Nebraska head coach Scott Frost and several players met with reporters on Monday for their weekly press conference inside Memorial Stadium, recapping the win over South Alabama and previewing this week’s road game at Colorado.
Here are 10 of the most interesting things we learned from the day…
1. Offense not concerned about shaky start, but there is urgency
Saturday’s season opener was a game to forget for Nebraska’s offense, as it managed just 14 points, 276 total yards, and turned the ball over three times vs. South Alabama.
But while the lackluster performance left an uneasy feeling in Memorial Stadium, Frost and his players seemed confident that the game would be much more of an outlier going forward.
Frost opened his press conference by saying the blame started with him and his coaching staff for not putting the offense in better positions to be successful. He said the coaches may have gotten a little too “scheme-y” by trying to throw in too many new wrinkles.
Frost also noted that the showing didn’t come as a total surprise given the substandard practices the offense had during the week. He said Monday was a significantly better session than a week ago, and as long as that continued the Huskers should be well on their way to a bounce-back game at Colorado.
“Above all else, we need to practice well,” Frost said. “I know I sound like a broken record on that. You could tell last week on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday I was pleased with our defense. Our offense was nowhere near our standard. You play how you practice. You’re not all of a sudden going to show up and play well on Saturday, if you didn’t execute things on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
“The good thing is I think we got their ear on that and today looked really good for the first day of a new game plan. Offensively, I have a ton of confidence in our coaching staff. These guys have done an unbelievable job for a lot of years, putting up a lot of points and yards. They’ll find a way, but we have to practice better and we’ve had a good start this week.”
2. The team still has total faith in Martinez
For a player who was regarded as one of the best quarterbacks in college football entering the season, Adrian Martinez may have had his worst game as a Husker on Saturday.
The sophomore completed just 13-of-22 passes for 178 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception while only rushing for six yards on 13 carries. Martinez was far from the only Husker to struggle in the win, but he said the only way his unit was going to get better was if he stepped up his play.
“I think that responsibility falls on me,” Martinez said. “We didn’t have the best week of practice and it showed on the field on Saturday.”
Frost and the handful of other Huskers who spoke on Monday had zero concerns about Martinez getting back to his normal self this week. They said Martinez was locked in during Monday’s practice and seemed determined to right the ship.
“I’ll ride with Adrian any time,” Frost said. “My opinion of him hasn’t changed. My opinion of how great a football player he is hasn’t changed. We just need to make sure we’re prepared and we need to take advantage of opportunities by executing at a fast pace and consistent rate. I don’t think the entire offense did it Saturday, him included.”
3. Frost thinks nerves had more to do with center issues than ability
Nebraska’s center position remained at the top of the team’s list of issues following the season opener, as Cameron Jurgens struggled mightily in his starting debut and then Will Farniok didn’t fare much better after taking over in the second half.
Jurgens’ biggest problem came with his numerous high snaps, which Frost said after the game probably threw Martinez and the rest of the offense out of rhythm each time.
As with the other areas, though, Frost wasn’t overly worried about improving the center play, saying it was mostly a matter of getting Jurgens more comfortable in his new role.
“We have to get the snap issue fixed,” Frost said. “That cost us quite a few plays… With Cam it’s a matter of not getting reps. He missed quite a bit of training camp. I suppose it’s like shooting free throws or any other athletic movement: If you’ve done it one million times, it’s second nature.
“We’re certainly going to take a look at it and be working on it. I’ve never been a center. That’s one area of football I don’t know a whole lot about.”
4. Williams’ status remains unknown, Lee will be ready
The only notable injury that happened vs. South Alabama was to safety Deontai Williams, who left the game in the first half with an apparent shoulder issue.
Frost said there were still no updates on Williams’ status for this week’s game at Colorado, but the good news was that NU proved it had plenty of capable depth to step up and fill the void if Williams were to miss more time.
“Deontai’s status is unknown right now,” Frost said. “Good thing is, we had several guys come in and play well at that position. Cam Taylor played well and is capable of playing that position. We’re going to have to wait and see on Deontai. I think our better depth this year compared to last year will help us out if anything like that happens.”
The play of Eric Lee Jr. certainly help ease the concerns over Williams’ potential absence, as the fifth-year senior had his best game as a Husker with two interceptions and a pick-six.
“We would definitely like for Deontai to come back as soon as he can whenever he is ready,” Lee said. “But also I think it can attest how versatile our secondary members are.”
5. With Pickering still questionable, Jorgensen could get another start
Nebraska will also once again have a big question to answer at kicker this week, as starter Barret Pickering remains questionable while dealing with an unspecified injury.
