LINCOLN, Neb. — Scott Frost and the Huskers talked about some of the good and bad parts of the game against Wisconsin and looked ahead to Northwestern in Monday's weekly Huskers press conference.
Kickoff for Northwestern on Saturday is set for 11 a.m. (CT) in Evanston, and will be televised on ABC.
On Monday, Frost talked about Adrian Martinez's growth so far this season and what he hopes to see from him the remainder of the season, and also praised JD Spielman and Stanley Morgan Jr. and some of the young talent on the team.
You can hear from Frost and the players by clicking the links above.
The full transcript from Frost's press conference on Monday is below.
Head Coach Scott Frost
On how close the team is to winning
“We’ve been really close a bunch of times. We left a lot of stuff on the field offensively. Particularly early on because of little mistakes or penalties. Even defensively, there were some plays out there to be made, we just didn’t make them. It doesn’t take too many of those to turn it around. There’s no question, we got better this week. I think the attitude got better, the practice got better and the performance was better. I was thrilled we didn’t get any of those dumb things, those dumb penalties, selfish plays that contributed to it. It’s just a matter of finding guys and getting guys that can make the one or two more plays that’ll put us in position.”
On freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez’s growth this season
“Well, you guys are seeing it. That’s his fourth start in a long time, he gets better every week. I think his pocket presence got better. I think he started to create, both second halves the last two weeks. I thought he came out and ran and other teams had trouble tackling him. I’d like to see that start a little earlier in the game. He still had some freshman things the other day, a couple balls that if he had been in the right place with his eyes, would’ve gotten us even more plays. We kind of got lucky he didn’t throw a couple picks, Wisconsin didn’t catch them. So there’s still some things like that happening, but kind of what I said after the game, he’s going to be special. We knew we’d have to live through some of that, playing a freshman quarterback. That hasn’t really been what’s hurt us. He’s done enough for us to win, and I think he’s going to keep getting better.”
On where the team is at running back depth
“I feel great about those two. The game [Devine] Ozigbo had two games ago, I think, people probably got a glimpse of what we’ve been seeing a long time for Mo [Maurice Washington] in that game and how explosive he can be. Wyatt Mazour is a guy we trust. I'm ready to put him in a game at any time. Mikale Wilbon has been practicing well and doing everything right, so if he gets called I know he’s going to be ready. That’s plenty to get through the last half of the season here.”
On Northwestern and Jeremy Larkin
“Well first of all, you guys hear me say it, I’ve got a ton of respect for Coach Fitzgerald, he’s one of the good guys in this business. You feel terrible anytime somebody that loves to play the game has to hang it up. We had a running back (Tre Bryant) that’s talented that had to do that earlier in the year. (Jeremy) Larkin helped make them what they were. It’s a shame that anybody has something like that happen, it has to end a career early. It certainly changed them, I don’t know how much in the last game was not having him, and how much was playing Michigan State who’s really good against the run. Their rushing totals went way down, both attempts and yardage. It probably had as much to do with Michigan State as anything, but they found a way to get it done throwing. I think time will tell how much their scheme is going to change based on not having him.”
On Wyatt Mazour and Miles Jones being behind JD Spielman in the slot this week
“Those guys are coming along for different reasons. Wyatt spent most of his time at running back, so getting him functional and knowing all the little nuances of doing the slot takes a while. Miles is a freshman, he’s been really close, continues to get better and practices well. He’s getting close to being ready to get out there and have a chance to make plays. Both those guys can do it. I know Kade Warner can play all three spots for us if we need him in there. Todd Honas has been doing well for us and may eventually get some reps at spot 2.”
On where Jaylin Bradley fits into the running back depth chart
“Right now, I suppose fifth.”
On Isaac Armstrong being named the starting punter
“Isaac punted it where he was supposed to punt it. The first one was a moonshot, the other one landed forty-something yards downfield on the sideline. We had a punt return against Troy that they scored on that probably cost us the game, another one against Michigan and we fell down on a punt against Purdue. And twice, when the game was still competitive Saturday, we punted one right down the center of the field 35 yards, they returned it to the 50 and then we shanked one out of bounds and they got the ball at the 50. We’re not good enough to survive those types of things, so as of now, Isaac has done well and we’re going to count on him to do what we’re asking him to do.”
On if there is any difference with Isaac punting it with his left foot
“Not really, the ball’s going to be spinning the opposite direction, it’s like you're in the southern hemisphere.”
