Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini

By NU Athletic Communications

Nebraska Football
Weekly Press Conference
Monday, Oct. 28, 2013 (Memorial Stadium)

Head Coach Bo Pelini

Opening Statement
“After watching the film it was a lot like I thought it was after the game. We had way too many breakdowns. We played undisciplined football at times. When I say undisciplined, I mean our eyes not in the right places, not handling our responsibilities. You have to have 11 guys doing what they need to do. It wasn’t just one position (that struggled). It was here, there. Different guys taking their turns. At the end of the day my approach is that I take responsibility for it. That’s the way I always have been and that’s the way I always will be. We didn’t play well enough to win. The sad thing is that at the end of the day we didn’t play very well and we still had an opportunity to win the football game. I shared this with our football team. We talked all week about having a sense of urgency heading into that game. I thought especially after the week we had before that we were walking into a hornet’s nest heading into that game. I knew that. I don’t think our guys shared that appreciation going into that game. We didn’t play like that. That was probably the most disappointing thing to me. We didn’t play with an edge. We didn’t play with the physicality, with the focus we needed to. That needs to get fixed going forward. I don’t really care that Northwestern to this point has had a little bit of a losing streak. This is a good football team. It’s a well-coached football team. They know what they are doing. They are going to stay with what they do. They are going to play good defense. They are going to play really similar to what we saw last week in a different way. Maybe different personnels and that type of thing. We’re going to have our work cut out for us Saturday. We need to fix us. We need to play at a higher level. You are going to see some new guys in some places. We’re still looking for the right combinations and the right communication. Believe me, you are not looking at something that’s going to be wholesale changes but you’re going to see some other guys. Some guys are going to get an opportunity. We’ll see how the week plays out practice-wise. We need to play better. We need to communicate better. Overall we need to have more efficiency in what we are doing on both sides of the football.”

On who the new guys are
“It depends a little bit on what we are seeing personnel-wise. Ultimately you are going to see a little more of Michael Rose. Probably a little more of (Josh) Banderas. We are looking at (David) Santos maybe going back to his WILL spot. The area where we are looking for the right combinations is the linebacker spot.”

On the quarterback situation
“Taylor (Martinez) had a hip pointer during the game. He didn’t practice yesterday. Right now if we played today, Tommy (Armstrong Jr.) would start with Ron (Kellogg III) filling in.”

On if Rose would play in the middle
“Possibly. Yes.”

On if Banderas would play in the middle
“Same thing. In the middle. It depends on what personnel groupings we are getting.”

On if Martinez was hurt during the game
“The hip pointer didn’t affect him. I said ‘are you good to go? Are you 100 percent?’ He said ‘yes.’” There’s a difference between a hip pointer the day of and being able to deal with it and how it affects you over the next couple days.”

On if he felt good about Saturday’s plan on offense
“The disappointing thing is I thought we had some things in the passing game that we didn’t take advantage of. We had a number of opportunities. When someone loads the box the way they did, you have to be able to take advantage of it in the passing game. We had opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of. We had some drops. We had a couple of underthrown balls. We had some opportunities that could’ve been big plays that we missed. I don’t think there was anything wrong with the plan.”

On if Martinez was ready
“I do. We communicated throughout the week. I looked him in the eye and said, ‘Taylor, can you perform everything we ask you to perform up to the level we expect?’ I said ‘It’s O.K. to say no.’ I don’t know how he’s feeling. If he looks me in the eye and says ‘Yes, I’m ready to go,’ then I felt at some point we needed to give him the opportunity to get back out there and play. There’s a difference between being 100 percent and being 98 or 99 or whatever it is. Can you effectively go out and do what we ask you to do? I think that’s what he was saying. I don’t think he was saying he shouldn’t have been playing or anything like that. We had numerous conversations during the week. He got better as the week went on and felt better. I didn’t see a lack of being able to run. He didn’t look like a guy that was gimping around out there. That wasn’t our issue.”

