Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini

By NU Athletic Communications

Nebraska Football
Weekly Press Conference
Monday, Nov. 4, 2013 (Memorial Stadium)

Head Coach Bo Pelini

Opening Statement
“Obviously I looked at the film and saw some good things. I saw some things obviously that need to get corrected. I thought there were some positives. I thought there were some things that we obviously need to get fixed. We need to play better and continue to work to get better. I said it after the game. Whether we end up catching that last ball or don’t catch the last ball, our approach isn’t going to change at all in terms of what we need to do to improve as a football team. I thought we made some big jumps obviously in the last three quarters defensively. We played well. We played with some good energy and really executed a lot better obviously as the game went on. Offensively, I think penalties hurt us there in that second half on a couple of those drives that put us in those long-yardage situations. We had some missed opportunities. We left some yards out there. More importantly, we left some points out there during the game. We just have to keep working to clean some of those things up and become more efficient. We've got some guys that are nicked up. I think everybody does at this time of the year. I think that will play itself out as the week goes on. It’s hard for me to give you a really good sense of who’s going to make it this weekend and who’s not going to make it. We’ll see how the week goes on and how they respond to treatment. I’ll have a lot better idea of where we stand. Some of the guys will probably be a game-time decision. For other guys, I’ll be able to give you a better sense of where we are by the end of the week.”

On Ron Kellogg III
“Ron has been the ultimate team guy since he’s been here. A walk-on. A young man who has done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s really worked hard as a leader. He brings great energy to the team every single day. He’s the ultimate team guy in that he’s not so worried about how much playing time he gets or anything else. He’s about winning and doing whatever he can in whatever role we ask him to be in to help our football team win. And that’s not easy to do. Especially in this society today, which is kind of an ‘I’ society, what can you do for me? He’s what you look for in a teammate. I’m happy for him. That was a great moment for Ron. I don’t know where he went. I didn’t see it until I watched the film that he just ran off the film. I don’t know where he was going. Maybe he had a dinner to get to or something, but he was pretty excited.”

On the conversation with Kellogg before the final drive
“For me it was pretty quick. Let’s go do this thing. Let’s go. I thought we had some time to maybe at least get into field goal position. He’s a senior. He’s a guy who has been through two-minute drills that we do every single week. We work those situations. He has a lot of poise about himself and a lot of confidence. I just felt he was the guy to put in that situation. He’s a senior. He’s been there and done that. He hasn’t done a lot of those situations in game mode, obviously, but week after week he’s been doing it for five years as far as working two-minute situations. I’ve seen him do it before.”

On a walk-on making the play
“I get surprised almost every year as far as different guys that step up. Especially as many walk-ons as we take, who would’ve thought? I thought Spencer Long was going to be a good player, but did I ever think he was going to become an All-American? There are a lot of different examples of that. That’s a beautiful thing. That’s the great thing about the walk-on program and what makes us a little bit different here. That really gives guys opportunities. It’s really what you make and what you do with that opportunity. There are some walk-ons that pass up scholarship guys. There are scholarship guys that come in and aren’t what you thought they were going to be or maybe don’t have as much success as you thought they would coming in. Walk-ons work just the opposite. Fortunately for these kids I like to think that here in this program we kind of treat everybody the same. We give everybody an opportunity. It’s what you do with that opportunity. You play the guys that earn it.”

On walk-on quarterbacks
“Like a guy like Ron wanted to play here and had confidence in himself. They know going in what the deal is. They have to be at peace with their decision knowing there’s a chance that they might not get to play a lot of football. I even look at a guy like Ryker Fyfe, who is a young quarterback that I think is really good. And he’s going to compete for playing time. He has a lot of potential. He’s not there yet, but this is a young man who could’ve gone a lot of places. I don’t know how it’s going to play out for Ryker down the line, but I know one thing, he has the potential to compete for playing time. At the end of the day, you have to have some self-confidence. You also have to be able to live with your decision no matter what happens. Do I want to go and be the biggest fish in a small pond or do I want to give myself the opportunity to compete at the highest level of college sports and find out where I fit in? I think some of these kids figure they only have one shot at it. It’s a once in a lifetime deal. You don’t want to spend the rest of your life thinking you wish you would’ve or ‘I wonder.’ It takes that out of it. It either happens or it doesn’t.”

