Nebraska Football
Weekly Press Conference
Monday, Nov. 18, 2013 (Memorial Stadium)
Pre-Penn State

Opening Statement
“We looked at the film yesterday. It was very similar to what I thought. Obviously (there were) a lot of missed opportunities. We did some good things and some really positive things during the game. There were some things obviously that cost us a chance to win the football game. We took the same approach we always do. We looked at the film. We looked at the things that are going to make us better going forward. We have some things to fix. We’ve got a lot of progress. We have to keep working obviously to be more efficient and not dig ourselves that kind of hole in the football game. Our challenge this week is to rebound, get better and get ready to play a good Penn State football team.”

On the quarterback situation
“It will be a similar plan to what we’ve had at the quarterback position. Not only for short-term but for long term. We still believe in Tommy (Armstrong Jr.) and still think he’s going to be a really good football player for us. He’s young. He’s a freshman. He’s not going to be perfect. He was disappointed yesterday but because of that experience, that will make him better down the line. Our approach is no different. Tommy and maybe some Ron (Kellogg III) and just dictate it by how the football game goes.”

On the possibility of getting nine wins
“Every game is important. The next one is Penn State, so it’s important. When you put the kind of work in all year long, every time you go out there it’s important. I’ve said that all along. Obviously we’re disappointed that we’re out of the championship race but that’s our standard and that always will be our standard. That doesn’t diminish our approach and the next thing on the docket is Penn State. That’s what we are going to get ready for.”

On the approach to the final two games
“We won’t approach these games any differently. It’s business as usual for us. Those guys in the locker room…we’re beat up. We’re still dealing with some injuries and that type of thing. Our approach this week isn’t any different.”

On the offensive line
“I would think (Jeremiah) Sirles would be available, but time will tell. It’s too early in the week really to determine who’s going to play up there. I’ll give you guys an update later on in the week. Nothing’s really changed right now. Cole Pensick got a little dinged up in the game. We’ll see how that goes as the week goes on. It could be a number of different combinations. We’ll play that by ear as the week goes on.”

On Thad Randle and Daniel Davie
“Daniel Davie has a knee injury. He’s out for the year. I’d list Thad (Randle) as day-to-day.”

Reporter: “Did (Cole) Pensick and (Jeremiah) Sirles practice yesterday?”
Pelini: “No.”

On Daniel Davie’s injury
“He tore a ligament. He’ll be out for a while. I’m not sure the exact length of it. but this late in the year it could go into spring. It could cause him to miss spring practice.”

On Alonzo Moore
“We’ll see how it goes the next couple days.”

On turnover margin
“We work on it every day. We just have to keep working on it. Obviously when you have five in a game, it’s pretty unusual. Obviously it’s unfortunate. It’s come at the wrong time of the year for us.”

On the goal-line fumble
“I don’t think (Tommy Armstrong Jr.) ever got the ball. I think he pulled out too quick.”

On the toughness of the team
“There’s a lot of character on this football team. I said going into the game that we don’t make an excuses or anything else. You just go out. You’re going to deal with some injuries. We’ve dealt with a lot of them. It’s the next guy in and you have to get ready to play. We’ve dealt with a lot of them this year unfortunately. Especially in a couple positions it’s been pretty difficult. We need to deal with the offensive line position and the wide receiver position. You don’t have your senior quarterback for part of the season, but it’s part of the deal. Other people deal with the same thing.”

On pressure
“At the end of the day, my job is to win football games. That’s my approach. I’m not changing my approach. Regardless of what position we are in, I don’t change my approach in how I do my job.”

On the 2011 Penn State game
“Obviously that was a crazy and unfortunate situation. No one wants to be a part of something like that. That was a crazy week for us, but I can’t imagine what they went through that week. Obviously it was unfortunate. I think that’s one of the powers of sports. You saw two different schools and teams come together and fan bases that came to understand that day what the big picture was. There was a much bigger picture than that football game that day. I think everyone was able to put it aside for a couple hours and come together, which I thought was a pretty special (moment). Not just the prayer beforehand and the moment but just the whole football game. Hopefully we at Nebraska and our fans and team and administration and everybody to a certain extent came together with Penn State to help them through a tough time. There were a lot of people – the kids, the players, the coaches – there were a lot of people who were obviously in a very unfortunate situation that really they had nothing to do with.”

