Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini
Coach Bo Pelini leads NU into its Big Ten road opener at Purdue.
Photo Courtesy Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications
Courtesy: NU Athletic Communications
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Nebraska Football
Weekly Press Conference
Monday, Oct. 7, 2013 (Memorial Stadium)

Head Coach Bo Pelini

Opening Statement
“I wanted to start out, and I speak for everybody, me personally too, our thoughts and prayers go out to the people over at (Lincoln) Pius. I know there was an incident over there today. I pray that whoever the victim was is OK. I pray for the people over there who are dealing with this situation. Hopefully everything gets resolved and everybody ends up OK through that situation. That’s not something we like to see, especially in this community here.

“Back to football. It was what I thought it would be when I watched the film. I thought there were a lot of positives and a lot of good things that came out of that game. Like I told the team yesterday, there are a lot of things we need to get cleaned up. I thought there was progress made in a lot of phases but still a lot of things that we can do better. We are heading in a new direction but we still have a lot of work to do.”

On linebacker Michael Rose
“I thought Michael did a lot of good things in the game. I thought he played well. I always say this because I don’t want to take away from some things that Illinois did. We gave them some yards and a couple plays we shouldn’t have given them. A big thing we’ve been stressing our guys is eye discipline and being where you need to be and having your eyes on your keys. There’s so much to being a football player now. I was talking to some of the scouts this morning and it’s throughout football. It’s being disciplined to putting your eyes on your keys that allow you to execute. We were much better in that regard the other day but still not to the level that I like to see. Like I said, there were a lot of positives. We were more consistent but not at the level of consistency that we need. There were some very good individual efforts in that game. I thought we played well up front on offense. I thought we played well on the perimeter. I thought Ameer (Abdullah) played really well. I thought Tommy (Armstrong) and the quarterbacks did some good things. I thought there were some things that they’ll learn a lot from that happened in the game. They were things that I think you have to experience to an extent to learn from. Overall I thought it was a pretty solid effort offensively, but we left a lot of points and a lot of yards out on the field. That’s not concerning but it was disappointing because I thought there were some things over on that side that we’ll gain a lot from going forward. On defense, once again, same thing. I thought there were some positive things at times. I thought a lot of guys made strides. But once again we have to keep working on the consistency aspect of it. I thought Randy Gregory played really, really well. I thought Ciante Evans played extremely well. That was his best game. I thought Stanley (Jean-Baptiste) played well again. Michael Rose played a good football game. I thought that was a pretty good effort by our guys up front. I thought overall, fundamentally, technique-wise and execution-wise, I thought our guys up front played well. I qualify that in that we still have a lot of work to do. You have to roll up your sleeves every day and our guys understood that once we watched the film.”

On starting five games at home
“I kind of talked about that in the preseason going in and where I thought we would be to start and the level of work that was in front of us. The schedule set up well for us as far as being able to get that accomplished. I think it’s playing out to a certain extent because I’ve seen a significant amount of progress in the past couple weeks. Let me qualify that in saying that we still have a lot of work to do.”

On road games with young players
“I think it’s always a concern. It’s always an issue. It’s something we’ll talk about. I’m kind of glad the game is early. You get up and go play. Guys are used to getting up early. I think that will help us to a certain extent. I think it will be a good experience for our guys. Some of them have been on road trips but there’s a difference between being on a road trip and walking out there as a starter in the first play. I think it will be good for us. First things first. I stressed to the team to have a good day off and make sure they get some time to come in and watch some film and take care of some business today but be ready to work tomorrow because we still have a lot of work to do and a lot of important reps in front of us to keep this thing going.”

On the receivers’ blocking
“I think we do a good job of blocking on the perimeter. A couple of things that hurt us were that we had some missed assignments on the perimeter. Even on Ameer’s (Abdullah) touchdown run. I think I said during the press conference that it shouldn’t have scored. We missed a couple things on that play. That was just an outstanding effort. There were some great efforts on that play. If you ever go back and look at it, Jake Cotton, the effort of him blocking down field. Some of the efforts we had of going downfield and doing a little bit extra. I think Spencer (Long) actually escorted Ameer (Abdullah) into the end zone on that play. There were some outstanding efforts on that play but we had a couple missed assignments and really a missed check on that play. We have a ways to go. We had some things that we had coached during the week in the certain looks. We had some things we could’ve taken advantage of that we didn’t take advantage of because maybe a missed assignment here. Cethan Carter I think is going to be an outstanding football player. He played well. There’s still some things where things happen fast for him or we get into a check that maybe he hasn’t seen yet. He’s still a work in progress. There’s still some indecision there. That’s normal for a true freshman. He’s coming. For the most part we blocked well. There was a play in the second half where we were on the goal line. I thought we could’ve walked in the end zone. We had a veteran receiver who has blocked that look two or three times during the game and blocked it right and made the wrong decision and left a guy hanging when we shouldn’t have. Once again, it’s having that level of consistency of doing it every play. For the most part, you look at a guy like Quincy Enunwa. He blocks extremely well on the perimeter. You saw Jamal (Turner) throw a good block. Kenny Bell does a good job. It’s got to be every single play. Especially when we are trying to get on the edge. When you start throwing some option game in there and the read option, you have to be good on the perimeter and you have to finish blocks.”

