Photo Credit: Eric Francis

They Said It: Nebraska Players Talk 30-22 Loss to Illinois

August 28, 2021

Nebraska players met with the media on Saturday following the team’s 30-22 loss to Illinois. We heard from Adrian Martinez, Pheldarius Payne, Oliver Martin, Damion Daniels, Cam Jurgens and Ben Stille.

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

Junior quarterback Adrian Martinez
On if he was surprised by the mistakes he made on the field:

“Yeah, I was just as surprised with those type of mistakes. For starters, my fumble at the end of the half, I think that was a big moment for our team and those type of mistakes can’t happen.”

On staying the course as a team after a loss:

“That’s on the leaders of this football team. This is the first game of the year. Yes, it was a tough loss. It was a bit of the same old story for this program that we need to get fixed. But it will not deter us, it will not discourage us. I can tell you that as an individual and as a team we know that what we’re capable of. We just need to go show it on the field and play up to our potential.”

On breaking those bad habits:

“Well, no disrespect but if I had that answer, it wouldn’t have happened. I think it’s just a matter of continuing to get better and understanding what those mistakes are and understand that they’re hurting this football team. We have to get better.”

On if there was a here we go again mentality on the sidelines:

“No. That is something that is not the same old story. Our guys had faith. We wanted to get that ball back and score. I know the defense was fighting their tails off for us. In my mind the whole time I thought we were going to win. Looking in the eyes of the other guys on our team we had that same belief. What is the same old story is the turnovers, penalties, little mistakes that in Big Ten football you just can’t make.”

On frustration with penalties and turnovers after emphasizing it in camp:

“Yeah, it’s very frustrating. But luckily, this isn’t a one game season. This team still has a lot to prove. Our backs are against the wall. We know we have to get them corrected. We spent a lot of time on it this offseason and that work will pay off.”

On not getting a running game going:

“That’s something that we’re definitely going to have to get going as the season progresses. We weren’t 100% sure what Illinois was going to show up in and that’s not an excuse. That’s just the reality. We have to find a way to establish that and we didn’t really do that early in the game. Right away are you feeling the second half? I feel like I had moments and I need to be a hell of a lot better. There were times I was in rhythm and at times that I think I wasn’t I think that was spread out throughout the game.”

Junior outside linebacker Pheldarius Payne
On how disappointing losing the first game is:

“Of course, it disappointing but I feel like we’re going to bounce back as a team and fight.”

On what it will take to fix mistakes:

“Probably just harder work because that’s the only way you can change. You keep working harder at the end of the day.”

On the game plan:

“I feel like the coaches did a great job preparing us for this week. It should have been a different outcome but the preparation was there.”

On what gives him confidence the team will bounce back:

“Because I know the character of these guys and these coaches. The character is very strong. We’re not just going to lay down. We are going to bounce back and keep working.”

On how he felt like he played:

“I feel like I did decent. It could have been better. We didn’t win that end of the day.”

On how the quarterback change affect the defense:

“Oh, it didn’t. I feel like we were always ready. It was the same scheme. They prepared us great.”

Junior wide receiver Oliver Martin
On the mood in the locker room at halftime:

“At halftime the team morale was fine. We were still on the game. We felt good about where we were in the game plan. It was just a job at the momentum when they scored touchdowns quick out of half. We got to do our best to avoid that. That can be pretty detrimental to the game.”

On how special teams from the game compared to camp:

“We just got to eliminate some of the mistakes. That’s what we harped on in camp. Just have to play smart. That was probably the biggest difference. The biggest one was just on punt return we got to be aware of where we’re at on the field. If it’s too close to the goal line you want to let that go. Cam’s a great punt returner, so nothing against him. He’s a great punt returner. I’m not trying to say anything bad about him.”

On players encouraging Cam Taylor-Britt after that mistake:

“Yeah, because he’s a dude. He’s a special athlete, a special player. We know he’s way better than that. We didn’t want to get him down at all.” Hey, All

On staying locked in after not starting fast in the game:

“I mean we had a lot of confidence from camp and when the other team gets up a little bit you still have that confidence from all your preparation. We held that throughout the game until the end.”

On now letting this game affect the rest of the season:

“You got to take it a day at a time and a game at a time and start stringing together some wins. We know we can. There were just a few key plays that really hurt us like the punt, some fumbles, stuff like that, that we got to clean up a little bit. Then I think the outcome of the game could be a lot different.”

Junior defensive lineman Damion Daniels
On playing in the heat:

“The weather wasn’t a factor. It comes down executing, being smart and following the game plan.

On how the defense played overall:

“I think that we did pretty well. Just like I said the little things, you got clean up little things and we’ll be good. The NCAA and the league they are cracking down on taunting and everything. Just playing smart.”

On coming back from getting that interception overturned:

“Mistakes happen with the game and everything like that. You got to find a way put that last play in the past and keep playing.”

On if he says anything to teammates when something like that happens:

“He’s one of our best pass rushers and everything. I feel like personally it was a clean hit. Stuff like that we just got to watch.”

On the beginning of the third quarter during Illinois’ long drive:

“From my perspective it was pretty much about executing the play. Me personally, I’ll take responsibility for one of those plays. Letting the quarterback out of the pocket that was on me. Just those small things, attention to details that’s what will help us.”

Senior defensive end Ben Stille
On how the team can stop making the same mistakes:

“Obviously, if I had the answers I’d be a rich man in Nebraska. One play at a time is, doing the right thing play and play out. Not let those catastrophic sequences happen. It’s got to happen in practice. You need to be smarter, you just got to play smarter.”

On looking for patterns of things that go wrong:

“I don’t know that you can. I don’t know if you can find a specific pattern that we keep messing up. Clearly the pattern there is they’re all just stupid. They’re self inflicted issues and we’ve got to clean it up.”

On the response from the team when the same mistakes happen:

“We’ve lived through it a lot of times. So we know what mentality doesn’t work. We clearly tried to correct that and fix it and learn from our past experiences. Defensively, I think we did a good job. We just focus on the next stop going out and that’s what we did in the second half. That was our mindset. I liked the mindset defensively.”

On if the defense was prepared:

“I don’t know how we could have been more prepared. Preparation wasn’t an issue. We were focused on them for I don’t know how many weeks. You’re not going to get any more prepared for that. You never know what they’re going to throw at you obviously. There’s a lot of uncertainty what they’re going to throw at us.”

Sophomore center Cam Jurgens
On wanting to get the running game going:

“I don’t know I think early on we need to find that run game a lot quicker. We went to pass and were ready for it but we need to get that run game going faster.”

On it feeling like the same old movie again:

“Yeah, but we want to flip the script. That shouldn’t happen over and over again and we’re tired of it. We want to win some games. We have these catastrophic errors and stuff goes wrong. We need fighters on this team. The more you fight the more effort you put in maybe the ball goes your way every once in a while and get a little luck. I mean you just got to fight.

On starting over on Monday:

“Same as we always do. We’ll go in tomorrow watch film and be real critical of ourselves. Then wipe it and move forward.”

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