Several players and head coach Scott Frost met with the media today. The message from everyone was pretty unified.
“We want to play’
“Northwestern is a a disciplined team that isn’t going to beat themselves”
The Huskers travel to Evanston on Saturday for the next installment of what has been a barnburner series since Nebraska joined the Big Ten. Last year’s game was decided on a field goal as time expired. The 2018 contest went into overtime after a late-game collapse by the Blackshirts, and Northwestern pulled out the win. Most of the games in the series have been one-score affairs.
Northwestern is coming off a tough, physical game in which they pulled off the comeback against the equally disciplined and physical Hawkeye team. Nebraska will be coming off an unanticipated bye week and will be missing two key defenders, Cam Taylor-Britt (CB) and Deontai Williams (S) for the first half of the game due to targeting suspensions.
It is easy to see how badly this team wants to get on the field. The determination to be ready if they do get the play was a theme from players and the head coach.
AS ALWAYS these are not exact - just my best attempt to type as fast as people are talking. If something needs to be clarified, let me know in the comments.
You have dealt with a lot of rollercoaster emotions - ups and downs - how did the team handle this last week?
I think well. We had a scary movie night on Halloween to keep them from going to parties and do dumb things. We had the majority of the team there. I guess one of the good things out of all this is I got to trick or treat with the kids.
I think we have set a record for the most practices in history with one game under your belt. The guys are learning to roll with the punches.
Watching Northwestern on film - what strikes you as different this year compared to last year?
I’ve watched more defense than offense up to now. They whipped us on that side of the ball last year.
Their offense, they look good. They are always going to be a smart, physical disciplined group.
Pat Fitzgerald said it was a huge advantage for you to have the week off while they played Iowa. How do you characterize the plusses and minuses. What was your adjusted schedule?
Maybe if this was week 7 or 8, a week off would be nice, but we only have one game. Pat is one of the smartest guys in the country, but I disagree with him on that one.
We just want to play. We practiced Saturday, took Sunday off. We practiced today, we’ll take tomorrow off, and practice Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
How are you handling intensity in practice with no built in bye weeks - compared to previous years where you have a scheduled bye?
We are making it up as we go. To be honest, we just have to have a feel for where the team is...and do what we can without risking their health.
How much are you managing the rollercoaster of emotions - game on - game off - how to keep them level headed?
To this point the kids are like I am. They are callous to the whole thing. We just want to let our kids play and they want to play...we tried hard to get a new opponent...not everyone was available...we scrambled to find someone who tested PCR and could fly here...we told the players we were going to try, they weren’t very confident and they were right. They want to be on the field. Hopefully we get a chance to that this Saturday.
Cam Taylor-Britt and Deontai Williams will be out?
Yes, they are suspended for the first half.
How do you feel - did you feel there would be a chance because you didn’t have a game that they would get to play?
I’ve been through this before, hurricanes, lightning, now coronavirus. We had that before, where a kid was suspended and we missed a game and the suspension carried over. We are down 33% of our season already - down to eight games if we get to play them all - it’s too bad the kids aren’t getting their opportunity play and now they miss more.
Paddy Fisher - He’s an All Big Ten player 3 times - what does that say about him?
He’s impressive. He just finds a way to make plays. You have to say that about their whole defense. Their eyes are good, they rally, they are physical...he’s been a leader...I’ll be glad when he’s out of the league.
You’ll be off tomorrow for election day. What is your message to the players - for most it is their first time voting.
I want them to understand what the country is all about and what their rights are. We took a straw poll and asked how many had voted and how many will vote tomorrow. The majority of the team already has or is planning on doing it. That’s what democracy is all about.
What are some of the challenges starting with two consecutive road games?
It is unfortunate. We want to play. We want to play in Lincoln. We want to play in front of fans. It is just not a normal year. It is Murphy’s Law. Missing a game, missing a home game. I know our kids have chip on their shoulder. We’re playing a good team, but our team will play hard.
How can you tell (your team has a chip on their shoulder)?
You can tell. They watched us fight to have them play at every turn. They want to be on the field. They feel like some are out to get them or have an ax to grind. They feel like they haven’t accomplished all they can - that they lost close games that they could have won if they have played a little better or harder. I think we are close as a program to turning the corner. We just need the opportunity to get out there and show that.
Your team has a chip on its shoulder. Are you on guard to watch so that it doesn’t go the other way?
I haven’t thought about it one time. I just don’t see it. If we get 2 or 3 more games cancelled then I don’t know. We don’t have the type of guys that will throw their hands up and give up. This is just a messed up year...It is November and we’ve played one game. They just want to play.
What do you want to see form young OL (Pieper and Benhardt mentioned by name)?
