Opening statement:

“We’ll get started with some injury updates. Luke Gifford right now doesn’t look like he is going to be able to play. He hasn’t improved enough to say anything more than that right now. [Tyrin] Ferguson is getting better, we will have to see where he progresses, how much he can practice this week. Eric Lee is going through that protocol with the concussion and we’re hopeful that that goes well and smoothly, and then we will see about his status. I will be able to update you on Thursday about that. Antonio Reed actually dressed and should be further ahead obviously physically to practice this week. Same thing with Aaron Williams; he did not play, he dressed. We hope that he just gets better and better throughout the week. Chris Weber had a stinger so as that settles down, we’ll know more, but we’re hopeful that he will be able to play. Ben Stille had a groin. We’re hopeful that he’ll get better and be able to play. Zack Darlington, you’ve noticed has still not played and we’ll see how he progresses during the week; he’s been sick. Jaylin Bradley, hopefully he’ll practice soon and we’ll see what he can do today and I will be able to update you for sure on his status of how he’s practiced this week and how ready he could possibly be for the game.

"Guys that played well in the game – Mick Stoltenberg had another good game. Dedrick Young, Marcus Newby, Alex Davis is growing as a player. Collin Miller is getting more turns and doing a nice job for a new player in there and we’re pleased with that. Jordan Ober, all the specialists were good; Ober and Caleb Lightbourn had had maybe one of his more consistent days of his career. Drew [Brown] is continuing to be very good and Isaac Armstrong has filled in for Zack [Darlington] in a good way. Offensively, Jack Stoll showed up. I’m excited about Jack. He’s been through a lot injury-wise since he’s been here and I think he’s got a lot of upside in the future. And of course, the receivers – JD [Spielman] and Stan [Morgan Jr.] and DPE [De’Mornay Pierson-El], they had their moments too in the ballgame.

"It’s one of those games in an overtime game when you review it, it’s hard. It’s a very disappointing loss and there’s so many either lost or missed opportunities. The red zone efficiency of our team has to get better. We are going to obviously focus on that. Touchdowns in the red zone, keeping the ball in the red zone, all that is a big, big factor. When you turn the ball over in the red zone, it really, really hurts you. Just in general, our turnover margin, if we can focus on anything as we go forward here it’s taking care of the ball and getting it. We got some timely turnovers the other day, big ones in the game that could have, should have, would have won us the game. So we just can’t return the favor like we did. Just in general, our offensive production, we are continuing to work on it. We actually had some runs in the game against a good run defense in Northwestern that were pretty encouraging, although not near as much total production as we would like. We’ve still got to go that direction. Defensively, we played a lot of good defense. We probably at times gave up runs because of just not quite finishing the gap responsibility, getting beat into the play a little bit. But we also gave up two touchdowns on plays that were not necessarily broken but redirected as whole field and came back on us and we just weren’t in great shape to make a play or missed a tackle coming back. So, all those things that I just look back on and reflect on, on a game like that, that we lost, missed opportunities that could have, should have, would have made a difference in the ball game.

"From there, we’ll take it today with our team and start to get ready for another game. Minnesota has a good running attack. They have good backs. We’re going to have to do a good job there. Overall defense they’ve been ranked nationally and playing well. They have a couple guys that are really good pass rushers off the edge. So we have to be accountable for those guys when we do throw the ball, and then what we have to be able to do, have to be able to do a I think in this game is have a balanced attack. I think when you look at their defense and how they play pass defense, which is ranked very high in the conference, you’re going to have to be able to balance out some runs and then do what we can do in the play-action game and do it best on first and second down or third down, defensive front gets after you pretty good. I know I’ll get questions about the state of our team and my expectations are is that we’ll have a great week of practice. I think this is a great time for all of us to not be controlled by our circumstances, but be controlled by the moment of what we get to do. I’m excited to get back to work with our team this afternoon and get ready to go. I expect with this group as we’ve had great enthusiasm for the work as we get going. We have good, responsible older guys and the leadership that will show the way, and I think that our younger players are tuned in and have been excited to play and can see some growth that they are making themselves individually.”

