Nebraska players spoke with the media Saturday evening following the Huskers' season opening loss at the hands of the Colorado Buffaloes, 33-28.
Senior captains Jerald Foster, Mick Stoltenberg and Luke Gifford all took questions. Backup quarterback Andrew Bunch also spoke to the media after coming into the game late for the injured Adrian Martinez.
Offensive lineman Jerald Foster
How would you asses the offensive performance during the first three quarters?
“We had a couple hiccups here and there, but we showcased ourselves pretty well. I feel like we made it clear to ourselves what we need to work on this week coming up. At the end of the day I felt good about our team though. We have a good offense, good at running the ball, throwing the ball, our pace was good, but we can do better.”
What did you say to Andrew [Bunch] before the last drive?
“He’s prepared [Bunch], he’s somebody that takes his reps serious, so I didn’t feel like I needed to say anything to him just to be able to be the left guard that he needed in the game.”
How satisfied are you with where the offensive line is at?
“I’m not satisfied with my offensive line. I’m happy that we showcased ourselves well for the first game, but we can do better. We have detail things, things that if you knew the scheme and everything about it, you would be able to see we messed up a couple times. At the end of the day we did have good yards. I’m happy going forward, we’ve got a lot in front of us, we do.”
What did you think about Adrian Martinez’s performance during the first three quarters?
“Smooth with it. I’m happy that Adrian came in and operated as well as he did. He kept us nice and relaxed, allowed us to have fun, celebrate our big plays. With him [Martinez] with [Andrew] Bunch in there, they both are guys that I feel comfortable with giving the ball and really allowing our offense to explode and do the things that we can do best.”
What allowed the team to bounce back from being down 14-0?
“You don’t change up, a good football team doesn’t change up. You have your adversity here and there, but you keep playing the game that you were taught. Our coaches had a great plan for us, unfortunately we didn’t do exactly what we wanted at the end of the game, but throughout the game I hope you could see that we were playing good football. We’re going to go forward from here with Troy, we’re going to do great things.”
How was this loss was different from past losses?
“I’m not going to discredit other football teams that I’ve been on, or other coaching staffs I’ve been with. But this team, if you know football, you can see that this team has a lot that we can do better, a lot that we have in store and we have a whole lot of hope that’s going to show up in the next game, it’s going to show up throughout this season so if you’re a team that doesn’t want to count us in it, if you’re thinking that off of this one game is going to be the way this season is going, then you’re going to be wrong. This team there is something special about us. I felt great about what our defense did, they really were showcasing themselves well trying to obtain their Blackshirts. The offense, we had what 600 yards of total offense or something like that. So when you’re counting that in I think you know when a good football team is playing in front of you and I feel like Colorado would respect what I’m saying in that we played a good game.”
How would you describe the direction the team is heading?
“This is our first week. I get what you’re saying about how this could snowball. For it to snowball you have to be a bad team, you have to have bad leadership and you have to not be believing in yourself. I believe that we all believe that we’re a good football team. Again, I keep saying it I’ll reiterate myself all day if I have to, but you can look at the stats and see that we are a good football team. I’ll stand behind all these guys, every last one of them. They played their game. We did have problems, but that’s something that we can fix. It was on ourselves. We had a whole lot of things that you can fix. Keeping the ball handled well, not doing things coming to the end of the game. We can fix that and when we do the scoreboard is going to be looking good in our favor.”
What went wrong on the fourth down plays?
“Offensive line…that hurts, all right? We take it upon ourselves when it’s fourth and ones. So, I’m frustrated up here and I hope you can see that on my face that I’m frustrated about those two things. We can say what we want, but this team doesn’t point fingers, we are one team, one heartbeat so we aren’t pointing fingers, that’s something that we stand for. We do understand that the offensive line needs to be the ones to be able to get that yard, and we will.”
Quarterback Andrew Bunch
What were your emotions getting in the game?
"It felt good. I was excited to get in. At whatever point in the game that I got in, I knew at some point I was going to get some time, so I was excited."
How did you feel after the game?
"I wish we could've gotten the ball in the end zone on that last play. That's really mostly what I'm thinking about. The team's going to have a short memory about it and get ready to work next week."
