Nebraska Huskers football: 10 things we learned from NU's Monday press conference
football Edit

10 things we learned from Nebraska's press conference

Coming off a big road win at Maryland, Nebraska will look to clinch bowl eligibility for the first time since 2016 this week when Iowa comes to town on Black Friday.

Here are 10 of the most interesting things to come out of the Huskers' press conference on Monday with head coach Scott Frost and a handful of players.

1. Huskers are trying to stay grounded during emotional week

It's no secret that Nebraska has a lot at stake heading into its regular-season finale this week against Iowa.

Not only is the annual Black Friday showdown on Senior Day against a Big Ten West Division rival, but it also could very well determine whether Nebraska clinches its first bowl berth since 2016 or stays home for the holidays for a third straight year.

Needless to say, there will be no shortage of motivation for the Huskers during the short week of preparation.

But the message on Sunday when the team began its work for the Hawkeyes was that despite all of the storylines, this game was no different than any other on the schedule thus far.

“It’s obvious that this is a big week for us," sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez said. "The guys are focused. The team is focused on the day-to-day process. That’s what it's going to take to get it done.”

2. Seniors staying silent

For the first time in recent memory, not a single Nebraska senior player will conduct an interview leading up to Senior Day.

Only four Huskers spoke during Monday's weekly press conference - Martinez, junior cornerback Dicaprio Bootle, junior tight end Jack Stoll, and junior linebacker Collin Miller.

There will be no media access on Tuesday, and only Frost will speak to reporters following the team's practice on Wednesday.

Frost said there wasn't anything behind keeping his seniors out of the media spotlight this week other than he wanted to make sure his players stayed focused on the task at hand leading up to Friday's game.

“Honestly it’s just a short week and it’s a big game for us, so I just want our guys to be as focused as possible," head coach Scott Frost said. "It’s really no bigger than that.”

3. Noa out for the year after surgery 

One senior who won't play in Friday's finale is wide receiver Kanawai Noa, who Frost confirmed underwent season-ending surgery last week.

Noa did not travel with the Huskers to Maryland and didn't practice all of last week.

The graduate transfer from Cal started the first 10 games of the season and played a whopping 653 snaps this season, 37 more and any other NU receiver. Noa only caught 17 passes on the year but ranked third on the team in receiving yards (453) and tied for second in touchdowns (2).

"Kanawai was a big piece of what we were doing," Frost said. "He’s absolutely a delight to coach. He worked hard, did everything right. It was all about the team. We are sorry that his season ended when it did, but feel good about the guys that came in for him.”

4. Johnson unlikely to play vs. Iowa to preserve his redshirt

Nebraska fans had been waiting for weeks to see what Rahmir Johnson could do when given a real game workload, and they finally got their wish at Maryland on Saturday.

The true freshman running back carried the ball 18 times for 55 yards and a touchdown, all career highs, in the win over the Terrapins.

But that will probably be the last fans see from Johnson for a while, as that marked his fourth game appearance of the season.

Frost said the plan was still redshirt Johnson this season, so he would only be available in an "emergency" against Iowa and in any potential bowl game.

“I think Rahmir is probably going to be on emergency duty only," Frost said. "We would like to try and save his year if we can.”

5. Waldoch will stay at kicker this week and maybe beyond

Nebraska's kicking situation has been pretty much a disaster all season long, but it might have finally found an answer there 11 games into the year.

Sophomore Matt Waldoch, who walked on to the team from the university's men's soccer club midway through the season, stepped in and shined in his first start as a Husker on Saturday,

Waldoch knocked in all three of his field goals and all six of his extra points, is already tied for the most made field goals on the team this season and ranks ninth in scoring (15 points) in just one game.

Frost said he had already met with the Geneva, Ill., native about returning to the team next season.

“What I really want in a kicker is a guy that when I look him in the eye he is confident and when he gets his chance he takes advantage of it," Frost said. "Matt’s been fun to have on the team since he has joined us from the club soccer team...

