Nebraska players spoke with the media Saturday afternoon following the Huskers' loss at the hands of the Troy Trojans 24-19.
Senior captains Jerald Foster, Mick Stoltenberg and Luke Gifford all took questions. Saturday's starting quarterback Andrew Bunch also fielded questions from the media.
Offensive lineman Jerald Foster
What was the mood like in the locker room?
“Disappointed. That’s about it.”
What caused the most problems for the offensive line?
“A lot of movement. Just got to get used to it.”
Why do you have to get used to it?
“So we can win. That’s how it usually rolls. When you don’t pick up stuff, teams will use it again. So we’ll definitely figure it out before we play next game.”
What do you think the team’s response will be to starting 0-2?
“We’re going to fight back. I don’t see any other option. There’s no quit in this group. We’re going to fight back.”
How important it is to not get down early in games?
“That’s pretty much self-explanatory. You never want to be in a hole when you play any game. You want to be able to get points on the board when it’s 0-0. Fighting out of that sucks. We need to just work on our details. Detailing is what everybody does around the nation. After you get your detailing down, then the schemes, the plays that your coaches spend hours on. They work really well. We have a great coaching staff, we've got a great scheme and plan for us. We’re going to figure out our detailing, because we keep hurting ourselves. You've got good players, you've got great players, but if we hurt ourselves then we're going to have the same outcome. Coach is just challenging us to detail our work, and I know we’re going to do it this week.”
What was your impression of redshirt sophomore quarterback Andrew Bunch?
“He did pretty good. If we would have had a win, a pretty good turns into an awesome. It was unfortunate what happened. We got down early, we didn’t quit, which is always a great thing to be able to say, but not quitting and winning are two different things. We’re definitely going to work on that. We’re going to figure out what exactly we have to do when it comes to our practices as players, because our coaches they have done it at different schools. So, we need to step it up and we’re going to take it upon ourselves to do that.”
What kind of leadership does the team need right now?
“Matters what the player is. Just like this crowd I’m looking at right now. You guys all have different personalities. Maybe half of you, I’d come out and yell at you and that would pump you up and get you going. The other half I need to sit down and talk to. To be able to let you understand exactly what the process is and the plan is and to figure out what we need to do. I’m going to come at my team, I know the rest of the leader are, we’re going to come at, we’re going to figure out what we need to do as leaders to motivate them and push them forward. If you don’t know that as a leader, then I don’t know exactly how you got into the position that you’re in. We’re definitely going to figure this out. It’s hard. Hard to do, coming up here, but I’d rather be up here than one of my other teammates. Again, we have a great football team, a great staff, we’re going to figure this out coming into Michigan. Going to the Big House, it’s going to be exciting.
Will going on the road help younger guys focus more?
“It might. I don’t know exactly how. We have so many young guys, so many junior college transfers I don’t know exactly what that will be like for them. It’s exciting whenever I go to a different stadium. I would hope the same kind of feeling comes to them. Being able to now get into our conference play, that’s another focus right there. Not saying that these games that we’ve been playing don’t count but when it comes to our conference play and our position in the Big Ten, these are the games that are going to be really important to us. We can’t do anything about the losses that we had, but we can move on and I know that we’re going to. We have passionate guys. Stanley Morgan, he was passionate in there, warning us to really figure out what do we need to do. Look into yourself to figure that out. Going on the road is going to be exciting. It is. I can’t wait to be able to play at Michigan. Hopefully we’ll be able to come together and have a great start to the game just like the middle of the game that we’ve had these last two.”
Quarterback Andrew Bunch
What were your overall thoughts about the game?
“Well, I mean… we want to be able to move the ball at will at any point, but then keeping a lot of bodies in the box, being able to run the ball for pretty much everyone, and when they do, find a way to get that extra defender in the box, be able to take advantage of the perimeter. I felt like at sometimes today we were doing that, other times we just couldn’t get things to click.”
When did you find out you were going to start?
“I prepared all week like I was going to be the starter. Later in the week, Frost let me know. He let me know pretty early that I was going to get a shot.”
Is it dificult having to play from behind?
“That’s frustrating. It’s never easy to play from behind, but regardless we should be able to move the ball at any point in the game, so that’s really frustrating. And then mistakes like just turning the ball over or me having two critical errors, one in a critical point of the game. That is really frustrating.”
How will the team fight back from today’s loss?
“I don’t think there’s anybody in that locker room that’s going to give up. That team is full of a bunch of fighters that are going to come to work on Monday the same way we always have.”
Do you feel the offense had conservative play calling?
“I don’t know if it was conservative, I think Coach Frost was just attacking where he thought might’ve been the weakest part of the defense.”
Can the team can use their first game on the road to bounce back?
“We’re going to learn from everything. We’re going to be able to take that in next week. We’ve got a bit of time to learn, and like I said, we’ll be ready to attack it on Monday.”
Were you nervous in your first career start?
“I never felt overwhelmed. I was excited to play, sometimes things just seem they are going my way and sometimes I’ve made some decisions I wish I could take back.”
How do you see yourself as a leader?
“I think the best way that you can lead is to do your job perfectly. Guys that I’ve always looked up to as leaders are guys that are always on time to meetings and take every rep seriously, so for me the best thing I try to do is I try to do my job perfect every time.”
Linebacker Luke Gifford
How key were big plays allowed against Troy
“Yeah no doubt. It’s the same thing as last week. Do some good things, but it doesn’t matter we lost. That’s the way it is. As a defense we've got to take that step. It sucks to keep telling everybody that we’re almost there. We’re almost there. And then have it not happen. It’s where we’re at right now. We've got to find whatever it is to help us take that step.”