Can you take us through the last play?
"We had JD (Spielman) and (Stanley Morgan Jr.), who are obviously two of our biggest playmakers, and trying to get them the ball in the end zone for the last play. (Morgan Jr.) has been pretty good at getting jump balls. I tried to get it up to him and he ended up not being able to come down with it."
How do you think you'll move forward?
"I'm just going to treat it the same way I've always have. I've always tried to prepare like I'm the starter, regardless of the position I'm in. I'm going to tackle Monday the same way I always do."
How would you assess the offense moving the ball?
"I think the offense, at some times, did really well moving the ball fast and I think we can go even faster. But, for the first game, I didn't think it was bad. I think we moved the ball pretty well and had a lot of yards on offense. We were able to move it pretty quickly when we wanted to."
How do you keep prepared at all times?
"I just tried to look at every play and decide what I would do if I was in. I get every offensive play that's called, so put myself in the shoes of the quarterback and try to play as if I'm there."
Linebacker Luke Gifford
What did it feel like to come out attacking?
“That’s what we’ve been taught. Coach (Zach) Duval has taught us that all summer and it was good to be able to go out there and do that. Obviously we have to get stops when it counts and we didn’t do that but there was a lot of good that we can take away.”
How did it feel getting seven sacks as a defense?
“We knew we could do it. That’s just Coach [Erik Chinander] believing in us and we believe in the back end. They can lock it up back there so we have the ability to pin our ears back and get after it.”
How do you think the defense held up against the run while keeping pressure?
“I was really proud of them. I think the D-line and then [junior inside linebacker Mohamed Barry] and [senior inside linebacker Dedrick Young II] played really well and also [junior outside linebacker Tyrin Ferguson]. They did a really good job against the run. (Barry) and (Dedrick) were flying around so it was good to see that.”
What did you think of Steven Montez taking all those hits and still delivering the game-winning throw?
“He’s a good quarterback. We were coming after him and he stood in there and delivered some really good throws so you have to give him a lot of credit.”
Have you ever pursued a quarterback like that since you've been here?
“No. Never, and that’s what makes this defense so fun to play in. Coach (Chinander) is a wizard with it and that’s what makes it fun.”
What changed between a losing locker room last year and what the locker room was like today?
“It was completely different. Obviously we felt like we should have won this game. We didn’t. But there was a lot of good things we knew we could take from it and I think the offense having 600 total yards, whatever they had, we had seven sacks on defense, those are encouraging numbers. Offense, we’re not worried about them, they’re going to keep plugging along, we’re really confident in those guys. We’re extremely confident on defense too so we know what kind of team we can be.”
How do you find a balance between anger that you lost and finding resolve?
“This is no moral victory, by any means. We expect to win every game we play and especially in our house. It’s unacceptable, we can’t have it, we cannot lose here. This is a long season, we have a lot of games left, and in order for this team to keep getting better we have to take away the positives. We can’t dwell on it too much. I think the coaching staff is going to have us ready to roll on Monday.”
Defensive lineman Mick Stoltenberg
What was your message as a captain to the team?
"I told the guys that I've played a decent amount of football since I've been here and I thought we fought really hard. Clearly we made a lot of mistakes and shot ourselves in the foot but kind of the main thing was, 'Hey, take the night but when we come back Monday, we have to prepare hard.' I thought we prepared well this week, definitely not as crisp as it could have been obviously with what happened today but man, we just have to keep working. We have to make sure guys are confident in their abilities and I genuinely think they should be. I thought they played hard. Yeah, it's putting an arm around the guys that are feeling down right now because there are a few of them. It's definitely that and it's making sure we don't let this hang over, for sure."
Has this defense ever gotten after a quarterback like they did tonight?
"I don't think so. I guess I think back to when I was a younger player and I wasn't really playing as much with some of those NFL guys. They really got after it so it was awesome to kind of see our D-line and our backers go after the quarterback like that. I think we ended up with seven sacks, which is a great number. I think we had 14 last season or something like that the whole season. That's there and we can build on that. That's like I said, we clearly made a lot of mistakes and have a lot to fix but that's one thing we can build on and be confident in is our ability to make plays."