Huskers Talk Championship Game

Posted by: Sports

Nebraska Football
Weekly Press Conference
Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Neb.)
Monday, Nov. 26, 2012
Pre-Wisconsin (Big Ten Championship Game)


On if this has been his most improved team
“I don't know about that. I think every year we have gotten a little better as the season has gone on. You just look back to Year One and I hope that's a trademark of all of our teams. We've always been good in November. I don't know what our record is, but it's been pretty good I think in November. Hopefully that's been a trademark of our teams.”

On if he would like to start Rex Burkhead on Saturday
“Yeah, I anticipate Rex starting. He's going to play a lot and Ameer (Abdullah) is going to play a lot. You'll see Braylon (Heard), you'll see Imani (Cross), you'll see them all.”

On Rex's play on Friday
“I thought he ran well. I thought he did a good job.”

On what Mark Pelini has done in his career up to this point
“That comes from Coach (Barney) Cotton, Coach (John) Garrison. I think he has a really good understanding of what we are doing and has gotten better. He executes well and we have some help between he and (Cole) Pensick. I've said all along that I feel good about the center position. Just like any other position, if someone goes down, somebody has to step up.”

On how Mark Pelini came to play here
“He decided this was what he wanted to do. He had other options, but decided he wanted to give it a go. Guys who want to walk on, this is one of the programs where you know you are going to get a shot.”

On Mark Pelini's intelligence
“He was looking at the Ivy League. His father, my brother, played in the Ivy League. He's high academic. He was looking at going to one of the academies. He had a lot of different options. I was a little bit surprised that he made the choice to come here. I'm glad he did.”

On how the rematch changes the way he coaches the second game
“I don't think it does. You can sit there and dissect it all day on how they are going to approach it and how we are going to approach it. At the end of the day, it's going to come down to blocking and tackling. The Pac-12 (game between UCLA and Stanford) is an unusual one.”

On what he thinks of the Pac-12 rematch six days following the first game
“Not ideal. I wouldn't want to be in Jimmy Mora's shoes. That was really odd knowing you could play a team two weeks in a row. His situation was a little bit different because he was already in. We talked a little bit about it last week, about what you would do in their shoes, how you would approach it. I don't know if there is a right way or a wrong way. At the end of the day, you want to win the football game. You want to play for the next week. Everybody wants to win as many games as they can. I wouldn't want to be in that situation. That's a difficult one right there.”

On playing non-divisional games on the final weekend
“I guess it could happen with Ohio State and Michigan. Most of the other ones I think are in their division. I think years back, there was a chance that Ohio State and Michigan could play two weeks in a row if they had gone to the national championship. That's a whole month later. The next week is a different deal. It's not ideal from anyone's perspective.”

On how the linebackers have grown this season
“I think they've gotten better. I've said before, I don't think you ever replace a Lavonte David. I think he was special in his own right and a unique player. I think he's proven that on Sundays with how he's playing. I think the guys have gotten better. There are a lot of things we could get better at. I didn't think we played particularly well at linebacker the other day. I don't know if the stats prove that, but I think there's a lot we need to play better at this upcoming week. We didn't execute to the standard that we need to execute this past Friday.”

On if coaching the seniors is still an ongoing journey
“Yeah. That's any position. I've said it before, success comes with the little things and consistency and competing play-to-play, game-to-game and week-to-week. That's a challenge no matter what class you are in, what the situation is. To bring it every week is the challenge.”

On if it's dangerous that Nebraska has had so many close wins and Wisconsin has had so many close losses
“I know one thing, they are a dangerous team no matter what. They are a good football team. They're physical, they are extremely well-coached and I don't put any stock into what has happened up to this point. It's going to be 60 minutes of football. The team that earns it on Saturday is going to come away with the win. It's going to be a tough football game, there is no question. They are a good football team.”

On the turning point this season
“I believe it's been the attitude of the team and the work ethic and preparation. I think they have a belief in one another of when you go into a tough time. That bye week gave us two weeks to think about how we played against Ohio State and dropped the ball in Columbus. You have to have a mentally strong team that's committed to one another to be able to do what we've done up to this point. I lot of things could've happened. A lot of people were writing us off and writing them off. They knew better. It's one thing to go on it, but it's another to match your effort and your preparation to what you want to have happen later and I think they've done that. They've stayed together and they've stayed strong and they've really worked hard. I think there is a belief in there of what we are doing and a belief in each other to let that happen.”

On what it says about the program that Nebraska could win the Big Ten in its second season
“That's not what it's all about. Regardless of what happens Saturday, I think the program is in good shape and I think it's going to be in good shape going forward. If everyone is going to have their own opinion on that, so be it.”

On what the defense did during the bye week to improve
“We stayed the course. We didn't panic. The same approach I have with you guys, is the same approach I have with the team. It's very black and white. It's very this is where we are, this is where we need to go. There's nothing magical to it. It's about executing and it's about doing your job and putting it on film. I think we did that. You don't go and change everything. You look at all the things you can do to get better and you tweak things here and there, but at the end of the day, you are who you are and you have to do everything you can to get better each week. You have to continue to increase your standards and your level of execution. I think we've done that pretty well.”

