“Alright, thank you for coming. We’ll get into this thing right away on a review of the Oregon game. It was one of those things, my comments after the game were about how after a really bad start, we were able to get it together, particularly defensively in the second half. I think that there is a chance to build off of how we finished and a really, really good opportunity to learn from how we started, and that was evident. And saying that after the game, I think that was right. But the reality of it, watching the film on Sunday or on the way back on the plane, it is really disappointing. It really feels like a lost opportunity. It was just a disappointing game. I just think we all can get more from what we do. We had an offensive game similar to the first that was sporadic, in the game, had some good plays. Good runs, good passes, sharp, but way too much inconsistency. Way off-balance with what we need to do. Sharpness, all those parts, we have to get better. There are individuals that have good numbers and are playing well. Tre Bryant, he has a 100-yard game. That is good. That means other people are doing their job.
"We had some beautifully blocked runs that were nicely executed. A couple of good play-action passes that were really well done. Stanley Morgan goes for 100 again. Those are all notable statistics, but the overall picture offensively was inconsistent for sure. It really portrayed itself on third down. We had a bad, bad day on third down. Right side, Matt Farniok goes in and plays pretty well. That helps our team now, it helps us as we go down the road. So we feel good about that.
"Defensively it is hard to imagine, isn’t it? It truly was a tale of two halves. And the second half, it isn’t like we just blanked them yardage-wise. But you play that game in a way that you understand a team like that may get some yards, but really the game is about points. And so, I think the coaches did… I am part of the conversation during the game, but also the job they did at halftime… and it is not a lot of times a major thing. Sometimes in the running game it is the difference of being right here and being in this gap on an offensive player in the run game. And in the secondary, it is truly about position down the field. When you are supposed to take away the post, then you take away the post. And if they throw an out route then you’ve got to tackle it. We all understand that, but you can’t give up the post. And so it’s just a matter of playing position. The difference is exactly what happened when Lamar (Jackson) plays the post, tips the ball, Aaron (Williams) intercepts it, that’s football. And that’s really, without being overly dramatic, that’s what happened better in the second half. Better position, better football play.
"Guys that played well defensively, Luke Gifford played well, Chris Weber played well, Dedrick Young, the linebackers, they played well. Aaron Williams played productive as you saw. Eric Lee, we are excited about his improvement from not having played really at all to playing a first game to going into the second game, he improved. Mick Stoltenberg had a good game. Special teams, Drew Brown is really doing a good job. His kick placement in the game, his ability to get touchbacks, one into the wind. There wasn’t much of a wind, but it was, as you noted, all the ones that went in one direction were touchbacks and the other direction you had a chance to return the ball. That is where the returns came, and he even kicked a touchback that way. He is really hitting the ball with and with good direction.
"Caleb Lightbourn is showing the consistency that you need so that you can be called a good punter. You have to be consistent if you want to be a good punter. He is doing better. The first one he hit poorly. After that he hit the ball well. He had a 40-plus net, you know if you could do that game-to-game, you would lead or be close to the top of the Big Ten. (Jordan) Ober continues to do a nice job of snapping. Tony Butler made his first tackle of his career on special teams, nice play on the punt.
"Austin Rose made his first tackle of the year on a kickoff, which was a big play because they had pretty good position after him. Ty Ferguson looked good on special teams. We are getting some guys doing a good job there. Our coverage teams were challenged with elite returners, did a great job. When we needed that good kickoff in the fourth quarter and we were kicking into the wind, we went down there and covered the guy at the 18-yard line or something like that. Beautiful, beautiful coverage. Good kick placement, coverage teams, both the punt and the kick-off, did a nice job.
"The return teams, we had one return on the kick-off, and we didn’t do a good job of blocking their main guy, that we knew about, we didn’t block him, and low and behold, he makes the tackle. We’ve got to be coaching better decisions in the punt-return game. It’s hard, as a punt-returner making those choices, but we’ve got to do a better job. We don’t want to catch a ball, a punt on the five-yard line, nor do we want to pass up an opportunity when we get one to return the ball. Those are things that have to be emphasized and we just need to do a better job overall with all of that.
"Injury wise, you saw Gifford come out, we think Luke is going to be okay, better and better as the week goes on. Josh Kalu is I would say, doubtful at this time with a hamstring. David Knevel from here on out will probably be week-to-week, but doubtful this week as it goes from there. Tre Bryant, he’s sustained no new injury. You know, he’s had the bad knee, we’ve been careful about him in practice, we’ll be careful with him again. He may not practice today, you know, we’ll see what he’s like Tuesday and Wednesday and be able to make a better decision about him playing this week no later than before Wednesday’s practice we’ll probably need to go one way or another there with Tre. With that, we have good backs, we have Mikale (Wilbon), who’s going in and did a nice job. We have Devine (Ozigbo) who’s played a lot and been productive, and we’re going to get Jalin Bradley going. Jalin Bradley will move on to special teams and play this week. Jalin Bradley will train as one of the running backs this week.
