Nebraska Football: Huskers Discuss Clash with Cowboys
September 1, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
Lincoln - Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini and the Huskers welcomed members of the media
Monday to Memorial Stadium on Labor Day to discuss this Saturday's clash with
Kickoff between the Huskers and the Cowboys is set for 11 a.m., with live national
television coverage provided by ESPNU.
Nebraska, which opened its 125th season of football with a 55-7 run past Florida
Atlantic, put up 784 yards of total offense and 498 rushing yards in the win over
the Owls. The Huskers are ranked No. 22 nationally, while McNeese State comes to
Lincoln for its season opener ranked No. 9 in the Football Championship Subdivision.
McNeese State returns 16 starters from a team that went 10-3 last season and
advanced to the FCS playoffs. Coach Matt Viator is a three-time nominee for Eddie
Robinson National Coach of the Year, and he led the Cowboys to their first-ever win
over an FCS opponent last year with a 53-21 victory over South Florida.
Complete Transcript of Coach Bo Pelini's Press Conference
Monday, Sept. 1, 2014
Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Neb.)
"To get it started, I thought the film showed exactly what I thought. There were
some good things and there were a lot of things that we could learn from, clean up
and get better from. It wasn't just the things when you watch the film that could
hurt you in the game, it was things that could hurt you down the road if you don't
get them fixed. There were a lot of mistakes. There were a lot of things that
obviously showed that it was our first game. And really that was in all phases in
the game. I'm going off topic, but there were some good things. I'll tell you,
number one thing is that our kids played hard. They played hard and I liked their
approach. Now we've just got to work to play smarter and more efficiently, and play
with better technique and fundamentals. There were some good things. We learned a
lot. We're making some adjustments. You'll be seeing some new guys and some things
shuffling around, especially in the special teams area. Once again, we need to learn
what we can from this last football game and get better. So I'll open up for
On the status of junior defensive end Randy Gregory
"Randy Gregory, it was similar to what happened to (Andy) Janovich when he got hurt
a couple weeks ago. It was an old injury, something that just flared up on him. They
went in there and fixed it. I would say he's doubtful for this week, but probable
for the Fresno game."
On the nature of Gregory's injury
"I'm not a doctor, but it was an old injury on his knee. It was something he did
playing basketball years ago and it flared up on him. The MRI clearly showed that it
was an old injury. It was a non-contact thing. Like I said, it was just something
when you're out there playing, you don't know what's going to flare something up
like that. The doctors could see from the MRI that it was very old. Just scar tissue
and whatever it was that made it flare up. It wasn't a compact thing or anything
like that. He just felt some clicking. They just did a cleanup scope yesterday
On if Gregory could play against McNeese State if needed
"Probably. Like I said, we're not looking to rush him back right now. We want to
make sure he's 100 percent, and that he feels good. Whatever that time frame is,
we'll see. I could say this, like Janovich, we've had a couple of guys that have had
something very similar and they came back very quickly."
On junior defensive end Jack Gangwish's performance
"I thought he did some good things. I think there are things that he'd want back and
we'd want back. I think he played hard. I think Jack's going to help us. There's no
question. He's really worked hard. He's getting better. He had a couple mental
mistakes in there. He played hard and pretty physical. He did some good things for
us. Having (Peyton) Newell and putting him out on third down when we needed him to
is also a real plus for us. For his first extended playing time, I thought he did
some good things for us out there. Joe Keels has been dealing with a deal where his
ankle has been bothering him. It's probably the first time in weeks that he's been
feeling like 100 percent. He's done some good things for us, too."
On the improvement of sophomore defensive end Greg McMullen
"It's like night and day for Greg. He had a good year last year. He was very
productive last year in the snaps that he played. He's a good football player. He's
really focused. He's an instinctive guy. With his size and strength, he's a physical
guy out there. I like how Greg's playing."
On the status of junior wide receiver Sam Burtch, sophomore wide receiver Brandon
Reilly and junior offensive lineman Zach Sterup
"Sterup will practice tomorrow. Reilly and Burtch are day to day. We'll see how they
On the nature of Burtch's injury
"He had a head injury."