On where JD Spielman and Stanley Morgan Jr. stand as wide receivers in the Big Ten
“I don’t want to speculate on where they stack up against anybody else. I just know I’m glad we have them. Those two are warriors, they’re going to go battle. When we call those guys' numbers they make plays. They’re where they’re supposed to be, they’re open. It’s been amazing to me, both of those guys, JD in particular, we had a lot of good scheme for him in the past game and when we called his number he made a play. It’s so encouraging to me we’ve got a freshman quarterback that’s making plays, we’ve got a freshman running back that’s making plays, Jack Stoll had a touchdown, he’s a sophomore, the other two guys behind him are young, our two tackles are sophomores, JD is a sophomore. A lot of the pieces that we need are growing, improving, and getting better. From an offensive standpoint we continue to improve and I think the future is really bright."
On where to put freshman Cameron Jurgens
“I mentioned something to (Kevin) Kugler the other day about our plans for him. First of all, anybody that threw the shotput farther than I did I have a special place in my heart for. Cam [Jurgens] is a unique athlete. When we recruited him we didn’t know what he was for sure, whether he was a tight end or a defensive lineman or something else. After evaluating him for a while he’s as physical and as good of a blocker as we have on our football team and I really think he’s got a potential to be a really good player on the offensive line either at center or guard. I think he’s bought into that and is starting to try and put on good weight instead of losing weight, and he’s another young player that has a chance to be really good around here.”
On if Cameron Jurgens has startrf practicing at center and guard
“He’s doing both right now. We still may use him some this year at tight end, but in order to be ready down the road I think it’s important that he gets some looks at it and some meeting time. He’s a smart enough guy to know a bunch of things. He’s just an exceptional athlete, an exceptionally explosive athlete and I just think after watching for a while that his body type fits that. I can’t wait to see what he can do.”
On if Cameron Jurgens has embraced moving to the offensive line
“I think he has. We have some young tight ends that right now he’s behind and not saying he couldn’t catch them, but those guys are improving and playing well. I think he sees an opportunity at that spot. Ironically, my mother threw against his mother a bunch so that relationship with them goes back a long way. I just kind of look at him and see what he can become, and I’m hopeful that he can be what I think he can be.”
On Freshman Will Farniok and the future of the interior line
“Yeah, Will [Farniok] is doing good things too. So the great thing about our offense is that center and guard are kind of interchangeable. You see that with Tanner Farmer right now moving inside when Cole [Conrad] was hurt. Boe Wilson has come in and I think gave us a boost the other day. You have to know both if you’re going to play one and you certainly can never have too many.”
On JD Spielman not talking a lot and what he is like day to day
“JD [Spielman] doesn’t talk to us a whole lot either. It’s funny with JD, through spring he was kind of hurt, through fall camp he was a little tentative maybe wasn’t our best practice player through fall camp, and I started to get a little concerned because I heard so many good things about JD. About two weeks before the first game I think it clicked with him with our offense and he just completely changed and started being dominant on the practice field. Boy, he has been a playmaker for us. Like I said, every time we call his number he seems to figure out a way to get it done, and we need a bunch more guys like him, but I’ve been so happy for him with the success that he’s had."
On if he’s talked to UCLA Head Coach Chip Kelly
“No, you know Chip is kind of like JD [Spielman], I don’t talk to him much. I text with Chip once in awhile. I’m sure Chip had a lot of things to fix and a lot of changes to make and a culture to fix, and recruiting to fix. He didn’t all of a sudden become a bad coach. I just have no doubt that he’ll get that thing where he wants to get it. The first time he got a head coaching job he took over, and I got there two months later. We had a stacked team. We had some really good players in 2009 and won the Pac-12. But he took over a team that was largely built because of the good things that Mike Bellotti started at Oregon. We had a bunch of good players at almost every position. I don’t think that’s the situation that he walked into this time. It’s more of a rebuild than a come in and capitalize on something that somebody else has already built. Chip is phenomenal coach, I have no doubt he’ll get it done."
On if Chip Kelly texts Frost about Nebraska’s situation
“No, I think both of us are just in the bunker fighting the good fight and doing everything we possibly can. When we come up for air I’m sure one of us will reach out to the other.”
On why both the offense and defense struggle on third down
“Offensively, I think a lot of it is youth. We had some chances on third down the other day. I’ve said this before but you have to execute precisely to make plays work, even more so in the red zone, even more so on third down. We had some things that were there and we didn’t execute them. Defensively we had a couple times where somebody was covering the guy that they threw to and just didn’t cover him well enough. The big play was we had a chance to sack their quarterback on a third down and didn’t get him down, and he completed a 20-yard ball. The margin for error is always thin but on those plays when it really matters it’s even thinner. The good thing is I didn’t see any of the quarterback escaping and running plays because we were in the wrong rush lane. I didn’t see a bad penalty on third and long. Those things would really hurt our percentages, too.”
