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Huskers Set Sights on Missouri

By NU Athletic Communications
Nebraska Coach Bill Callahan said the Huskers are
Nebraska Coach Bill Callahan said the Huskers are "excited about this upcoming weekend."
Photo by HuskersNside

Nebraska Football

Weekly Press Conference

Oct. 26, 2004

Head Coach Bill Callahan

 

Opening Statement:

“For the players of the game versus Kansas State, our special teams player was Lance Brandenburgh. Our offensive player of the game was Cory Ross, and our defensive player of the game was Barrett Ruud. Our offensive scout team player of the week was Kade Pittman, a running back. Our defensive scout team player of the week was Nate Krug.

 

As we move forward, we are currently underway with our preparations with Missouri. We find ourselves in the midst of a divisional run and a quest for a potential championship, so this game takes on increasing significance. We are really looking forward to the opportunity to play Missouri this weekend. They’re a fine football team, an excellent staff, an excellent team. It will take our best football to beat them.”

 

On the run for the Big 12 North title:

“I always look at the positive side of things, and I’m really encouraged that our players are excited about this upcoming weekend. I talked to a lot of them on Sunday and yesterday, and I get the feel that they want to rectify the errors we had on Saturday. We want to get on with the process of preparation and getting ready to play a competitive team.”

 

On Nebraska’s “best football”:

Missouri’s defense is the No. 1 defense in the conference right now, and as you watch them perform on film, they’re excellent in every area on every level. I look at their defensive line and there’s a lot of movement, a lot of stunts, a lot of slanting, a lot of pass rush – things we have to do in our protection plan to keep the quarterback clean. I look at their corners and their ability; they have excellent talent, good speed, the ability to close, the ability to run with our people. They have excellent range, and they’re physical. They come up and they play the run as physical as any corners I’ve seen. Their second level, their linebackers are smart guys and distinctive guys who feed off each other. They know where they have to be in terms of their definition. They’re coordinated very well. That’s what I see on film, and I see the potential of a defense that plays the pass extremely well because they pressure you so many different ways. It’s a complex system they’re operating. They have several years now behind their system, so you see that emerge on film. You see their players run hard, close to the ball, and they define themselves as well as any defense I’ve seen.”

 

On the mental aspect of the game:

“No. 1, it starts with the staff. When you happen to be in the adverse situation we’re in right now – we dropped a tough conference game on Saturday – it’s tough. It’s disappointing, and it’s embarrassing. The players and the coaches hurt. They hurt from the inside out. We feel gutted in so many respects. But this is a tough staff, and these are tough players. They’re awfully resilient in the way they bounce back, and our ability to handle adversity is one of the things I looked at very intently during the hiring process. So you have several coaches on this staff who have been through adverse conditions. They’ve gone through a losing season, a disappointing loss. They are no rookies by any stretch. They know exactly what the situation is, and they know they’re competing hard. They know this was a tough loss. We’re all hurt by that, but they’re strong men. This staff is consistent and persistent in everything we do. We’re going to continue to forge forward, and we’re looking forward to Saturday’s game. The profile of our staff was put together with that in mind. It’s a tough place. The expectation levels are high, and you have to win a national championship here. We put that pressure on ourselves. When we don’t meet that expectation, we’re all disappointed. We’ll continue to move on and improve and learn from this past experience.”

 

On the team after the loss to Kansas State:

“I spoke to a lot of them, and I feel like they’re resilient and they want to go out and get another chance to prove themselves and correct the errors that they had from Saturday. This is a challenge for all of us – coaches, players, our entire program. It challenges us deeply. I believe we’ll play well on Saturday, I really do, based on how we studied the film and how we took the criticism from the mistakes and what we drew from the positives. There were a lot of positives. I know from being in coaching and athletics, when you lose a game, nobody wants to hear about the positives; nobody wants to hear about what play did well, or this guy improved, or this unit is emerging. Nobody wants to hear about that. It’s a bottom-line business. That’s the culture of our society. It’s win now, or be gone. Like Bill Parcells used to say, if you win, you get to stay another week. And if you lose, you don’t. This is a business that’s very bottom-line. This is an experience and an expectation level that is very high, so we understand that. We understand the nature of all this, so we continue to deal with it and move on.”