"Looking ahead to Northern Illinois, we will see a third version of what we’ve been seeing. You know they were probably more of what you’d call a pro-standard offense a year ago, but they’ve gone to a lot of spread stuff with the fly-sweep, with the run off of the fly-sweep, with the quarterback run off of the fly sweep, with the faking all that and throwing what we’ve been getting a dose of all week, the bubble screen, smoke routes to the outside receivers. It looks like some more of that. The quarterback, the No. 1 guy has been hurt, whether or not he’ll play we don’t know all that. Either quarterback runs their offense. So it’s not like we’re going to see a different offense. And they do a nice job when they have speed on the perimeter, No. 10 (D.J. Brown) is fast, he’s their fly-sweep guy and is dangerous out there. No. 4 (Christian Blake) the other receiver is fast and a good player, and No. 82 (Chad Beebe) is a really good receiver, Beebe, that name might be familiar to some of you, he’s the son of Don Beebe and he’s also their punt returner. He is gutsy, tough, quick, good football player. Their tailbacks are good, tough runners.
"Defensively they’re a 4-3 defense, play quarters coverage, they’re athletic and fast, they’ll play really hard. They have a very good defensive end that we have to account for at all times, No. 15 (Marcus Childers). Good WILL linebacker that will spread out with our receivers or come into the box and play, No. 7 (Jawaun Johnson) they have No. 19 (Shawun Lurry) that’s been an All-American that’s going to come in at corner, Lurry, and a middle linebacker No. 57 (Kyle Pugh) that made 17 tackles I think against Boston College, good player.
"In the special teams area, I think the thing that stands out is the punter is a really good directional punter, pinning you to the boundary, conventional punter but very good direction, very good coverage. Their kick-off team is tough, fast, they’ve done a nice job and I already mentioned Beebe as a returner. So that’s kind of a review/preview and we can open it up to questions."
Tre Bryant’s injury:
"Tre just has a knee that we need to take care of that has been going on almost since he arrived here. It’s just kind of who he is, it’s nothing that’s really happened since he’s been here but his knee is just older than his age. And we know how that goes, right? So we are aware of that and we have from the beginning of camp managed Tre in a way that we don’t overwork him. That thing in the game, the way he was bent, aggravated it. But there was no new injury where something else happened."
"Well we are not into the rotation deal like we have been in the past. Devine, it’s like I mentioned earlier on, we made a decision to play Tre, and then we had to make a decision on who to spell him with and we chose Wilbon. All three of the backs, I think are improved players from a year ago. I think we have three better backs than we did a year ago and they are all the same people. They all got better. Devine is in that position right now where we have chosen the other two guys to be No. 1 and No. 2, our thought is that whenever Devine will be called upon he will play well. And so we just keep coaching him and getting him ready. If Tre does not play this week then Jaylin Bradley will move into his role and Devine will move into Mikale’s role and Mikale will start the game, and we will do well."
Tre Bryant at RB1 position:
"The one thing is, we did not decide until late. The week of the first game as a matter of fact that we decided to do that. What he has does not prevent him from playing, obviously. We were mindful after the first game that maybe, what was it 31 carries, might be at the high end of what he should do. But I also have always had a sense that a back that is good enough and tough and enough and versatile enough gets better during the game. He sees things better, he learns in the game, this is how they’re playing this. Because the running game is not always just there’s the hole. There’s vision involved. We run that lead-draw and I learned this a long time ago from John Robinson, that lead-draw can go here, it can go here or back here. And let’s let the runner be a runner. And you saw that play go all of those places the other day and it was pretty good. It was pretty good. So that’s why. If the guy is good enough, tough enough, and is that kind of guy, then he’s got a chance to get in the game and get better. Now, do you have to be mindful of spelling him? Absolutely. Do you have to be mindful of who he is, with that? Yes, absolutely. But, I haven’t seen any signs of that overall until he got hurt the other day."
On Devine Ozigbo:
"I think it’s really hard for Devine. Devine cares a lot and I think that it is one of those times that our advice to him is continue to work, just like I would do for any player that gets in this situation. It’s hard. He has played, he’s a good player, he’s worked hard, he has gotten better, so has everybody else, we made a decision. It’s outside of anything he can do about it, it’s what we decided to do, so what’re you going to do. Are you going to pout? How are you going to handle it? If you pout, then when your chance comes, chances are you won’t be ready because you’ve been thinking about this instead of getting ready for that. So it’s one of those hard things in life. We acknowledge, I know, it’s hard, because he cares, he works hard, and he’s a great guy."
The decision to choose Tre Bryant as the starting running back at the beginning of the season:
“We made that decision and let it go that long (into fall camp) because we wanted to give them all a chance to continue to prove who they are. It wasn’t that easy. But I feel good about the decision. I feel like we have to keep those other guys alive. They are on special teams. They all have roles and they can take those roles further. Mikale has done a great job. He’s on the punt team and last year Tre was on the punt team. If they do it right, that will all help them when they do get to play.”