On Martinez’ ability to plant his foot
“We knew going in kind of the way (Minnesota) was going to play the option. It was going to be a quick pitch anyway. We were optioning their end and they were taking the quarterback.”

On if Martinez is doubtful this weekend
“It’s hard to say. I’m not going to sit here and play this game all year long. Like I said, Tommy (Armstrong Jr.) was the starter yesterday and that’s the way it’s going to be until further notice.”

On Martinez’ injury
“I’m not a doctor. It’s something with his toes. I don’t know the name for it. (It’s not broken). You’d have to ask the doctors what the name of that thing is. All I know is he has a couple of sprained toes.”

On the linebacker change
“Just overall our communication and our ability to adjust during the game. That’s an important spot where we have to take all the things around us and communicate and get everyone on the same page. I’m not putting this on David Santos by any means. That’s not his strength. From my standpoint and from my coaches’ standpoint, you don’t want to take a square peg and try to pound it into a round hole. Let’s figure out what the issues are and move forward and try to improve in some of those areas.”

On pass protection issues
“A couple of times we just got beat. A couple of times we held on to the ball too long. Obviously it doesn’t help when you are in long yardage situations sometimes. When they can pin their ears back, it’s a different deal. Kind of like I was talking about after the game. The game becomes a lot easier and it’s a lot easier to become efficient when you are having success on first down. That wasn’t necessarily the case. When we stayed ahead of the sticks, we were pretty good the other day. When we took lost yardage plays and got behind in the count, that’s when you kind of struggle. That’s when drives stall. I think it was pretty obvious.”

On the first down issue
“It was a number of things. Like I said, different guys were taking their turn. It wasn’t just one area you can pinpoint. We just didn’t execute very well. We had some plays. For instance, one that pops into my mind as we were driving down toward the end of the game and thought we had a really good play called. We totally busted. We ended up getting tackled for a loss on a play we kind of ran all week. We thought it was there and it would’ve been there. A couple of plays from my standpoint pop into my head where we had the opportunity for some big plays. We just didn’t take advantage of it.”

On first down performance on defense
“It’s executing. I know you guys get sick of hearing me say that word. We had our eyes in the wrong places. We played undisciplined at times. We talk about having our eyes and being disciplined enough to have your eyes on your keys. When they are not there, you are going to have issues. You are going to have some problems. That was an issue for us in the game. We gave up some big plays that never should’ve happened. To be honest there were a couple of plays that should’ve been big plays that they missed. There were a couple of new wrinkles here and there but some of it we ran during the week. When you get in the game, you can’t lose your focus.”

On the state of the program
“It’s something you deal with year after year. Every group is a little bit different. It’s a challenge every single year and every single week. You have to have respect for this game. At the end of the day, you have to be ready every single week or you can get humbled in a hurry.”

On the message to the team
“I think they respond. The more experience they have, the easier it is to get through to them. Like I told our guys yesterday, the level of focus that you have to bring to the table every day to be good is up there. You might think you’re prepared, but to be able to do it down after down and the amount of focus you have to bring to the field is up there, especially in this day in age. There’s a lot of things happening. There’s a lot of offense out there. You can’t necessarily put them through every little thing you are going to see on a Saturday. Teams are going to get your new wrinkles. That’s in some aspects defensively and offensively where we struggle the most. When somebody gives us something a little bit different, our ability to understand what’s happening and be able to take the adjustments and apply them is at times what our guys struggle with. I told our coaches, you have to get to the point where your guys aren’t trying to memorize things but are truly understanding what the concepts are, so when something happens that’s a little bit different, they are able to react the right way. It’s always been the case as long as I’ve been coaching football. Success lies in the details. You have to understand that. You have to apply it. You have to live it. Some of the things are being able to do what you are asked to do and understand that. And not resorting back when you get in a game. Or when something goes wrong, doing something that’s going to lead to giving you no chance to execute.”

On the roster’s talent compared to three years ago
“In some respects, it’s better. I think maybe we are a little cleaner than we were a couple years ago. I haven’t changed in that I like the potential of this group. But at times we are our own worst enemy.”