Dealing with hard situations:

“I think that in general, I don’t try to kind of mediate between what may be going on outside of our room. I just kind of focus on what we need to focus on in our room. And, you know a message for these guys just in general for their life is just that; the great thing that you can do in a hard situation is not be controlled by that situation but really form your identity for a guy that’s going to continue to work hard and make it better. Be the difference-maker in all this. We actually preach that from the very beginning. That’s the way life is and usually in seasons, there’s some kind of rough spots so you have to be able to not let those dictate who you are. But you probably have to fight it a little bit, but that’s all right, too. You have to learn to be that kind of person that will be reliable to your teammate and that’s what being on a team is all about. You have to be that reliable one of your team so, you know the focus goes back to room for the coaches and the players and we all just basically have to do our job and try to do it better than we’ve done it.”

The defense:

“The one thing, I think that this defense is stacked with the moving parts that we’ve had. They’ve done a nice job of having to adjust to sometimes not having the first three safeties that are playing. From the very beginning we didn’t have our veteran corner that was out there so we’re playing basically with two and a half rookies. Lamar [Jackson] played a little bit a year ago. There’s a lot of moving parts that we’ve had to deal with. Luke Gifford was one of our most solid performers for a long time and we haven’t had Luke for a while. These are just parts that are moving that have to be adjusted to all the time. I know for a fact that this group does a great job of teaching preparation and doing what we can with the team to prepare to win so the statistical part of it is one thing, what’s going on with our team and the coaching part and the work we’re getting from the players is what I see all the time. I think they’re doing a nice job of growing as a unit and individually. I think that they’re doing everything they can putting those pieces together and getting them ready to go.”

Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco’s postgame statement:

“I think that probably that he can explain about that, about what he meant specifically. But, we have obviously tried to make a difference in what we’re doing defensively. We made a structural change. The adaptation of players into this system has been a big job for our staff and we did for, I may have mentioned to you and to all of you, that we did it with our goal of being better. We are growing to that, not necessarily past it yet. That’s a pretty obvious at where we are I think. Like I said, as we made this change, staff, system, all that, I can appreciate all the work that’s gone into making those parts work.”

Player’s confidence after Diaco’s statement:

“That has never been any kind of a message that has ever surrounded any of our meetings or what we do as a team. Program-wise, that’s never been thought of, we don’t even look back most of the time like that. The proof for our players is kind of what happens to them day-to-day in the teaching that’s going on. I think that they have latched onto it in a very, very positive way actually. What happens with us productivity-wise, may not reflect all the time the growth we’re getting from the individual from that picture. When I mention guys that have played well, I think that you’re seeing a guy like Mick Stoltenberg in this new nose tackle deal, growing as the season goes on. And Dedrick [Young] and Chris Weber have just like that in the interior. There are other parts of it that aren’t moving as fast as we probably need to or want to. We could look at it now, that that’s so of natural with the change. Our job now is to make it continue to grow. I mentioned Alex Davis because he is becoming a better football player as we speak. Like I said, I see parts of it and individuals that are growing. I think that this group has had an attitude of work and growth the whole time.”

The last half of fourth quarter:

“We would all like to have plays back when you don’t win. You can, as we will, analyze all of that once again like I think that the first-down call had a great shot for a touchdown pass, believe it or not. We all would have liked that call. We had a good protection called. I think the one everybody thinks about and that really hurt us was the sack off the screen, and that brings a valid question but at the same time, that formation, that play at that time is all about the execution of it and they had a defensive lineman fall down and get up and end up right in the middle of the screen and Tanner [Lee] had to hold the ball. That’s still bad, but that’s how that stuff happens and then the fourth-down play was actually a good call and JD [Spielman] made too much of an adjustment on his route, and I don’t know if you’ve seen the replay, JD was actually supposed to be over the ball, take his man over the ball and then retrace. Well he did it all too fast. He brought his man right into the play. His man knocked the ball down. The guy covering JD knocked the ball down and De’Mornay [Pierson-El] is wide open and is going to catch that ball for a first down. That’s a reflection on me and our coaching and getting JD in the right place, but it’s not necessarily on that call.”

