Huskers reflect ahead of Senior Day, prepare for Michigan State

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LINCOLN, Neb. — Scott Frost and several Husker senior reflected on the season and their careers ahead of Senior Day on Saturday, and also talked about staying focused and preparing for Michigan State.

The Huskers and Spartans will kick off at 11 a.m. (CT) Saturday in what will be Nebraska's final home game of the season.

Stanley Morgan Jr. talked about his time at Nebraska and chasing receiving records, while other seniors, such as Mick Stoltenberg and Jerald Foster, reflected on the ups and downs of their careers and why this season has been so important to them.

Meanwhile, the Huskers are also getting ready to play Michigan State on Saturday. Frost and the Huskers said the Spartans will be one of the toughest challenges of the season for them, especially with how tough of a defense the team from East Lansing, Michigan has.

You can listen to what Frost and each player said during the press conference Monday by clicking the links above.

You can also read the full transcript from Frost's press conference below.

Scott Frost, Nebraska Head Coach
On the emotions on Senior Day
“Any time seniors leave here it’s a big deal. I remember my senior day, emotional walking out, I saw a picture of Coach Osborne and I coming out of the tunnel and it means a lot to me. I’ve talked a bunch about these seniors, it’s a great group. I feel bad the season hasn’t gone better for them, but at the same time these are going to be some of the guys that the foundation for what we’re going to do going forward is built on. I think they know that and can feel it, and I’m going to be sorry to see a bunch of them go.”

On if there are any seniors he admires that don’t play as much
“Well all the guys really. Devine [Ozigbo] I keep talking about, but nobody including coaches probably thought he was going to have the year that he’s had. He [Ozigbo] just stuck with it and kept getting better and kept getting better and has had an unbelievable year. Mick [Stoltenberg] is such a fighter, playing through everything that he’s playing through and still being a leader and being there for the team. Right down to some of the walk-ons that are still fighting and battling. It’s a pretty good group and it’s been a great group from a leadership standpoint.”

On senior wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. as a player and a leader
“I’ve said this a bunch about Stanley [Morgan Jr.] the best part about Stan is that he loves football. Every day at practice he’s got a smile on his face, he’s excited to do warm-ups to get ready to practice. There’s always positive energy coming out of Stanleym and you need that on your team. I don’t know if he’s quite as vocal consistently as some of the other leaders, but he sets the example daily for how you’re supposed to do things and how you’re supposed to practice and his enthusiasm is infectious.”

On senior running back Devine Ozigbo being named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week and how he got to that point
“I’m so happy for him. He’s an example of how kids should be and what they should do. We all want things to happen and work for us right now, otherwise we’re unhappy and we quit or we leave. I wasn’t around Devine [Ozigbo] for most of his career here, but coming in as the coach and getting information from people that knew the program, we thought from the information I got, that running back was a place we needed immediate help because we weren’t sure how good we’d be at that spot. We went out and got some guys and all of a sudden at the beginning of the season, Devine found himself as not the starter. That could’ve gone a lot of different ways with a couple other guys when that happened, but not him. He just kept coming to work, doing his job, getting better. It’s even more special when someone has a great season when they persevere through something like that. What a great teammate and a great person. I really believe he’s putting himself in a position to keep playing football and not have his Nebraska career be the end of his career.”

On saying Devine Ozigbo should be All-Big Ten and why other coaches and media should give him their vote
“I would never tell anyone else who they should vote for. I said he’s playing at that level and there’s no question in my mind. I surely haven’t seen everybody in the league, but his productivity for us, especially in conference play, has been incredible. I feel like a dumb coach because I guess I only gave it to him 11 times on a Saturday, but he’s been doing great things with the ball when we get it to him.”

On if Devine Ozigbo’s running game has helped the passing game
“The run game opens up the pass game. If you can’t run it, it’s tough to score points. If you rely on your pass game, become one dimensional. We’ve been pretty balanced on offense and that’s going to be a big challenge this week because we’re playing the number one rushing defense in the country. If we can get him [Devine Ozigbo] going, if we can get Mo [freshman running back, Maurice Washington], Adrian [Martinez] contributing into that, it leads to a lot of possibilities in the passing game.”

On how Michigan State’s defense has changed
“Oh it has changed. They’re still doing the same things just not as consistently, it was pretty much a quarters outfit with some third-down pressure when I played them, coaching against them all those years ago. They mix in more man now, there’s a little more first and second-down pressure, a little more single high, they’re just a little more multiple and mix it up a little more. They’ve changed their quarters coverage a little bit. I mean you still recognize it as the same outfit, but I think they’ve gotten better since then.”

On what’s good about Michigan State’s style of defense
“This is close to or as good as the best defenses we’ve faced all year. I’ve only watched them for one day and I’ve got a ton of respect for what they do. They know their schemes and they know their issues, places that people try to hit them and they have answers for that. Best thing about them, they get 11 guys playing hard and sprinting to the football, they don’t give up big plays, we have to be on our game to create them and have to be ready to sustain some drives if we need to.”

On senior defensive back Tre Neal and how he’s helped his teammates learn the defense
“We’re glad to have Tre. I have such a good relationship with Tre, the whole coaching staff does. Tre wants to be a coach I think he’s going to be a good one. I love watching him have success on the football field and he’s been great for our younger DBs and a lot of the defensive guys with him already being familiar with our defensive scheme and system. He [Neal] can make all the calls for us and that’s a piece we were missing before he got to town.”