 

On the players’ overall effort:

“I think we can always play better. I challenge our team continually to play at a higher level – a level to take themselves to win a championship. That vision hasn’t changed. We’re always on target, and the vision is always there to win a championship – a divisional championship, a Big 12 championship, and vie for the national championship. Those are the goals, and that’s the vision. We’ll never come off that mark. We’re always striving to get there, and sometimes we don’t get there. We take a step back, and we learn from those experiences and move on.”

 

“After the game, we were all emotional. Nobody likes to lose, but that’s just the way it is. As I sit back and study – I’ve watched this film several times – I watch how our players come back. We’re at a 7-0, a 14-0. We close it to a 14-7. It becomes a 21-7, a 21-14, and then it becomes a 24-14. Now it becomes 24-21. And as I look at that sequence of scoring, it just shows a lot of resolve in our players to come back from behind and make the plays necessary to get back in a tough situation that we put ourselves in. It comes down to that late third quarter. When you look at the game and you study it from that perspective of being in the third quarter at the four-minute mark, it’s a 24-21 game with a three-point deficit, we’ve closed the margin. We’ve closed the gap. All of a sudden, you’re sitting at third-and-two on the offensive side, and you don’t convert. You give the ball away. You punt it away for 42 yards, and they return it 17. We make a stop, and then the next series, we find ourselves in another third-and-long situation. I called a screen on second-and-11. It didn’t work out, so now we’re sitting at third-and-11. Now we’ve got to make a throw and a catch against a tough third-down defense. We don’t make that play. Those are two areas right there that are what I call crisis situations where you have to make the play that determines the outcome. There are two or three plays that define each game in football. What I’m seeing, and what I feel, is that we’re in the midst of making some great plays late in the game, and we don’t come up with those plays to sustain the drive or drive the ball the length of the field and score. What happens is those situations become definable to me. They stick out like a sore thumb to me in a lot of respects. You have to define what you’re doing, when you’re doing it, what you’re calling and how you can improve that. That’s where the game is. Jay (Norvell), I think, alluded to it when he talked about third down. That is where the game is won or lost. If we don’t do better in those situations, we don’t improve. So that’s what we talked to the players about – improving those crisis situations late in the game, in the third quarter, in the fourth quarter. You have to sustain, and you have to finish strong. Those are the areas that impact us all as a coaching staff and as a team. We put a lot of time into that. We really looked at it and tried to evaluate what we’re doing, how we can do it better, how we can go back to the practice field and in to this next game plan to prepare our team in a better fashion. That’s the coaching process, and that’s the learning process involved. I think we all learned something from that. Unfortunately, we didn’t come out on the win side of it, but I think we learned a great deal about ourselves. We learned about those situations and how to better handle them again in the future. I take that as a learning lesson.”

 

On the defense’s confidence level:

“Defense is emotional. It’s about making plays, and it’s about feeding off one another. I can only hearken back to several experiences. I go back to our championship game in Oakland when we played the Ravens in 2000. Right in front of our bench prior to the kickoff, Ray Lewis came out with their group, and that was one of the most historic defenses that ever played in the National Football League, and they came out and huddled right in front of where our offensive line was positioned on the bench. And he goes through this rant and rave – I think we’ve seen it before – but it’s an intimidating process. What you see is a frenzy of sharks sitting there getting ready to go play. They’re all tied in, they’re all dialed in. They fed off of each other. That’s what we have to get to, and that’s where we have to go. We tried to transmit that on Saturday, and it didn’t transfer as well. It’s a process as a coaching staff that we have to improve. That’s something you learn as a player, and as you have other guys who are injected into the defense and other guys who have to step up, they have to become that type of leader. They have to become that type of player to tie everybody together. That’s what we’re working hard on to create. That’s where I think it begins. It begins within. Then it transfers to the field.”

 

“It’s evident, as you look at the first four games, that our defense played extremely well. As we went down to Lubbock and suffered the consequences there and came back against Baylor and didn’t play up near to our potential. And when you go to a K-State and don’t start the way you should start, everything gets magnified. To that end, our defense in the second half – they did come back, and they did play well and show a new life in the second half, especially our special teams. The defensive players who were playing special teams carried that on when they picked up the mis-snap and scored off that. Then they had a couple of stops that put the offense in position. I haven’t seen our team gel together as one yet, but as we work hard to try to create and manufacture that, that’s where we are. That’s the challenge that lies ahead for all of us – to get all three units playing at a very high level, in sync, together. That’s the bottom line.”

