Head Coach Scott Frost and members of the Cornhusker football team held their weekly press conference on Monday afternoon at Memorial Stadium to discuss Saturday's upcoming game with Ohio State.
Saturday's game at Ohio State kicks off at 11 a.m. in Columbus, Ohio, with live television coverage by FOX. The two schools have combined to win 11 national championships and 82 conference crowns, including five national championships and 46 conference titles by Nebraska.
Nebraska Head Coach
“First thing, we have heavy hearts after hearing of Tyler Butterfield with the band and the accident that happened before the game and then last night with Coach Osborne’s brother. Never want to see anyone go before their time and our hearts and thoughts and prayers are with both of those families.”
On Ohio State
“Early on I thought they looked really good. There for a while it almost looked like they were toying with some teams and got by. If you watch the Purdue game, defensively they really dominated Purdue for a long time minus a few plays and Purdue hit a few plays in the first half and stayed in the game on defense and the dam kind of broke at the end. There’s no question they’re a really talented team, a really well-coached team, and I don’t have any doubt we’re going to get their best shot after a loss two weeks ago and two weeks of practice and grinding. They’ve got their back to the wall and our guys know they have to be ready because we’re going to see the best of what they’ve got.”
On the importance of starting fast:
“That’ll be valuable, particularly with circumstances of this game. I foresee their team coming out and playing with their hair on fire right at the beginning. We need to be able to withstand that initial surge and play well at the beginning.
On how the defense stacks up going into Ohio State
“We’re growing, just like I’ve said all year. There’s a couple plays; the one long pass play we played a stack wrong and the guy covering the receiver got rubbed and those are experience things you can’t let happen. We’ve given up too many big plays. It was good to see the turnovers, our guys starting to make plays on balls, but this is all a process, this is growth. I think our defense has continued to get better. We are playing an elite team on Saturday, we played several teams that are really good and one elite team already this year and we weren’t ready for that challenge earlier in the year. I hope our team is a lot more prepared and a lot more confident going into this one.”
On how Ohio State has separated themselves from other teams
“I don’t want to comment much on Ohio State, but you start to get used to doing the things that make you a winner that winning becomes a habit. The expectations are that you’re going to win and when you have a team like that you always seems to find a way to get it done. I’ve seen it happen on a lot of teams I’ve been on, that when you go in not just believing you’re going to win, but knowing you’re going to win you find ways. Any team, I don’t care how good you are, you’re going to have a few close games every year. If you’re not an elite team you’re going to have a bunch of close games and finding a way to win those games usually comes down to little details and confidence that you can get it done. Having been in those situations before and being able to deal with the pressure is a big part of it. We’re learning to do that now, and there will be a time in the near future where our guys expect to win those games and make the plays that we need to, to win the majority of games we’re in that are close.”
On if as the member of an elite team, you can sense you’re opponent knows they are going to lose
“Yeah when I was a player here there were several teams that we’d beat a double digit number of times in a row. Any time you go into a game like that, even if you play well and have a chance, in the back of your mind somewhere you’re thinking when is it going to happen that they take over and win again. I’ve been on the right side of that a lot and sometimes it just happens because of everybody’s mentality. Good teams get there and we are building it to try to get to that point.”
On off-field discipline translating to on-field discipline
“It’s gotten a lot better. News flash; when guys are doing things the right way we win more games. The guys get it now and we’re not asking anybody to do anything crazy, we’re asking them to be where they’re supposed to be and be on time and do the right things. What’s crazy is when you’re doing that, football gets more fun, life gets more fun. Cutting corners and finding ways around things and not being reliable isn’t a good way to be successful on the field or off. Those habits have to be learned either when you’re young or when you’re in college or when you’re an adult. As a team that’s probably where I’ve seen the most growth. Guys are starting to understand that when they have a responsibility they need to live up to it and be where they’re supposed to be.”
On freshman defensive back, Braxton Clark
“Braxton [Clark] is a guy I think has a ton of talent and a huge upside for us in the defensive backfield. We thought with him it might take a year for him to get there and he’s come along at least as fast as we thought he would, so we have high hopes for him going forward the rest of this year and definitely for next year."
On how playing at Michigan and Wisconsin could help Adrian Martinez heading to Columbus.
“He’s [Martinez] played in some tough environments. There’s a lot of pressure on a Nebraska quarterback, I’ve lived that. Playing in those loud stadiums against really good teams he’s already had a chance to do that, he’s going to get another chance Saturday because we’re playing in a great place to play college football and a loud stadium against a really good team. The beating he took in Michigan, I hope it never gets worse than that for him in his career and I think he’s going to be prepared for it. On top of that, he’s going to be a lot healthier than he was going into that one. I think he’ll be ready, I think the whole team will be ready.”
