Nebraska players met with the media following the Huskers’ 27-24 loss to Iowa. We heard from quarterback Adrian Martinez , as well as seniors Lamar Jackson and Darrion Daniels.
Here’s the transcript from their question-and-answer session postgame.
Sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez
On running out of bounds on the last drive with 40 seconds left
“In my mind I was thinking still attack, but hindsight was get to over time and that’s pretty much it.”
On how he felt the offense played and if something changed in the third quarter
“I don’t know if something necessarily changed but the guys brought it in the second half. The offensive line was doing a good job moving them, playing tough and physical. I think some guys stepped up and made some big plays. [Freshman quarterback] Luke McCaffrey came in and made a huge play. It was a great play call as well and I think that got things going in the right direction.”
On stalling in some possessions
“I don’t think it helped, especially going against a really stout defense playing on that side of the ball. I don’t want that to be an excuse by any means, but it definitely makes it harder.”
On what the biggest thing to improve on
“My mind really isn’t too far off of tonight. For right now, I’m still feeling for the seniors and the tough game we lost here today. Obviously, we need to move forward and need to continue to progress and continue to work on our brand of football.”
On how he feels the team is getting better
“I think it’s tough to see from the outside in because of the one-win difference, but on the inside, we can tell the difference. We can tell how far we’ve come and just how close we are to breaking through and truly being a good, solid football team. Obviously, 5-7 is not where we want to be as a program, I don’t think anyone wants to be that, but we are close, we have progressed, and I think as a program internally we can see that progression.”
On Luke McCaffrey coming in for him and if he was surprised
“No [I wasn’t surprised]. We had a package and things like that coming into the game and I trust Coach Frost and I trust Luke. Luke is a good football player and that was just part of our game plan going into it. It didn’t take me by surprise. I just do what the coaches ask me to do and at that time it was come out of the game.”
On how hard it is to start of a drive on a play with a negative gain
“That falls on my shoulders. Part of it is getting good plays on first down. I think it put Coach Frost in a tough spot and it puts our offense in general in a tough spot when you don’t get positive plays to start a drive against a really solid defensive team.”
On Iowa defensive lineman AJ Epenesa
“He seemed pretty good to me. I have a lot of respect for him and a lot of respect for those guys on Iowa’s defense. I think there’s a reason why he’s talked about as one of the top players in the country.”
On how Iowa defensive lineman AJ Epenesa was effective
“It’s not necessarily something where I go and think about him every single play. I think it’s just part of their defense. I think he’s dynamic. He does a good job of rushing the passer and obviously he really rushed the mesh on some read-option plays that affected the game.”
On how good Iowa was on stopping the option
“At times they were really good and at other times we gashed them too. They had the tape. They watched the film. They’re a really disciplined unit and that’s what we were expecting. It’s just on us to enforce our will and make those plays work.”
On what it will take to win the close games
“I think that’s the key right there. It’s just a mentality and the small things. Small things lead to big things and I think it’s easy to say you can point to a few things in this game that would change the outcome, especially late, and I think that’s been the case over this year and I think you could say last year as well. Those things need to get fixed and we’re working to fix them, we are. We see it and we have a lot of guys returning, not to diminish the seniors but we know what we need to work on moving forward and those small things are a part of it.”
On if he wants to start working on things tomorrow or take time to reflect
“Guys need time to breathe a little bit and I think that certainly means they need to reflect and look back on the season. I think that’s important for our team learning, moving forward and when the time comes, we’re going to jump on it and get going fast.”
On if the game felt the game against Iowa last year
“Sort of. I think this game was a little bit different. Ended in the same result, but I think the way we had to try and win this game was a little different than last year.”
On how the season was for him
“Well there was definitely times of ups and downs. It was a learning curve and it didn’t necessarily go the way we planned as a team. I said this earlier and I’ll say it again, I wouldn’t change any of it. I think it’s a part of God’s plan. Truly. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but here. I love this state. I love this pro-gram and this staff. We want to be great. I want to be great for this team and that’s what I’m going to do moving forward. It was easy to say I wasn’t great for my team for the entirety of this year and I’m going to continue to work on myself and the team.”
Senior cornerback Lamar Jackson
On his thoughts on Nebraska and his final game
“For the most part, I made the best of it and just have no regrets. I feel like, for the most part, there isn’t too much I’m walking away with that I wouldn’t want, or wish that I did. I feel like, Nebraska, the culture, the people that have been here throughout my life, my teammates, I feel like everything was genuine, everything was real, everyone taught me something. I learned a lesson through it all, through all the hard times, through all the good times. At the end of the day, even though the outcome was what it was, it’s some of the most fun I’ve had my whole career. Playing for my brothers. I felt like everyone was out there giving it all they got, everybody left it all out there on the field, including myself. Of course it sucks, but I can’t change the outcome. I can only tell you how I feel and I’m extremely appreciative of everything, most of us got out healthy. There’s nothing I can really say except I wish we got the win, but I’m extremely grateful for everything and every situation.”