On the emphasis of moving the ball down the field more
"When it's there, Tommy (Armstrong) throws the ball well and we have guys that can
get far down the field. We're going to take what's there. I thought he made some
good reads. There were a couple times where he was going to go down the field but
took it out left, which was a good thing to see. I think it's important for us that
as long as we're going to be able to run the football, we have to keep people off of
us, too. If you want to load the box, you're going to have to keep our guys going
down the field. We've got some guys who can make a stretch down the field, that's
On if the down-the-field approach stemmed from last year
"I think that's the nature of defense now, especially when you have a quarterback
that's a part of the run game. Counting numbers, you've got to get a guy up there
every now and then, which gives you a chance to beat them over the top. At times I
think we got to pick the times to and when not to. I thought we had a good handle on
our approach this past Saturday. I thought Tim (Beck) had a good feel for when to
take the shots. And when he got the right looks, Tommy got us into some of the right
plays and made some god decisions."
On offensive coordinator Tim Beck's ability to create new plays
"Tim's an outstanding offensive mind and football coach. He really understands the
game. He understands the defense. I think he does a really good job of giving our
guys the opportunity to have great success-both in the running and passing game and
marrying the two so that they work together. I thought he called a good game the
other day. I like what I saw from our offense. They did some good things."
On quarterback Ryker Fyffe's scholarship
"I don't have the whole list in front of me, but I try not to make it a big deal.
I'm not trying to shy away from the players that go on scholarship because they've
earned it. But to a certain extent, I try not to make a big deal out of it because
there are a lot of other guys that probably deserve it as well. I have a hard time
making that distinction. Ryker went on because he's a clear two. He's played well
and he's earned that right. He's proved that. Unfortunately for us we've only got 85
(scholarships) to play with. That can be difficult at times because there are other
guys that we just don't have the room for that are also deserving. That's why I've
kind of backed off on making those announcements and making a big deal about it
because I don't want to act like there are other guys that are not deserving as
well. It's a numbers game unfortunately."
On preparing to face an FCS team
"Like I talk to them every week, it doesn't really matter who we play. Our approach
needs to be the same. The way we practice, the way we execute and the way we game
plan. We don't change a thing about how we game plan. FBS, FCS-I couldn't even tell
you what we are. At the end of the day, they're our next opponent. We're going to
approach it like we do any other week. Our players feel that. They understand where
we're coming from there. I think they're highly ranked in that division. It doesn't
surprise me. They're a well-coached football team. I was around this program a
little from my years in Louisiana. They are going to pose some problems for you. Our
goal is to be a better football team this week regardless of who we're playing or
anything else than we were a week ago. That means we've got to put in the work this
week and our approach has to stay the same no matter what. That's part of what it
means to be a football team. I've always taken the approach, even when I was a
coordinator. If they feel it from us, then they're going to react to it. I think
this is a very capable football team; a very talented and well-coached football
team. You worry about sometimes what guys read and what the perception is on the
outside. Sometimes we'll even go above how we game plan them. We make the learning
such that you better be into this game plan or you're not going to be able to
execute the right way."
On if this will be the last time they will invite an FCS team to Lincoln
"This is probably the last one. I would prefer it. When I say that, it sounds like
McNeese State is not a good football team. I'm not saying that. I'd just prefer to
not have to deal with that. And who knows where scheduling is going to go down the
road. The whole shift of college football and what's going to happen. The Big 5
conferences and whatever is being talked about. I think that scheduling will
probably change for everybody across the board over the next few years. I would
anticipate that, but I don't know. It's hard to say where it's going to go. But I
think this is the last time we'll play a team an FCS team."
On how much input he has on scheduling
"You know I have some input, usually it is so far out - we're talking about the
second game of 2020 - it is like you know what, whatever you see fit. If there is
something that is imminent, I might look at it and see who else we have on the
schedule and how it is going to fit home or away. Those types of things. For the
most part I let Shawn (Eichorst) and our administration, Jeff Jamrog is involved in
the scheduling over the past few years. They bring it to me, for the most part I
want to play good opponents and give our fans good opponents both home and away
games to watch, and test our football team."
On McNeese State's quarterback being a former Kansas State transfer
"Hard to say, I have watched a little bit of film on him to familiarize myself with
him on what he can do for the offense and how they will choose to use him. Your
guess is as good as mine. Whether they try to feature his talents as a runner, they
haven't been much of a quarterback-run-oriented offense, almost none at all. How
that changes - we'll find out Saturday. You have to be prepared for everything. For
them it is like a first game. We haven't seen them play and we don't know exactly
what they are doing on offense. You just have to go with what they have done in the
past and project a little bit."