On game-time decisions on injuries this week
“It’s hard to say. Right now it’s really no different than how I talked to you after the game. Jake Cotton’s is a sprain, which was really good. His MRI confirmed that. Wil Richards obviously is out. His ankle is broken. You feel for that man who came in here and busted his butt and has fought his way onto the field. You hate to see it end that way for him. Kenny Bell and Jamal Turner are more soft tissue things. They are pulls. Who knows? We’ll see as the week goes on. Jake Long – he’ll probably give it a go in practice either tomorrow or Wednesday and we’ll see how it goes. He’s getting a lot better. He’s to the point right now where straight ahead he is good. The last time I saw him work was last Thursday. It’s in and out of cuts where he doesn’t feel quick like he could burst out of his cuts. That was four or five days ago. I’ll give you an update as the week goes on.”

On quarterback Taylor Martinez
“Taylor is getting better. I think I talked about it a little last week. With the hip pointer, he has an abdominal strain that’s been bothering him. His shoulder is still coming. His foot is not 100 percent yet.”

On a potential quarterback rotation when Martinez returns
“There’s a lot of maybes and ifs in there. It depends on his degree of health and where he is. There’s a lot of speculation there. I’ll deal with that down the road when we come to that crossroads. The first thing we want to do is make sure Taylor gets healthy.”

On what’s holding Martinez back
“He’s beat up a little bit. I feel so bad for the young man. He wants to be out there worse than anything. It’s a number of different things bothering him right now.”

On why Martinez was in the press box on Saturday
“He was up there and was able to hear what was being said. I know Jamal (Turner) was up there for a little bit. Home games especially can get pretty crowded down there. We dress a lot of guys and obviously we want those guys out there to experience the game day atmosphere. It’s a little easier for them to be on the sidelines for away games than it is when we are at home.”

On Michigan’s defense
“I don’t think it changes where we are right now. I still like the things that Tommy (Armstrong) brings to the table. I think that he’s a young quarterback. He’s going to make some mistakes. I don’t see Tommy any differently today than I did before Saturday. I really have a lot of confidence in him. I believe in him. Ron (Kellogg) will have his role in the game. Trust me.”

Reporter: “Basically right now Tommy is the starter?”
Pelini: “Yes. We wouldn’t change anything right now.”

On Martinez’ abdominal strain
“It was kind of the day after the hip pointer. Usually when you have one area that is affected, the muscles in corresponding areas get affected, too. You don’t always feel that right at the time.”

On the offensive line
“You’ll see a little bit of how we finished the game. We’re going to explore a couple of different combinations this week. We might use some of our tackles at the guard position. You will probably see Ryne Reeves a little bit more. He’s been practicing well, and I think he’s coming. It’s going to be a little combination with the two.”

On if Brent Qvale or Andrew Rodriguez will move back to guard
“Possibly. We have some versatility there that I think will help us. We’re going to work some different combinations this week and see how it goes.”

On Saturday’s defensive scheme
“Actually we started the game (with three linemen and Randy Gregory in a linebacker position). It just didn’t work very well. We didn’t execute very well early on. We had a number of busts and missed gaps. That type of thing. We went into the game wanting to play both fronts. We started the game that way and really we finished the game that way. I think it’s different when people see Randy Gregory standing up, they think we did that the whole second half. We actually played a majority of four-man front in the second half. We wanted to mix a three-man front. We thought it would help us and it did.”