 

On the defense:

“I just think as I’ve watched our team start, I really love deferring as a head coach in terms of the coin toss so your defense gets on the field. They set the table. They set the tone for the game. I think it’s important to have your defense that has been stellar go out there and really dictate the tempo of the game. That’s important for us. It’s a little bit of a letdown when we give up a long scoring drive on a first series. I alluded to that a week ago. I talked about our opening drive starts – whether it’s in the first half, or the second half or both, we have to start fast in each ballgame. That urgency to start fast by every player – offensively, defensively, and on special teams – is critical to your success. You can commend K-State for their fast start, but we’re looking at ourselves and saying we have the ability to do this, we just have to pull the trigger and make things happen.”

 

On changes based on mistakes from the last few games:

“There’s going to be mistakes in football, no matter what level you’re on. There are mistakes. All you can do is go back and correct them. Competitively speaking, there are errors out there that are correctable. But these kids are trying, they really are. They’re playing hard; they’re giving their best efforts. We have to go back and do a better job and give them the tools necessary to win. Now those tools can be techniques, they can be fundamentals, they can be schemes, they can be motivation. Whatever it takes, we have to provide that as a staff. We put the best competitors out there. We make decisions for this team based on the best for this team. Those decisions that come out are all predicated on what is best for our team, so if there are any changes, it’s done in that context.”

 

On motivating a college player versus a professional player:

“The thing about money motivating players in the National Football League, I think that’s a huge clichι. It goes a lot deeper than the pocket. It’s not all about money, and I think the great ones will take you that. Jerry Rice – it’s not about the money. It’s about playing the game he loves to play, coming to practice and putting everything he can into a practice, before the practice, after the practice, staying late, studying film. It’s about a passion to win. That thing about the difference between a pro player and a college player – certainly there are differences, but the passion, and the will to win and what you have inside you, that doesn’t change. That’s what’s inside you from the time that you started playing pee-wee football and high school football to the point where you are right now. Hopefully that carries on to some of these players’ professional careers. I don’t look at that as being a huge difference, I really don’t.”

 

On Matt Herian, Ross Pilkington and Cory Ross:

“Ross has been injured, and he has played through some really tough injuries unbeknownst to a lot of people out there. He has been substituted for throughout the course of a contest. Herian is a guy we try to get the ball to. I think there were four occasions on Saturday where we attempted to go that way, but it didn’t come off and didn’t succeed. Unfortunately those things happen, and they happen on days when you don’t expect it, Sometimes when you don’t expect them to have a huge production day, they have some of their greatest numbers. That’s a tough question to answer sometimes. You try to get the ball to your marquee players, but we didn’t succeed in doing that.”

 

On opposing defenses focusing on Matt Herian:

“I think, first off, they have a lot to deal with. Secondly, I think it would be really tough to just focus on one player. With all due respect to the other defenses playing us, I think they have other things to be concerned with as well.”

 

On his conversations with Steve Pederson:

“I do talk to Steve quite a bit – every day, in fact. I’ve mentioned this throughout the year. We have great dialogue and communication on an on-going basis. He’s reiterated to me to stay upbeat and positive, which I am. He doesn’t have to say that, but he goes out of his way to say that. That’s the mark of a sound leader in that respect.”

 

“Handling defeats is tough. Nobody likes to lose. None of us like to lose, and we’re all disappointed, but I think the main thing is how you handle defeat. How you handle defeat with your players and with your team is really key because it can impact them several ways. If you’re positive about your corrections and how you go about correcting a player specifically in terms of his performance, it can have a real positive effect for the next week. I’m really in tune to that just because I don’t want to be in a position to single anybody out. I don’t want to dwell on one particular player or one particular play. I want to be able to move on positively. There are a lot of positive things you have to draw from when you go through some adverse situations like we’re going through. You have to be able to single those out and point those out and help your team move on. Otherwise you don’t get better, and everything you say comes out in a negative fashion. In a negative tone, it doesn’t really lift the player up. I’m very careful about that. I’m very cognizant in every respect when you deal with a loss, and how you handle that with your players, I think, it is instrumental. There is compassion there. These guys have given a great effort. They’ve gone out and played their hearts out. It didn’t work out. As I told the team after the game, we have a long way to go. We have to continue working hard and do the little things you have to do to be a championship team. That’s the nature of it, and I think they understand. They’re frustrated. We’re all frustrated, so we have to work through this and hopefully, we can put together a good plan to go out and play Missouri hard.”