Conversations with athletic director Bill Moos:

“What I’ll tell you is that I have talked to Bill [Moos] somewhat in depth, not a lot, a couple different times and the topics will be between us at this point. I’ve had good talks with him and been around him quite a bit since he’s been here.”

Diaco’s approach to transitioning the defense:

“As I look at it I think that we hired a guy with a system that he coached at a high level. And so we were looking to make that change structurally, like I have mentioned to you I have been intrigued by going back to that for me personally. I think that the blending the structure, it may not look like it in total Sam, when you’re playing quarters coverage, whether you’re in a 3-4 or a 4-3, there is definitely a blending… there is some common ground with every quarters coverage how people do it. I’ve been a part of it and watched it, the teaching of this quarters system, when we play it, go forward, there are similarities and there are differences. I think when you look at parts of it, when you look at gaps or you look at what the intent of the coverage is, there is common ground, so in a way there is always a blend when you’re talking about defense. It’s easier to talk about that offensively, just because of the skill, the certain skillset that the quarterback has, that’s the word I was looking for, the skillset that he has. As Tommy (Armstrong) was finishing we had the opportunity to get a guy with experience that could come in here like Tanner. And that part of it lent itself to probably something that we’ve done more in the past. That’s a little bit different when you’re talking about blending.”

How fast he wanted the defense to transition:

“All of us expect the best. I don’t ever remember saying ‘Bob, let’s do this really fast.’ But we all want that. We want that from the first game through every game. And then when you see where you are, everybody just works hard at trying to make it better. That’s where we are in every phase of our game. And I’ve been proud of our coaches in the fact that I think they have kept the players engaged in growing, and I’m proud that we have some guys, some players, that are tough-minded enough to keep growing and understanding this and I think part of the reason that the players are engaged is the coaches are still teaching. And I think players see that. That’s just a personal feeling I have, or more than that, probably, it’s what I see. So our coaches will continue to do that. I think if the coaches continue to do that and try to give them a better answer, then they will latch on and grow and we will get better.”

Breaking down when you use young players based on injury need and opportunity for young players:

“We’ve ended up with a lot of relatively new guys playing more is exactly right. Like I said a week ago, at Purdue, we looked out there and there were five freshmen playing on offense. And part of that was started due to injury, like when Brenden Jaimes took over we had two injuries in a row at right tackle. So Brenden got in there, at this point Brenden has won the job. And of course Matt Farniok is playing right guard because of Tanner Farmer’s injury and Cole Conrad had to go in there and play for Mike Decker, so there were some dominoes by injury, but there’s also been a reinforcement of those moves by those guys doing a pretty good job. They’re obviously not perfect, if we were we would have more production and be looking a little differently. Then you take a freshmen, he’s a redshirt freshmen, you know, JD Spielman, is definitely not because of an injury, he’s won that job and plan. Tyjon Lindsey has earned that alternating role with De’Mornay Pierson-El because of what he’s done, and Jaylin Bradley is in there because we wanted him to play, not because of any injury necessarily. The Tre Bryant thing escalated that a little bit, but he would be up in there anyway getting some turns. We’re excited about that. I think that as you look at it, some other guys like Collin Miller, have gotten an opportunity, but we’ve seen all along that this guy is going to be good and he needs to play a little bit. There’s been some stuff like that that I think has. It’s kind of a blend between yes some opportunity has been presented by injury, some of it was earned by how they’re doing.”

The message Riley wants to send to recruits on official visits to Nebraska:

“The one thing that we are doing as a staff is we are going forward with the things that we are supposed to do. Coach our team and recruit the next one. So that’s what we are focusing on. We have put a ton of time into this ’18 class and like you mentioned we had a number of real good visitors this past weekend and a lot of success with that ’18 group as we have gone forward and we are going to continue to recruit those guys and hopefully get them signed in December. So we are doing exactly what our job description describes. Coach our team and recruit our next one and that’s what we do all the time.”

Whether Riley envisions his personal role with this team changing at all:

“I’m enjoying my involvement in what I can do to kind of give direction to all parts of the program. I think that I have maintained a consistency doing that going forward, and I don’t envision anything else right now in this moment changing in that way. You know we all want to do better, so we’re are all searching for those ways as we get ready for the game, studying for the opponent, and preparing our team and messaging our team, whatever we can do best, better, we will continue to look at that. But as far as me personally, but if I can do those roles that I have had, better, then hopefully I can do my part better.”

