Weekly Press Conference
Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Neb.)
Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010
On Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert's improvement from last year
"He is a good decision-maker who makes good throws and is a good quarterback. I think he is doing a really good job and playing really good football. Obviously, if you get more experience, you're going to get better."
On Pelini's general thoughts of Missouri
"Good football team. Well coached and execute well on both sides of the football and special teams. They bring a big challenge here. They're a good football team."
On if Missouri's offense is similar to Oklahoma State's
"There are some similarities and there are some differences."
On one or two things that concern Pelini the most about Missouri
"One or two things? We just need to execute. We need to take care of ourselves. I like our game plan and we just need to execute. It comes down to execution. It's not so much about Missouri, but about us. I think they would say the same thing."
On the game's impact on the Big 12 North Division
"It is the next game and it's a big football game. To me they are all big when you get to this point of the season. You've got to win, and they create a great challenge and obviously there are some things at stake. But you can pile all of those things up on top and it comes down to execution and playing football, and the team that makes the most plays is going to be winning that game. Or the team that executes the best."
On if anything needed to be tweaked in preparation for upcoming games
"We are going to do a couple things differently and see how it turns out. But I'm not going to talk about it."
If the recent play at home is a big deal that shouldn't really be a big deal
"It comes down to doing whatever you gotta do to make your kids have the best opportunity and focus necessary to execute the football. And that is always a key as a coach. It's not about us as coaches, it is about the kids. We limit as many distractions as we can and enable them to have the focus necessary to execute and play well."
On if defensive end Pierre Allen will be back sooner than later
"I think Pierre is going to be just fine."
On the progress of the defensive line
"I thought our front four played really well last week. I thought (Jared) Crick played really well. I mean obviously they weren't perfect. They made a few mistakes, but I saw some progress last week."
On how much burden the defensive line carries in stopping the run
"It is a team game, especially the way we play. Everybody has to fit their responsibilities. You have to look at every play differently. The thing that was most disappointing was that we had some layups. We had some bad fits. And obviously a few missed tackles. I think there are a number of reasons for why that happened. I think many of those things were well outside of the front four. Like I said a lot of it was, and I'm not looking to make excuses, but the tempo. I have played some teams that went fast, and they went really fast. It's just hard to simulate that in practice. I thought once our guys settled down, we played a lot better football. I thought we played pretty good in the second half. To be honest with you, we didn't do much different from the first half. We just executed better, and our guys were settled down and knew the situation and became more comfortable with the tempo and that style as the game went on, and it's all part of the process and learning experience, especially for a couple of guys who hadn't been in that situation before."
On if Missouri has that same type of fast tempo
"I mean there is a difference between speeding it up. I mean, those guys (Oklahoma State) went really fast. They were changing personnel fast. At times, I didn't handle it as well as I needed to. You couple that with them having a few underthrown balls where we could have made plays. We left some things out there and we just didn't make plays in a couple of instances. More power to them for making some plays."
On the officials giving the team enough time to make subs
"Yeah, and I think they meant to do that. But when you don't see them standing over the ball, you don't know if they are going to snap the ball, so they let the play go. It sure helps everybody involved if you see the guy standing over the ball and you know you're all on the same page. I thought that that got corrected. Obviously, it helped us settle down a little bit. Because from my standpoint of sending in a play call or changing personnel, I have a better understanding of how much time you've got because otherwise you are looking out there and don't see anyone over the football. You don't know if that ball is going to be snapped or not. You aren't sure that they're on the same page that you are and that you're going to get that time. Once again, I thought the communication was there and they handled it the way we expected them to."
On how much Nebraska can use Missouri's tape against Oklahoma
"We look at everything they've done. And we don't look at that game any different than we do all the rest of them. They played well last weekend. They're a good football team."
On what different element is added when playing an unbeaten team
"There's no different element. It doesn't matter what their record is or anything else. You have to execute and like I said, our philosophy is to take care of ourselves. We will execute the game plan we have set out and that is how we go about it."
If Oklahoma State's tempo is something Pelini wants to see out of Nebraska's offense
"I'm not getting into Oklahoma State's tempo anymore and how that relates to our football team anymore. It's irrelevant."
On if the defense is ready to turn the corner
"I think we are a work in progress around the board. You always are. I'm not going to act like this is something different. I'm seeing improvement in some areas. There are some areas we obviously need to clean up. I don't like comparing us to last year because we weren't perfect last year. We got better as the year went on, and I'm seeing us make some improvements in a number of areas. In some areas, I want to see more improvement. Get better a little bit quicker. I don't know where we are compared to last year, but I know we are going to have to play well Saturday and in all of our games. If we keep getting better then we can meet the challenges that lie ahead. If we don't, then it becomes tougher. You gotta look at the film everyday, practice-wise and game-wise, and look at it from a very black and white perspective. Be honest with yourselves as coaches and players and make adjustments and correct the things that need corrected. If you do that, you'll have a good opportunity to keep moving forward."
