Positively Promoting the Student Athlete Since 1992

Nebraska Football
Weekly Press Conference
Monday, Sept. 18, 2017
Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Neb.)
Pre-Rutgers

Head Coach Mike Riley
Opening Statement
“Okay, let’s get started. I appreciate you all being here. We obviously had all the ingredients of a loss, they’re all bad losses. But you know, you look at the scoreboard, or when you look at the video, or when you look at the statistics, there is nothing good about it. I guess the recipe and the ingredients for losing were all over the place. We talked about turnovers, rushing totals, penalties, a big concern is sacks and hits on the quarterback. There was actually individual and group improvement in a lot of areas. Defensively, the disappointing part for us was finally taking the lead and then giving up a big play, a missed tackle, and then an opportunity for them to score what was the winning touchdown. And then we had another major lost opportunity with the ball and the chance to win on the last drive and didn’t perform. All rough, hard stuff that we’ve got to fix.

Injuries, Marcus Newby has a new injury, hamstring, will be out for a while. I don’t know what that means exactly yet, but won’t play this week. Matt Farniok, broke a bone in his wrist, is getting a pin in it, and may be available for some duty this weekend but not full time. You know he won’t practice this week. Matt has been on the punt team as a shield guy. I don’t know what he’s going to be available for at this time, he’s certainly doing everything he can. He wants to get it casted up and play so we will see where he is. Tre Bryant is still questionable at this time. Josh Kalu still questionable at this time, David Knevel is a little less questionable, we’ll see what he can do and how he is today. The tackles that would be available if David is not ready, would be Brenden Jaimes and Christian Gaylord, and we will know more about that in the next couple days, about how that would work. Antonio Reed made it through and played with his cast and my hope is there that he will just get more and more comfortable, because it will be awhile before he gets that cast off. The bottom line and summary is everybody has to be really, really tough, mentally tough, physically tough. Our adults have to be the teachers and they have to be at their best right now and arming our players with a way to get better. The big battle, as everybody knows is getting the mind in the right place. We’ve got a great group of kids. They have the best of intentions and we just have to help them in how they are doing and give them concrete stuff to get better. I think the most important part in coaching right now will be really, really good teaching on ‘this is how we can get better.’ Our problems were evident, right, I mean we didn’t block for the quarterback, we were inconsistent in the run and so we’ve got to do a better job in all those areas and we’ve got to help them. We have all we need here to win. The resources and help provided by Shawn (Eichorst) and the administration here are awesome. And we understand the expectations, and we embrace that. We are here to perform, compete and recruit at the highest level. And we did not perform like that on Saturday so we’ve got to get back to playing solid football. We’re playing a Rutgers team that as you look at their first game in particular, they gave Washington fits. It was hard for Washington, Rutgers jumped out in the lead and then Washington kind of had to scratch and claw, and they made some big ad-lib type plays to take the lead and then hold on to win it. But it was hard. This defense has played well, and offensively, they’re efficient. It’s just going to be a Big Ten game and we just got to play a lot better than we did last weekend.”

On whether or not he is concerned about confidence in players
“Oh for sure. I think that you wouldn’t be human if doubt didn’t creep in after something like that, Steve. That’s where the adults, the coaches in the room, have to help these guys. One of the big, big things even without a game like that, is always, through the course of the week, building confidence on how it’s going to look on game day. I’m thinking that it’s a process that will start today with practice that will continue to rise as we go to practice throughout the week.”

On lineup and whether younger players might move up
“You know, the lineup as we look at it right now, will be shaken up, and probably loss by injury right now. Brenden Jaimes is a true freshman, and I just talked about him maybe starting in a game. We’re certainly looking at anybody that is competing to get in and play. That is always the case. We are looking at a couple of more guys, like an Andrew Ward, do we need to activate him? We’re getting pretty thin at the linebacker position. He plays inside and we need some help outside. We’re thin at some places, and we are always open to competition and we are looking at younger guys playing as we go, or other guys playing, yeah.”