Pickering was a late scratch on Saturday, and freshman walk-on Dylan Jorgensen was called on to take over as the No. 1 kicker vs. South Alabama.
Jorgensen’s lone field goal attempt from 31 yards out was blocked at the end of the first half, but he did make all five of his extra points and did a solid job on kickoffs.
Frost said they would continue to monitor Pickering through the week, but he had faith in Jorgensen answering the call once again if needed.
“Dylan did a good job for the most part Saturday,” Frost said. “I thought his kickoffs were good, converted all the PATs. Obviously, would have liked to have seen the field goal made before half. If he’s the guy on Saturday, then we’ve got a lot of faith in him.”
6. Shenault will be priority No. 1 for Nebraska’s defense
Nebraska’s defense remembers Colorado wide receiver Laviska Shenault all too well, as he torched the Blackshirts for 10 catches, 177 yards, and two total touchdowns in last year’s meeting.
Even with a different offensive scheme under a new coaching staff in Boulder, the Huskers said they had to know where No. 2 was on every snap on Saturday.
“It is all about him,” senior linebacker Mohamed Barry said. “They have used him in different ways just like they did last year. Whether he is a tight end, a running back, or a receiver, he is going to be all over the place, and they are going to feature him and give him the ball in any which way they can.”
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound junior caught 86 passes for 1,011 yards and six touchdowns to go along with five rushing scores last season. He’s now considered one of the top wide receiver prospects for the 2020 NFL Draft.
“He’s one of the better receivers I’ve coached against,” Frost said. “We’ve got our hands full with him.”
7. Altitude shouldn’t be a factor
Every time Nebraska goes on the road to a venue well above sea level, the topic of altitude always comes up.
While there are elements involved with playing at higher elevation, Frost said he probably wouldn’t even address it with his team as NU gets ready to head to Boulder, which is 5,328 feet.
Frost played at Folsom Field as a Husker and then coached there a few times during his coaching stops at Kansas State and Oregon. In all of his experiences there, he never once remembered the altitude being much of a factor.
“I don’t remember it at all when I played, and I don’t remember any of our kids talking about it when they played,” Frost said. “I think listening to our guys talk, it has more effect on you the second or third day you’re in the place. Our kids are in good shape. We’re not even going to really address it. We’re going to go out and play.”
8. No Blackshirt for Domann yet
Outside linebackers coach Jovan Dewitt said last week that JoJo Domann was one of the players who was right on the cusp of receiving a Blackshirt.
Domann was definitely impressive against South Alabama, finishing with four tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and a pass breakup as a reserve. He provided an instant spark for NU’s defense, but was it good enough to earn a Blackshirt on Monday?
Apparently not yet, as Domann said he did not receive one of the coveted practice jerseys prior to Monday morning’s practice. The junior wasn’t too upset about it, though, as he knows he still has a lot more to prove.
“I felt good out there,” Domann said. “I was just playing football again, which is your No. 1 priority when you are out on that field. I feel good. I am looking forward to this week.”
9. Defense still striving for improvement after impressive opener
Nebraska’s offense took plenty of criticism following the South Alabama game, but after watching the film, the defense saw it was far from perfect as well.
While the Blackshirts made several game-changing plays and scored two touchdowns off turnovers, the players said there were also just as many mistakes that cost them on some big plays.
With a much more dynamic Colorado offense up next, NU’s defense is focusing far more on fixing the bad from Saturday than gloating over the good.
“We felt like we could have done a lot of things better,” Barry said. “Communication was one of them. First game communication of people training their ears and also people understanding they have to be demonstrative when they are giving out their calls and stuff like that.
“And then just first game tackling. You don’t go live a lot in practice, so just first game tackling and really that is it, I think.”
10. Nebraska is embracing Colorado rivalry
It’s been eight years since Nebraska and Colorado left the Big 12 Conference, but there’s something about the two programs that has kept the rivalry alive and well.
Watching the Buffaloes come to Lincoln and hand Frost a loss in his first official game at NU was plenty of incentive. Then there was the film of a Colorado player twisting Martinez’s ankle at the end of the play, which arguably cost the Huskers not one but two victories.
“I love Adrian. That is my quarterback,” Barry said. “I’m not really going to comment on that because honestly that doesn’t matter for this year. With that being said, we are ready for them.”
While the series lost some juice when the two teams moved on to different conferences, it didn’t take long at all for Colorado-Nebraska to regain its fire.
“I know there’s been a lot of really tough games and a heated rivalry between Nebraska and Colorado,” Frost said. “What happened last year, that was a different coaching staff, a different team. That doesn’t have anything to do with this one…
“This year is different, this team is different, their coaching staff is different, their team is different. But anytime Nebraska plays Colorado, there’s a little extra juice on both sides.”