 

On reserve players putting up good numbers in a game:

“I have great admiration for Andrew Shanle, just for the mere fact that he’s had to step up so quickly. He’s been instrumental in a lot of different cell packages and also on our special teams, but he gets basically a starting role because Josh (Bullocks) couldn’t hold up very well on Saturday. He tried as hard as he could. He gave forth a great effort in my opinion. As I watched Josh, most guys wouldn’t have played that game. They just wouldn’t play that game. He has a dislocated shoulder and he doesn’t have to play. To his credit and to his courage, he comes out, plays hard, plays as tough as he can. Sometimes it just doesn’t hold up. Sometimes that best effort when you’re really injured – there’s a difference between being hurt and being injured – doesn’t hold up. So we have to back him down and put ‘Shans’ in the game. This is an opportunity for him to go ahead and make his mark. I thought on several occasions, especially in our pressure package, he made some great plays. He made a great play where he forced an interception, but we were also penalized on that, too. He was being aggressive and trying to make a play on the quarterback, and the official, the referee in the backfield there, looked at it differently than I did. That’s life. Then again, you look later at the second half, and he makes another play. He breaks through the line of scrimmage, sacks the quarterback. He’s excited, he’s jumping up and down, and he makes a key play. His coverage technique was very good. I thought his ability to come downhill and fill the alley was excellent. So he brings that dimension you’re looking for in a backup player who steps up and gives you a winning-type contribution. That just speaks volumes for his game.”

 

On the expectations coming into the season:

“I had no illusions of grandeur, I really didn’t. I’ll be honest with you. I knew the situation that I came into here, and I’ve said that before. I knew it was tough. It’s a tough situation. Again, when you’re a head coach, and you’re going through a period of time and transition with a team that hardly knows you or your staff, and players who have been here for three, four, five years, it’s tough. We try to be as honest as we can in our communication and our program to be effective with our players. We do the best we can. That’s all you can do – look at yourself in the mirror and say ‘I did the best I can’ in this respect of dealing with your team and your players. I knew it was going to be tough. There are contests here that we haven’t won in the past. That’s no knock on anybody, that’s just the nature, and those are the facts. We have to break through. We have to break those barriers. We have to have some breakthrough games in the next few weeks that get us back on the track and get us back on the mark. That’s a part of transition. It’s tough when you come into a transitional role, and you come into it with players who have been doing something for a year and prior to that year they had a different coach. All those things are unique. They’re not excuses, those are facts. I lived that life in the NFL, when you have players who go through coach, through coach, through coach, it’s tough. You come in there with a whole new pitch, and you’re selling your systems, and this is the third time they’ve heard this spiel. They have to sort out the reality from the perception. That’s where we are. As I reflect back on my own professional career, I look at coaching Steve Wisniewski when I was with the Raiders. He had several professional coaches in his time. He had Joe Bugle, he had a ton of line coaches come through Oakland, and he was a six-time Pro Bowl player when I got there. When you go in there, these guys have heard you several times. It’s important that you convey to them what you’re trying to get across and what you want to deliver in terms of your philosophy. You want to mesh and blend with them as well as you can. It takes communication, an ongoing dialogue, a lot of perseverance. It takes a lot of energy to transfer a new system into success. The point I’m trying to make is that you have to be able to adapt. We’re adapting as a staff, and I’m continuing to learn about our team and about ourselves as we move forward. It’s tough. It’s one of those things you have to deal with, and we all understand.”

 

On the 1994 national championship team:

“I’m just trying to focus in on our team. That’s great that they’re coming back and that they have a ceremony for them. I think that’s wonderful. I haven’t thought about that much. We just have so much to do internally. We need to get everything reorganized and restructured to the point that we can go out and compete as hard as we can for a win on Saturday.”

