Lincoln - Nebraska coach Bo Pelini and several Huskers met with the media Tuesday afternoon to talk about Saturday's game regionally-televised game at Washington. While most of the talk has been about Washington quarterback Jake Locker, Pelini says that they the Husky attack is more multi-dimensional than the senior signal caller.
"He's a good player, but they have some other weapons over there. It's not all Jake Locker," Pelini said. "The same way, it's not one guy on our defense, it's 11 on 11. We need to execute. They have some good talent and are going to make some plays. We have to execute better for a longer period of time then they do and do what it takes to win the football game."
Pelini also touched on other topics, including his previous experience in Husky Stadium as a player at Ohio State, the development of the defensive line through the first two games and the play of senior defensive back DeJon Gomes.
Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini
On if he thinks Taylor Martinez knows what he's in for at Husky Stadium
"Can you simulate that? We'll give him some crowd noise and that type of thing. He's a pretty calm, cool and collected guy, so I don't anticipate it being an issue. You have to prepare him for it the best you can, but I think he understands what's in front of him. Until you are out there in that environment, I'm sure he'll have to settle down a little bit and be ready to go."
On if he feels likes it's good that he knows what he is walking into
"He knows. He's a pretty intelligent guy. But like I said, knowing what you're in for when you walk in there, and actually it's loud and once the adrenalin kicks in, it's going to be an adjustment for any guy, not just a quarterback, everybody. You're used to the first two weeks even the veterans, and it's still different the first time every year you go on the road. It's different."
On if he has been in Husky Stadium
"Years and years ago."
On if Husky Stadium left an impression on him
"No because I have been in a lot of stadiums like that. Most of the road stadiums we've played in are pretty loud, real good crowds. They left an impression on me because we got beat pretty bad. It was back when I was playing. We had a bunch of punts blocked. It was a nightmare. It will be a good environment. Our guys are looking forward to it. It's a good challenge to go on the road and play a good football team in a good environment. I think our guys are anxious for it."
On if there is anything else besides practice and simulated crowd that you do to prepare a quarterback
"No, just talk to him about it and make sure the best you can tell him what it's going to be like. I don't know how much more you can do. (Shawn) Watson does a great job with those guys, so I don't sense it being a problem."
On if he has to make sure not to over-emphasize the crowd noise to freak him out
"Yeah, one thing about him is he is a young guy, but I think all of our quarterbacks are very mature, very confident in what they doing. They have a good handle on what they are doing. I think that's the key, walking in there with the confidence and the sense of I know what's expected of me, let's go do it."
On if the crowd noise will affect the defense
"Actually, the issues you have defensively are more at home then it is on the road. You don't have any communication issues on the road. That's easy. It's like a picnic for the guys on defense on the road because it's quiet when we're out there. Now when this place is all cranked up and when our defense is our there at home, that's when we have our communication issues. It flip-flops offense to defense."
On Washington quarterback Jake Locker and the limited amount of mistakes that he makes
"I think he has a good handle of their system. He's a good decision maker. He's a good player. He understands their system well. I think he manages the game very well."
On how the emergence of Taylor Martinez has helped Rex Burkhead
"Anytime you have another weapon in there that's going to make anybody around him better and it gives you more opportunities. Hopefully, it creates some numbers for you at times in the run game and pass game. The thing we like about Rex is there is nothing on the field that he doesn't do well. He's a good threat in the passing game. He's obviously a good running back. He can protect. He is a really, really good football player. He can do so many things to help your football team, and you couple that with his character and his toughness, he is a good guy to have on your football team. He's a leader. He's everything you want in a football player."
On how much he has elevated his game since last season
"I thought he played well last year. He is bigger and faster this year. Obviously, (he is) more comfortable. As time goes on, he is going to keep getting better. I thought he had a tremendous offseason and it shows in his play. Really he came in and played right away last year, but he made some marked gains in the offseason. He cut body fat, he's faster, his numbers are better and he's stronger. He's just a guy that works really hard all the time at everything he does and that's going to just make him better."
