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Nebraska fires defensive coordinator Mark Banker

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Nebraska coach Mike Riley fired defensive coordinator Mark Banker on Wednesday after the unit underperformed in some of the Cornhuskers' most important games.

Banker coached with Riley for 20 years, including 14 years at Oregon State and the last two at Nebraska.

"I want to thank Mark for his hard work and contributions to our football program the past two years and for all of his service and dedication as a member of my other coaching staffs," Riley said. "We will conduct a national search to find a great coach, teacher and recruiter as we continue our pursuit of championships."

Banker is the second assistant from the 2016 staff who was fired. Riley dismissed special teams coordinator Bruce Read on Nov. 27, two days after the Huskers' 40-10 loss at Iowa.

Though the Cornhuskers rose from 64th to 30th nationally in total defense, they struggled on the big stage. Nebraska started 7-0 but lost four of its last six games. The Huskers allowed an average of 42 points and 445 yards in their three games against ranked opponents. Though they were second in the Big Ten with 16 interceptions, they finished 10th in the conference in pass defense.

Nebraska tackled poorly while giving up 521 yards to Tennessee in a 38-24 Music City Bowl loss on Dec. 30.

Riley also announced that defensive backs coach Brian Stewart and director of player personnel Ryan Gunderson are leaving to pursue other opportunities.

In a move first reported by ESPN, Stewart will become defensive coordinator at Rice.

Gunderson announced on Twitter that he would become quarterbacks coach at San Jose State. At Nebraska, Gunderson oversaw roster management and the recruiting and evaluation process.

Updated January 12, 2017

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