On linebacker Jared Afalava
“I thought as a group we responded well. It shouldn’t get to that point. We shouldn’t be there. Once again, sometimes it comes down to a lack of focus or having your eyes in the wrong place. Maybe a bad communication. On the one where I called timeout, we were communicating something we shouldn’t have been trying to communicate. To a certain extent, it was a couple of veteran guys putting an inexperienced guy like Jared in a bad position. We were making a check to something that we don’t make a check to. There it goes, 15, 16 yards, whatever it was on that play. Even with that check, if we would’ve executed that check the right way, we would’ve had guys in the right gaps. We ended up with two guys in the same gap because somebody put their head on the wrong side when they shouldn’t have and it leads to a big play. Once again it was something our guys understood when we addressed it right away in the timeout. They came back and executed it the next play. In some situations like that, there were some positives. Our communication was better. Obviously our understanding is getting better. So you’re seeing the level of execution go up. At the same time, it’s still not where it needs to be.”

On Kenny Bell’s one-handed touchdown catch
“It was a phenomenal play. I felt bad for the safety because I think the safety thought he had a pick. And I’ve played that position and I’ve been there. Do you play the ball or do you play the man? He got caught in there and didn’t think he was going to get to it. You could see the look on his face. When I was watching the highlights, I was thinking I’ve been there, my man. It’s a tough play. You don’t think he’s going to get up to that ball. It was a phenomenal effort by him.”

On Ameer Adbullah’s running
“He has such a great attitude. He really has great vision. I’m not comparing him to Barry Sanders. But the way he can put his foot in the ground and he’s going forward and next thing you know he’s going East-West and creating space. He does a really good job of creating space for himself. For a guy who’s not the biggest guy in the world, he’s got some power. Obviously he’s low to the ground so he’s hard to get your hands on. I just think he’s a really quality back. Obviously you have to have good vision, and I think our guys are blocking well for him.”

On Abdullah’s patience
“I think there were a couple times and Coach (Ron) Brown would tell you we were too patient. There were a couple times when we could’ve put our foot in the ground and gone North-South. Like I said, I think we’ll watch that film and watch some situations. Even our backs and even Ameer, as well as he ran, I thought we left some yards out there. Either we were too patient or not patient enough depending on the play. I think there are some things we’ll learn from that will make us better.”

On safety LeRoy Alexander
“For his first significant playing time, I thought LeRoy did a lot of good things. He needs to tackle better in some situations. I thought he was very comfortable. I thought he communicated well. I thought he did a lot of good things. I like LeRoy. I think he’s going to be a good player. Tackling is not really an area of concern for me with him. He’s been a good tackler since he’s been here. He’s a physical, tough kid who I think got surprised in a couple situations. I think he’ll be better because of a couple things that happened to him during that game. I think he did some good things out there.”

On continuity issues on defense
“I think communication is so important on the defensive side of the ball. We stress it all the time. We got to the point last week where we as a staff got fed up with it. We demanded that we expect to see 11 guys talking on every single play. Eleven guys. And if you’re not talking, you’re coming out. I said, ‘Try it for a day.’ I think they found out what a difference it makes. Not only helping the guys next to them but helping themselves by communicating out what the heck they’re doing. It’s just not natural with some guys and to a certain extent, this generation to talk and to communicate all the time. They want to use their hand signals. It’s like you’ve got to be forceful, you’ve got to be loud and you’ve got to communicate and talk all the time. I always equate it to basketball. The great defensive teams never stop talking. There’s a reason behind that. Everybody gets on the same page. It just keeps you more focused into what you’re doing. It’s a constant emphasis of ours. I still think there’s another level we can get to. Especially the other day, they threw a lot at us. That offense has a lot of facets to it. And a lot of different personnels, a lot of different alignments. They gave us tackle over, end over, multiple, multiple personnels. There’s a lot that you have to do. There’s a lot of communication to make sure we’re on the same page. I think our guys slowly but surely, and I think we made a jump the other day, are developing a lot better understanding of the type of focus you have to take the field with to have success in this sport right now. You can’t just go out there and when the play is over, you can’t be worried about what happened the last play. You better get ready to play. You better get your eyes to the sideline, get the call, get lined up. You have to play on edge from the minute you walk out on the field. Things are happening very, very fast. That’s just the way the game is right now. There isn’t much time to relax. Once a play is over, you have to get ready for the next one. It’s going to happen quick. I think our guys through some of the experiences they’ve had, some of the failures and some of the successes, are starting to develop a better understanding of you don’t have to do that just on Saturday, you have to practice that way during the week. You have to bring that kind of edge and that kind of focus and mentality to the practice field to prepare yourself for what’s going to happen on Saturday.”