I think both played well their first time out. I’d like a little more consistency, finishing plays a little better. They’re going to be good players for us around here.
You said that Northwestern doesn’t beat itself. Your players said the same thing. It is said about them year after year. What does it take to get there?
It is probably a lot of things. Good coaching. Having a veteran team. Having a lot of smart kids on your team - you can’t be a dummy and get into Northwestern. Extremely smart kids that are athletic and will be successful in life. They are good at being disciplined and not making mistakes.
Wan’Dale Robinson - Sophomore Wide Receiver
What did the WRs take from the first game and what do you need to improve?
We can improve a lot. Get open better on routes. Block. We know we can compete.
What do you see in those young guys - do they have an urgency to contribute?
Definitely and I’ve taken it upon myself to let them know that you have to show it on the practice field if you want to play.
You have tomorrow off for election day - how are you spending that day?
I think it is good for us to have the opportunity to vote. I think it is a bigger deal now with everything going on in the world. I hope all of our players go out and vote.
This will be my first time to vote.
You watched Northwestern this weekend - your impressions?
It shows what kind of team they are [coming back vs Iowa]...they are sound in all phases. They don’t beat themselves. We have to go in there and play our game, do our jobs.
Is there anything in particular you remember about last year’s [close] game and their defense?
They were stout. They won’t let you beat them deep, they limit the big plays.
How much are you practicing at running back - how many reps at RB?
It varies based on game week and game plan. It can vary from 10 to 30 snaps a day. It varies.
Senior Defensive Back Dicaprio Bootle
Neb-NW games almost always come down to the last minute - what do you tell people what to expect?
Every time I’ve played them it has come down to the last play. They are a tough team, a physical team that is very sound. Very smart team. They won’t beat themselves, they’ll keep themselves in the game...waiting for you to mess up. When game time comes, we need to play hard.
How much different does NW look on offense with new offensive coordinator and quarterback?
They look good...they’re taking what they can get...the QB is making good decisions with the ball...the RBs are running hard. As long as we play sound, read our keys, we’ll just make sure good things happen.
Northwestern’s coach thought your week off is an advantage for you? How has that helped you prepare?
I wouldn’t say it is an advantage. They have a game up on us, we’d love to have two games under our belt,...we know we have to prepare...I get what he’s saying...they had to play Saturday and flip the page on Sunday...for us it was late in the week we found out we weren’t having a game. We are using the time we have. They have to use the time they have.
What have you seen in practice from Quinton Newsome, Myles Farmers others that will have to step up the first half of Saturday?
They’re doing good. They know they’re going to be depended on. We have to stay with them and help them get right and get ready. They help me too...they help me see things I need to do better...everyone has something to put forward. Even the guys that don’t play, the guys that just came in. We all have a common goal. All those guys are doing a good job...we’re going to play hard.
How are the feelings of having to play two consecutive road games?
We would have loved to have this past weekend game at home, some people would have had family come in. Going on the road, it is harder, it’s a little more money, some parents can’t make it. This year is different, not really fans in the stands. Going on the road two weeks in a row is challenging but we understand that. Regardless, we are going there to accomplish one mission - come out with a win.
Senior Offensive Guard Matt Farniok
How have you navigated this past week - having a game, not having one - now one game down?
With everything this year, how crazy it is, just day by day. Just try to be a better person and better player than you were yesterday.
Another week - another big challenge - NW looked really stout up front on defense. What are your impressions of their front 7, especially their LBs and Paddy Fisher?
We know they have a stout, strong run defense. We look forward to the challenge. We know it will be an inch by inch game. We look forward to those.
How does it contrast with Ohio State?
I’d say Northwestern more of a power-based defense. They will try to meet you and overpower you which will be a fun challenge.
Much is said about jump in teams from game 1 to game 2 - what would you like to see?
Stay on our blocks and get a good push, give our QB as much time as possible. We had a couple of lapses, we have some work to do and I look forward to seeing those improvements.
When you have an off day you didn’t expect - do you try to get away from the game or dive in watch a lot of football?
Watch a lot of football. It is a crazy day, you just do what you can. If you have to improve on the mental aspect or physical, just try to find a way to get better.
Were the younger guys struggling with this - what do you say to them when you see they are struggling with uncertainty?
I just remind them this is a weird year. It isn’t a normal year. It is what it is. It doesn’t matter. If you continually get better, that’s what matters.
That was your first game as a guard. How do you think you did? What to improve.
I did alright. I have to get used to how fast the contact happens - I gotta get ready and get used to the quickness...you will be on top of someone and how fast to be ready for a change of direction. I always look forward to these type of challenges. I learned and I hope to improve.