After listening and watching today’s Press Conference with Matt Rhule I set out a few quotes that set the tone for the program going forward. The players need to understand that what happened on Saturday was unacceptable and that they can play much better. Also, whether they up 14 or down 14 the standard is the same.
The Level of Play against Michigan was Unacceptable
To give credit where it is due, Matt Rhule continues to take responsibility for the level of play of his team.
A head coach should always do that but he also has a lot of sources of excuses if he wanted them.
However, during the press conference Rhule said that while it is his responsibility as well as the responsibly of the other coaches and players — that it needs to be clear that the level of play against Michigan was not good. It was unacceptable. The standard for Nebraska football needs to be raised.
“We didn’t play very well. We didn’t play well enough. That’s not a take away against Michigan. Michigan is an excellent football team, but we could’ve played better than that. And I say ‘we’ because that’s not me throwing the players under the bus. That’s all of us. I don't think there’s a guy in that locker room that doesn’t feel that way. That wasn’t good enough. That wasn’t good enough at all.”
“Can I be honest about how I really feel? I’m trying to get the players to stop thinking about all this other stuff. Like, play. So we went out and played Minnesota. We played good football against Minnesota. We were flying around on defense, we were hitting people, we looked the way it’s supposed to look and then some things went wrong. We got a bad call at the end of the half, we score a touchdown and it doesn’t go our way. Ok great. We come back, we battle, we fumble the ball at the end of the game, we throw a pick, we lose the game, we go to Colorado. We’re playing pretty well right? We had three turnovers. Everyone wants to talk about the turnovers, but I keep telling the guys, it was 13-7 with six minutes left in the third quarter and we lost 36-13. We kinda accepted the fact that we were gonna lose. To me, Bill (Walsh) said it, ‘champions behave like champions before they’re champions.’ They have a winning standard. So I want a winning mindset.”
Trying to Get the Players to Believe in Themselves
As a guy who has had a fair share of experience in coaching kids (though not Division 1 football players), one of the hardest things to do is to give confidence to a kid who lacks in confidence.
Changing their mindset is extremely difficult. It is like a vicious cycle. In order to get successful you need confidence. In order to get confident you need to see success. Trying to get kids to play free as well as play within their assignment is the key. Rhule said as much today:
“We gotta play. That’s the winning mindset. The guys have to not listen to everything that’s out there. There’s no ‘you should be doings,’ at least in this building. Go play. It’s a football game. We have some really good players. They’re gonna play in the National Football League. They need to show up. The good players for Michigan? I can tell you who they were because I watched them on the field. Our really good players need to show up. That’s not me calling anybody out, that’s me giving them confidence that I believe they can do it. We have guys on our team that I believe can absolutely wreck a game. I wanna see them wreck the game. This whole ‘I’m just overthinking a little bit coach’ and ‘I’m worried about this and I don’t want to make a mistake’...enough.”
Fair Share of Missed Assignments
Sometimes as fans we can see blown coverages quite easily. What we do not see a lot of the times are some of the missed assignments. Coach Rhule had no problem mentioning a few today:
“The first play there’s all these texts ‘Man what a great catch he caught on his helmet.’ We cover three and the middle safety player is five yards. That’s a missed assignment. Second play, touchdown, missed assignment. All the touchdowns are missed assignments. So we’re better than we played. You can tell I want to get that off my chest to the guys. I love our guys. All I want our guys to do is play football with confidence. I don’t want them to play football ‘afraid to lose.’ Play football with confidence. That’s my job and I haven’t gotten it done yet. So I’m anxious to play on Friday.”
They Have an Offensive Identity. It’s Called Running the Ball
There isn’t a person in the building or outside of it that is satisfied with how the offense has been playing. Is Nebraska still in a search for an identity on offense? Rhule doesn’t think so. He said that their identity is to run the ball.
“We have an offensive identity. We’re going to run the ball. In all seriousness, I would not confuse identity, knowing what you want to do and who you are, with always having success. We lined up and we tried to run the ball against those guys. If that game stays 7-0, where we go down on that fourth and two and we go down and make it 14-7, we’re going to continue – they were running the ball and they were very consistent with their clips. If we would have stayed with that…once you get down 28-0, we’re going to play to win. We came out. We know exactly who we are. We’re going to run the ball, we’re going to run a little bit of option, we’re going to play action pass here and there, we’re going to try and convert third downs. I think we’re just trying to do it better.”
The Level of Play Should Be Dependent Upon the Score
Just because you are down doesn’t mean that your level of play changes. Or at least the standard of play. Rhule thinks he saw a lot of that on Saturday. The kids need to learn that there is a standard and that they aren’t meeting it yet.
“All I know is what it better be. It better be ‘we can’t let that happen again.’ It better be ‘we better play our best game on Friday.’ It better be, for all of us, that ‘you don’t get to play for the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers and play in that stadium and play with all these facilities and get all the things that we get and then judge how we’ll we’re going to play based upon if we’re down 14-0 or not. If we’re down 13-7 with six minutes left in the third quarter against Colorado.’ We better play, play. That’s the mindset. That’s the mindset. As I’ve told the guys, they’ve got ‘hey, I know you don’t really know me, Coach Rhule, but bring me along’ to ‘hey, I believe in you’ to ‘I believe in you too much to let that happen on Saturday.’ It’s ridiculous what happened on Saturday. I believe in them too much. They’re going to play, okay? All I’m doing is, this Friday is a great test. I said that to you guys after the game. I said we’ll find out who we are on Friday. We’ll go to that bye week and we’ll look at the tape and we’ll say ‘hey, who are the lions?’ I’m not talking about being perfect. This is not a game about being perfect. Who are the ones that go out there and they attack? I’ll put my money on a lot of these guys, though. I can see Jimari Butler and Ty Robinson, I can see the look in their eyes last night.”