"Look, he got an opportunity and he made the most of it. He was lights out in every opportunity that he got and just that confidence that he shows gives me a lot of confidence in him.”

6. No update on Robinson

Maybe the most pressing injury question facing Nebraska this week is the status of Wan'Dale Robinson, who has missed the past two games with an injury he suffered in the loss at Purdue.

The do-it-all true freshman did not travel with the Huskers to Maryland, but Frost said last Thursday that he was "hopeful" that Robinson would play again this season.

Frost was asked directly about Robinson's situation on Monday but declined to answer. With no media availability on Tuesday, there likely won't be an update on Robinson until after Wednesday's practice, assuming Frost gives one at all.

7. Gaylord applying for a sixth year of eligibility

There was a notable absence on Nebraska's list of seniors for Friday's Senior Day festivities, and it was for a good season. broke the news on Monday that senior offensive tackle Christian Gaylord, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in fall camp, planned to apply for a sixth season of eligibility.

HOL was told that Nebraska's coaching staff was fully behind Gaylord's decision. Along with the injury, Gaylord also tragically lost his father to a car accident in September.

8. McCaffrey is still a QB, but his versatility is a weapon

Frost made it clear following Saturday's win over Maryland, and he made sure to say it again during Monday's press conference.

Luke McCaffrey is a quarterback and will stay at quarterback.

However, with the true freshman's impressive versatility and NU's current depth concerns at wide receiver, the Huskers aren't afraid to utilize McCaffrey is a variety of ways.

McCaffrey opened the game at receiver and then took over for Adrian Martinez at quarterback against the Terrapins, completing 3-of-5 passes for 28 yards (including a 28-yard toss on a reverse pass), rushing 10 times for 83 yards and a touchdown, and hauling in a 12-yard reception.

“I want to clear that up: he is a quarterback and he’s going to be a quarterback going forward," Frost said. "Right now we are just thin at skill positions. It's a credit to him and to Mario (Verduzco) and his room that he could have not practiced much and go out and play five different positions for us.

"Those guys have to know what everybody on the field does and it also speaks to his competitiveness and his athletic ability.”

9. Khalil Davis leading revived NU pass rush

For a defense that has longed for an elite pass rusher ever since Randy Gregory left campus, Khalil Davis has been one of 2019's most pleasant surprises in terms of getting to the quarterback.

Entering the final week of the season, the senior defensive end ranks fourth in the Big Ten with 8.0 sacks on the season, which are four more than any other Husker.

Davis has been playing his best football yet over the past few weeks, recording four of those sacks over the past three games and racking up 2.5 last week at Maryland.

“I think he has gotten better, I think a lot of people have gotten better," Frost said. "That is good production, particularly for someone who plays inside a lot. If you can start getting that kind of pass rush from an inside guy then that is a big asset.

"Really pleased with him and his brother (Carlos Davis.) They have both been really solid for us all year. They are playing smarter now, not making any mistakes, there haven’t been any penalties. Both of them are really talented kids, so we are lucky to have coached them.”

10. Rivalry or not, Iowa has Nebraska's full attention

Nebraska fans can argue all day about whether Iowa has become a true rival, but regardless of where you stand on the issue, it's impossible to deny that this game means more than most.

While some Huskers did their best to give coach-speak answers about the Iowa rivalry, others - like Miller - didn't hold back about how they viewed the series.

Nebraska has a more accomplished program history, but the Hawkeyes have won the last four meetings and five of eight games since NU joined the Big Ten.

“Definitely, that’s on our minds," Miller said. "It sucks, those guys not respecting us, they come into Lincoln thinking they can win this with ease, that this isn’t a real rivalry, that hurts. But we use that as momentum and the guys are really focused and dialed in that this is a big week, we really want to show everybody that we are here...

“The last years, we haven’t beat them. We were talking a lot about what we wanted this season and they have a better record than us and I think they don’t have respect for Nebraska anymore and they have a couple of games on us.”