On the difference in Michigan State’s two quarterbacks; Brian Lewerke and Rocky Lombardi
“They both do a good job watching them. They’ve been kind of bit by the injury bug particularly on the offensive side of the ball, unfortunate for them. I remember Lewerke coming out of high school from Pinnacle in Arizona, and I went and watched him and was impressed with him, so I know what kind of player he is. I don’t think their offense is going to change much based on which guy is in there, and both of them are capable of doing good things on the field.”

On what has changed up front
“We’re just better. I think individually all of the guys up front are better, they’re playing better as a unit, we’re blocking better on the perimeter, the backs are better, guys understand the schemes and what we’re trying to get done at a higher level now. It’s all just coming together. Offensively I think for sure it’s been a steady progression and improvement all year long, and we’ve got our work cut out for us this week to make it look like that again because we’re playing a really good defense.”

On the progression of the seniors throughout the season
“I think it says a lot about the job that the assistant coaches have done, says a lot about the character of the guys on this team right now. It’s hard to have a season start the way we had it start and not lose the team, lose hope, lose enthusiasm. You don’t see a team very often that starts off with that many bad blows being delivered to you and keep improving. A lot of that has to do with these seniors that are leaving and the leadership that they’ve given, fixing a lot of the problems on the team even through those hard things. Changing the expectations even through some of those hard things. I’m proud of the fact that this group has continued to improve despite some really rough times. It says a lot about your character when you face adversity like that and make the decision to keep fighting, keep swinging and getting better.”

On what he attributes the health of the team to
“We’ve had some unfortunate ones but those are ones that are going to happen. You can’t control an ACL here or there, those things are going to happen in football. Just talking to Mark Mayer who’s done a great job and deserves a lot of credit for that, we haven’t had anywhere near the number of injuries that they’ve had in the recent past. Most of the credit goes to Mark and to Zach Duval. When you’re not as big and strong as you can be or as big and strong as other teams, you get beat up and get hurt. We gained a lot of ground in that area with Zach working with guys for a year. We’ve stayed healthier than most teams, and I think most of that has to do with the strength and conditioning staff.”

On whether Barret Pickering was put in during kickoff last week against Illinois and whether that will be the case this week
“It’ll be Barret this week and probably going forward. We want the ball to go where it’s supposed to go.”

On whether scoring the last six times the team started a game with the ball is the most he can remember
“I have no idea but it’s sure nice to start the game off with a lead. It’s nice to start off offensively with success. The first half last week, other than the last drive, was kind of a thing of beauty on offense. Those guys executed everything we asked them to. That’s a sign that the offense is figuring itself out and coming of age a little bit. That’s going to be hard to do this week. Watching tape I see people punting nine straight times against this outfit. If we can score on our first drive this week I’ll be really happy.”

On all the forced fumbles the defense has produced in recent weeks
“We’re just ball-aware now. You can preach it until you’re blue in the face but you have to have it in the back of your mind when you come in and you’re the first or second guy coming in to a tackle to not just clean up the tackle but try and get a hand on a ball. That mentality’s got to be ever-present to keep getting balls out. We’re starting to get more guys with their eyes on the ball in zone coverage, they’re rallying to balls better so we’re getting more hats there. Guys are aware of where a guy’s holding it, second guys in are taking slaps at it. That’s how this thing is going to be successful if our offense can keep improving. We don’t have to stop somebody every time we’re out there but if you get one or two big breaks, big turnovers and the offense can capitalize on those you can separate in the game. That worked out well for us on Saturday.”

On how big the next two weeks are in terms of building the momentum of the program
“I think everybody can feel the momentum. Even in the program, I talked about it after the game, but just listening to Mick (Stoltenberg) talk to the team was inspiring to me. He made it clear where he thought everything was going and how much better it’s getting and how much better it’s going to get. I said at the beginning of the season we wanted to get better day by day and I think we’ve done that. Wish it would have led to better results this year but those results are going to come. Just like I wasn’t going to measure the success of this season based on win-loss record I won’t measure the end of the season based on the last two. We’re going to fight our tails off and try to win them against a couple good teams, but I think everybody in the building, everybody in this program can see where it’s going and that in itself has been a success.”

On the 11 a.m. start and how the string of 11 a.m. starts affects recruiting
“Well we win more games we’ll be in better time slots right? It’s tough getting kids here from out of state when you play at 11 in the morning. Selfishly I like 11 in the morning, I can get home and have dinner and see my son, but from a recruiting standpoint we’re going to be able to get most of the guys in this week. There’s a couple I think that’ll probably show up after the game’s started.”

On how active he wants to be in recruiting in the next month
“I think long-term hopefully we have the thing built from the ground up the right way that there’s probably only one or two spots that we’re going to need immediate help. That wasn’t the situation we walked into last year so we went out and found the best we could for our team. Some of those situations still exist this year, so if we feel like we need an older guy to help we’re going to go look, but at the end of the day we’re going to evaluate everybody based on how much we think they can help this football team. If that’s an 18-year-old, great, if that’s a 20-year-old, great. We just have to make sure we get the right kids, not just on the field but off.”

On whether this recruiting class will be have about 25 kids
“It could end up being bigger than 25.”

On whether the 11 a.m. start benefits the team
“We practice in the morning. I suppose that helps us a little bit. Guys are used to being out there between eight and nine and being ready to go and practice. The early kickoff certainly doesn’t affect them from that standpoint. We kind of just roll the balls out there, put them through a quick stretch and we’re ready to play. I’ve never been a morning person until we started practicing in the morning and even I’ve turned into one. I think most of our team has at this point.”