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Nebraska's Rushing Attack Got Better in 2018
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

They Said It: Nebraska Players on Huskers’ Win Over Illinois

November 10, 2018

Nebraska players met with the media Saturday afternoon following the Huskers' win over Illinois, 54-35.

Quarterback Adrian Martinez, running back Devine Ozigbo and defensive linemen Mick Stoltenberg and Carlos Davis all fielded questions from the media. 

Here's the full transcript from their question-and-answer session postgame.

Freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez

On if that was the coldest game he’s played:

“It was definitely the coldest game I’ve played, but it really wasn’t that bad especially since I was running around and the equipment guys were rushing to put big coats on us. I’d tell you Friday was definitely worse.”

On converting three fourth-downs in a row:

“I’m always confident, regardless of a down, regardless of a stage in the game. When we have Coach Frost and the guys that I have around us, I know what we’re capable of. It’s kind of up to me to make those right decisions. Thankfully, I did that there and some guys made some plays as well.”

On running in the first series:

“Honestly, it was just what happened to be called and I think that first drive was three plays, four plays, something like that. That’s part of our offense, that’s how we came out and it definitely helped get the chains moving a little bit and that flow.”

On how the offense has grown and the games ahead:

“It’ll be a great opportunity. We play Michigan State, a very solid football team next week. We’re excited, I feel like we’re playing our best football right now. It’ll be a great match-up and we’ll be ready to go.”

On scoring after the defense forces a turnover:

“Converting those turnovers into points and obviously all these yards into points is a big deal, and especially when our defense has been playing pretty well these last couple weeks and has been generating those turnovers. Just doing that and knowing it’s a big swing in the game. It can cause a lot of momentum and it gives us good field position so it’s a perfect opportunity.”

On the touchdown to tight end Jack Stoll:

“Originally, I was looking for Devine (Ozigbo) on this wheel route out of the back field and that was covered up. Then, I went through the rest of my progressions and I have a lot of confidence in Jack to make contested catches. He’s a big strong guy, I fit it in the tight spot and we made a great play.”

On wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. and running back Devine Ozigbo:

“I’m happy for Stan, he played really hard like he always does and he was really there for me when I put those balls up. He’s a guy I can count on, he’s been that way all year. For Devine, he’s been playing some great football this half of the season just in general. He’s such a hard worker, I’m happy for a guy like that. He truly deserves it. We’re just going to keep riding this momentum these next two games.”

On the wind:

“Honestly, the equipment guys just did such a great job. There was no reason for me not to be performing at my best out there. I felt like the wind wasn’t really a problem, not something that even really went through my mind if I’m being honest.”

On the back-and-forth start to the game:

“It’s pretty much just normal operating procedure. Coach will just make sure to remind me ‘don’t stress, keep doing your job.’ Just because they scored doesn’t mean I need to go try and make all these plays. Just do your job, and the rest will take care of itself.”

On defensive tackle Mick Stoltenberg:

“Another guy, senior, hardworking, played a hell of a game. I’m happy for him, he went in there and we all respect him and love him so much. So, we all rallied around him and just some inspiring words. I don’t want to say too much about it, but I’m happy to have him as a leader.”

On how his game has progressed:

“Just the experience I’ve gained throughout this process I think has really helped. Just different situations and growing with my teammates and coaches. Really, to point back to the great people I’m around it really just helped me progress to this point. I still feel like I haven’t scratched the surface.”

Senior running back Devine Ozigbo

On his two longest runs of the day:

“I was talking to the O-line about it, because I don’t know which one exactly, but I saw four of our linemen kind of spreading the line and cutting it in half and the one of the linemen got up to the back and then I kind of went butt-side, the safety came off-I kind of used him for some leverage and that was it. It was a big hole, I had no choice but to run through it.”

On if he could have made the same kind of plays last season:

“I literally got asked that question as soon as I got to the sidelines by one of my friends. I don’t know. I don’t think I had opportunities like that. I think our O-line is playing better than I think I have ever seen it before. The holes are bigger than ever, they are finally letting us get up to full speed. I definitely think that I have probably done some things that probably helped it. So, maybe but it isn’t set in stone this year.” 

