Huskers Ready for Big Stage vs. Miami

Posted By: Sports

sports@klkntv.com

Transcript Courtesy: Nebraska Athletics

LINCOLN – Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini met with the media Monday to discuss the upcoming matchup with Miami. The Huskers say they look forward to the big games. Here is a complete transcript of Pelini’s comments:

Opening Statement
“I’m trying to get caught up on sleep. That will probably happen later in the week. We had a short workout with the players yesterday and then a film session. We stayed with the day off today. Looking forward for this week of preparation. We’re getting ready to play a good football team, a talented football team. It should be a fun weekend. You know there’s a reunion to honor the 1994 national championship team who actually went down to Miami to play for the national championship at Miami. So that should be a good thing for us and the program. It will be fun to honor that team of guys who have accomplished something great. I’ll open up for any questions.”

On the importance of the win against Fresno State to prepare for Miami
“We don’t approach it any differently no matter who we play. We need to have a great week of preparation to get ready for this football team. Like I said before, whether you’re playing McNeese, Miami or anyone else, it’s how you approach it during the week. What your focus is, what your mindset is going into the game. Playing a team with the tradition that Miami has and the talent that they have on their football team. I’m sure it will get our guys’ attention.”

On the status of junior offensive lineman Zach Sterup, junior defensive tackle Kevin Williams, junior wide receiver Sam Burtch and sophomore wide receiver Brandon Reilly
“Burtch is back. Kevin Williams is fine. Who else did you mention? Sterup is OK. He was just a little sore. His knee got a little stiff. Reilly is just day-to-day. We’re hoping he’s back to practice tomorrow.”

On what he remembers about the Miami-Nebraska national championship series era
“To be honest with you, not much. I was in the NFL at that time. That was a long time ago for me as far as where my focus was at that time. There’s a lot of tradition there. Just the amount of time that Nebraska went down there to play in the Orange Bowl. What becomes real obvious to me in recruiting is when you’re out there recruiting in that area, how familiar – especially the coaches and the parents – are with Nebraska because of the number of times they were down there playing in that Orange Bowl and playing in that series. I’ve seen highlights and things. There were some great football games in the series. I’m sorry, the game I probably remember the most for me as a kid is the game where we went for two. There was a Youngstown guy that I knew very well. I grew up with his family. It was when Bernie Kosar was playing quarterback for Miami at that time. I remember that game vividly.”

On if he would have gone for two in that game
“Yeah, I would have.”

On if he followed former Miami quarterback Bernie Kosar
“I mean, yeah because we knew the family. I knew his family. I just remember that was a great football game with two great football teams. I know Nebraska lost that game, but I remember they dominated the second half and just kind of ran out of time there at the end. They might have been one of the best football teams that I remember as a kid. That Nebraska team.”

On his early evaluation of Miami
“Well they’re talented. They have a good running back. A couple of good running backs. They’re fast on the edge. They’ve got some receivers that can really get down the field on you. They stretch you deep. And they’re physical up front. They’ve got some pretty good talent.”

On what the team learned against Fresno State
“It was a different type of passing game than you’re going to see. I mean there were some similarities in some of the things that Miami does, that everybody does that we saw in Fresno. It was good. I thought we executed pretty well in the passing game and defensively. We did some pretty good things. Covered some guys up and made some mistakes. We got some things on film that our kids will learn from as we always do coming out of a game. I thought it was good to be able to, especially some of those younger kids, get a lot of snaps.”

On if the late trip back will affect this coming week
“I wanted to see how the game went and what time we were going to get back before we set our schedule. We talked to the captains about it, talked to some of the older guys and met with the coaches, and I liked what we came up with. I think that our kids asked the right things about what they needed to do, not only last night but today in order to get back on their feet. This hasn’t been the first time that I’ve been around a team where we’ve gotten back late. It’s part of the deal when you go play on the West Coast. As long as our kids are getting rest and are hydrated and doing what they have to do to recover from it, I think we’ll be fine.”

On sophomore quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr.’s progress this season
“I think he’s doing some good things. I think he’s getting better. I think he’s made strides. He’s not perfect. No one is at this point. He’s done a lot of good things. He’s got some things he’s going to want to take back I’m sure. Like after any game, you make your mistakes, you learn from it, you move on. But I’m seeing good progress. I’m seeing a good command. I think he’s running the ball well with authority. I think he’s throwing it well. And for the most part, knock on wood, he’s making good decisions. But like I said, at the end of the day he’s got to keep working at it during the week, keep looking at the film study and keep progressing. That’s what it comes down to. He’s still a young player that has a lot to learn.”