 

Kevin Cosgrove, Defensive Coordinator

On Missouri quarterback Brad Smith:

“He’s pretty good, isn’t he? He’s very athletic. I would say that he’s probably a little more athletic than the kid we saw last week (Kansas State quarterback Allen Webb). He has tremendous command of his offense. He really executes it well. He is a major part of the offense in the running game, as well as the passing game, with all of the bootlegs and nakeds that they do. He has the ability to run the ball, pull it down and run if nothing’s open.”

 

On the athleticism of Brad Smith:

“Naturally, there’s a concern anytime you play an athletic quarterback. There’s always a chance for him to make guys miss, particularly when you drop back and pass, where you get everyone dropping back in coverage. If the rush lane’s open, there’s a big area there, and then it becomes an open-field tackle with the linebackers on a pretty skilled athlete. We have to do a good job of keeping our rush lanes this week and not give him any big, gaping holes to look at where he can pull the ball down and run it.”

 

On the type of running plays Missouri uses:

“They use a lot of quarterback counter, where the back goes one way and the guard and tackle pull in the direction that he’s going. Also the QB sweep, where they’re basically in zone blocking with a lead blocker coming out of the backfield with him running the football. Those are his two main runs, along with the quarterback follow, where the quarterback follows the back, and the quarterback draw also. He is a major part of their offense.”

 

On motivating the defense this week:

“I think our kids have a very good attitude, and I don’t want to take anything away from that. We need everybody to stay close, stay intense and practice with a purpose this week. I believe we’ll get it.”

 

On focusing too much on Brad Smith:

“I think their offense starts with him. When you defend any offense, you need to start with their best player to try to limit him in the game. But they do have some very good receivers. (Sean) Coffey is a big kid. Their backs are good, so it’s more than just a one-dimensional threat with Smith. I think you have to start in the preparation of any game trying to do the best you can against their best player.”

 

On Missouri’s backup running backs:

“The backup No. 20, Marcus Woods, is not quite as big as Damien (Nash), but he has the same type of quickness. He’s about 5-8, 185 pounds, and he has the same type of quickness as Damien.”

 

On NU improving its tackling:

“Our tackling hasn’t been good, has it? I think we’re going to throw away all of those tackling sleds we have and get some new ones, the new and improved kind for the 2004 year. I keep on saying that we have not tackled well in the open field and we have to continue working on it, and we will.”

 

On the lack of turnovers forced by the defense in the past few games:

“We’ve had our opportunities, had a dropped interception and didn’t get our fumbles. Sometimes the ball bounces your way and sometimes it doesn’t. But we have had opportunities to get more turnovers.”

 

“There’s been years where we’ve had a ton of turnovers and other years where we haven’t had many. Turnovers go in cycles, but we continue to work on them. Naturally, anytime when the ball is in the air, we want it to be ours. We work on stripping the ball in practice and trying to get the ball out. It’s not for lack of effort, we just need to continue to work on it.”

 

On the improvements made in Missouri’s passing game this season:

“I think they have. Naturally, the more he’s involved in the system, the better he’s going to be. They do some nice things with him out of the pocket, or some times he has some run-pass options if the receiver isn’t open. In the little bit I watched him last year, I think he’s a much better player this year.”

 

On last year’s game:

“When I look at that game, I see the same thing I’ve seen in the last couple. There was a lot of missed tackles in that game. I don’t know if they thought he was as big of a threat as he was, but you have to do a good job of containing him. He made a lot of plays last year against us, and we have to try and do our best job to make sure that doesn’t happen this year.”

 

On making workout adjustments in practice:

“We do a lot of tackling during the week, and when you say live tackling, we don’t scrimmage during the season. We get enough snaps during the game. We do a lot of form tackling, a lot of changing direction, get out of body balance and get back into balance and tackle. Sometimes those tackling drills are better than scrimmage tackles, because a lot of times guys leave their feet. When you play against people with the athletic ability that Smith has, you don’t want to leave your feet. You want to gather yourself, sink your hips and run your feet through the ball carrier. Try to create good habits, not bad habits.”

 

On whether he expects the defense to play better in front of their home crowd:

“Yes, I do. I think our kids really like playing at home. We have a great crowd, and they take a lot of pride in it.”

 

On the defense feeding off of emotion:

“I think any defense feeds off of emotion. We always talk about the pendulum swinging back and forth. We had some momentum on Saturday, and then we let it get away from us. Some times its harder to keep that “mo” on the road than it is at home, because of the home crowd. So, we look forward to our crowd being cranked up this week and being that extra guy.”