On the success of the opening drives in the past few games:

“I think it is tough for teams to get used to what we are doing. I think we have so many weapons and so many ball fakes and just a bunch of ball movement that is hard to target. It is hard to understand everything that is going on at once. That confusion and add in our tempo, I think it is just hard. Teams just have to give us a drive so that they can settle in. I think that is definitely helping us out.”

On special teams:

“Super easy. Special teams showed up today, it was big to see. It was fun because the coaches are always talking about how we need to be making more plays on special teams and things like that so, to see them do that was great. It definitely makes the offense easier. You are starting with 40 yards to go, the whole playbook is open and you can be very offensive and not have to worry about being backed up because you missed a table.”

On the goals of the offense:

“We talked about setting a standard. We don’t really have one about ‘yards-per-play’ per se, but we try to have the punter not come on the field. A minimal amount of times because then it will be perfect. So, that is just one things we try to do, just keep the ball moving. If you keep the ball moving with the explosive kind of guys we have on offense, big plays are going to happen which is going to make the averages look better. 

On if it was cold:

“Kind of just standing on the sideline. I had that jacket every time I could but then I got in. Coach (Scott) Frost was talking about ‘when you’re on the sideline there is no shame getting on the hot bench or putting that jacket on but when you get in the game you literally have to block all that out, get your mind right, and get ready to play. I think the whole team did that.”

On the opening drive:

“In our team, Coach Frost is the guy that, well this whole coaching staff, they are honest, they will tell you exactly how they feel and why they feel that way. For him to show us that confidence, it just really gives us (the confidence) to go out there and prove him right and things like that. Having a guy behind you makes it that much better.”   

On the level of belief within the team:

“I feel like we believe that we can really ball with anybody and we should score every drive. So going out there on the first drive that attitude doesn’t change. You have got to have that attitude that once you start fast, you have to maintain it throughout the game. If the first drive doesn’t work out, you have to come with the same energy on the second. If the second doesn’t work out, you come with the same energy third. It is just kind of having that attitude that whenever we get out there, we are going to go score.” 

On closing in on 1,000 yards as a goal:

“It is something that the guys on the sidelines talk to me about and something that I definitely was aware of. It will be nice to have it personally and for the people that it matters to. But, honestly we are trying to get these last two and it starts with Michigan State.”

Senior defensive tackle Mick Stoltenberg

On his interception at the end of the game:

“I saw the ball was kind of a duck, I guess. It was a pretty slow ball. I tried to highpoint the ball as high as I could jump, which isn’t very high, and I think I came down with it, so that’s awesome. Obviously, a little scary there, my knee got kind of twisted off, but it should be good. I’ll throw some ice on it and get it treated and everything, and hopefully it’ll be fine. Given the history, I thought something might have popped or something, but it’s all good.”

On his teammates jumping on him after the game:

“I totally understand, I’d have probably done the same thing. They probably saw that I was walking and they probably took that as an invitation to go crazy. I appreciate the love from them, it was a fun moment.”

On if he thought that interception could turn into a pick-six:

“I was probably thinking that as the ball was in the air, I don’t really know what I was thinking. It’d have been cool to turn, run, and take that back. It was fun, man. It was a good time.”

On what he said to teammates after the game:

“I just told the team I’m really proud of them, the way they prepared these last few weeks. They really have practiced harder, I know you guys hear that all the time and might sound like clichés and coach-speak and what not, but the sense of urgency really has been heightened. Just from my perspective, I can speak specifically, for the defense as well, guys really have been practicing hard. I think we can continue to keep this rolling and then carry some momentum into the offseason. We’ve got some big games coming up, super excited. Next weekend we have Senior Day here at Memorial (Stadium), and I don’t think anyone is going to take their foot off the gas, I think they’ll continue to push the gas down and practice hard.”

On why it was important for him to speak up:

“We’ve said it multiple times, us as seniors, we haven’t accomplished what we wanted to accomplish when we got here. We were never able to win a big one, or do anything like that, but what we do hang our hats on is on the fact that we can leave an impact on these younger guys for years to come. We might not be the class that won the Big Ten or did this and that, but we can be the class that got the ball rolling, that got the culture changed, started momentum toward a more positive direction. Obviously, us as seniors, that’s what we’re playing for, it’s for the rest of these guys.”