On how Wisconsin's running game has evolved since the previous matchup
“The same I would say about us is they have gotten better in some areas. Their offensive line has gotten better. You know those backs are going to run hard and they are going to run well. I think they game plan well. There are a couple new wrinkles. They are going to do what they do and they are going to do it well. I think that as the season has gone on, you just see that they have executed at a higher level. That's the sign of a well-coached football team and that's who we are going to be playing on Saturday.”

On what Alonzo Whaley has done to improve as a player this year
“I think he's increased his knowledge of what we are doing and he's prepared better. He's just gotten better as the year has gone on. I thought he was very active the other day, but there were a lot of plays in there that he would want back. I think he can play at a lot higher level than he did the other day and we are going to need that Saturday. Overall, Zo has gotten better. He's become a leader on our football team. He's come a long way. That young man has matured off the field, first and foremost. He's really grown. He's grown as a leader on our football team and for our program. I give him a lot of credit.”

On his work ethic
“He has said that if he's not getting it done, he understands where things are. But he's had a great attitude. He's a team guy and he's all about the team. He's all about winning football games. What he never did was he never turned tail and went the other way. He continued to work hard and prepare himself to get better. It's shown.”

On how disruptive Eric Martin is
“I think he's really had a good year. He's an impactful guy. He's hard to block on the edge. He's a guy you have to account for and know where he is. He's not your prototype defensive end size wise, but he's a powerful guy, he's quick, he's explosive and he plays with tremendous energy. He's a good player and he's had a great year for us.”

On how he translates to the next level
“I think he translates well because he can do a lot of different things for us. With the NFL becoming more spread out, needing hybrid guys is key. He can play a 3-4, he can help a guy on special teams because of his athleticism and speed. He can do a lot of things to help your team. In the NFL, with the limited roster sizes, that's a big thing.”

On if he wishes he'd made the move from linebacker to defensive end sooner
“No, because I think we needed him at linebacker. He did some good things for us at linebacker when he was there.”

On how important it is to capitalize on Saturday's opportunity
“It's the next game, so it's important.”

On who he thinks deserves All-Big Ten honors
“I don't know. I don't get into all that. I think there are a lot of guys who are deserving on our football team. Whether they are picked or not will not determine the type of year that a lot of those guys have had. For instance, Ciante Evans doesn't get heralded the way he should. Whether he gets picked to be All-Big Ten or not, if you watch the film, there is probably not a better defensive back in the league. I promise you. Is he going to get picked? Maybe, maybe not, because he doesn't get a lot of the publicity. I don't put a lot of stock into some of those things.”

On his advice for Rutgers and Maryland getting ready to join the league
“That's up to them. I'm not here to give anyone advice. I'm just worried about what happens in these walls.”

On why Ciante Evans is the best in the league and how he got there this year
“I think he's played at an extremely high level. He's competed, he's played with detail, I think he's played extremely well. He's aggressive, he competes, he challenges receivers. He put the work in the offseason and it's paid off for him.”

On the job Terry Joseph has done
“Terry Joseph has done a great job. He's done a great job with our secondary because you watch how they've grown as the year has gone on. A lot of guys have contributed and I think to a man, they have gotten better.”

On how the team is mentally different than going into championship games in the past
“I don't know about that. We've come up short the last two times we've gone into the game. We've played two good football teams and lost two tough games. I don't get into dissecting and the psychology. We're either going to make enough plays to win or we're not.”

On if he will travel more players this week
“Maybe a couple more.”

On if there is a limit on that
“I don't think so. It's not going to be much different. It's going to be somewhere around 70-75 guys.”

On how it feels knowing the team had to have a must-win attitude for every game as opposed to the last time they played Wisconsin
“Like I said, I don't get into what gives us an edge and what doesn't. We're just going to try and play the best football that we can.”

On if he is surprised he has the best pass defense in the country
“No. We have high standards in how we play. I think we can be better. I think we could've done a lot of things better. One of the things we've done in all the defenses I've coached is we've been up there in pass defense. I get criticized a lot for how we play defense and our style, but I believe in it and how it works. Like I said, we do what we do. That's how we play. It's worked for us. It's not for everybody, but that's our style.”

On if he knows the crew who will work on Saturday
“I haven't looked at that.”

On if he is worried about how they will call pass interference on a stage like that
“No. We aren't going to change how we play. That's the furthest thing from my mind.”

On if the referees need to give the defensive backs the freedom to play how they play
“Yeah. Let me tell you, Bill Carollo I think does a phenomenal job. I think games have been called fair and have been called good for the most part all year. You are always going to have plays game-to-game that you disagree on or whatever, but I think the refereeing in this league has been good. If he's going to put the best crew on this game, I have complete confidence it's going to be called well.”

On the sharp drop off of penalties against Iowa
“I hope it continues.”

On if the officiating in the Big Ten is better than the Big 12
“No comment. You have to be careful there.”