On his exchange with Coach Frost during the tunnel walk
“It was just one of those things where it was kind of settling in. This was going to be my last tunnel walk, my last time being with my brothers, looking certain guys in the eyes, people that I really love and care about, crying and shed tears with me, it just felt a little different. It was all just real, it was all just raw emotion. There isn’t too much I can really say, I mean, I didn’t expect to go through the tunnel crying, but within the moment. I realized how much I really love, how grateful I was and everything that this game has brought to me. The relationships, the coaches, to the situations to this place, I loved it all. I appreciate everybody and I appreciate everything.”
On the final 30 seconds of the game
“It was one of those things where in my head, I was just living in the moment. We were just all locked in, engaged in the situation. Of course, even when he lined up to kick it, I’m like, ‘He’s going to miss the next one, he’s going to miss the next one, let’s go, watch the ball, get some pressure.’ We weren’t going to count ourselves out until the clock hit zero, we didn’t lose, we were fighting until the clock hit zero. I’m extremely proud, their kicker made a great kick. There isn’t too much you can do about that, shout out to that guy. But at the end of the day, for the most part, I feel like we were in that game. Moral, spirit, just how we played, I mean we balled. The only thing that we came short of was the W, and that’s three points. At the end of the day, I already know, we came this close twice, it isn’t going to happen again. We got that word from the players, our coaches said it, we aren’t going to let it happen again, I have to believe that. They’re going to get it done.”
On the Frost saying the program is ‘coming’
“You have to take his word for it, I mean at the end of the day, he tells us the same message. But we feel it, we practice, we put the work in, we sweat, we feel it. It isn’t like coach is just saying and talking like, ‘What is coach talking about?’ We feel it, we’re close, and we lose games, we’re close. We just lost by a kick, the defense played lights out, we just lost by a kick. You should see it, we’re close, you have to believe it, you have to see it, you have to feel where everybody is coming from, including the coaches. We’re all one body and we all believe our coaches and we all believe in each other. These last couple of weeks, coach has been saying ‘get on somebody's hat.’ Ever since then, I’ve never had more fun. Spontaneous celebrations, one of the best feelings in football, I’ve never had more fun, I truly loved it. We pretty much found the formula. It isn’t just get serious, be quiet, it’s love each other, it’s have fun. Enjoy everything you do, do it with a purpose. As long as we keep that rolling through the offseason, this thing is going to get flipped faster than anybody can expect. I have all respect and I have all confidence that it’s going to happen.”
On the vibe of the team in the final three games
“Listening to the messages our coaches were giving us, listening to the guys that talk to us, no one gave up, even though we went almost a straight month of just losing, including bye weeks and in between. We sat on losses for a while, so we got that feeling and we realized that this isn’t where we want to be. The fact that we were able to get some new life in and forget everything happening outside. Have fun with your brothers, go out there and have fun, live in the moment, do what you can do. Once we figured that out and we embraced that, I mean, you see. We got a good win last week and we came up a little short this week. You can only be grateful and be proud of what’s to come. At the end of the day everybody’s impatient, we’ve been down for a while, but, hey, it is what it is, y’all can’t go play, y’all can only wait. You have to believe what coach is saying, you have to believe what everybody is saying, it’s coming, just be patient and just keep believing in this team.”
Senior defensive tackle Darrion Daniels
On his time in Lincoln
"It was great. I really appreciate the opportunity and Husker Nation accepting me and I think what I'll remember the most is a team that fought. A lot of youth on the squad, new system, everybody was always fighting throughout the whole year, trying to get things right. It's kind of like what happened last year, things start clicking later on in the season. I just feel like we got the formula. The foundation has been laid, the formula has been set, and it's nothing but up from here."
On playing through injuries this season
"It's football, everybody has bumps and bruises across the D-line, offense, defense. Personally, it's what happens playing Division I football for five years, your wheels get a little flat. It was nothing too serious, the trainers do a great job of keeping maintenance and making sure everything was good."
On how this program is getting fixed
"For starters, I feel like everybody is bought in, a lot of people have been bought in and the majority that weren't they made their choice and we took care of that situation. Guys see it now, it's kind of hard to see when you're losing, but even among losses they see the potential and what's there for us. When coach says 'we're coming' that's what it is, a lot of young guys who know the standard now and they know what to expect and how much to put out. I think what's been done this year is something we have to build on and continue to turn everybody on the right path and get everybody to buy in and continue to work hard the way we've been working."
On what changed on defense to stop Iowa's run game
"We just figured it out, communication was huge for us. The first few big plays that they had on us one was a mental error and one was just a matter of getting the job completed. No one was out of position, we know what we got to do, just do it. As the game went along listening to the quarterback speak to his offense and the visiting offensive linemen speak to one another and taking that information and relaying it to the guys aside of me and behind me, we did a really great job of communicating, something we've been practicing this whole season, something we want to keep building on and just kept communicating and putting the defense in a better position to make stops."
On playing with his brother, Damion Daniels
"It was phenomenal. I felt like we both grew mentally and physically and I'm just glad I was here to experience my brothers development and I was able to contribute in any type of way."