On if cornerback Prince Amukamara needed help to get his confidence up after Oklahoma State
"You know, Prince was supposed to have help on the flea-flicker. That really wasn't his play. He almost made a great play on it. The ball was underthrown and the guy kind of pushed him back and it was a good play by him. Prince was in good position, but a couple times, guys make good plays. When you play the way Prince does and you're aggressive and attack, there isn't a corner that has ever played, and I was around Deion (Sanders), and I was around some great corners in the NFL, but they all get beat. There is no one that is invincible. Prince is the same guy. He is a heck of a corner. I wouldn't trade our corners for anyone in the country. But he is going to get beat sometimes. He is going to give up some plays every now and then. It has been remarkable, the type of football he has played. And how few times he has given up plays, especially with all the times we put him in man-coverage situations. Guy is a heck of a football player."
On if Prince is set up to redeem himself this week against Missouri
"Oh yeah. I thought what really showed what Prince is all about was the second half. He played really well in the second half. To be honest with you, I didn't think he played bad in the first half. He had a couple bad things happen to him. That's sports. Believe me that is life out on the court. That's part of the learning experience. I think he will be better going forward because of it. Let's face it, he hasn't had to fight that type of adversity. I've coached secondary for a long time so I know you're going to get beat and its not a matter of when, but what you do after you get beat. If you can get back out there and not be gun-shy and he wasn't gun-shy at all. He was ready to go. If he hadn't been, we probably wouldn't have won that football game. He played really well in the second half."
On Alex Henery making his last 17 field-goal attempts
"I mean, what can you say? He is tremendous. He just keeps doing it. I don't know if this is wood, but I want to knock on it."
On if Pelini was hesitant when Henery fake punted and ran for a first down
"After the fact yeah. For a minute there, I thought he was going to score. But after the fact I thought about it and I told him yesterday that if that ever happens again, you get down. He said he thought about it as he was going over the middle. That's what he told me yesterday."
On how valuable Henery is to the team
"He's huge. He is a huge part of our football team, and he has been for the three years I've been here and I'm sure he was his first year, too. The guy is steady as can be."
On if Henery gives Pelini a different appreciation for kickers
"Well, I have never looked at kickers as an auxiliary part of the team. I've won and lost a lot of football games on the foot of a kicker, as a coach and a player. It's an important job, and believe me, we feel very fortunate to have a guy like him in that position."
On if Henery is self-coached
"I coach him. The only problem we have is that I'm a left-footed kicker. I've coached him. No, he has had help and things, but he is pretty much self-coached. I think he has a good understanding of what he is. I just tell him whether to hit a draw or a straight ball. I liken it to golf, so if he starts it a bit right and uses a draw, like a nine-iron, he's fine."
On if Pelini is surprised, based on how many games are won and lost on a kicker, that they're left on their own to coach themselves
"Coach John Papuchis - he has a good understanding of the kicking game. Our G.A. Curt Baldus, those guys have more expertise in that area than I do, and we have been fortunate around here that we have had kickers like the Brown's (Kris and Josh) and people around here that have kicked in the NFL and have been around here working out in the off-season. Sometimes they kick together, and it's one of those things that they'll help a guy. The more complete you get, the more knowledge you get, the better you get. I don't know how technical Alex is. He just goes out there and says he's going to make it. He is an unusual guy. Pretty special."
On learning about Henery's fortitude after his kick against Colorado in 2008
"I learned a lot about his fortitude after that. What I really learned about him was that in a situation like that, he has the same 'ho-hum' attitude that he always has. He is really calm. He has a really good knack for directing his focus and being calm and going out there and approaching every situation the same way, and there's really not a lot of people who can do that. He is just one of those guys."
On if Henery told Pelini he would make the kick
"At first he kind of questioned it. And then I asked myself, 'uh-oh, who is next?' Then he walked up to me and told me "I got it." And I said "OK, go."
On how big of a step Taylor Martinez took last week
"Well, I think every step he takes when you're only seven games in as a QB, every step you take is important. That was just the next one. He showed everybody else what he is capable of. We see it every day in practice. He is getting better and improving, but he needs to continue to do so. We keep stressing to him, Wats (Offensive Coordinator Shawn Watson) does, of getting into the details and staying in the details. Running the offense and letting the offense come to him. And he is slowly but surely getting better. I think it's a great thing because his potential, he isn't even close to what he is going to be in the future, which is pretty exciting to me."
On if Martinez got a confidence boost in the first half
"He hasn't had a lot of opportunities like that. I thought he executed well. Like I said, I think all those things play a part as you move forward. The more situations he is in, the more he has success in, absolutely some of the situations he fails in, all of those will play a part in his development. I just think that is one of them. I think what happened in the Texas game, you just look at all the situations he is in and the guy keeps a good perspective and is working hard. The more experience he gets, the better he will get."
On Martinez closing in on being the third NU freshman to rush and pass for 1,000 yards in a season after only seven games
"He has done some really good things and what statistics don't show are all the things he needs to keep working on to keep getting better. He needs to keep his progress going in the right direction, and I think that will happen. I know this - he is better at quarterback now than he was in week one. He keeps getting better, and I think that will keep happening. He is developing well and at a good pace."
On if Martinez makes Pelini nervous with last-second decision-making
"No. Sometimes. He has a little Favre in him. I've been around that before."
On how many times Pelini has asked Alex Henery if he could make a kick before he tried
"We have a pretty good idea what his range is. The only time we ask him is if wind is involved. He is a guy that is going to look you in the face and not tell you what you want to hear. He will tell you the truth and what he thinks. And I'm not going to put him in a situation where there is a big hard wind for a 55-yarder and set him up for failure. That doesn't make any sense. We have great communication as far as that is concerned.