On the staff’s communication
“I like the way our players are being coached. I believe in this staff. I’ll give you a for instance. We had one play during the game that actually didn’t hurt us. We made the play. (Minnesota) came out into a formation and I think they called timeout. We told them exactly what was going to happen. ‘If they come out in this formation, this is what’s going to happen,’ (we told them). For the most part, we looked them all in the eye and talked about what was going to happen. They came out and did exactly what we said was going to happen. We had two guys bust it for whatever reason. We got away with it because it wasn’t something that was a huge error. Had they done something a little bit different, we would’ve had a problem. It was a big situation. It was a third down situation. It was actually something that we ran during the week. It’s kids in the heat on the moment. It’s kids. You just have to keep working. I know it was something that we understood. But being able to apply it at that moment (didn’t happen). It’s always a fight. It’s always a struggle every single day. That’s why you have to keep coaching them and stay the course. It’s not like I haven’t seen them do it the right way. I have seen them do it the right way. You just stay the course and keep teaching. That’s what football is. However many plays you play, it’s 11 guys every single game having to make split second decisions and apply the roles and understand and do the right things at the moment. That’s why you practice.”

On the difference between Nebraska and the nation’s elite
“It’s different guys playing against different offenses. Every group is a little bit different. Trust me, I’m not making any excuses. It’s my job and our job to get it right. Trust me, I understand that. That’s why the first thing I say is that I’m responsible for it. I know this. If I panic or we panic, you have to stay the course. At the end of the day, we are going to work our butt off to try and get it right. And try to take each guy and get them better on a daily basis. That’s what our job is.”

On if this is his most difficult to understand team
“A little bit because there are so many new pieces, especially on the defensive side. Trust me, I’ve been round the game long enough to know what we were in for going in. Have I had some level of frustration at times? Absolutely. Like I said, I’ve learned over time that you can’t panic. You have to stay the course. I do believe in these kids and what they are going to be. I want to fast forward to when we are hitting on all cylinders as fast as I can. I also know that there is a process to getting them there and I’m going to stay the course to get them there.”

On his initial vision of the season
“I knew there were going to be some ups and downs. Do I wish we were ahead of where we are right now as far as our eye discipline and our focus and our overall knowledge of what we are trying to get done? Heck yeah I do. I want to fast forward this thing to where they are hitting on all cylinders and where they are communicating and everyone’s executing at a high level. When we’re not having a breakdown here or a breakdown there and giving people things that I believe are ridiculous. What am I going to say? I watched the film. You just frustrated but you have to keep teaching. You have to look at guys and keep growing. Coach each guy and keep bringing them along.”

On the difference between this team and Pelini’s best teams
“I think there’s more offense out there to deal with that you are playing against. I’ve found this to be the case over the years that guys don’t have the natural football instincts, the football common sense, coming in that they used to maybe. Things that you would think are second nature aren’t necessarily second nature to them anymore. I’m not sure why that is. To be able to play against these types of offenses that have a lot more facets to them, you have to have a little bit more of a global view of what’s going on. I think the younger you are, the more you are going to struggle with it unless you have a true understanding of what’s going on.”

On how Nebraska and Minnesota stacked up
“I thought we had more speed than Minnesota did.”

On the defense’s performance compared to expectations
“(They haven’t met them yet). I’m not meeting my expectations.”

On the defense’s struggle with jet sweeps
“We weren’t in the right spot. (Minnesota) was doing something that was a lot different from what Wisconsin was doing (in last year’s Big Ten Championship). We’ve seen jet sweep this year and we’ve played it pretty well. We’ve done really well against it for the most part of the year. We were out of position. In one respect, they gave it to us out of a formation that they hadn’t done before. We weren’t able to apply our rules. Once we got it corrected and showed it to them and explained it to them, we hit it in the backfield. Everybody has a responsibility. One guy out of position will cause you to struggle.”