On how Adrian Martinez held up during the Michigan game
“I saw a fighter, he was trying. We didn’t execute around him very well and a quarterback takes a lot of the hits when other people miss assignments. We need to be better around him. We’ve gotten better around him and that’s helped him to improve his play. As well as he’s been playing, a lot of the credit for that goes to better play up front, our receivers, running backs are all upping their game. Again, the quarterback looks great when everybody around him plays well, and he’s the one that usually takes the blame even when other people around him aren’t playing well. As Adrian [Martinez] goes our offense will go and it’ll be that way for a while around here.”
On the progress the team has made with quick passes
“I think that’s an area we have gotten better. Our perimeter game needs to be better and I think the blocking has improved, but still not where we want it to be, but we need to be able to get the ball on the perimeter and get yards and that’s gotten better. I think what has really improved is Adrian’s [Martinez] ability to fit balls into tight windows. Some of the throws he’s made lately in the red zone and even out in the field, getting rid of the ball quick and knifing it in to guys that makes you more efficient. When you’re playing a really good team the windows are going to be small and you've got to be able to get the ball out in time and into the perfect spot. Early in the year, guys had to be really open for him and now he’s starting to see things and anticipate them and the ball is starting to get on top of receivers on time and in smaller windows.”
On how winning two games has changed the preparation for the Ohio State game
“It’s crazy, if you’d have come out to practice the last five weeks probably, I don’t know if you’d see a difference between having won the week before and not. I think that speaks to the character of the guys we’ve got, that they’re coming back and going to work. There’s no pouting after a loss, there’s no patting themselves on the back after a win, they just come back and enjoy being around each other and go to work. We started this week off really well, too.”
On how the 2019 recruiting class is coming together
“We’re right on track. We’re going to sign a bunch of guys, I don’t know the exact number yet, but if we sign as many as we possibly can with the initials we have, I still don’t know if we’ll get to 85 scholarships next year. In fact, I don’t know if we can get real close to it. So we are on the hunt, I like where we are right now, I like a bunch of the other guys that we’re in the game with and we have a really good shot at. The coaches have been doing a really good job of balancing working with the team and working their butts off in recruiting to help add to the talent we have here.”
On what percentage of the recruits will still be out there after early signing
“You never know. I kind of think it will be a lower percentage of prospects left after the first signing day than last year, but that’s just a guess. I think we are obviously going to be further down the road since we’ve had time to work than we were last year getting here in December. Whatever spots we have left, we’ll go to work on a few targets and hopefully that makes for a little easier January.”
On Matt Jarzynka and the walk-on program
“It’s great to see him [Jarzynka] make that play, there were a bunch of guys that got out there and got to make plays, but that was kind of the highlight play. He comes to work every day and busts his tail to get better and make his team better. When a high percentage of our team is kids that care as much as him, we’ll really be somewhere and you get that from walk-ons that are from the state of Nebraska. They grew up watching this and love it and care about it, it just means more to them and it’s awesome to see some of those guys get rewarded.”
On deciding which games to put in redshirts with the four-game rule
“It’s kind of been on an individual basis. There’s some that we wanted to get in Saturday at the end of the game and there was a few that we held to use the last four games. It’s kind of on a case-by-case basis. We are trying to do what’s best for each individual player and their future and how that relates to our team and what we need. There will be quite a few guys that I think have expanded roles in the last four games. It’s going to help our depth on special teams as we get a little more beat up down the stretch and should add to our depth on both sides of the ball a little bit.”
On the Devine Ozigbo and Maurice Washington running back duo
“To be honest with you I’m glad it went that way because those two guys, given their chance, have really shined and that has made us a better football team. I’m not sure if it had been a heavier position group with another guy or two in the mix as much as those two if those two would’ve developed the same way they have. Those two are a really good one-two punch right now, and I think it’s benefited our team that it worked out the way it did.”
On the progress running back Maurice Washington has made in the last five weeks
“Big-time progress. Now he needs a year in the weight room. He’s really happy when he gets over 180. When he’s 205-210 next year as quick as he is, he’s going to be really good. I know Zach [Duval] can’t wait to get ahold of him and get that work done. He’s just got a different level of speed, he’s tough to tackle, he can make guys miss in the hole and as he’s learned our offense he’s really turned into a threat for us in the passing game that we can use with matchups on people. He’s gotten a ton better this year. We could see the potential in him right away when he got here, and he’s gotten a lot better. I think the sky’s the limit for him.”
On if he will use a redshirt Deontre Thomas
“We’re going to try. He could be out there playing right now, but he’d have a club on his hand and we don’t want to put him out there if we can help it without him being at his best. He sat down with us and the defensive coaches and decided he’d prefer to save that year. He’s going to be ready to play if we need him, but if we can help it we’re going to hold him out.”