On veteran and former Navy SEAL Damian Jackson’s role and impact on this team:

“I can remember meeting Damian Jackson a few years back when he came and him stating that one day he wanted to go to college and be a football player and then lo and behold he shows up on our doorstep as a freshman, what is he, 27 years old? What a special person he is. From the moment he started working out with our team, he set a high standard. Watching him work out is impressive. Watching him do what he does day-to-day is impressive. The discipline that he has in all the parts of being a teammate is impressive. I think it’s been good for our team to have him here. I’m hopeful as he goes forward that he can find a niche with our team where he can actually contribute on the field, and one thing I know is he will never stop working to find that niche.”

How Nebraska has done in terms of penalties this year:

“Better. But we are at the point where we can probably really focus in on some of the things that have happened, they’re pretty well-defined, in our control, how we can even make it better than it is, but I think in general we have done better.”

Bbowl eligibility being a motivator for the team:

“I think it’s one of the carrots. I think the initial focus is the work that we are going to do this week, but I think that to not still have that out there as something would be kind of denying what’s on everybody’s mind. I think that it would be great and I will state it would be great for our team and for our seniors in particular to fight and get some wins to get bowl eligible. So it’s definitely a carrot.”

Familiarity with Head P.J. Fleck and his style at Minnesota:

“I’m not overly familiar with P.J. except I can see the team, what he’s doing with the team and he’s doing a nice job. I think that when you look at that team, they play hard, they’ve won games and they’ve been in a ton of really tough, close games. As I look at the ones that they have played, they have been really competitive and they are doing a good job.”

Why being in a bowl game is important to a team:

“I think that is a good question. In general, the bowl game is in my experience with the bowl games we’ve been to in all the years, it feels like a special time for the seniors, an added new more game kind-of experience that I think is fun, I think that in general the fans see it as a positive and something they can go to in a new place and experience, I think that for the team it’s really good extra practices. I like that part of it. Some added time with younger guys in the program that maybe have been on the scout team that we can start to incorporate schematically with what we’re doing and where they might fit when they re-enter the competition for spring ball, you get a jump start on that. When you look at it there is a number of things that make it. It’s fun, and the bowl experience is a memory, that is part of the football life they will look back on, they get some gear, it’s all a good thing.”

JD Spielman playing great offense as a redshirt freshmen:

“JD has a really good football IQ, so the understanding of what he is doing is pretty neat to see, and he is one of those guys that has kind of a football maturity that is beyond his years a little bit. When you think about it he was mostly a runner and a defensive back in high school. He did have the benefit of redshirting and so running and catching the ball. He has been a very good individual route runner versus individual man-to-man coverage, so he has gotten a good feel for how to play against zones, and that’s not necessarily ordinary. So having a good idea about coverage, having a good idea about where he’s going to get the ball in a certain situation, he’s got a good feel for it. He in that way is really a fun young guy to work with because he kind of gets it.”

If Riley had a hint that JD Spielman could play this role despite not having done it in high school:

“I did. I did have a vision for what he could be for us. I think that when you have had a system and even take it down further, a position, of what that guy needs to have to play at that position, I didn’t necessarily see him as a Big Ten running back but I thought that he could be a slotback for us, and I thought that this is what he would be able to do. And so how fast that happens I obviously didn’t know that, but that’s why we recruited him, he has that ability and we’ve actually in this offense have had different styles of slots, we’ve had tall rangy guys and we’ve had guys like JD, and both of them can be successful in the offense. And when you’ve got an understanding in that position of what to do and how to do it then you can make plays with his ability.”

If Riley intends to put JD Spielman at corner:

“We have talked about it. We have talked about our team in that way when we were heading into the season when we were thin at corner.”

If Riley has thought about putting JD Spielman at corner recently:

“No, not right now, that part of it is easier said than done. Because there are so many moving parts at that position and probably not what you’re thinking, you would just cover the guy when you’re playing man-to-man, but when you’re talking about run-support, fits, the different coverages and how to play them, it’s too much for right this minute.”


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