On if Armstrong’s arm strength ever surprises him
“No, I always knew he has good arm strength. He can make all the throws. He has to continue to keep getting more consistent with his footwork. That’s a big part of throwing the football. His arm strength is there. A big part of throwing the football is your technique, your footwork, your shoulders, your taking of the correct steps, whether that be a three-step drop, five-step drop or all the other different things that happen, both on your center and in the gun. That’s a big part of it. Being able to transfer what they’re working on during the week to the game field. Making sure that with everything that is going on around him that he’s able to stay with the technique. That’s a big part of playing quarterback.”

On if he thinks Armstrong should remain physical and not play it safe
“I wish he wouldn’t try to hurdle guys. That makes me nervous when I see him coming down on his right shoulder. I’m not going to say 100 percent because I can’t control everything, but I don’t think you’re going to be seeing that again anytime soon. But he runs hard. I think he’s smart about when to and when not to. And that’s a part of growing. He’s a competitor. He’s a competitive guy that has some physicality to him. But there’s a time to and a time to go ahead and take a slide.”

On if explosive plays on offense are part of the game plan
“I think what defines what our team is doing on that side of the football is how the team is playing it. What there structure is defensively. You play against the kind of defense we did the other night, certain things are dictated to you as far as how you’re going to play. It was unusual, a very unusual game plan. Especially as the game went on, we wanted to run the football some to keep the clock going because the game was going and I felt like the game was in hand. The way they were playing didn’t really blend to the running game so to speak. Like I said, it was a very unusual game in some ways. At the same time I didn’t want to just keep throwing the football. It was a strange situation. Sometimes you want to take what you want. But sometimes a team is playing you a certain way. If there are big plays to be had, you’re going to take them. I believe that a lot of it is how a particular football team is going to play is to whether those big plays are there, how you’re going to approach it and what your game plan is going to be.”

On how pleased he is with the way special teams has played
“I thought there were some very good things in the special teams area in the last two weeks. But believe me, there are a lot of areas after watching the film that we need to get cleaned up. I think we’ve seen De’Mornay (Pierson-El) is a guy that can do some things with the ball in his hands. I thought we blocked well for him. I thought we had a good plan and we executed it. Foltz has been very consistent. We did some good things on the kickoff team, but we also had some errors that we need to fix or else it will hurt us down the road. We had a couple errors on the kickoff return team. Some missed assignments and missed technique things. One in particular, the one we got out pretty far, we could have brought to the end zone if we had executed the right way. We dropped a couple blocks. But overall I’m seeing a lot of good things in that area.”

On if he’s tweaked special teams or if they have just improved from a year ago
“A little bit of both. I’ve said this before, I was probably being a little too conservative in that area a year ago. We’ve made a conscious effort to do some different things, mix some things up and have some different looks and put a lot of time to it.”

On what 10- and 15-yard returns do for the big picture of the game
“It’s helped us in our field position most definitely. Especially in this day and age with the shield punt, really at times having six gunners on the field at one time. Sometimes you’re not going to get an opportunity or as good of an opportunity. But when it presents itself, the punt presents itself with time, hang time and that type of thing, you want to be able to take advantage of it. And that’s what we’ve been able to do. There were some that were, you know, good for them where they get a good punt and get good hang time. At least we’re fielding the ball and not taking minus yardage in those situations. That’s the key. But when the situation has presented itself with the kicks dictated, we’ve been able to make yards out of it. That’s what we’ve been trying to do.”

On the philosophy of special teams
“I think that we’ve changed up some things philosophically. Like I said, we studied it pretty hard in the offseason. I think our guys have a pretty good understanding of it, and we’re executing it pretty well.”

On how the offensive and defensive lines have controlled the line of scrimmage
“Well we’ve faced some things defensively. I thought we controlled the line of scrimmage very well the other night. I was worried about certain things going into the game, like what we were going to do coverage-wise. And we played a lot of five-man box. We didn’t have to insert a lot of people in the running game last night. Our guys up front dominated on the line of scrimmage on defense the other night. Our ends played well, but our inside guys played very well. On offense, like I said, we faced a couple of unusual defensive things. Especially the other night with the amount of people they had in the box at times. The slants and the things that we might not ever see again. It’s kind of hard to evaluate in some respects. They ended up in some looks, some of them obviously by mistake. Like one of those things where you go ‘I don’t know what I’d tell that guy if I ever saw that again,’ because I’ve never seen some of it in all my years of football. So that part of it is hard to evaluate. I think that this week will be a good first test.”