 

On if Andrew Shanle will continue to see extensive playing time at free safety:

“He will, but we fully expect Josh (Bullocks) to be full go this week.”

 

On if Josh Bullocks played at full speed last Saturday:

“Yes, he was full speed, and he didn’t complain about being hurt at all. Not getting the practice time he needs, it wasn’t there last week. Shanle had most of the practice time, and I think you can tell by the performance of who played better.”

 

On whether the defense is emotionally fragile after recent losses:

“I think when things are good, we’re good, when things go well. That’s not in all cases, because I think early in the year we’ve had a lot of adversity and we’ve battled through it, and contained offenses even with real good field position. We had sparks of that on Saturday, too. I thought our kids did a good job on the one turnover of stopping two quarterback sneaks, third-and-one and fourth-and-one. That’s hard to do, let alone stop one sneak. That showed that our kids were playing hard and they had a lot left in them.”

 

On whether players are losing faith in the system:

“I don’t think so at all. I think, just talking to them when they watched the film, they see the mistakes. Everything is sound. Everything needs to be executed, as with any offensive or defensive scheme. As coaches, we have to do a better job with the fundamentals and the reactions of our players. That’s what we’re going to work hard on again this week.”

 

Jay Norvell, Offensive Coordinator

Opening Statement:

“We had some really positive performances on Saturday offensively.  Brandon Jackson, as a young kid, did some really good things.  Cory Ross played after getting dinged up the week before.  We were really proud of his efforts and his performance.  Terrence Nunn is a young receiver; he is starting to make some strides, and made a big play for us.  Seppo Evwaraye played his best game as a tackle for us as a guy in his first year playing offensive tackle.  We were really proud of all those guys’ performances.  Obviously we missed a great opportunity on Saturday.  Offensively we had some great chances in the third quarter to really take advantage of them and we didn’t come through.  The turnovers in the fourth quarter really made a difference in the game.  We’ve just got to continue going back to the drawing board.  We have got another opportunity versus a quality opponent.  We have a chance to get it back on track.”

 

On Cory Ross:

“This time of year when you’re a running back and you carry the ball as many times as he has you’re sore.  He’ll be fine, and he will battle back.  He is a tough kid, he really cares about this football team.  He will do everything he can to get back out there and play in the game this weekend.”

 

On Seppo Evwaraye:

“He just played his best all-around game, in pass protection, and in the run game.  He is a very explosive big guy.  He is starting to understand the principles and techniques that we are asking him to do.  There were a lot of times in that game that he did exactly what he was supposed to do.  We are really pleased with his progress as a tackle.”

 

On Brandon Jackson at No. 2 on the depth chart:

“He is definitely a factor for us.  He is a guy who is going to carry the ball, and we need him to carry the ball.  I don’t know where that lies on the depth chart, but I know that he will carry the ball for us every week.  He has done a good job for us, and he will continue to do that.”

 

On Missouri’s defense:

“They are one of the better defenses in the conference.  They do a great job on pass defense.  I think they are third in rush defense in the conference.  They are very sound all the way around.  They give you some problems.  They pressure your protections, and they come after you.  They force you to protect the blitz and throw against the blitz.  Those are our challenges this week.  We have to do a great job protecting the quarterback.  We have to do a great job running routes versus man coverage, zone coverage and making plays.  Those are things that we have struggled with the past couple of weeks.  We have got to continue to work on that and improve on our execution in the game.”

 

On Missouri’s opponents:

“I think that they have just kept coming after them.  OSU was a great example of that.  They just kept doing the things that they believe in and kept executing.  Finally they broke through at the end of the game, and made plays that they needed to make.  That’s the way these tough conference games are.  You have got to keep pounding and keep believing.  Your team has got to rally and stay together, and find a way to make it happen in the second half of the game.  That is our challenge.  We are trying to rally and keep our kids in the right frame of mind.  They need to keep fighting and keep competing, and make those critical plays that you have got to make to win those kind of games.  We had some opportunities last week.  In the third quarter when it was a three-point game our defense was fighting their tails off, and our offense has got to convert third downs, and also take advantage of opportunities.  We didn’t get it done in last week’s game.  Those are the types of things that we have got to get squared away in order to win those close games.”