How does the team address the little things that need to be fixed?
“I think it goes, like penalties and stuff like that. Just discipline in everything you do. Everything you do in life you have to have discipline. Getting up to be at meetings at 5:55 instead of 6. And making sure you’re at every meal on time. Those are the things where we’ve come a long ways but there’s still a little bit left to go. And it shows up on the field on Saturdays when it’s 3rd and whatever and you get a penalty for whatever it is. It’s just shooting yourselves in the foot. And I think that goes back to discipline.”
Have you seen improvement in the little things?
“We’ve seen a ton of improvement. And that’s why it’s encouraging. Because, there’s a lot of areas that we completely changed as a team, but there’s also a couple spots that keep creeping in on us. And as captains that’s where we've got to make that jump. They've got to be able to lean on us older guys, and we've got to get that right.”
Is the team working hard but not hard enough?
“No doubt. Obviously what we’re doing in practice isn’t good enough to win on Saturdays yet. And we might have two really good days and maybe a not so great Wednesday or Thursday. You know, that can’t happen. You can’t do that and expect to win games on Saturday against anybody that you play. Especially Troy, who comes in here and, shoot they went to LSU and beat LSU last year. They’re a good football team. They do a lot of good things. You can’t have a bad day. That’s just not how it is in D1 football.”
What areas have you seen improvement?
“Like I said, discipline is one of the areas that we still have to improve on. But the drastic change that I have seen in discipline is on it’s way. Overall defensively, I know just the way that we play and the way we get after the ball I think that’s changed a lot. Obviously there’s still a lot of things we need to work on because we didn’t win today, but it’s coming.”
How badly the players need to experience a win?
“I think the guys need to remember how to win. When you get those opportunities, good teams have to shut it down. And that’s what’s so frustrating, you can see how good this team can be. There’s so many good things that we’ve done. And things that you see throughout the week and the way we go about our work, but it needs to all fall into place. And I think once we do that, we can get this thing rolling. I hate to stand up here and talk about how we can and do this and do that because we’re not. We haven’t yet. It’s not lip service, I don’t want it to be that. But you can see it in this team that we have something.”
Defensive Lineman Mick Stoltenberg
How do you think the defense did overall today?
“There were obviously some positives, but at the end of the day, we had plenty of chances to take that game over defensively. We let in some explosive plays and that killed us. That slant-route at the beginning of the game and the quarterback keeper, those were both huge plays for those guys in the first half. Those are what we have to eliminate as a defense. That’s not something extraordinary, that’s guys just being in their fits and being where they are supposed to be. If we can eliminate some of those big plays defensively, we could have played a lot better.”
Does losing make it hard to work?
“The guy that is going to have my respect is the guy who gets up every time he’s knocked down. That doesn’t matter if you’re 0-2 or 2-0. It doesn’t matter the circumstances. If you get knocked down, you’ve got to get back up. I don’t care who you are or what you’re doing but those are the guys that I want to ride with, the guys that earn respect."
How badly does this team need a win?
“That is something we have to do. We have to do that. The number one way to do that is to show up on Monday and make sure we’re doing our preparation. If there is a hangover from a game like this, where it is kind of a big letdown, then it is kind of going to just pile on. So, the number one thing that I have to do is make sure that the guys in my position group, guys on the defense, more holistically the whole team, is just together. No one is getting upset or frustrated to the point that they’re not willing to work or do their job, that’s the number one thing we have to do in order to get that feeling back. It is killing me and it should, it should be killing everyone. And it should be just that much more motivation.”
Can Big Ten play be viewed as a fresh start?
“I suppose. I guess there is always that goal in mind. I guess you can say that. But to me, we have to take the next one day-by-day. The next one is the most important one. Each weekend should be our own personal Super Bowl. We have to come out and make sure that we are playing hard and preparing harder.”
Will the defensive and offensive lines have extra importance this week?
“I could definitely see that being an emphasis. That’s always the emphasis, games are won and lost in the trenches. We, like I said, did some good things here and there but overall, there were some mistakes that we make in the front seven, defensively, that created some big plays. So that’s on us.”
What do you think allowed Troy’s multiple third-down conversions?
“We've got to get off the field on third down. That’s an emphasis. That is something we try to emulate in practice. We have third-down period situations like that where the number one thing you have to do is get off the field. Especially in those third-and-longs when there is a pretty high percentage of them converting.”
How does the team clean up the penalties?
“Absolutely, we have to be more disciplined all around. Guys can be aggressive all they want but your aggression has to be taken out in the right way. You cannot be going after opponents or getting personal fouls because those are killers- 15 yards, automatic first down. No matter what the situation is. We have to make sure that guys are intense and guys are going hard but it is within the guise of the rules and within the whistles.”
Are you able to get into a rhythm out there?
“That is part of it. Especially when you rotate that much, I was trying to tell the guys that you have to make sure that you’re in it mentally as much as you can be if you’re not on the field. There might be stretches where you’re not going to be on the field for quite some time so you have to be pretty invested in what is going on. If you see something that happens while another guy has his hand in the dirt that you can communicate to him or he sees something on the field that you couldn’t see from the sideline, it has to be a symbiotic communication. That is the way we have to play defensively, especially on D-line. We’re going to have to retain a lot of bodies so you know (Defensive Line) Coach (Mike) Dawson formulates all that- like who takes what amount of plays and everything like that. We trust him and trust that process.”
How would you assess Troy’s offensive line
“They were a very physical group for sure. I think they had two third-team All-Sun Belt guys and one second-team All-Sun Belt guy and the two guards and the center. That was definitely a threat going into the game and that’s something we had been focused on throughout the week.”