On playing at Penn State
“It’s a great atmosphere. It’s a great place to play. Obviously great tradition. I think Coach Bill O’Brien is doing a heckuva job there. We’ll have our work cut out for us. They’re a good football team. They’re well-coached. They’re physical. It will be a good challenge for us.”

On Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg
“I think he’s a good player. I think they’ve done a good job of keeping it fairly simple for him. The future is really bright with him. Obviously having Coach O’Brien there, he’s been around some pretty good quarterbacks. He’s tutored some pretty good guys. I think the future is bright over there. I think he will develop into a really good football player. He has all the tools. I mean you see it. He has really good arm strength and can do a lot of things. He does a lot of things well.”

On the future of Nebraska’s defense
“I’ve said all along I think the potential of this defense going forward is really good. In time I think this group of guys is going to be a formidable group for a number of years. I thought we did some really good things on defense the other day, but we had a couple busts that didn’t hurt us. It’s still a work in progress. Trust me. We just can’t let it rear its head at the wrong time. It was just some basic things that hurt us. A couple miscommunications and some things that didn’t really hurt us in that football game but potentially could have. I thought we did a lot of good things too. Once again we have to keep working on the consistency issue.”

On the MIKE position
“I think it’s Michael (Rose) and Josh Banderas…the two of them. (Josh) was a little banged up last week in practice. His achilles was bothering him, so we decided to go a little bit more with Michael mainly because of the way practice reps went and that type of thing. I think both those guys are going to be really good players for us over the next couple years. Who knows? Eventually you might see both of them on the field together as we start heading into spring and next year. I like the potential. I think our linebackers are getting better.”

On if they’ve become quarterbacks of the defense
“I think both of those guys do but they are still growing. Michael (Rose) hasn’t been at MIKE for very long. Obviously Josh (Banderas) is a true freshman, but like I said I think the potential is there that they could be very good.”

On if Randy Gregory is ready to play in the NFL
“Right now? No. He will be. He’s got a lot to learn right now. It’s the little things. He’s a really good pass rusher. The details aren’t quite there with Randy (Gregory). He’s got a lot to learn. That’s to be expected. He’s raw right now but the potential is there. He’s going to be very good.”

On where Randy Gregory has improved
“I think his technique is getting better. It’s just inconsistent. He doesn’t know certain things. He’s playing some techniques and some things fundamentally that he’s never done before. His challenge right now is that he’s really good against the pass, he’s good at certain things. Like when his athleticism can come into play. There’s some things fundamentally. His knowledge of the game. He needs to continue to work on to becoming the complete player that he is capable of becoming. Right now I think he’d be the first one to tell you that he’s not a complete football player because he does struggle with some things. I think I said this a couple weeks ago. He plays so hard. He has such a high motor. And he works really hard every single day in practice and because of that he’s going to develop into a really good football player. He’s very good now. There’s a lot more out there for this young man. He’s going to really benefit from a season in our offseason program. He’s dropped a little weight as the season has gone on. I think a year in the offseason program is going to be big for him. It could mean some serious problems down the line for his opponents.”

On junior college transfers
“I think it depends on the guy. Some of (Gregory’s features are) innate. I think sometimes you see some of these guys and some of those situations, and I don’t want to talk bad about junior colleges, some of those situations are pretty tough. A guy like him who has a lot of talent and you kind of get humbled going to a junior college. When it goes your way, hopefully it makes you a little (hungrier) when you come in. I can tell you that with Randy – he brings it every day. He loves to play. He’s eager to learn. He’s got all those intangibles that you need in order to develop. It’s an everyday thing. Like I said, there’s a lot more out there for him. The sky is the limit when you have that type of ability.”