On eye discipline
“In that situation, it was an understanding of what they were doing. You make a check in a certain defense. It was a gapped out defense. There was one guy playing it on the wrong side of the block. We had one guy in the backfield getting blocked and we had two guys in the same gap.”

On the pulse of the team
“Obviously they are down. I like the way they came out yesterday. We padded up yesterday. We got some good fundamental work in. We gave an introduction to Northwestern. I think if the guys could’ve played last night, they would’ve played last night. I like the way they responded yesterday.”

On Northwestern
“They’ve lost some tough games. Other than probably the Wisconsin game where they didn’t play very well, for the most part they’ve been right there. It’s a play here or a play there. If you talk to (Coach Pat Fitzgerald), he would say some of the same things that I’m saying as far as what he’s frustrated with. At the end of the day, they’ve had some opportunities to win some games. They’ve been right there and things haven’t gone their way. You look at the Ohio State game. They are right there and fumbled the ball there and the end when they were going in. You see what this football team is capable of.”

On social media
“I tell them all the time. Let’s face it. The greatest thing about our fans is they are passionate. 99 percent of our fans are great. They are positive. No. 1, I urge them not to read it. Don’t get into it and don’t go there. You try to educate them and you try to tell them not to do that. You don’t need to be reacting to the one percent. There’s a reason why we have 15,000 to 25,000 fans who go with us on the road. It’s a great fan base. 99 percent of them are very positive. My son was on the trip. There were two gentlemen who were outside of the bus after the game. I was the last one to come out to get on the bus. There were two guys that were there cheering our guys and encouraging them. My son looked at me and said, ‘Dad, those are two great fans.’ I said, ‘You know what, Patrick? That’s the 99 percent.’ I always try to educate him. I tell him that he is going to hear people say things about his dad and about these players that he idolizes. I said, ‘Don’t go there because that isn’t the majority. The majority are very supportive. They want to win. They are passionate. Don’t react to the one percent because that’s what it is.’ I try to educate the players on that.”

On if social media affects performance
“I’ve talked about that before. You try to shield them from it. We live in a day in age where it’s pretty hard to ignore it. There’s a reason why I don’t and I encourage our players to shield themselves from that. At the end of the day, you have to control what you can control and watch the film. You have an understanding from within about where you are and what needs to get fixed. If you get outside of that and focus on things that are outside of your control, you can have issues. You just look across sports. You look at USA Today where they have a 'Tweet of the Day' and all the different things that are going on. It’s hard to get away from it. You have to work hard to stay away from it. You have to discipline yourself to stay away from it. It’s out there. It’s a distraction. It’s noise. It’s outside noise that you want to try and control.”

On yesterday
“I wanted to do some fundamental work. I wanted to catch their attention. At the end of the day, that’s what I thought was best for our football team.”

On physicality
“That’s kind of what I was talking about kind of with the 99 percent and the one percent. For the most part, there were a lot of times when we were physical. You have to be physical all the time. You can’t pick and choose. There were some times when it hurt us. It was a guy here or a guy here. It was a breakdown here or there. That’s not the standard that I want these guys to live by. At the end of the day, it falls right here.”

On who he vents to after a loss
“I try not to take it home with me. Probably to my wife and my family’s dismay, I probably get really quiet and just need some time to myself. I don’t want to take it out. Obviously it’s nobody’s fault. For me it is gut-wrenching. It’s really hard to deal with. At the end of the day, I look for solutions. I take the emotion out of it and look at it in a black and white manner. This is where we are. O.K., let’s go. This is what we have to do to keep going and keep looking for ways to make us better. If I have a question about how to handle a certain situation, I have guys that I can call and lean towards. I’m not someone who looks to vent or complain or do anything else. It is what it is and I’m responsible for it. Man up and take control of it. All you can do is keep working and get better. Roll up your sleeves and go to work. That’s all you can do.”

On Jamal Turner
“Jamal did not practice yesterday. He has a lower calf injury. I would probably say he is day to day.”