On Michigan’s record at home as opposed to on the road
“I don’t know. I guess I can’t really explain it. I know I feel a lot more comfortable here playing at home because of our crowd and because of the energy they bring. I thought our crowd the other day was phenomenal. I thought they did a great job. They always do. I thought that really helped energize us, especially on the defensive side of the ball. I thought they played off the success we were having on defense. I’m sure Michigan shares the same thing. I’ve played in Ann Arbor before and they’ve got a good fan base. The place will be loud. It’s 110,000 people so obviously that gives them an advantage at home. We have to understand that going in. We have to play that much better to come out of there with a win.”

On offensive injuries
“It is what it is. At the end of the day, it gives guys an opportunity to step up. We’re not looking to make excuses around here. We’re going to win a football game regardless of who comes off that bus healthy enough to play. Those are the guys we are going to go with. We’re going to do everything we possibly can to win a football game. We’ve dealt with some major injuries here for the last couple of years. Maybe not the amount we are dealing with right now but we dealt with some injuries and we have taken the approach of next guy in. It gives guys an opportunity to step up and you have to embrace that opportunity.”

On the upcoming schedule
“That’s what life is about. It’s about dealing with adversity and trying to overcome adversity. I know one thing. We have a bunch of guys in there that are going to do whatever they possibly can to go and if they can go, they’ll go and if they can’t, then other guys will be asked to step up.”

On the offensive line’s performance
“They did a pretty good job. Other than obviously what hurt us. When I was watching the film, we had one drive where we had driven about 75 yards and we were still at the 45-yard line because of penalties. Obviously some penalties creeping up at the wrong time really hurt us and took us out of some scoring opportunities. That’s difficult when that happens. It’s a pretty veteran defense over there. It’s difficult when you take yourself out of scoring opportunities. You have to take advantage. One time we would’ve been at the 22-yard line with first and 10, and I want to say first and 25 at about the 45-, 46-yard line. We still had an opportunity, but we dropped a ball that would’ve put us in field goal range. You have to take advantage of opportunities, and you can’t put yourself behind the sticks like that. Going into the fourth quarter, we had zero penalties. They all creeped up at the wrong time obviously.”

On Michigan’s offense
“Obviously it starts with their quarterback. He’s a playmaker. He’s a guy who is very athletic and can kind of do a lot of things to put him in position to make some plays. I think they have good, skilled people. I like their running back. He’s from just outside of Youngstown, so you know he’s a really good football player. They’ve got some wideouts that can make some plays down the field. They’ve got some good skill. They use a number of different combinations up front on their offensive line. They’ve had a couple injuries. They have a really good tackle, an All-American tackle. He’s going to be as good as we’ve played against. We’ll have our work cut out for us.”

On Michigan’s current offense compared to when Denard Robinson played quarterback
“It’s similar. They might have featured a couple different plays and packages when they had Denard. It was more of a wildcat-type. Now they are more traditional with what they are doing with (Devin) Gardner at quarterback. You still see some of that quarterback run aspect mixed in there at times. But it’s probably not as much of it.”

On middle linebacker
“I think we’ll go with the way we’ve been going. You’ll see (Michael) Rose and (Josh Banderas). I don’t think either of them played as good as you think they can play or as bad as they could play. I thought they both did some good things. I thought we kind of went with the hot hand when we started playing well. We didn’t want to mess with the combination we had going there. I thought Michael Rose last week in practice made a big jump. He’s coming along. We changed his position last week. He has some things that he needs to get cleaned up, as does David Santos playing out at the WILL. I thought Santos did some good things during the game. He went back over to the WILL spot. We weren’t perfect by any means, but I thought we made a jump and were more efficient.”

On Jared Afalava
“Would Jared Afalava play this week? He’s not into playing right now.”

Reporter: “Is that an injury issue?’
Pelini: “No.”
Reporter: “Is it something he’s not figuring out in practice?”
Pelini: “Yes.”