On giving the defense more time
“I’ve heard Coach (Nick) Saban talk about it a little bit. I think it would make the game better. But I don’t see it happening any time soon. The rules are what they are.”

On why he thinks a rules change won’t happen
“I just think at all levels of football, people want offense. You just watch across the board. You watch the NFL. You watch in college. You watch in high school. The amount of times you see guys not even in their stance yet when the ball is getting snapped. There’s just so many different things that are happening. It’s funny because sometimes it’s like the offense doesn’t even have to block anybody and can make yards. You don’t have a microphone in their ear. There’s some things that have to happen. And it has to happen fast. Like I said, you can’t just go out there on Saturday and be ready to play with those kind of tempos and the things you have to be able to do to be ready to play unless you are putting yourself through that personally through the week. There’s a lot of facets to it. I would love to see it go that way at some point, almost like a play clock offensively. I know one thing. It’s not going to happen this year. We’ll see what happens in the future.”

On the defense being overwhelmed by offenses
“At the end of the game, it was a different situation. I thought it was treated like, ‘Hey the game is over.’ I was a little bit frustrated by the end of that game. Also, I wanted to get a lot of guys in. (Illinois) was putting a lot of guys in. We didn’t know some of the people going in the game. That type of thing. I wasn’t really concerned about that. I had a level of frustration about the way it ended but it wasn’t that concerning at that point. I thought overall they did a good job of standing over the football, especially early in the game.”

On substitutions
“It really wasn’t an issue until the very end. We had a lot of different combinations going in and they did too. I was trying to figure some things out. I don’t want to get into it because I don’t want to get myself in trouble. I was frustrated with how that was run toward the end of the game.”

On cornerback Jonathan Rose
“I think Jonathan is coming. I’ve seen him make some big strides over the last couple weeks. When he stays with his technique, he’s a pretty good player. He’s still got to continue to be a little more physical, especially in tackling. I think he needs to communicate better. Excuse me, look for the communication. Sometimes he can get locked in so much on one thing. You have to have a little more of a presence out there. I think he’s understanding that. I think he’ll learn a lot from the game. I think he did some good things. He’s a talented young man who’s tough and willing and works really hard. He’s coming.”

On the front four’s performance
“I thought we did some good things in the pass rush. We mixed it up a little bit. I felt good about the push we were getting with our front four. I thought we made him uncomfortable. I thought we did some good things. I don’t even know what we ended up with sack-wise but I thought our rush lanes were good. I thought our awareness was good. That was a team where we expected some quarterback draw and quarterback run. I thought they handled that well early. We didn’t have to sit them on the line of scrimmage to do that. I thought we were still able to get some pass rush but at the same time keep our rush lanes so they didn’t have chances to get some guy out. He’s a guy that can hurt you with his feet.”

On blitzing
“I’d like to blitz every down but it’s not always the best thing to do. I think you have to have a good mix. You have to be able to place them in rush four and have success doing it. I feel like we’re at a place right now where we don’t have to blitz to get pressure. Probably more so than in the last couple years. A year ago, it kind of felt like in order to get some pressure, you had to bring some extra people. Right now I think we have some more options. I think our guys up front give us some juice to get home.”

On how he determines when to blitz
“There’s a number of different types of blitzes. There’s some where you are calling to hit runs. There’s some you are calling to attack protections and get home. It depends. I personally didn’t know a lot about this team. I wanted to see them in person and where we were to start the football game. I thought we as a staff and as a football team got a little better feel for them as the first quarter went on. And also how they were going to attack us.”

On quarterback Taylor Martinez
“Taylor is business as usual right now. I think he felt a lot better yesterday. I think it’s day-to-day. If he’s ready to play, he’ll play. We’re going to see how the next couple days play out. He’s progressing. He’s getting better. I know he’s itching to get back out there. We’ll just have to see how it plays out.”

On what he means by “business as usual”
“Day-to-day. He’s doing everything he can. He’s working. He’s in the training room. He’s doing everything he needs to do. You just have to see how it goes. I think he can run full speed right now but can he get to full speed in a hurry? No. That’s the issue right now. He’s having trouble planting off that foot and pushing off and getting to full speed. He could ease into it but that’s just not how the game is played. You have to be able to put that foot in the ground, and he’s got to have comfort and confidence that he can do that.”