On who Gregory resembles of past players he’s coached
“I hate making comparisons. But way back when I was in the NFL, he reminds me of having the potential. Like I said, a year in the weight room is going to be big in the offseason. To be able to combine the power and strength with the athleticism and the speed to come off the edge and the wiggle that he has in the pass rush and explosiveness there. It’s a great combination. It’s why it’s such a priority at the NFL level. When they are watching film for the draft, they are looking for that type of guy. You want pass rushers, especially at that level. You don’t want a guy who you feel is going to be a liability in the run game. Trust me when I say that Randy is not a liability for us in the run game, but there’s a lot more out there for him as far as being an every down guy. That’s what they are looking for at that level right now.”

On if Gregory is like Charles Haley
“Charles (Haley) wasn’t there when I was there. Even a guy like Willie McGinest. Guys that if you need them to stand up and play at outside linebacker but also you’re not afraid to put them at a six-technique or five-technique to play on a tackle. You have to have a certain skill set to be able to do that. Obviously Charles Haley was one of those guys. He was, in my opinion, one of the best ever.”

On if he talks to players about the NFL possibility
“We talk about controlling what you can control and that’s getting better every day. I do talk to these guys. I haven’t talked much to (Randy Gregory) because he in his first year. You can continue to develop and work on the little things that are going to allow you to be great. (Ndamukong) Suh and I had one of those sit-downs almost immediately when I got here. Eventually he figured it out. The interesting part of it is a guy like Randy or even Suh, he’d be the first one to tell you that there is so much more to this game as far as the little things and the details. (Gregory) could play the next couple years here at Nebraska and hopefully have that opportunity to go to the NFL and play for five, six seven years, and he’s still going to be learning. You just have to be hungry enough to work at it. And be hungry enough to continue to go and not get comfortable. Because we all know in any part of your life, when you get comfortable, you get humbled really fast. And that’s when you are going to get passed up.”

On punt returning
“Obviously we’ve made a couple of mistakes there in the last couple weeks. (We’ve) put the ball on the ground. We haven’t had a lot of returnable balls. Bottom line is we are challenging our guys that we need to do better up front in the initial 15 yards on the punt return. In the past we’ve been pretty good. You get these rugby punts. Even the other day, as good as (Michigan State's) punter was, he didn’t really get into it like really well. And it was fairly short. When you really look at it, our technique wasn’t good enough. We’re running alongside of them and you have guys there but we have almost bodies on bodies, but we’re not disrupting them enough and widening them enough to give our punt returners the comfort level to catch that ball and give them room. It goes back to day one. We talked about it. We need to get back to the fundamentals. That’s got to happen in the first 15 to 20 yards to give yourself the opportunity and the room to make that catch. I can say the same thing in our kickoff return unit. It’s the same thing. We were a block here or a missed assignment…we had a couple of opportunities, especially for one that would’ve been big. Really big. And we missed an assignment. Everyone else was blocked and there was a big hole. That’s what it comes down to. Everybody has to execute in those situations. We got exactly what we were looking for. We had everybody blocked and one guy…and we blew an assignment. He went for the wrong guy and it cost us.”

On a possible special teams coach
“I evaluate everything we are doing. We just have to continue to keep getting better and keep stressing it. It’s not a scheme issue.”

On having a dynamic returner
“I think we have a couple of those guys. I think they are young and they’re not confident enough quite yet as far as catching the football and making the decisions with all the crazy type of punting that’s going on. Here I say that and we’ve put the ball on the ground two times in two weeks. I trust Jordan (Westerkamp) right now. I think Terrell Newby is a guy that is going to be really good down the line. He’s just not quite there yet but he’s improving every day and he’s working hard at it.”