On whether the team is growing the grass a little longer or practicing more outside in preparation for their only game that will be played on grass
“We actually took the pads off them today, and that’s not always something we like to do but we’re pretty beat up. Not with major injuries, just the guys have been through a lot, and a grind. The next two days we’re going to be out on our grass. We haven’t mowed since last Thursday so we’re going to try to get them ready for the environment they’re going to be in.”
On being thin at inside linebacker
“We’re thin at a couple different spots, inside linebacker definitely. Will Honas getting hurt breaks my heart because he cares so much. (Mohamed Barry) is a warrior, he’s battling. He’s grinding down a little bit. We have to get him back feeling good. Dedrick Young left the game the other day. That really leaves us with Collin Miller and Jacob Weinmaster. We knew depth was going to be an issue at certain spots and you never know where you’re going to get a couple people nicked up. We weren’t super deep at that position to begin with and we have to do everything we can to get our guys healthy.”
On whether injuries were just an effect of playing Wisconsin or the cumulative effect of playing five games
“The Will Honas injury is just unfortunate, he just planted wrong on a play against Purdue. I think the other ones are just more a cumulative effect of a bunch of hits and those guys having to shoulder a lot of tackles and a lot of reps.”
On whether Adrian Martinez is doing things he’s seen before at that position or if he’s doing things that are unique
“I told you guys I’m always careful about making comparisons but he’s doing some things like quite a few of the special guys I’ve been around. There’s no way I would have been ready to do what he’s doing right now as an 18 year-old. It says a lot about who he is as a person.”
On whether he likes the competition at the corner position
“More depth would be great, more competition is great. When you have more good players they have to fight their way onto the field. At times (Lamar Jackson) has done some really good things, Eric Lee has done some good things. I thought Cam Taylor came in, broke on a ball, made a nice play which we haven’t seen enough of this year, came up and made a nice hit. There’s guys on defense that are young that I’m really excited about too and he’s one of them. All those guys are going to have to play well this week, Northwestern does a really good job with their passing game. It’s not too many more of those plays to get over the hump, it’s just another guy breaking on a ball, breaking up a pass, it’s a guy getting a sack and forcing a team to punt. It’s not getting a penalty on offense and finishing a drive. We just need more guys to step up and make plays. We had a lot of chances the other day offensively, a lot of guys in position to make plays on defense and get us the ball back, and just didn’t make them. Those guys are all going to get their chance this week.”
On whether a team’s reputation for having a lot of penalties makes them more susceptible to getting penalties or if they actually deserve them
“I’m not sure and I’m never going to comment on that other than we deserve a lot of the ones we got. We deserve the ones that were dumb decisions and selfish decisions. There was a few the other day we got, particularly on the offensive line our feet just weren’t right, we didn’t move our feet, then when the guy’s about to beat you he’s either going to beat you or you grab him. Getting better at those positions, getting better with technique will continue to help us with that. I’m frustrated that we rank so low in penalties. Going back, running this offense, we’ve always been a little more penalized, probably because we run at such a pace. We run so many more plays, there’s so much space. We’ve been good enough to overcome the ones we’ve got but getting too many and we’re nowhere near good enough to overcome it at the same rate.”
On Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson
“He’s fun to watch. He’s a gamer and looks like someone that’s reliable, that you can count on, makes plays when you need him. Don’t know him personally, but he seems to embody what it means to be a student-athlete. I love the program that (Pat Fitzgerald) runs and I’m sure his quarterback is a reflection of that.”
On whether the team has found a new stability in the last few days
“Something has changed, it really changed after the Purdue game. It changed even more last week. I saw guys bonding together, having fun out there. Everybody is kind of excited to go to battle. I think getting to that turning point where the team wasn’t going to put up with any more of the culture-killers, and we’re going to become culture-keepers and culture promoters. I see that happening. I see the guys excited that they’re getting better. I see the guys excited that they’re moving forward. Sometimes you have to lose a couple guys to get to that point, sometimes you have to maybe bench a couple guys to get to that point. Whatever it takes for the guys to understand, the thing that made them understand the most was losing really three games because of self-inflicted things. The whole attitude of everybody around here I feel like we finally turned the corner.”