On how much work goes into his knee recovery every week:

“I guess you just have to manage it. It’s something I’ve been dealing with for a while now, but I kind of have a routine. They joke in there that I could do my hungry habit if I had to, because I’ve been there so much. Just make throughout the week that it’s going good, iced up, and doing stretches and stuff like that to make it feel good. I’ve been practicing, taking a lot of reps in practice, and it’s been holding up, so it’s definitely encouraging. It took a little extra today, especially with being a little cold, but it’s one of those things, once you’re out there, you don’t think about it as much. Once the game starts, it’s really off your mind.”

On defensive changes mid-game:

“Sometimes a game will start like that and you’ll get a feel for things, and they’re calling more aggressively and things like that. Obviously, if you continue to put the pressure on, guys are going to bust through and make plays, so that’s kind of how it went. There wasn’t a huge change, guys just had a pretty positive attitude throughout the game, I think.”

On special teams today:

“It was awesome, that group is taking so much more pride in that than they’ve had in the past. They have guys like (junior defensive back Jeramiah) Stovall, that’s all he does, and he doesn’t care. He gets to go out there and run into someone at full speed, he gets super excited about it. That group, they’ve really have been working a lot harder and taking a lot more pride in that deal.”

On forcing turnovers today:

“I think the number one thing is getting hats to the ball, the more guys with the ball. Obviously, you can get fumbles out, but if no one’s there to recover it, or the offense recovers it or it goes out of bounds, it’s not going to count. Part of that is attributed to us doing a lot of drills involving getting the ball out in practice, but also people are hustling and in the right position will make those plays, especially like on those special teams ones, recovering punts and all of that, it’s all hustle.”

On Illinois rushing for 383 yards:

“I’m not really thrilled about that. It’s things people might think it wouldn’t be as highlighted with the way we won today, but that’s going to be in film. They do a lot of things with their option, their triple option, read option game that really burned us a few times on the perimeter, so we’ve got to really work on that and make sure teams can’t hurt us with that same stuff in the future.”

Junior defensive tackle Carlos Davis

On the defensive line’s improvement over the year:

“We’re just taking it day-by-day, stopping the run, striking. The linebackers don’t have to make one-on-one tackles, they can bounce it in many plays on the backfield. That’s our emphasis for every week.”

On AJ Bush’s performance today:

“AJ Bush was AJ Bush. We were talking a lot of mess to each other, and I was trying to put him out of the game, but I didn’t get too many hits on him. He’s a very dynamic player, and he had some good plays today.”

On that interception at the end:

“It was very ironic to me. I’m happy for him (Mick Stoltenberg). If that was your last play, that’s how you want to go out.”

On playing against a quarterback like AJ Bush:

“We’ve got to be very sound, especially on our rush lanes, because a guy like that can move around in the pocket, can make big plays with his feet. Just keep him in the pocket and not let him get out."

On who forced that fumble — him or Tre Neal:

“That’s a good question. It was a group effort, but I feel like my presence of 300 pounds probably got it out.”

On if these last couple of games are a measuring stick for the team’s improvement:

“We just have to keep this thing going. Every week we get better, there are things to work on. I know you guys can see it, but every week, we’re doing things, we’re getting better. We’ve got to move it in to next week, because Michigan State is a good team.”

On if the defense is getting close to playing like Coach Erik Chinander wants it to be:

“Yes, that’s been a big thing for Coach Chin since we got here: turnovers. We didn’t really have a lot of them in the beginning of the season, but we kept with the drills that we do every day in practice, and it started to pay off. We probably weren’t taking it as serious as we were in the beginning of the season, but when big things started happening and big plays were happening in games, we took it more seriously and things are happening for us in defense.”

On Mick Stoltenberg’s interception:

“It was beautiful. He’s a big dude too, but he high-pointed the ball if you guys noticed it, he got a foot off the ground. So, that was pretty impressive to me.”

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