On his concern about the vertical passing game
"He (Martinez) had a couple ones I know he wanted back. I think he can throw the ball vertically very well. The one was a layup, and he missed it. He knows that. We see him do it in practice, and we have kind of been in a situation where we haven't called as much of it. Part of that is by plan. He's got a big arm. I've seen him throw the deep ball very well. It's not a big concern of mine. I do feel we're going to help ourselves out that much more when we start getting the ball down the field a little bit more vertically."
On if the plan was to let him slide into the role of being more of a down field passer
"No, we had certain things going, and we didn't want to show our hand."
On if they plan on giving a series to Cody Green in the second quarter of every game
"It's kind of our plan going in. We like to always do that, regardless of the quarterback situation. Obviously, sometimes a situation in a game might not dictate that, but in this day in age, you always have to have your backup ready to play, especially if we're using a quarterback in the run game a little more. You have to give him some time to make sure that if he has to go in there that he has had game experience and the players are used to him. It's just a philosophy we have and one that we are going to stick with."
On the importance of this game and trying to get momentum for the rest of the season
"I don't know across the country, but hopefully you're always going to be better later in the year. If we're doing our jobs as coaches, then you're always going to be better at the end of the year then you were at the beginning of the year if you're managing your team right. We need to play well Saturday. I can tell you that. We expect to play very well Saturday, and I think we've been a pretty good road team. I like our approach on the road. I like the way our team comes out and the attitude they take. This will be a different kind of challenge going further away, but I think our guys are ready to play. Our guys are looking forward to this game."
On the hype surrounding the matchup between Jake Locker and the Nebraska defense
"Don't buy into the hype. That's kind of the way I look at it. He's a good player, but they have some other weapons over there. It's not all Jake Locker. The same way, it's not one guy on our defense, it's 11 on 11. We need to execute. They have some good talent and are going to make some plays. We have to execute better for a longer period of time then they do and do what it takes to win the football game."
On if he feels like this game is an important hurdle to clear when trying to build your program on the national scale
"I think every game is a hurdle you have to try and get over as a program. This just happens to be the next one. If we go out there and win, does it mean that we have arrived? No. If we lose, does it mean that we failed as a program? No. It all doesn't ride on one game, but it's the next step for this football team, so it's a very important one. That's the way I look at it. I think this is a great challenge for us because our No. 1 goal is to win the Big 12 Conference, and I think this is a good preparation game for us. (It is an) out of conference game that gives us the best opportunity to get prepared for what's coming down the road in Big 12 play. That's the No. 1 thing. Obviously, we want to win the football game, and we have a good quality opponent on the road that I think will be great for our football team."
On if there is any specific lesson that can be taken from the Virginia Tech game last year that can be applied to this week
"I thought we played well at Virginia Tech. I thought we blew some opportunities. It didn't end the way we wanted to. I thought we should have won that football game, but we didn't. I think anytime you walk out of a game the way we did that day, with the missed opportunities we had and the way that game ended, it was a disappointment. You want to avoid that. It wasn't because we didn't play well or didn't handle the road aspect of it well. We really failed to take advantage of some opportunities. We all know what happened at the end of the game."
On what impresses him about DeJon Gomes
"I think Gomes is a heck of a player. He's very versatile. He's very smart, and he's got tremendous instincts. He's a really important player for us and the things he brings to the table. He plays at a really high level. He just seems to make big plays for us, but on top of that, you see some guys go out there and just make big plays, but he plays very, very consistently. Very seldom is he out of position. He does a lot of things well and has come a long way in a short amount of time as a player."
On if Gomes has always been a guy that has been in the film room a lot
"He's a very mature guy, very focused on what he wants to do. He's a team-oriented guy. He is somebody that has high expectations for himself, and has a real 'want to' to get better. He's a tremendous guy to have in the program. I really like him, not only as a football player, but as a leader. When you come in like he did, like a year and a half ago, we didn't know that much about him. He was real quiet at first, but then he just kind of grew into what he became and his confidence started growing, and he became that much more effective as a player. You see him do it day after day. You see him play that way in practice. He has a great approach to the game."