On whether or not he will move Cole Conrad and Michael Decker in the lineup
“We talked about all of that, and one thing you have to be careful of is guys are placed as starters for a reason. And if we do that, are you weakening yourself at two spots too much? But those are all good questions and things that are being examined.”

On diagnosing offensive issues
“This will oversimplify it, but it’s probably a combination of technique of play or assignment. Being sharp on assignments, a combination of the two.”

On accounting for slow starts and coming back from being down at halftime
“We certainly want to be a fast starting team and one of our goals that we have weekly is that we want to score on the first drive of both halves. At this point with what just happened, this all just comes to the front. We have to get a real solid game plan together, and build up the confidence of our players. If you’re talking about initial starts of the game, we had a great drive going and of course the interception touchdown on the bubble screen. We had run the ball pretty well, we had a couple passes, and it looked like we could have had a good start. I’m not as much as concern with that as I am with the overall concern of the play of the game.”

On the first interception
“That is actually a run/pass option, has normally been, maybe with a different receiver configuration, has been a pretty safe bubble screen throw. It was easy a wide field corner blitz or a hard play cover 2, that came off of it and our receiver didn’t have time to block it obviously, and De’Mornay (Pierson-El) didn’t even know it was coming. When that configuration looks like that, it might be best to use the run part of the run/pass option.”

On whether or not he would feel comfortable taking over play calling
“I’ve thought about stuff like that, and really outside of the last game Sam (McKewon from the Omaha World-Herald), I’ve always thought about that part of it. I have to balance all those kind of thoughts with what I need to do, parts of the program, and I will end up doing what is best in those regards but at this time no.”

On how his offense during the 2012-13 season got better after he took over play calling
“Well I don’t know if it was me or if it was Sean Mannion that got better.”

On being a hands on coach
“When things aren’t looking good, it is my responsibility to help in whatever way, step in whatever way that I think it necessary. We have examined as of yesterday and as late as this morning our process for getting ready. Whatever happens I’m responsible for that way. We have looked at that, examined it with individuals, and with the staff trying to find a better way. I see it as teamwork, it has to be, and everybody has to play their part. This group has been successful and I have all the confidence that they need to be, but we do need to re-examine exactly what we are doing in the process of getting our team ready, so we made some moves to start to do that as of today.”

On the offensive line
“When you look at the picture of what happened the other day I think that there’s problem involved… the best way to say it is in the way that you can help your quarterback, whether it’s quick passes or draws or doing a better job in the screen game. You can help your offensive line a little bit by settling down if you can establish and really have some, few, identity runs in the game. When I mentioned the statistics and the recipe for losing here as far as if you look at our team, we have to run the ball better. So a real concise run plan, and a really good preparation for that group. We will have then a chance to protect better, and block better if we do all that, but it has to be down in all culmination of the two. We ran a beautiful play-action pass early in the game, and we hit De’Mornay and so the combination of that run and that pass in continuing as we go is just a brief glimpse of what it can look like. We obviously are too inconsistent, way too many three and outs.  The combination of getting some running plays that we are good at and doing a good job at, and then mixing in passes so that we know our recipe has been if we can run the ball effectively in games and not turn the ball over, we have a great chance to win. All that fell apart in the game and that is why we lost.”

On meaning of examining how to get the team ready
“Those are the kind of the inside workings of the preparation of getting ready for an opponent. Some real concise, re-examining. When you have a game like that that falls apart with what you are trying to do. You go back and examine what can we a little differently day to day, in the morning, in the night, getting ready for the next practice. Our day is a cycle of 24 hours that gets ready to give our kids’ stuff for practice. How we do that, how we best prepare, and what we look at. I brought up some thoughts about convincing and doing well. Not too broad of a picture. Whatever we do we need to do well. It’s a process of looking at the plays we want to run, putting them together, finding the best way to prepare our team for practice. We always think we’d that Eric, but when something doesn’t work and it is something as bad as it was the other day, it is worth re-examining how you’re doing it. We have so many hours to prepare before they (the players) come in for their 2 o clock meeting. What goes on at night and in the morning before they get there is really important. It’s like putting the lesson plan together for them, and how we do that, how we present it and prepare them so that they get all the looks, and all the stuff they’re going to get in the games. It sounds so bad because that is what you should do. It’s not that we haven’t done it, is there a better way to do it. On the inside of it, we just examine that.”