On if the team will travel him if he’s injured
“More than likely we would travel him. I haven’t looked at the travel roster yet. That’s a couple days away. Obviously we’d like Taylor to be on the trip.”

On next week’s bye
“That will play a part in my mind (of Taylor healing up.) First, I want to win this football game. It’s the next thing. It’s Purdue. We’re not in a position to save anybody. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to win the game. And that’s all that I’m concerned about this Saturday.”

On Jamal Turner and Josh Mitchell
“I think they are both going to be back here in the next day or two. I don’t think either of them are really significant injuries.”

On Mitchell’s injury

On where Tommy Armstrong can improve
“The details. The little things. Just continuing to understand the offense and understand coverages. He’s still very early in his development. He’s got a lot to learn. I think every time he goes out there, he’s going to learn more. He does a lot of good things naturally. He’s a guy who really understands offense and understands how things work and applying them during the game and in certain situations. Like I said, there’s no question in my mind that he’s going to learn a lot from what happened on Saturday, both the good and the bad. He’s making the right check. He’s looking over. He does all the right things. He turns the wrong way. It’s focus. It’s being out there. It’s being so excited that he goes a little quick. Play under control and do his thing. I have a lot of confidence in him, but he still has a lot to learn.”

On Armstrong in a road environment
“Where he came from, he’s played in some big time environments. That won’t affect him at all. I think it will be good for him. He has a great presence about him. He has a great command and a lot of confidence about him. That won’t affect him.”

On the pressure of starting at home
“There’s different types of pressure no matter where you play. When you’re that guy under center getting snaps, you have a lot to deal with. It all comes down to being focused on what you’re doing. He’ll have to deal with noise and that type of thing for the first time and at that level. Like I said, he’s played a lot of snaps in his career and been in some hostile environments before, so he’ll respond well.”

On working with Jamie Williams
“Jamie is a great guy to work with. He brings a good perspective. It was a different setup. It was different to get used to at first but we communicate well, and I think it’s good. It is business as usual. I think it’s been really good.”

On commonalities with Williams
“Jamie has been around a lot. Obviously he played a lot of years and brings a player’s perspective to it. He’s been around the game. He’s a lot like Coach (Tom) Osborne. We don’t talk a lot of specific X’s and O’s football things. It’s more generalities. He approaches it from an administrators’ standpoint. From that respect, it’s been a really good relationship.”

On his recruiting staff
“Everything you can do to get more information out. And to identify guys earlier. Everything is getting sped up so much. I feel it’s like coaching defense. Everything is getting sped up. It’s always an issue. It’s always a concern that you have to keep addressing. I think obviously Jamie and Shawn (Eichorst), they understand that too. At the same time, you have to play within what the rules are. You have to do it the right way. You have to have a purpose behind what you’re doing and a plan. I think we do. It’s just about finding ways to get an edge and get better. Just keep looking at ways to keep improving what we’re doing.”

On the staff growing
“It depends on what happens with the rules. There’s been a lot of things talked about NCAA-wise and what’s going to happen. Are they going to limit staffs? There’s so many different things being talked about right now. We’re very, very conscious here obviously of first and foremost doing things the right way and making sure that everything we do is within the letter of the law. That’s the way we operate here. We’re not going to go out there and hire 40 people. It just isn’t what our belief is. At the same time, you look at ways to make things better and hopefully stay on the edge.”

On the College Football Playoff panel
“It would be all people like that. Obviously you have people who understand the game and who have been around the game and know football. I’m sure Coach Osborne does, but you have to make sure that people on that committee are keeping up with it. That isn’t easy to do. I think Coach Osborne does because I’m around him a lot. I’ve been around him the last few years. There’s a lot to it. I don’t know how the whole thing is set up. I saw one name in particular that had me shaking my head. Hopefully when they put people in those positions, it’s people who are qualified to be in those positions. It shouldn’t be a political thing.”

On if it was Condoleezza Rice
“I like Condoleezza Rice. She’s the real deal.”

On Purdue
“I think they are going with a young quarterback. I think they are obviously young in their development. The staff has only been together for five or six games, however many they’ve played up to this point. They’ve had a week off. We could see some different things. You just have to go off of what you’ve seen up to this point and be ready to make adjustments. You could see a lot of different things. I just know from being in Coach (Darrell) Hazell’s position a few years back, especially early on, he’s trying to figure out his personnel, too. There’s a lot of things that he’s going through, too. You could see a lot of different things. We just have to be ready to adjust. I told our players after the game that we’ll be ready. The first thing we have to do is take care of us. We have to fix us and continue to increase our level of execution and knowledge and get ready to play our best football on Saturday.”

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