On if DeJon Gomes and Eric Hagg have changed the way the defense will look in the future
"Absolutely, I like having guys that can do a lot of things, kind of big, tall, long, athletic guys that can do multiple things. The interesting part of it is thinking about going beyond this year is how will that relate to the next conference we're going to play in. That's part of the deal and part of the evaluation we're doing. A little bit of that is you mix and match according to the personnel. The other advantage we have around here is having the walk-on program. You have to also set aside your numbers scholarship wise, and say OK, these are the guys that are going to really help us, and the walk-ons that are really coming on that are really good players for us. We might be able to take another number at defensive back or whatever because you feel like you are stronger at that position because of what you have done walk-on wise. There is a lot that plays in to it, but I do know this, the more guys you have that are athletic and can do more multiple things, the more flexibility it gives you on defense. That has changed our way of thinking, but that's almost a year-to-year thing."
On if he anticipates having to go bigger moving to the Big Ten
"Depends on the guys. Sometimes bigger isn't better. You have to find a way to get your guys, your playmakers, on the field one way or the other. Take a guy like Lavonte David, you guys all see is a good football player for us. He is athletic enough and instinctive enough to play multiple spots. I just think guys like that really help you because even the teams that are going to hammer you downhill, they are still going to have a sense of spreading you out at times. You have to have easy ways to adjust your schemes and still be sound. If you have guys that can cover, it sure helps your football team."
On if the physical gifts that Gomes and Hagg have are something that you can see on film when recruiting them
"I think what you do is you recruit the athlete, the body-type. Then you train them to do what you want them to do. That's kind of how we go about it. There are a couple guys who we're recruiting this year that are very similar to that. We recruited him (Gomes) as corner in junior college, and I don't think he's played corner since he's been here. Now he could. With Hagg, I don't know what he played when he got here, but he's played some safety, some corner, and eventually we slotted him in there and he has been a nickel, nickel-linebacker for us. Recruit good athletes and good football players, and plug them in where you see fit. Also, adjust your system accordingly so that you give them the opportunity to have success. Don't ask somebody to do something that's not their strength."
On how he would assess the defensive line the first two games
"I thought we were OK the first week. I thought we were really good the second week."
On what the difference was between the first and second game
"Technique. Fundamentals. We weren't awful by any means the first week. We played a little bit different the first week. I'll put this way, I didn't do them any favors the first week. A little bit by plan, but I think we've played pretty well as a defensive line. There is still a lot more out there for us. I know Carl would say we never played great because he always keeps pushing them and pushing them. I've seen some good things, but I've also seen some things we need to fix."
On what Eric Martin did in practice to get the opportunity to start
"He practiced well. It was kind of an odd game, but we were planning on playing him and (Alonzo) Whaley. It kind of got settled in there. I don't know how many snaps he ended up getting because of how they chose to play us, but I thought he played well."
On if they have spent extra time this week making sure they hold onto the ball
"Oh, yeah. (We) Started it yesterday and will continue it all week. We always do that, but sometimes the point needs to be made, and that point is being made."
On if the assessment of his defense to the media after games is for his team
"I'm really honest with the players. I tell them I expect perfection. I congratulated them on the win. I really didn't give you guys an assessment that I didn't give to them first in pretty black and white terms of what I watched. I think we're at a point in our program, as a culture and a team, that they understand where I'm coming from. I don't think that I said anything to them, when I walked in there and I talked, that they didn't see themselves. Am I trying to send them a message through the media? No, not really. I also don't want to walk in and paint a picture for you guys. I'm being honest with what I saw."
On if he ever feels like his message ever becomes white noise?
"If I think we played real good, I'm going to say that, but I'm not trying to put on a show. That's really how I felt. Simple as that. I wasn't trying to send a message to our football team. I had already given them their message, but that's how I saw the game. Really in black and white terms, that's how I saw the football game, and we didn't play up to our standards in some areas. In others areas, we played really well. I think it was different the first week, but I'm looking for a full-team performance and hopefully that's what we get this week because we're going to need it."
On why the running game has been successful:
"I think the blocking has been good. I think the schemes have been good. Now we'll have a little bit bigger test against probably a better defense. I do like our running backs and the explosiveness in the running game."