atlanta game with a hip injury, aggravated it against the Falcons and didn’t practice for the second straight day Thursday. While McCarthy gave no timetable for his return, and Daniels has not yet officially been ruled out, the fact that the Packers’ re-signed veteran defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois on Thursday seems like an ominous sign that Daniels might be sidelined for awhile.
“You guys have heard me say (many times), ‘To be the kind of defense we want to be, we’ve got to have some difference-makers out there.’ Obviously in the first game, those two guys were difference-makers,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “(In) one week, Nick goes out in the first series (against Atlanta), breaks his hand. Mike goes out seven plays into the game. That’s the nature of the NFL. From one series to the next, you can look a lot different.
“That’s where you really have to be ready for guys to step up. You’ve got to have answers, whether it’s a different package that you play or a different guy that’s ready to go at that position. That’ll be the case this week. We’re going to have guys that have to step up and rise to the occasion. That’s the nature of our game. You move guys around and try to find your best 11 combination with the guys that are healthy and available.”
The Packers have a handful of options at outside linebacker while Perry is out, starting with veteran Ahmad Brooks, who was signed before the season opener after being cut by San Francisco. Brooks played just six snaps against the Seahawks before leaving with a concussion that kept him out against Atlanta.
“It’s just unfortunate,” Brooks said of missing time. “I really wanted to come here and show what I was all about from the jump and that’s the very first game of the season. I was upset that I couldn’t do that at that time.”
He’ll get that chance now, although Fackrell and Chris Odom, whom the Packers claimed on waivers at the Sept. 2 cutdown, is also an option.
“I think he’s a great fit for what we’re doing,” McCarthy said. “I really like the way (he plays). I got to see him in practice going into the opener in Seattle. His role will definitely be bigger this week. You’re talking about an excellent player in this league for a long time.”
For Perry, it’s a continuation of his rotten luck injury-wise. Despite a lengthy injury history, the Packers signed him to a five-year, $60 million deal this offseason that paid him $18 million in a guaranteed signing bonus after he recorded a career-high 11 sacks in 2016. Assuming Perry doesn’t play Sunday, it’ll mark the sixth straight year that the 2012 first-round draft pick has missed at least one game.
After playing in only 17 of a possible 32 games his first two seasons in the NFL, Perry had missed only five of a possible 50 games since.
“It’s sucks, for lack of a better term,” said Matthews, who has battled his own injuries in recent years. “But we always try to keep it in perspective — it’s a tough position to play. I mean, I think last year, Julius was the only guy to not miss a game at that outside linebacker position. But for Nick to, this early in the season, mess up his hand like that, we’re just hoping he can get back out there and play as he did with that cast (last year).
“But it’s tough. This position is all about playing with your hands, being explosive, getting off (blocks) and so forth. Hopefully he takes this time to get healthy, rest up. But in the mean time, we’ll expect big things from the guys filling in — like Ahmad, Kyler. We’ll weather the storm.”