On Josh Faulkenberry getting called to be on the team after being a walk-on tryout
"Very few, very few get called back. There are usually a couple each year. It
depends on who shows up and how they do when a tryout comes. I know that is a great
story, and he has worked really hard. I am glad he has done a really good job."
On how Alex Lewis has connected with the team
"He has come out and been a great teammate and really just been 'N'. He plays hard
and he is aggressive, he works hard at what he does. He is not overly vocal with
what he does, he doesn't say a whole heckuva lot, but he goes out there and has a
great approach every single day. He practices hard and loves to play. He has done a
great job for us on and off the field. He has worked really hard in the classroom
and has done great academically. He has done everything we have asked."
Nebraska's offensive line depth
"I think we have good depth up there. We will have to see how it continues to play
out. I have said that it will help us as the year goes on having a number of guys
that can go in there and guys we feel like can play and versatile enough to play in
some instances multiple spots. I like our depth up there. We will get Sterup back
this week and we will be even deeper. You can never have enough guys up front. Guys
that work hard and the way we practice, with multiple groups especially there
throughout camp. It gives a lot of guys reps and enables guys to grow and get
better, which helps you. I think the competition has been good for everybody."
On how many times he watched the Jordan Westerkamp catch
"You know just once. I saw it on Sportscenter the other night and I was flipping
through the channels - and I saw it live - that was enough for me. Unusual to say
the least, just for somebody to have the - to even think to throw your hands back
there to catch a football. Like I said, I haven't been around that one. I have seen
a lot, but I haven't seen that one before."
On the young secondary continuing to learn
"Some guys are more ready than others for some reason. Believe me, they still have a
lot to learn and you saw some things that I liked and I saw a bunch of things that
they are going to need to work on as we move forward. They have practiced well, and
they stepped in and competed. Some guys it takes longer than others. For whatever
reason. I like that group, even a guy like Trai Mosley who we are going to redshirt.
Trai is going to be really good. He has shown some really good things in camp, but
you run out of numbers after a while. I like our young group. (Luke) Gifford, the
local kid, is going to be good at safety. I like our young secondary."
On whether he knew the secondary would be good when recruiting them
"It is hard to tell and it is really hard to project how quickly they are going to
pick it up. All those guys are real mature kids that are high character young men.
How it is going to translate on the football field it really hard to project."
On Barrett Ruud getting into Nebraska Football Hall of Fame
"Great player. One of the best I have ever been around. A guy who would max out his
potential and play hard, was smart, was a real student of the game. He is a great
player. He was a great player. He is a really talented guy, and he is going to be a
On whether junior defensive back Byerson Cockrell was a steal in recruiting
"You know, BC (Byerson Cockrell), Terry Joseph brought him to my attention and we
watched him and liked him. When I went down there and met him, boy I do, I think he
is a steal. I like BC. I think he is going to be a great player for us. He is going
to keep getting better for us. Tremendous instincts and a really good understanding
of the game. There is some little things, you can talk to him on level two, and he
has a good understanding on not only what we are trying to do but what the offenses
are going to be doing. He can play multiple spots. In this day and age (that) is
really important. I would not hesitate playing him at nickel, safety or corner and
that helps you as the year goes on. He can handle that all mentally and that is
unusual for a first year guy. He is a tremendous kid. I don't know how many of you
guys have gotten to talk to him, but he is a great young man."
On how he manages Ameer Abdullah during a game like Florida Atlantic
"I think we managed him well. We got him out when we needed to, or when we felt when
the right time was. We got him his work. It is a feel thing. I think we also have
done a really good job managing him during the week. Coach (Ron) Brown, Coach
(James) Dobson, that is a good instance on how that catapult system works. Ameer is
a guy who if you are not careful will wear himself out during the week because he
practices so hard and wants to run so much. He would take every snap if we let him.
We want to make sure he is great on Saturdays, and sometimes it is hard for Ameer.
He would like to be in there more. Imani (Cross) is like that at times. You've got
to be careful that you don't give them too much. Give them enough that they know the
game plan. Those guys have been around the block and what is necessary."