 

On the third-down conversion percentage:

“We would like to be up around 50 percent or higher.  Obviously third-and-long situations are going to be a little bit tougher.  Those are the toughest situations that you have to execute on third down.  The two most critical areas offensively are third downs and turnovers.  Both of those areas we have got to continue working on and making progress on, especially in the second half when the game is on the line.  We weren’t on the field that much, but a lot of that was our fault.  We have got to continue to sustain drives, move the ball down the field, convert on third downs, make the critical throws and catches, and protect when it is tough to keep third downs alive.  That is our challenge, and that is what we’ve got to continue to work on.  Our third-and-short package on offense is a real strength of our football team.  We feel like we have a real understanding of how to run the ball third and short.  So if we can do a good job on first down, not get behind the eight ball, not have any negative runs, and not have penalties that put us in long yardage situations, it is much easier to convert on third down.  Part of that is doing a great job on first down whether you are running it or throwing it and you are completing passes.”

 

On the execution process:

“It is pretty simple.  It is guys running the proper route correctly.  It is the quarterback throwing the ball accurately.  It is an offensive lineman making the proper block.  It is basically across the board it is and execution offensively of each individual player taking care of his responsibilities, and believing in his responsibilities.  In critical times of the game that is what it comes down to.  It’s the confidence you believe and the techniques that you are using, and your ability to execute them that determines your success.  At critical times in the game, on third down in the second half we have got to do a better job of that.”

 

Joe Dailey:

On staying mentally strong:

“That’s what it’s been about the whole season, just staying strong. We have a lot of games left, and we’ve only lost three games. We still have to continue to fight.”

 

On staying loose:

“Things just get a little tighter on third down and on first down, sometimes based upon what formation we’re in. People like to blitz us out of a certain look just because we’re vulnerable in that particular formation.”

 

On players making big plays:
”Playmakers usually are the ones who execute on a daily basis. Those plays are made because of their ability. Terrence Nunn made a big play in the first half (against Kansas State) and that’s a guy that hasn’t touched the ball that much this year. We executed the play, and he turned it into a very big play. That’s what it comes down to—just getting the ball into your playmakers’ hands and then allow them to do what they do best.”

 

On Missouri’s defense:

“They love to blitz. They’re big guys and they’re physical guys. Their brand of football is unique, and it’s what we base ourselves upon. They’re very physical and play very fast. That’s great for them, and that’s a great challenge for us.”

 

On getting the passing game going:

“It’s important for any offense to be able to get the ball vertically down the field and establish a rhythm and get guys off the line of scrimmage and be able to run the ball. That sets up a lot of things; play action, screens. It’s just a matter of executing the short-yardage plays very early and allowing ourselves to make big plays by running the ball and have (defenders) get up in the box and throw it over their head.”

 

On the offense:

“Offensively, my mentality hasn’t changed. I know the possibilities that this offense has, and it’s just a matter of really being able to make those things happen when they have to be made and not just letting things happen. You have to take personal responsibility as a skill player to make something happen when it’s your opportunity. When it’s not your turn, you have to be downfield blocking. When you get your chance, you have to perform.”

 

On confidence in the defense:

“Nothing has changed. Sometimes circumstances arise and sometimes certain people respond to that because of the situation they’re put in. I personally have all the confidence that you can have in a defense right now. I have no problem with those guys.”

 

On being in the hunt for the Big 12 North title:

“It’s a tough league, but at the same time not everybody’s executing very well right now. That’s clearly visible right now. Quite a few people still have a chance, and it really just comes down to who wants it most.”

 

On motivation of knowing the winner of Saturday’s game leads the Big 12 North:

“I see it like this: if we win this game, it won’t clinch it, but it will put us in the driver’s seat to be happy, but not satisfied. Right now, we really just look forward to winning this game.”

 

On playing at home:

“I really don’t think there’s a problem playing at home or away. I don’t think that’s an issue. We’re comfortable no matter where we are. It’s just a matter of coming out and being very confident in our game plan. Once that’s established, then anything can happen on gameday.”

 

On what the coaches are doing to keep players in a good frame of mind:

“They just tell us the truth. They never lie to us and never dress things up. As a player, you want your coaches to always tell you the truth and never dress things up, and that’s what they do. They tell us exactly the situation that we’re in, the pros and cons of it and what can eventually come out of it. I personally like it, and I know the team enjoys it because that way you know there are no hidden agendas and everything’s out in the open.”