On Ameer Abdullah
“Ameer is always going to be productive. Let me tell you, I know it’s going to get lost in the long run. That play Ameer made on fourth down was special. That’s just a guy willing it to get to that first down marker. That shows the type of competitor he is and that’s the type of football player he is. I want to make sure that doesn’t get lost because that throw doesn’t ever happen without that. It was a phenomenal effort. That was a great effort by Ron too because he had to buy some time to get the ball into his hands and give him a chance.”

On if he’s the best running back in the Big Ten
“I know one thing. I wouldn’t trade him for anybody. I know there are other good backs out there. Obviously I believe so much in Ameer that, like I said, I wouldn’t trade him for anyone in the country. Not only as a player but as a person, as a leader and what he brings. To me, he embodies what this program and this culture is all about here.”

On Abdullah’s key factors
“He steps up. He wants to do everything he can to win a football game. He’s a warrior. I’ll tell you he really is. I just love the kid.”

On Carl Pelini
“I have not talked to him. Honestly I don’t know much about the situation right now. I’ve communicated through some other means with him.”

On players’ career highs giving the team confidence heading into Michigan
“I have confidence that (Jordan Westerkamp and Alonzo Moore) can make plays. Whether we have Jamal (Turner) and Kenny (Bell) or we don’t have them, I have a lot of confidence in those guys. I think (Sam) Burtch is getting better. I really think Sam Burtch is a good football player. Like I said, it’s hard to say right now who’s going to make it on Saturday. I promise you we aren’t going to put anyone out there who we don’t have confidence can get the job done.”

On Ciante Evans
“Ciante (Evans) prepared his butt off last week. He didn’t like the way he played against Minnesota and he responded. Like I told our guys on defense, so much of it is that mojo and that confidence you bring to the table and the attitude you bring to the table. For whatever reason, when we started the game we were on our heels. I think they wanted it so bad that for some reason we didn’t have it to start the game. We didn’t make a lot of changes. We just executed better as the game went on. We made the plays and the tackles that were there. We made the plays that were available to us. And obviously success breeds confidence. We got more and more confident as the game went on. We weren’t perfect. But we got better as the game went on and that’s kind of how it works. We have to make sure we eliminate the early part of it where we hurt ourselves early on. Some things were just ridiculous. We had some bad errors early on.”

On Jake Cotton’s status
“I wouldn’t say he’s out. I would say he’s doubtful but there’s a chance. Especially with a guy like him.”

On not seeing Michigan again until 2018 after this season
“I didn’t know that until you just said it. I guess it’s a really interesting schedule when you look at it. I haven’t really had the time to look at that. I have a ton of respect for that program, its tradition and going there. Having played at Michigan when I was at Ohio State growing up, from my standpoint you like to play in those venues and play against those football teams. I think it’s a shame if the schedule says we aren’t going to see them until 2018.”

On the Blackshirts
“That hasn’t come up. I’ve got bigger fish to fry than that one right there. That’s something I let (Coach John Papuchis) handle. He’ll probably run it by me. I thought we had a number of guys who responded and earned those things back the other day. That was pretty good football we played defensively the last three quarters. We’ve played that type of football at times as the season has gone on. Now we have to keep working on the consistency that’s necessary to do that all the time. I see our young guys growing up. I’ve said that. I see it in practice. Obviously the game is like the test every week, but I’m seeing growth in practice. I’m seeing us get better as the weeks go on but even in that second half we weren’t at the level I want to see us at yet. I see a lot of positives and I see this group heading in the right direction.”

On what Ciante Evans brings to the table
“I talked about it earlier. I think Ciante took that (Minnesota) game hard and didn’t feel he was playing the way he was capable of playing. He said that to me. He responded. You can sit there and point the finger. Ciante is the type of guy and type of leader who points the thumb. He felt, ‘I’m a leader and I need to step up. If I’m going to ask this of the guys around me, I better hold myself even more accountable.’ I saw it in his approach. I saw it in his look in meetings. I saw it in his detail and his questions and his approach. When you have that level of detail and focus and when your preparation is great, it pays off for you on Saturday. If you cut corners or for some reason don’t find it in you at this time of year to prepare the way you need to, it’s going to show on Saturday. It’s not magic. You have to earn the right to play well during the week. He did and it paid off for him. We talked about it. I talked with him about it in the tunnel after the game.”

