N Illinois Nebraska Football

Northern Illinois head coach Rod Carey, left, jokes with Nebraska head coach Mike Riley before an NCAA college football game in Lincoln, Neb., Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Nati Harnik

Opening statement:

“This will sound like an understatement but we are just really, bitterly disappointed with losing the game. I don’t want to diminish what Rod Carey and Northern Illinois did. They played a good game, they made big plays early to take the lead and then they made big plays late to get the touchdown back to retake the lead, so give them credit for that. Obviously, we are not playing good enough on offense right now. Certainly, we’re not playing well enough when we commit penalties. We were trying to come out of a hole. They had us backed up field position-wise so we can’t overcome that. We’re not consistent enough in any part of our offense - running, blocking, making plays, so we never could recover from giving them two touchdowns early on and winning the game at the end. So, it’s really, really disappointing and that’s what we have to find in the next week to play a better game.”

On the offense:

“What’s changed is the results. I just felt like we had that capability, that we can be that team that can run the ball, throw the ball, play-action pass, but boy oh boy, we’re so far from that I can’t even hint at that at this point. I was wrong. We’ve got a lot of work to get back to that.”

The effective offensive plays:

“Well, we could do nothing repeatedly. It didn’t feel like we could do anything that was consistent for us in the game that we could do again and again and make a go, a running game and the passing game was so sporadic because protection was sporadic.”

The offensive line:

“I don’t know that I need to put the finger on anybody. Our results offensively speak for themselves as a very disappointing effort, and we play as a unit. It was evident on the pressure on the quarterback. It was also evident that we just didn’t really run the ball consistently either.”

The first pick six and pressure on the quarterback:

“It started pretty early and it did not change.”

On quarterback Tanner Lee:

“I know this, we have to coach him and support him right now. I don’t know him well enough in these kind of tough situations, but the time I’ve been around him I’ve been very impressed with him. I think he’ll come back to work and get ready for the next game in a very great manner, and I’ve got a lot of confidence that that will occur and that he will be anxious to do that.”

Considering quarterback Patrick O’Brien:

“Not really. Sometimes that can give you a spark at some point if you think that maybe in particular the guy is not playing very well but when it’s protection problems that are put in there it’s not like another guy is going to change the protection problems necessarily, so you have to be careful about that. So, I thought about that time in the fourth quarter our best chance to continue to try to win the game would be with Tanner.”

On the offense in practice:

“I’ve said, and I won’t back down on this, I like this team. I like their work ethic, I enjoy working with them. I think I’d be making it up if I could say I sensed a performance like this coming up.”

On the problem:

“Probably a total combination, whether it was getting beat or being confused.”

On the wide receivers:

“I think that is exactly why you don’t say how the quarterback played right now, you don’t say any part of it because it’s a unit. It all has to work together, receivers winning and getting open, protection occurring so that you have the option to throw whatever route you’re trying to throw and that’s probably the key. I don’t know what percentage it was, it certainly wasn’t all the time.”

On the first pick six:

“I did not see it, but what I think that he did was jump the bubble screen. I don’t know how he did it with the angle with how our guys were lined up. I think he came off of the corner totally and took a run at it and intercepted it. So, in other words there was nobody there.”

On rethinking tendencies:

“Well, I don’t know how in the world you know that’s coming because that is a run-pass option play, so we’ll have to study it.”

On how to encourage the team after this loss:

“A lot of stuff. We’ve started with that basically already. This is going to be a couple of things: we have to stick together, and then the other thing is that there is no way out of a hole like this without working. So, the ability to kind of get to Monday so that we can start to get better is kind of the theme right now.”

Northern Illinois getting a long pass play after Nebraska took the lead:

“I’m almost thinking, for the most part, that was really their only long play of the game, though. We probably could say right now that the only thing that they could do at that point consistently was to take - chuck one down there, and we gave them that opportunity. And that was about the only drive they really had. Besides that, defensively, there was a lot of good play and improvement probably.”

On the special teams unit:

“I feel great about the capability, because you saw some glimpses today, again, one kickoff return, punt return. You saw some De’Mornay (Pierson-El), and then the other big part of it was some decision making for sure, that whether it’s not catching a short ball, or not catching a medium ball, and then or catching one too deep. We seem to have choices, and the decisions that are made are - probably hurt us also field-position-wise. Right after getting behind by 14, we started out really deep, and so I just felt that trying to find a way to get our guys to relax and play ball, down 14 starting at the minus turnover, there was some tough sledding there.”

On if he learned anything his first season at NU to apply to this season:

“I’ve been in it long enough to have had way, way different kinds of starts, middles and ends of seasons. But, probably. I think you continue in this business, you’re dealing with people, so I think you continue to try to find a way to do that in a positive way with young people that can bring, we’ve got to bring them back.”

On a difference between coaching at Oregon and NU:

“But kids are kind of the same, but maybe there’s a little bit more on them here for sure, that we have to, it’s one thing we’ve started already, we have to insulate them as best we can and coach them. I’ll go back to what I said, I like this team, I’ve liked how they worked, I think that we can get them back and coach them and be better. What we have to try to do is prepare them to win the next game and play well.”

On any upcoming changes in player positions:

“I don’t know specifically where we’ll look at that. We certainly always want to present opportunity and be able to look at that. We’ll have to see how the injury deal is first of all. It looked like Marcus Newby sprained a hamstring today, or pulled a hamstring, and we’ve had some other stuff go on.”

On I-backs:

“We were going to give the ball and let Mikale (Wilbon) start, and then we were going to spell him with Devine (Ozigbo) and that’s what we ended up doing.”

On issues on offense:

“There’s no doubt about it, that whoever in their defensively gave us some problems, run, pass, whatever it was, it was really inconsistent for us moving the ball, so there were problems for sure.”

On different units on the team:

“Well, yeah, you know, it’s a funny business isn’t it. You win and lose as a team, but there are units: special teams, offense and defense, and I think you have to recognize what units obviously need better, need better performance, and you can recognize that our defense played a lot of good football today. It was exciting to see, I think the guys were energized to play by their game, that there were good things going on. I thought the give-and-take with the coaches and the players, press box to sideline, that was all impressive, and really it was one touchdown drive in the game, unfortunately it was also a critical time.”

On his level of concern about the team:

“We have to prove more about who we are, for sure. We’ve been, I would say, inconsistent at best. I mean, that’s not even probably accurate, but that’s been us, and I don’t like that. I don’t like - I think that we’ve got to have a better identifying quality than just being like we’ve been inconsistent as a football team, and that’s all phases there. I can kind of cross the board with that, from the beginning to today, that we’ve been inconsistent.”

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