On if punters are better than they used to be
“It’s a different scheme that they are running now. I bet if you looked across the country, there are less punts being returned because you have this rugby punt. No. 1 you have to be fake sound. You always have to take that into account because of the types of alignments they give you. It’s a lot harder to account for all those things and also to get a hold up. In the NFL you get it a little bit because obviously the guys have experience in all areas. The punters are getting good hang time. They do the old traditional kick slide-type punt. A lot of people don’t rush the punt. It’s kick slide and go. At this level, it’s a little bit different. But you have all these spread areas and everything. You have guys that aren’t necessarily kick sliding, so more than just gunners going down the field, you have the guys up front going down the field whether they are kick sliding two or three or four yards back. That’s why you have to be a lot better at the line of scrimmage than we’ve been as of late. When they’re going right now, they’re going to get down on the punter a lot faster.”

On Jordan Westerkamp’s hip pointer injury
“I know it affected him at Michigan. The other day he’d be the first one to tell you that he swung that ball around. He didn’t have it locked up. He had it initially. He kind of swung the ball, held the ball out and reached back with the football and that’s a recipe for disaster no matter whether it’s a punt return. No matter how you look at it, you can’t ever do that. That ball can’t come away from your body like that.”

Reporter: “Was Westerkamp lined up all right in terms of depth?”
Pelini: “Yeah.”

On the team’s approach
“Guys are fine. Obviously we talked about it. We put it to rest. And you go and you move on. That’s what we’ve done. That’s all you can do in this situation. You have to stick together. I told them, ‘you are going to deal with things like this for your whole life. You can either stick your head in the sand and cry and duck and run or you man up and go.’ Like I said, I believe in the character of this team and they understand. They’ll come out and respond the right way and we’re going to need to because it’s going to be a heckuva challenge going into Penn State.”

On working on turnovers
“It hasn’t been a huge problem this year. I don’t know the exact numbers that we have. You’d be really concerned if it was happening…the things that were happening in the game. We drop a pitch. I mean if you see these things happening in practice a lot, then it becomes even more concerning. Do you want it to happen? Heck no. You have to work at it. You have to look at the little things in practice. You have to make sure that the ball is being covered up in practice. The things that happened in this football game were actually a snap…I don’t remember the last time we fumbled a snap in practice because we hadn’t got that exchange. For the fumbled pitch on the option, we do the option every day. I don’t remember the last time I saw a ball on the ground for an option. You just keep coaching it.”

On if it’s a mental thing
“You just have to stick with your fundamentals when the time comes. They’re young kids that make some mistakes. You just have to keep coaching them and stay the course on it. Obviously it’s unfortunate because minus five in the turnover battle…it’s hard to win a football game like that. And we had a couple of opportunities on defense where we had balls in our hands. We had some opportunities and we didn’t take advantage of them.”

On recruiting Sam Burtch
“You know Coach (Jeff) Jamrog was the first one who brought him to us. We obviously thought he was a really good athlete and football player and thought he had a lot of potential. Jeff is pretty involved in evaluating some of the guys – walk-on candidates and that type of thing. At the end of the day, we knew about him. We watched him. He decided to walk-on and I think he’s a good football player.”

On if Tommy Armstrong Jr. was “a little down” yesterday
“Yeah I would say so. But let me tell you, he’s a competitor. He’s down because he’s a competitor. He wasn’t feeling sorry for himself or anything else. I think he responded the right way. He’s going to respond the right way. He’s a tough guy. He’s a leader. He’s a competitor. And he’s hard on himself. That’s the thing I worry about Tommy probably the most is that he is very hard on himself. He’s got to be able to move past something and not let it affect him moving forward. I think you’ll see him respond the right way this week.”

On how fragile a young player can be
“It depends on the guy. One thing about it is I think we approach it the right way with him and he knows we have confidence in him. I think he fully understands that and like I said, I think the future is going to be bright with Tommy. I think he’s going to be a heckuva football player. And he’s doing some really good things. He’s got to keep working on the little things and continue to develop. At the end of the day, he’s a freshman. He’s started, what, five, six games, whatever it is. Obviously he’s a work in progress.”

On defending Penn State wide receiver Allen Robinson
“He mixes things up a little bit. We’re going to have to study him well and make sure we are giving help out there. (We need to make sure) he doesn’t have single coverage all day. He’s a good football player, so we’re going to have to know where he is. I think a good plan and a good week of study is going to be important as far as taking care of him.”