On if he was able to enjoy the game’s outcome on Saturday
“For me, I’m on to the next thing pretty quick. I always look at it from the standpoint of our kids. Like I said after the game, those things don’t happen every day. That’s something that the kids who played in that game will remember for the rest of their life. Me, I’ve been around it long enough to know that I’ve got to go to the next thing. I spent most of Saturday night thinking about what the next step is for this football team to keep doing to finish out this season the way we want to finish it out. Believe me, I know we are going to have some serious challenges over the next four weeks. I have time to look back on things when the season is over and your life isn’t going 100 miles per hour. Believe me, it made my Saturday night a lot more pleasant than it would’ve been.”

On if he cracked a beer
“I haven’t drank a beer in months. I crack a Coke.”

On what he saw the first time he watched the film
“When I did my TV show, I walked over and said, ‘let me see that play’ and that was it. I didn’t watch it again until we watched the film. It was fun. The fun part for me was when I got to see the reaction of the kids. If you ever get a chance to watch that, watch Ameer Abdullah and his reaction. He dropped his helmet, was almost running in a circle. He didn’t know what to do. From my standpoint, that’s what it’s all about. That kid had given it up for his teammates. And he wasn’t alone. You just saw the way those kids reacted. That’s what college sports is all about. It’s the experience of the student-athletes. I’ll coach a lot of football games and I’ve coached a lot of football games. I’m probably going to coach a lot in the future. For these kids, you only get one opportunity at this thing and it’s just a great thing to see kids. From my standpoint, to be honest with you, I walked over and was trying to talk to as many of those Northwestern kids as I could. I understood what they were going through on the other side. I was happy as heck for our kids. As happy as our kids were, you could see the crushing blow that those kids were dealing with. (Coach Pat Fitzgerald) was obviously disappointed but you could see the same thing. If you asked him, the way I was happy for our kids, I think he felt bad for his young men because they played their tails off. That’s a tough way to lose one.”

On his reaction
“I remember. I saw the ball bounce in the air and I saw (Jordan) Westerkamp flash by. Honestly what I heard, and I’ve been there unfortunately I was in that spot, ‘this final play is under review.’ I saw everybody cheering and everything else was going on. I was sitting there and thinking, ‘OK, Let’s wait here a minute.’ Because I wasn’t sure exactly. I couldn’t see well enough. I just saw bedlam going on.”

On if he had a flashback to the 2009 Big 12 Championship Game
“I absolutely did. That’s the honest answer. I was sitting there thinking, ‘Oh my goodness. There is going to be a riot if this thing gets called back.’”

On if the team believes they can win the last four games
“I think they do. There’s no question. I think they understand that it’s going to be a heckuva challenge. I try to beat into our guys’ heads to control what you can control. We have to stay the course, stay the process and keep working every day. If we keep preparing every day and try to get better each and every day and you work your butt off, you go about it and try to win each successive football game. At the end of the day, if you do that, regardless of how it turns out, you can look yourself in the mirror. That’s our approach and that’s the approach we need to take. We can’t worry about what’s going to happen three or four weeks down the line. You take week by week, day by day and try to get better.”

On if he thought Abdullah would ever play defense
“No. In fact I still remember watching his tape. I was sitting in the offensive staff room with Coach (Tim) Beck. There was no question in our minds that he could play running back. We thought he was going to be special. He’s turned out to be just that.”

On what he saw from Abdullah
“A guy who was tough, physical and had a great change of direction. I still remember the initial recruiting tape we saw of him bouncing off guys and spinning out and making people miss. The yards he could make and would constantly make after first contact. He’s a guy who makes a lot of people miss. He can get through the smallest of cracks. He’s a really good back. Down the line, he’ll play on Sunday. There’s no question in my mind.”


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