Rivals or not, Huskers look to finish season strong with win over Hawkeyes

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LINCOLN, Neb. -- The Huskers are hoping to finish the season strong on Friday with a win over Iowa.

With Thanksgiving and a shorter week, the Huskers know they have to work harder to prepare for the Hawkeyes, but are motivated to beat the team to finish the season on the right note, and to help avenge last year's ugly loss.

Scott Frost and players talked about the team's gritty win over Michigan State and how they're preparing for Iowa, as well as if they consider the Hawkeyes rivals or not, during Monday's press conference.

You can see clips of the press conference by clicking the links above.

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

Scott Frost, Nebraska Head Coach
On if he was watching any eight-man high school football today
“I was, there’s a beauty to eight-man football. It’s fun to watch and good to see these guys and young kids have the chance to come play a Memorial Stadium, it’s a lot of fun.”

On potentially finishing the season 5-1 after a 0-6 start
“You don’t have to know a lot about football to see that we’re playing a lot better in the second half than the first. We gave ourselves chances to win games in the first half of the season, we just didn’t do the little things right to make them happen, we’re starting to do some of those things right now. We’ve given ourselves chances to a few of these and we’ve capitalized on them. We’re playing a really good team again on Friday, so hopefully we play well enough to give ourselves a chance. All of those little things and the discipline, doing things the right way will hopefully get us over the top.”

On the overall health of the team throughout the Big Ten season
“We’ve had some injuries that you kind of can’t help that are just going to happen in football, but every year I’ve been around Zach Duval and his strength staff we’ve been one of the healthiest teams around. I think a lot of the injuries that have plagued Nebraska players before have been limited this year, other than some of those that you can’t help that are just going to happen once in a while that are unfortunate. We haven’t had many soft tissue or shoulders or things of that nature. A lot of that has to do with the fact that the kids are bigger and stronger and they’re able to be more physical and survive in Big Ten games.”

On the status of sophomore wide receiver JD Spielman
“We’re working as hard as we can on him, feel good about it, but we’ll have to see as the week goes on.”

On how the team came back to practice today after a draining game Saturday
“It’s been a long stretch, but I think in this last week you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We've got to get a bunch of work done in a shorter amount of time this week so we actually had a full practice, like a Tuesday, today. Had the guys back in for a walk-thru and to try to introduce the game plan last night. Guys tanks are a little bit empty, but we’ve got enough to get us through another week, and I was really happy with the enthusiasm out there today.”

On Iowa’s defense
“We played a really good defense Saturday, can’t stress that enough how much respect I have for those guys and how they make it hard on you. That was a tough day to play offense, made it even tougher by the defense we were playing. This team we are playing on Friday is similar. Big and physical up front, they know what they’re doing, they’re sound. We've got a challenge in front of us again, hopefully the weather will cooperate a little better and we’ll be able to be a little more balanced, but these guys are statistically across the board about as good as the team we played Saturday. It’s a good team we’re playing.”

On why Iowa and Michigan State are so good on defense
“Anytime you’re in a system for as long as those two teams have been doing what they’re doing, every kid in the program knows what they’re doing, every kid knows their responsibilities, every kid has been in the same deal for their entire career, the same strength and conditioning, around the same coaches; those reps and that experience and that work adds up. Those coaches on both of those teams do a great job, and by the time kids are out there playing for them they’re big, strong guys that know what they’re doing. You see that in Michigan State’s team. You see that in Iowa’s team.”

On what this week means for defensive coordinator, Erik Chinander, returning to his alma mater
“Coach Chins [Chinander] and I have argued about Nebraska and Iowa for a long time and now he’s finally on the good side. He knows a lot of those guys over there and they’re good people. I’m sure it will be as emotional for him going over there as it was for me coming back here. We have to put all of that aside when we go play and it just comes down to what happens on the field.”

On his relationship with Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz
“I know Kirk [Ferentz] pretty well. Mostly from my time at Northern Iowa. We’d be around the Iowa staff quite a bit. He’s one of the good guys in the sport.”

On Kirk Ferentz's sustained success and getting 150 wins
“His sustained success is impressive, but you still don’t get to 150 unless you’re a little bit old. I’ll make sure I remind him of that when I see him.”

On the job Erik Chinander has done with the defense this season
“That was a big win for us in a lot of ways. I think the biggest was to set the stage for the Blackshirts deciding that they could win games for us. If you would’ve told me that we were going to win a game ever here where we didn’t score an offensive touchdown, I would’ve thought you were crazy. It was certainly a defensive day not and offensive day, but our defense had to step up. Games like that are going to help you build confidence, help you build on things that you need to improve for the future. I think those guys have done an unbelievable job with what we have, what we walked into. They’ve got these guys playing on defense, playing about as well as they can and we need to do that again Friday.”

On how freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez can benefit from a game like this past weekend’s against Michigan State
“When we watched the tape and talked to Mario [Quarterbacks Coach Mario Verduzco] about it, believe it or not, he played one of his better games. Just understanding in those situations that it isn’t going to be a track meet and a video game type deal on a day like that. On a day like that you've got to be patient, be smart with the football and wait on your opportunities to make a couple plays here and there. I thought for the most part he did a really good job with that. That’s all part of his learning process, every game there’s still things that he’s learning and things that need to get fixed. The great part about him is that he fixes them the next week. He’ll get used to the cold after living here for a while, hopefully we won’t have a game like that for a long time. I thought a bunch of guys grew up in that game, showed a lot of courage in that game and a lot of resolve in that game. It was a great team win for us from that perspective.”