 

On playing for the coaches:

“They coach us from Monday through Friday, and we absorb everything we can, and we go out there on Saturday and try to display what they teach us. I think we do that to a certain extent, and sometimes it falls back on us. They’re disappointed and so are we. It’s not that we want those things to happen or we intentionally do those things, they just happen that way. Coaches understand that, and I don’t think they’re disappointed. They can understand the situation and why things happen.”

 

On the disappointment of the team’s losses:

“We were in those games, and we just let them get away from us. We were in those games going into the fourth quarter and it slipped away. It lets you know that we’re not as bad of a team as people think we are, we’re not at all. We’re still in it, and we feel it’s just a matter of overcoming those obstacles.”

 

Linebacker Stewart Bradley

On Missouri quarterback Brad Smith:

“He’s a really athletic player and he brings a lot to the table and is definitely going to be a challenge to contain.”

 

On the confidence level of the defense:

“When you look at film, most of the errors and problems we’re having are problems that we’re making ourselves. Not that another team is doing something to us, that we’re getting physically out-muscled or teams are just too fast. It’s just us over-running plays, missing too many tackles and not being aligned correctly. It gives you confidence that they’re easily correctible mistakes, and they’re things that we’re in control of.”

 

On getting the swagger back on defense:

“I think that we have to go back to basics. We got too caught up in little details and really looking at the scores and the numbers and the national rankings with defense and rushing yards. We just have to let all that stuff slide and get past the (Texas Tech) game. The coaches really preached and told us we needed to move past every game, win or lose. You have to focus on the team you’re playing that week. For the most part, we’ve probably done a good part of that, but I think there’s some semblance of that in your mind when you make bad plays. You try not to, but it creeps in. We really have to focus this week on letting the last three weeks go and focus on the positive things that we can take out of those games, and the changes we can make from those games and try to come into this week with some swagger.”

 

On his emergence:

“The most important thing for all of us is how the team plays. The win-and-loss column is our No. 1 stat that we care about. As far as individually developing, I think just playing more games has helped, just being out on the field. We’re not focusing on anyone’s individual performances right now. We want to get sound as a whole defense.”

 

On keeping your emotion in check:

“I think sometimes if you get so geeked up for a game during the week, you run on such high emotion that sometimes you can go into a game flat. I think that maybe that happened a little bit. There was a lot of emotion from some of the older guy’s that had played K-State before and how the game went last year. We were really emotional during the week and had a great week of practice and unfortunately that might have had us coming into the game a little flat.”

 

On the team’s emotion this week:

“You learned first-hand from your mistakes. We’re definitely going to keep it in check. The coaches were on us to stay calm and not get too excited, but we need to hold us accountable for that kind of stuff because the coaches can’t really control your emotions. We’ve talked about it as a group, that we’re going to focus on fundamentals this week, stay grounded, look at the game plan, really try to learn it, and not get all emotional about what happened last year—(Missouri) is a team we lost to and it was a bad score last year. If we just come into this game focused on making all of our assignments, making sound tackles, playing good, fundamental football, and playing sound in all of our gaps, we should be fine.”

 

On the coaches:

“I think all the coaches have done a great job. They’ve been really positive with us, and have helped us focus on things we can improve from and things we can take positive out of the games, and that’s hard to do as coaches. There are obviously a lot of negative things that happened. It’s hard not to focus on those, but they did a good job of taking things that we can correct on the positives out of the game and having us focus and improve (on them).”

 

On the gameplan against a Missouri team without its top running back:

“They have a lot of talent on the team. I’m sure they have another guy that’s going to step in and fill his shoes. I don’t think it’s really going to affect our game plan. They’re still going to run the same type of schemes. We’re just going to have to be focused and prepared to contain the run, and that’s what we focus on every week. I think that will really make a huge difference in our preparation.

 

On being tied for first place in the Big 12 North:

“It is surprising with our record that we’re still tied for first in the Big 12 North, but we’re not complaining about it. It’s a good opportunity. Not many teams in this country still are in control of their own destiny, as far as their conference goes, and we are. We can win out and we still have a lot of positive things that can happen with this season. We’re really excited about this week, and have a positive outlook about it.”

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