On the offensive line’s performances in the first two games
“Very good in the first game. In the second game, we had one guy after another taking their turn. We didn’t play well. There were some things we did well, but it was more technique and assignment in the second game. And it wasn’t just one particular guy. We were getting movement in some areas. Like I said, there were some big plays to be had. But when you’re turning guys free, for whatever reason, it gets cloudy. It makes it look like the whole group isn’t playing well. Collectively we didn’t play very well in that second game.”

On the test Miami will provide for the offensive line
“I think they have some good size up front. They have a couple of very good linebackers. I think it will be a good test for our guys.”

On what he thinks of Miami running back Duke Johnson
“Good player. Runs hard. That’s about all there is to it. I think he’s a really good football player.”

On the role Johnson plays for Miami’s offense
“I think their game and philosophy starts with the running game. They want to be physical and they want to pound you some. They kind of set up their passing game with the running game by getting some play-actions with things down the field and making you have to honor that running game. Like any good football team, you better control the line of scrimmage and control the running game. That gives you a lot better opportunity to dictate to them rather than them dictate to you.”

On how the team is prepared to handle teams that like to stretch the field like Miami
“Well we’ve been pretty good in the six years I’ve been here as far as pass defense. Being able to take care of the deep ball and making people have to go the longer route. To me, that starts with controlling the running game. It becomes a little bit of a chess match, when you want to and when you don’t want to. And how you’re going to set it up, how you’re going to be able to handle the running game while still being sure that you don’t put your guys totally on an island too much.”

On what he has seen from Miami freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya
“I think he seems very poised. He looks like he’s in control of the offense. The offense doesn’t really look much different than it did a year ago. I know they had a veteran quarterback a year ago. But what they’re doing is, I think they’ve had to adapt their offense and change things and scale back. The same things you saw them doing a year ago, they’re doing this year. Obviously he’s done a good job of learning the offense and executing.”

On if he thinks Kaaya is mobile
“Maybe not as mobile as you. He can run. I mean it’s hard to say. It’s not really a quarterback run offense. It’s more of a pro-style type offense. But yeah, I think he’s athletic enough. He’s not going to be afraid. They’ll take him outside on some sprints, some boots and some things like that where he looks athletic, but I would say their philosophy is to throw first. He’s not a guy that can get out on the edge and pull the ball down and run a bunch of his own reads.”

On the importance of recruiting this weekend
“I’ve been pretty locked in the film room, but I know we have a pretty good contingent of recruits coming in this weekend and the following weekend. Being an atmospheric night game helps you, as far as being able to get guys in on Saturday, especially when they’re playing on Friday night. There aren’t a lot of bye weeks for high schools this time of year, so the night game helps you being able to get guys in. I think they’re going to have a great crowd. I think it’ll be important for us. We’ve had good success recruiting as far as getting guys in this time of year. We have some commits that are coming and some guys that we’re hoping to land. The more numbers you get, the better. I think there’s some give and take about what the best route is. There are some kids that are out of it and they want to come to a game. Sometimes it’s hard to get things closed, to close something, because sometimes guys that aren’t committed at this time of year and it will be one of their first official visits. You know it’s going to go a while. We’re always weighing the pluses and minuses of should we bring them to a game. As far as Nebraska and the way we sell this place, because I think they see the game atmosphere, they see the people, the tradition. But the minus part of it is the number of kids who aren’t committed at this point and it might be their first official visit, and you can’t bring them back again, is it too early to bring them in? So I don’t know if there is a right or wrong answer, but at the end of the day, especially a kid from distance who wants to come, you’re not going to turn them down. You hope that whatever impressions are made, if he’s not going to be a kid who is ready to make a decision yet, we want it to be a long-lasting one. Because he’s going to see a lot of things between now and when the signing date comes.”

On if they practiced ahead in fall camp to prepare for Miami
“No, we didn’t. We spent some time in the offseason thinking about Miami like we would with most of our early opponents. There were some similarities. Even when we do, there are certain things that our players are going to lean toward for Miami, but we don’t really ever say, ‘hey, this is Miami.’ We don’t ever go about it like that. There’s a lot of carryover and a lot of things we practice during fall camp.”

On if things will be more difficult for Armstrong against Miami
“You know, they’re a good defense. A talented defense. I don’t know about what the percentage of increasing his difficulty, but they’re a good opponent. It’s going to be a good challenge for him. It’s not like this is Tommy’s first rodeo either. He started eight football games a year ago. The three games he’s started in this year, he’s basically played a season now. Obviously his experience helps him. I think he’s getting more comfortable as he goes. I really do.”

On if he remembers playing around the same time as head coach Al Golden
“When I played? I never played Penn State. I’m an old guy. Penn State wasn’t in the Big Ten yet.”