Looking back at Nebraska’s 23-17 loss to Wisconsin, head coach Mike Riley used the word ‘haunting’ to describe the Huskers’ missed opportunities against the Badgers.
“I’m sure in a close game everyone says this but for us, you go back and look at the game and watch the thing in total, our opportunities lost are somewhat haunting and could be disappointing and could make you mad,” Riley said.
And Riley expects his team to be mad – not sad – preparing for Ohio State. Tight end Trey Foster said he is 100 percent on the same page as Riley.
“I’m not going to be hung up about it and sad about that,” Foster said. “The season is still right in front of us. Nobody’s dreams have been crushed.”
In fact, the missed opportunities are what’s driving the Huskers to get better ahead of Ohio State.
“Looking back at the film, we had a lot of opportunities that we let go,” defensive tackle Kevin Maurice said. “I think going back into this week, we’re going to prepare hard and we’re going to go into Columbus, you know, fired up.”
Wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp agreed.
“It could be a huge statement game for us so we have to continue to keep preparing and keep getting better,” Westerkamp said.
Riley plans on the team using the loss to Wisconsin to learn and improve over the week.
“Were going to have to take advantage of our opportunities this week and kind of tighten down some of those we failed on in the Wisconsin game,” Riley said.
It’s imperative that the Huskers improve, too. If they don’t, it could end their shot at the Big Ten title game.
“You either rise up and get better or you get left in the dust,” Riley said.
On to other news and notes from Monday’s press conference:
>> Riley gave a quick injury report, starting with linebacker Dedrick Young (elbow). The Husker staff will evaluate him over the week but they have high hopes that he will play against Ohio State.
As for offensive guard Tanner Farmer, he is out with a severe ankle sprain.
Riley also provided an update on tight end Cethan Carter, who was listed on the Huskers’ game week depth chart on Monday.
“Cethan Carter is on his way back,” Riley said. “I don’t know about this game but we’ll look at him starting tomorrow and see where he is. He’s been working out, hitting bags, hitting routes, doing some stuff, so he is close. We’ll see how that goes this week. It’d be good to have him back but I want to make sure he’s really well and feels really good. It might be one of those deals where he’s really close but it might be best to keep him out another week just for his comfort and playing, but he’s pretty close.”
>> Westerkamp also suffered a minor ankle sprain against Wisconsin, but he wasn’t concerned about it affecting him against Ohio State.
“It won’t be anything,” Westerkamp said. “I’ll be ready to go this weekend.”
>> Defensive tackle Carlos Davis said he also suffered a minor injury against the Badgers.
“I dislocated my shoulder trying to reach out for the running back and then I landed, it popped back in,” Davis said. “I came back in for one play and was done after that.”
>> Who did Riley feel had a good game against the Badgers? In no particular order, he listed Stanley Morgan Jr., Terrell Newby, Westerkamp, Josh Banderas, Michael Rose-Ivey, Joshua Kalu, Mick Stoltenberg, Maurice, Nathan Gerry and Aaron Williams.
As for special teams, he mentioned Chris Weber, Brad Simpson, Banderas, Boaz Joseph and Drew Brown.
>> What do the Huskers think about two big games back-to-back?
“When it’s months away, it’s kind of exciting,” Riley said. “Then you’re in it.”
With a crazy couple of weeks all-around, the team is still looking forward to traveling to Columbus, Ohio.
“I thought it would be a pretty cool challenge,” Foster said. “I liked how it lined up in the year.”
>> Wide receiver/punt returner De’Mornay Pierson-El is ready for the moment he’ll finally break free to return a punt for a touchdown.
“It’s a long time coming but I know it’s coming [when] everybody just gels together for one big push and everybody just finishes everything and want to get taken back,” Pierson-El said.
As for Pierson-El, he plans to just keep doing what he’s doing.
“I can only do what’s in my control and my control is just to catch the ball, make people miss and run very fast,” Pierson-El said. “I’ve got to see what their punt unit is about and hopefully I can take one this week.”
>> Nebraska still controls its destiny in the Big Ten West, sitting ahead of Wisconsin despite the loss. However, Riley knows that could easily change if the Huskers don’t work hard to keep it.
“As we head into these last ballgames, the standings become more real,” Riley said. “It’s better to be where we are with a lead and we have to fight like crazy to keep it.”
Erin is the Deputy Editor and Digital Marketing Strategist for Hail Varsity. She has covered Nebraska athletics since 2012, which has included stops at Bleacher Report, Cox Media Group’s Land of 10, and even Hail Varsity (previously from 2012-2017). She has also been featured on the Big Ten Network, NET’s Big Red Wrap-Up, and a varsity of radio shows nationwide. When not covering the Huskers, Erin is probably at Chipotle.