The challenges of getting the team ready coming off a loss:
“We should be so hungry to practice today. When they look at that video (of the Oregon game), if they haven’t yet, they should just be sick, and they should want to get out there and work to be better than that. I don’t care if we’re playing the Green Bay Packers or whatever, it should be about us knowing we can be better.”
How the running backs are evaluated, especially when it comes to pass protection:
“Definitely pass protection is factored in. The backs have done a pretty good job, we have missed probably a total of two blocks on blitzes, which is not good. Wilbon made a great play, he saved us on a missed assignment up front on a touchdown pass. You don’t often get zero-on-one. A lot of times you’re looking to get one-on-one and throw that guy the ball, you don’t often get zero, so you’d like to complete it, and (Wilbon) saved it. There was a free blitzer (and he made the block).”
The play of Antonio Reed:
“He got better as the game went on, like our team did.”
What he thinks the team’s identity is after two games:
“Well there’s definitely a picture that’s there of what our defense can look like. If we put it together, do what we’re supposed to do and play good assignment football, good position football on defense. (Northern Illinois) will be the third spread team in a row. That will be good for us. That’s the great thing about college football, the variety of what you see, so to get a picture of how that all fits and how you can get better at it, I think that that’s good. Offensively, there’s a glimmer of what our identity can be. We’ve at times run the ball like you should run the ball and it looks good and there are glimpses of what that passing game can look like. What I mentioned earlier is what has to improve there, and that’s the consistency of it. It shows up for a while, disappears for a while. We have some great drives, good finishes and all that, and then we’ll go three-and-out three times in a row. It’s ridiculous. It shouldn’t happen.”
What happened when a false-start penalty was called when Nebraska attempted a fourth-down conversion in the first half:
“There’s nothing magical about what went on that fourth-down quarterback sneak. We’re all responsible for that.”
Playing four home games in the next five weeks:
“I think that’s great. Obviously, we have great pride in playing here in front of our fans. It’s great to have that stretch. The other thing is, it doesn’t matter where we’re playing as much as how we play. That is what’s important to me. I try to teach the kids that, it’s no different. The bus picks us up out here and we end up at a hotel, there might be a plane ride in between, but we are going to end up at a hotel. And then there’s a stadium, lines in the field and then we play the game. So we try to ingrain our people that it doesn’t matter what time the kick-off is because in our world the kick-off will be from 11-7:30. That’s just the way it is, we can’t really dwell on that. It’s like I said, it’s great to have this stretch, I appreciate that. I think it’s a chance to build momentum but it’s really more about the football.”
Protecting Tanner Lee:
“Protecting Tanner, the quarterback, is everybody’s job. There are line calls that are made, there’s recognition by the backs, and sometimes the tight-ends are involved. Everybody has to do their job. And it’s not easy, you’re going to see all the stuff so you’ve got to be good at it. The quarterback has to make a quick decision a lot of times. We’ve don’t okay, but we can be better.”
Why Tre Bryant got the starting RB job:
“I think that we selected Tre in a tight race, obviously, because we didn’t decide until the last week before the first game, because of the combination of things that he brought. You know, whether it’s the running ability, you can rank them and it’s all pretty close. But, we used that, we used the versatility, he’s a good receiver, he’s a good one-on-one route runner in some of the choice routes that we run with our back, he is smart. And I think that he continues to run hard in the games, so those qualities you put them all together, separate it, that’s what we thought.”
His opinion of the quality of the teams in the Big Ten this season:
“I think that no matter how you cut it, remember that stat I told you guys about? Turnovers and running the ball. If you win those two things in a game you have a 94% chance to win the game in the Big Ten, that’s pretty good. So teams want to run the ball. You know you might win the game if throw for 350 yards, but if you’ve run for 350, you’ve probably won the game.”
What Bob Diaco does with the players when things aren’t going well:
“As emotional as football can be, and as happy or as mad as you can be, I’ve been really impressed with our halftimes. Bob (Diaco) is really calculated and analytical at those times- this is what has to happen, this is what you need to do. It’s been very impressive.”
“Well I think that as all offense goes, Tanner will do right along with it. We can do a better job of protecting him, we can do a better job of being really detailed with our pass routes and he can do a better job with some decision making and location of the football. He has shown exactly what we know he can do and he’s good. He can make the throws and there are some beautiful plays, what we need is consistency. You know, it’s football and that’s not going to change. To be called good you have to be consistent. That’s our whole offense right now. I mean that’s where we have to go.”
If Tanner relied too much on Stanley Morgan:
“I think the distribution is good. But I think he should, and there are some pass patterns that start with Stanley, and he’s open so you should throw him the ball. And that’s a good thing. Stanley plays at split-end for a reason. That’s been most of my career, that’s been the leading receiver. The guy has caught 90 balls over there playing split end and so that is part of the plan. Now, it will make it easier to do that if we get other plays. We’ve got to do more with (Tyler) Hoppes, we’ve got to do more with the flanker, and then the slot back plays his role a lot of times third down and lot of time to go first down and spread the defense. So he’ll have his role that’s how the thing works.”