On his support after a loss
“I’ve got such great support people here there’s all of that, and I guess one of the things that I guess is a good thing is that I have been around a while. I’ve seen good times and I’ve seen hard times, and I’ve felt good about that. That we can do better, we can help these kids, we can play better than that, and that can result in winning. I’ve got a great support system, I’ve got a tremendous home. I think she still likes me. I used to rely on my dog Rudy when I got home. I knew Rudy just wanted to go for a walk, and he was glad to see me. Rudy’s not around anymore, but Dee’s pretty consistent.”

On if issues are easy fixes or long time ones
“I won’t say anything is easy when it looked like that. It will take work and it is a process and part of that is going to be mental, building the kids’ confidence back up. We’ve got help obviously, the people that are blocking. I actually think Mikale Wilbon ran hard and made some good runs and at many times was his own blocker, and made some good yards. Devine (Ozigbo) went in there and went hard, and so I think we’ve got some of those parts. We’ve got to help our line and our quarterback.”

On Eichorst’s comments
“He told me a little bit bluntly of how he felt about the game. I kinda feel the same, none of us like this. I certainly think that whatever was said was an honest reaction to what he saw, and none of us liked it. There’s no sugar coating it or anything. But, as I mentioned, we get all the support. I don’t feel any of that, and I don’t worry about any of the other parts at this time. I just really know we can play better than that and do better than that as coaches. Whatever is said we probably earned, by anybody. So, you just wear it and know that’s the case and do better.”

On the fan’s uproar
“I think that frankly, that’s why we came. It’s a great, great place with the most unbelievable fan base and people that care. You wear that and the good, and you know what will happen if it’s not good. What we’re going to do is stay the course to bring it back. We have to do that on the football end of it, the recruiting end of it, we really have to remain consistent in that way. I guess I would respond by saying I understand all of that. These folks, everybody’s hungry to get back and that’s why we came. Talking to recruits yesterday, we have that vision and we’re going to keep fighting for it. We’re going to do that through the football part of it and we have to do that through the recruiting part of it. We took a step back for sure Saturday, so we’ve got to fight to get that back and more as we go, and we will. These things, if handled correctly, can be cyclical. We can do better, we’re going to fight for that. I don’t think you can coach anywhere, especially here without those kinds of aspirations. That’s exciting to us and we want to continue to plug towards that.”

On the message to recruits
“Our vision, and frankly ones that are committed understand our vision to where we are and where we want to go and do they want to be part of this as it comes back. So, we kind of stay the course with that thought with those guys. The other recruits, if the relationship is strong, if you stay with these guys, and recruiting anymore, we’ve got the beautiful stuff, maybe the best. But, everybody’s got nice stuff, nice facilities and all that. But, the relationship that’s built and the vision of their life at the place is the key. So, when those relationships are strong and you have a bump you can get through it. You just keep building that and keep recruiting and you have to better than that.”

On the offensive line
“Disappointed for sure. Surprised? Probably. We certainly can do better than that. That’s re-examining our overall process of getting ready, that needed to be done.”

On player leaders
“Now we’re just getting started in the week and the way we do it, I saw a lot of guys yesterday as they came through the building and they were in the training room. I haven’t seen them as a group, haven’t seen that response of what it’ll look like at practice today but I really have no doubt about how Chris Weber is going to be today. What you need from your leaders at this time is a real consistency of going back to work and leading in that way. I’m sure a few words here and there of every guy that is like Chris, or is like Jerald Foster or even Stanley Morgan (Jr.). I think as people see them go back to work and do what they’re supposed to do. Tanner Lee is obviously really well respected guy and will come back to work today. I think as they see that, people will fall back in place and do what they’re supposed to do. I don’t have any doubt about how these guys are going to approach it today.”