On Jake Long
“Same thing. He ran out on the field yesterday. He has a hamstring injury. It is day to day.”

On the offense’s plan moving forward
“Execute at a higher level with more consistency. Going into the year I said efficiency was the key offensively. I still believe that’s the key. There were some things obviously that we didn’t take advantage of during the game. We left a lot of things out there. To a certain extent, we’ve done that a couple of other times during the year. Not just UCLA but a couple of the other games as well. You have to take what the defense has given you and get into the right plays and execute at a high level. That’s what offensive football is. The most disappointing thing is probably that we had chances for some big plays. Those are the things you have to take care of. Those things will come. First and foremost, we have to have more success on first down. We’re a lot better offense in your options and crease when you are ahead in the sticks.”

On the mental side of performance
“The mental side of things brings the physical side of things. I’ll give you an example. If you get your read and you are going in your gap and you don’t take your attention to the block and to your gap and you are staying the backfield, it makes you look hesitant. You know a puller is coming around or a fullback or a lineman is coming to block you. But if you’re not looking at him, you are going to look nonphysical. If you are staring at the ball rather than getting your hands and taking on a block and taking your eyes to that block, it’d be like getting in a fist fight and not looking at the guy you are fighting. You are going to take the brunt of the blow instead of getting up on the block and delivering the blow. That happens way too much with us right now. You can have toughness, but you have to have the eye discipline to go ahead and take your attention to the block. That enables you to be in an attacking mode rather than a catching mode. And that happens with us way too much. That’s why I talk a lot about eye discipline. If you’re staring, it will make you look hesitant. That happens to us way too much. We get in the right spot and we are looking to make the tackle instead of taking on that block first. You take on the block, then you will be in better position to tackle. That’s happened to us a lot.”

On why this happens
“Bad, bad habits. To a certain extent, you might be able to get away with that at the high school level or the junior college level or whatever it may be. When you get at this level and you talk about the size and physicality of guys, you better be ready to get up on blocks. You might be able to do it with the scouts. Like I said, at the end of the day, like I told our coaches you are either coaching it or you are allowing it to happen. Right now we are allowing it to happen. I told our guys you better take heed to what we are asking you to do and do it exactly the way we are asking you to do it. Success in is the details. There’s a reason why we are asking you to do it this way. Unfortunately sometimes you need to get humbled to say ‘that’s why they are telling me to do it that way.’ That’s a little bit of the frustration aspect of it.”

On if he considers changing how he tells the players information
“There’s a lot of different ways to present the information. There are some guys that learn by seeing it. Some guys have to do it. Some guys need a combination of both. It’s an everyday grind. You have to keep grinding it out and keep looking for those buttons to push. That’s what you do as a coach. It’s teaching. You have to look at keep exploring. Let’s face it. Every guy is a little bit different. Every guy learns a different way. It’s teaching. Anyone that’s taught or coached understands that’s a process we go through. It’s why practice is so important. It’s why you have to continue to stay the course.”

On how close Nebraska is to being the nation’s elite
“I’ve said it and I believe it. I don’t think there’s a whole heckuva lot of difference between the teams that are in the top five, 10 and a lot of the other teams. You’ve got to look at the talent level in some of the cases but it’s hard to judge. For the most part, you look across the country and for the most part when you get into league play and get into inner-conference matchups, there’s not a lot of separation. You’re going to get challenged pretty much each and every week. I believe that. You have to be prepared for that. All I can control is the teams that are on our schedule. I know for the next five weeks we are going to get challenged. We are going to have to be ready and keep improving and work our butts off to get better and meet the challenges that lie ahead. You look across college football and that’s usually the case.”

On how close Nebraska is to turning the corner
“I don’t think the state of our program is any different from where it was a week ago. Until we win them all, I’m not going to be satisfied. That’s what we are looking to do. That’s what we are working towards. That standard isn’t going to change. That’s what the expectation is and that’s what the expectation should be in a place like this.”


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