As the Huskers made their final preparations before flying to Eugene Friday morning, Mike Riley met with media for 15 minutes on the field at Memorial Stadium.
Riley knows he’ll need a good performance from his team this week to get the win.
“What an interesting matchup this is in a lot of ways. They had a terrific start a week ago. We got a win, and we're going to have to play well to beat them. We're looking forward to this chance."
Earlier in the week Riley revealed that wide receiver De’Mornay Pierson-El and left tackle David Knevel were both fighting injuries and would miss some practice time. Pierson-El is nursing a shoulder injury while Knevel is dealing with an ankle.
Riley believes that Pierson-El will play and is hoping Knevel will be able to play. If Pierson-El can't play, true freshman Tyjon Lindsey will step in.
“Tyjon is ready," Riley said. "He’s gotten a let of reps because De’Mornay hasn’t been there. I’m excited about Tyjon this week.”
This week there has been talk about the air quality in Eugene with the fires out on the West Coast. That is something that Riley has addressed that with his team leading up to the big game Saturday afternoon.
“I think the players had heard about the fires so I felt the need to talk with them about it," he said. "From time to time in the valley it’s like that so it can be a factor. I told them we will just practice and prepare but if we have to make an adjustment, we will. They’ve already talked about bringing some extra oxygen and whatever might be necessary but I’m hoping its not.”
Overall, most people believe Nebraska will have to run the ball and stop the run to come out of Eugene with a win. Riley echoed those thoughts, but added a new wrinkle to the equation as well.
“It’s quite an environment up there," he said. "The ability to go in there and focus and compete will be a big factor in winning the game. You have to be able to drown that out and play football.
"The tangible thing is we have to have good balance. We have to run the ball. With that, all of our other stuff will be better. Defensively we have to stop the run or control it as best we can. We really have to manage well explosive plays. That’s the game right there. The kicking game is big in that way too. We can be threatening obviously and I know they are.”
One other big factor in Saturday’s game will be handling the atmosphere at Autzen Stadium. It’s known as one of the most intimidating places in all of college football to play in. Nebraska has a lot of contributors making their first road trip this weekend but Nebraska has been preparing with pumped in crowd noise
“We did it in spring, for two-minute drills. It was right off the bat. It’s not just the Oregon game; it’s just a fact of football that you need to be ready for it. I really, really hope that we are ready because I’ve seen teams not function for the first quarter. You can see it on film when you are watching the video. I feel confident in the preparation we’ve had.
"We’ve tried to hit it hard this week. It’s the real deal. It’s important.”
Other notes from Thursday’s practice:
>> Riley didn’t have immediate thoughts on the return of Chris Jones. “We might talk about it in a month.”
Jones will make the trip to Oregon. Riley likes to take seniors in these situations, and they aren’t limited on how many people they can take because it’s a non-conference game.
>>There are no new true freshman they really hope to play this week but have some still getting ready to play just in case.
“We are ready to play Brendan Jamies but we are going to be thoughtful about it," Riley said. "He’s been preparing and getting ready to play. We’re going to be careful about Damion Daniels and Guy Thomas. They are travelling and possibly will play at some point.”
Greg is the Recruiting Analyst for Hail Varsity and has covered Husker athletics since 2013. He has always had a passion for sports while growing up in the Chicago area. As he got older and had to hang up his cleats and sneakers, he realized his passion for sports went beyond just watching and attending games. He has covered many events from the Rose Bowl to championship boxing matches. If he’s not talking sports, he’s hovering over his grill. He is married to an amazing woman, Kim, and they have a dog that barks when Greg yells at the TV during games.