Tim Miles didn’t see what he wanted.
His team had just been destroyed by Michigan. And when I say destroyed, I mean completely demolished. The Wolverine lead ballooned past 30 points in the first half. Then to more than 40 in the second.
It was a complete dismantling. But that wasn’t the thing Miles talked about in his post-game radio interview.
“I just don’t see the determination and fire when things go bad,” Miles said after the loss to the Wolverines on the road.
He wasn’t kidding. The Huskers looked beat from the midway point of the first half on. The only energy I saw came from the scrubs off the bench in the game’s final minutes.
Terran Petteway looked like a ghost compared with the way he normally plays. Shavon Shields started out strong but faltered with just 2 second-half points.
Michigan got to any spot on the floor it wanted without any hesitation.
It was probably the worst I’ve ever seen a Tim Miles-coached team play.
But then, somehow, something clicked the next game. The fire Miles said was missing was there.
Nebraska scored just 16 points in the first half at Northwestern but was able to gut out a win against the best defensive team in the Big Ten Conference in one of the ugliest basketball games I’ve witnessed this season.
The only reason I can come up with as to how that happened: Miles is a master motivator.
There were times this season when I thought Nebraska could have thrown in the towel.
After the Huskers lost to Purdue on the road was one. They had the Boilermakers on their heels throughout that game, and they couldn’t close the deal. The same goes for the Penn State loss, which might have been the low point of the season if not for the Michigan catastrophe.
Each time I thought Nebraska would never come back from a loss, it responded with a statement. Not just the team, but individual players, too.
Shields went from averaging 5 points a game in Nebraska’s first four conference games to 11 points in its past six. Walter Pitchford has scored at least 10 points in four straight games since a mediocre performance in the Penn State loss. And Petteway knocked down a clutch 3-point jumper and scored 17 points after being held to 5 against Michigan.
Miles has a way with words. If you’ve ever heard him talk, you know this. After talking to him for a few minutes, I want to throw a jersey on and dive after loose balls for him.
I admit, I didn’t think Nebraska was going to win at Northwestern on Saturday. And I really didn’t think they were going to win after scoring 16 points in the first half. I didn’t think even Miles could encourage a team to win after that kind of offense coming off a blowout loss.
But once again, Miles found a way to motivate his team. He found a way to ignite them to victory. The Huskers’ fourth in six games.
How far can this take them, though?
It’s been a signature season so far.
Nebraska got that win against a marquee opponent when it upset Ohio State. It won two games in a row in Big Ten play for the first time in school history. Now, it’s got that road win it so desperately needed.
How far can the Huskers ride this momentum?
I don’t know. It could easily end Wednesday night against Illinois.
But I do know this. Miles can motivate this team to do things I didn’t think it was capable of.
So let’s see where you can lead them, Miles.
Andrew Ward is a senior broadcasting major. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org