On the conference schedule
“I’m going to treat this new week like a new season. Whatever happens in the last game, what you have to do during the season, we could’ve pulled out a win but we can’t hide from what went wrong anyways. I don’t think we’ve played consistent offense all year. We have work to do, and it came to a crescendo the other day. We’ve really got to go back to work, be solid and give these guys some real concrete stuff about how to get better. The biggest motivator for these guys right now will be information on how this is going to work.”

On overconfidence
“Like I told you last week, we should just be hungry to play again and to do better. It sounds so cheap to look back on that comment by me. I did not sense that. I actually sensed after that interception, especially after the second one, being tight. These kids care a lot, I don’t think that they’re big headed, I don’t think that they disrespected the opponent by not being ready or not playing hard. I don’t think that. We actually had a lot of improved play defensively by group and individuals. It’s really also hard to talk globally. We all know what the result of the game was and the score, but there are parts of this thing that did get better. Our punter had one bad punt, but he had a 45-yard net, so his improvement from a year ago has been great and has continued work. Defensively, I already mentioned that. I think a lot of guys are playing better, had a whole list of guys that I didn’t bring with me that actually played better this week. There’s a growth going on there.”

On the punt return
“I think we have to get back to decision making in that area. It’s a big, big factor, a lot of field position. I think that De’Mornay is a dynamic returner and there were glimpses of us getting out of the box with a good one, but those other parts especially in that area down there, the 10-yard-line, those things. I think we have to help him by creating more and more situations where he is more prepared. I think we need to do that, because the other side of De’Mornay is he can break a game open for you.”

On potential changes
“We can’t throw stuff at the wall. The changes are more internal than they’re going to be of what goes out there. You can take a play, a pretty common football play, a zone play and it’s not necessarily the play or a different play, it’s how you execute within that play and how you are assignment perfect no matter what they do, if that is a play that stays on. We’re not going to reinvent the wheel, you’re not going to see a different style of offense. The thing that we really lack is execution.”

On practicing 1s vs. 1s
“We have probably practice more 1-on-1 in game week than ever. Not today, the first day, because this is like an extra day. But Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Tuesday and Wednesday we do three extensive periods of 1s against 1s and then we have our three periods of scout team type stuff. We understand that and try to balance that stuff out, there has to be a part of it that’s game speed and we understand that and see that.”

On simulating game situations
“There is no doubt that #15 (Sutton Smith) was a handful for us on the edge. Do we have people that are just like that guy? We do, and we try to match that up so we get that kind of work. Schematically, how can you help on a guy like that. We always have to look at that, too. We at one time didn’t help, another time should’ve helped and weren’t quite there, so that goes back to execution and coaching. They all go together, and a player has to look at it like ‘I can do that better’ and the coach has to look at it like ‘how can I help that player do that better?’ When you’ve got that, we’ve got a chance. If either one of those blame the other, then you’re losing it. We’ve got good people here so we won’t do that. We’ll see why that happened and try to help.”

On the quarterbacks
“That is always change of pace stuff, if you happen to get a beat on what is going on with one and then we ran into that last year with Indiana a little bit. I think that you’ve got to have different parts, different calls, different things that might help in that approach. You’ve just got to be ready for it and get burned by it. We had a hard time last year all of the sudden when that other guy came in and started pulling the ball and running on us.”

On Rutgers
“I think that they’ve been efficient offensively, just their first drive of the season on Washington scored and looked good. Defensively, they’re pretty physical up front, they create with that beating blocks. They create disruption. Washington is a good football team, a good running team, good passing team, good quarterbacking and they were disrupted in the game by not blocking guys. Like I said, they made a couple of bad plays, quarterback getting out, guy taking off, breaking the pattern and going off and hitting him. It was hard for them a lot, as the game went on. I expect a good, tough defense. They haven’t given up that many yards per game and not that many points.”