On if he can sense that the players know the importance of this game
“This game is important all of the games have been important. Rivalry games, I’ve said this a bunch, are kind of for the fans more than the players. We have to prepare like we’re playing anybody else. I’ve got a lot of respect for their coaching staff and their program so there’s not any animosity or hatred between the coaches. I know the fans probably argue and don’t like each other, but they run a good program and we’re trying to run one here. We’re going to prepare just like it’s any other game and the big part is that we’ve got a bunch of momentum going right now and it would be great to cap it off with another great game.”

On Iowa’s offensive weapons
“I’ve certainly watched them enough to know that they’re really good on offense, I’ve been impressed. I think they’re more multiple than they used to be, do a good job throwing it, mixing it up with formations and then they’ve got guys that can hurt you. The two tight ends are as good as there is in this league, we’ve been watching them as we’ve been preparing for other people, both of those guys are great players, they can really run and do everything you can ask a tight end can do so we’ll have an eye on them.”

On whether he likes the short week as a coach
“I don’t as a coach I enjoy it, trying to get all the work done in a week. We kind of stuck around after the game on Saturday and looked at some film. I had a bunch of recruits in town, had to do that a lot of Sunday and then had to have a walk-thru right away the day after a game. It’s not ideal, but around here that’s a tradition and I think that’s probably more important than getting us another hour or two more of sleep.”

On if he liked having that stage on Friday when he was a player
“I think the stage is awesome for our program and for whoever we’re playing on that day. When I was a player I didn’t care when or where we were playing, I just wanted to play. So I think our guys feel the same way.”
On how quick recruiting comes in the three weeks after this game
“We’re going to get out in force right after the game, so we’ll leave already this weekend and get out on the road. I think what’s been happening here is pretty apparent to a lot of the people who we’re talking to. From where we started to where we are now, every single parent and kid we’re talking to can see where this is going and can see the progress, see the fan base sticking with us through thick and thin. I think they can all see that this is a program on the rise, so I think that’s going to help us when we get out. We’re going to get out and try to capitalize on that right away.”

On whether this season has flown by for him
“When you go through something and it seems like you just started yesterday but also it seems like it started ten years ago, that’s kind of how this year’s been. We’re going to look back and cherish this year because a lot of things that happened this year, although some of them weren’t pleasant, I think were necessary for us to try to get this where we wanted it to be. I think that played out through the year, we’re certainly a good enough football team right now to have a lot better record than what we had but it’s kind of been pretty sweet and special to see the guys band together and rally and persevere and have the second half of the season that they had.”

On where the talent level is in this state in terms of recruiting
“There’s good players in this state. And the best part about them is they love Nebraska and they love the game, they love playing football. We’re going to try to get every player that we think is capable of playing at this university from the state here, and quite a few of them will be on the field at these state championship games today. One of the benefits of not having a bye week and being out recruiting as a staff is we still have some evaluation days, so we’re going to be able to go out and watch some of the games and have a presence at some of these games. I never got to play in a state championship game in high school. We got beat in the semifinals three times. Little jealous of the guys that are out there, it’s got to be an exhilarating feeling for them, being out here playing for a state title.”

On whether he’s changed his recruiting strategy because of the December signing period
“I think everybody’s changed a little because of the December signing period. Everything’s got to happen quicker because signing day comes up, right after the season it’s on top of you. A lot of the decisions that were made in December and January are getting made earlier now, so we have to try and be ahead of the game. We’ll continue to get farther and farther ahead in our recruiting as we get through each one of these classes and be able to look at even younger kids and get a jump start on things. Really like where we are right now. We need to add some more talent to this team, make sure we’re putting the good talent that we have right now in the best possible position to win. In order to do that we need to add some pieces. Looking forward to getting out and recruiting and selling what I think everybody can see is happening here.”

On using the cold weather as a selling point for recruits
“I was lucky enough to hang on in the NFL for a while. I played in Cleveland and Green Bay. Loved my experiences in those two places, certainly wasn’t warm there. I think being in the Big Ten and getting to play in this type of football against these types of teams in all conditions, that prepares you better to have a chance at the next level. We were kind of lucky, a lot of the guys we had in town we see as defensive players and we won a game on defense. Some of them had seen snow but had never seen snow falling from the sky. I think they enjoyed it, it was a great scene and a great environment. I think it was a great weekend for us.”

On whether he handed out any more Blackshirts
“Antonio Reed got a Blackshirt today.”

On how that was presented to him
“We don’t want to make a bigger deal out of it than what it is. When they show up for practice there’s a new jersey hanging in their locker. I certainly felt like he could have been recognized as a conference player of the week with the difference he made in a defensive struggle in a 9-6 football game. In our eyes that’s what he was. He’s capable of playing at that level all the time, it was great to see it come to fruition when we really needed him.”

On the high school player that broke his Class C-1 record for total offense being in the stadium today
“I didn’t know that. I knew it was close. We’ll have to see, I might not let him in the stadium.”

On the walk-on situation
“We’re going to keep building the walk-on program. It’s one thing just to have numbers on a team, it’s another to have guys that we genuinely feel like can contribute to this program, that we’re going to work with and build, that can come not just players but starters on this football team. If there’s a young man that we think can be a great player here we’re going to try and get him in this program. Hopefully in the future the guys that are walk-ons on this team are competing against one another to get an opportunity to play, to get an opportunity to stay on the team and be a part of what we’re building. We’ll keep trying to push the numbers but at some point they’re going to have to compete for spots like anybody else and that’s only going to make us better.”