10 things we learned from Nebraska's press conference
Nebraska head coach Scott Frost and several players met with reporters on Monday for their weekly press conference inside Memorial Stadium to preview this week's home game vs. Wisconsin.
Here are 10 of the most interesting things we learned from the day...
1. The final three games are all about finishing
Mathematically speaking, Nebraska still has a chance to win two of its final three regular-season games and clinch a bowl berth for the first time since 2016.
However, based on how the season has gone thus far and two of those last three contests coming against Wisconsin and Iowa, those bowl hopes seem like wishful thinking.
While the Huskers will still do all they can to reach a bowl, they’re also just as focused on achieving some less-tangible goals over the final three weeks.
“Not to take anything away from anyone else, there are several games this year that if we just didn’t make some mistakes the outcome could have been different," Frost said. "I think everybody sees that. I wish the team just had a little bit more conviction to get it done at times, and I wish we would get to a point where some of those mistakes aren’t happening...
"Part of that is having a young team in a lot of places and that has cost us some. But, part of it is just a mindset to do jobs perfectly and we have to continue to be better as coaches to make sure that happens, and the players have to help us with it.”
For younger players like sophomore nickel back JoJo Domann, these last three games can also serve as steppingstones towards setting a better tone for next season.
“I definitely know our guys that are suiting up for their last three games in their Husker uniforms are bringing it, they’re ready," Domann said. "For the younger guys, we are trying to build something here and finishing on a high note and propelling this thing into spring ball and next fall is big for us and big for this program."
2. Consistency is the goal for Martinez
Looking back on his first start in nearly a month last time out at Purdue, Adrian Martinez’s evaluation of his play wasn’t much different on Monday than it was right after the game.
There was some good and some bad, but there was no question that he needed to be better.
After missing the previous two games with a knee injury he suffered vs. Northwestern, Martinez returned to action against the Boilermakers and completed 22-of-39 passes for 247 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception.
He also rushed 12 times for 58 yards and two touchdowns, much of which coming in a solid fourth quarter that almost made up for an inept showing by the offense over the second and third quarters.
"From that game, the things I thought I missed right after the game are the things I saw I missed watching it a few days later," Martinez said. "I’ll take that one. That one is on me. I thought the guys played well enough around me to win that game, and I didn’t perform my best, and that’s on me.”
Frost said consistency would be the biggest thing he wanted to see Martinez improve over the final three games.
“He needs to be more consistent," Frost said. "Again, a lot of things get put on that kid’s shoulders. We need to be better around him, but I think he can play better than he did last week.
"It’s just consistency, making sure he completes balls and gets the balls to them and just being a little more definitive with his decisions. He needs to be a little sharper and crisper so balls are coming out quicker and decisions are made quicker.”
3. Blackshirts know that stopping Taylor is priority No. 1
Slowing down Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor will be as difficult of a challenge as Nebraska’s defense has faced this season, and the Blackshirts know it’s going to take all hands on deck to do it.
Now entering his third meeting against the Huskers, Taylor has already racked up some pretty staggering numbers in the series. The junior has totaled a whopping 470 yards and five touchdowns on 49 carries over the last two games vs. NU.
For Nebraska to have a chance on Saturday, it has to find a way to knock Taylor off that torrid clip. To do that, all 11 defenders need to do their part.
“He’s big, he’s powerful, and he’s slippery," Domann said. "He can slip through these tight gaps that their big o-linemen help create, and then he’s just a workhorse so you have to gang tackle him. You really have to knife him or wrap him up, can’t really hit him on top or take him down with your arms. He’s the full package and we've got to bring it this week.”
4. Winners of six straight, Wisconsin doesn’t view NU as a rival
Not as if Nebraska needed any more incentive to come out with some fire on Saturday, Wisconsin provided a little extra motivation.
During UW’s weekly press conference on Monday, linebacker Zack Baun was asked if there was any additional pressure going into a road game against a Big Ten West rival.
“No pressure,” Baun said. “It’s just another game. The trophy’s never left here, so I don’t think it’s a rivalry yet. Maybe it was before, but it definitely isn’t now.”
Considering Baun is a perfect 4-0 against Nebraska dating back to his redshirt season in 2015, and the Badgers have won the last six meetings vs. NU dating back to 2013, his take on the series is understandable.
Also, for those who didn’t know or forgot, Nebraska-Wisconsin is, in fact, a trophy game, as they’ve played for the Freedom Trophy each year since 2014. The Huskers have obviously never won the trophy.
5. Hickman continues to impress, will see a new role at WR
After seeing the most extensive game action of his young career last time out at Purdue, true freshman Chris Hickman looks to have already found a new position.
The former Omaha Burke standout signed with Nebraska as a three-star tight end, Hickman was now listed as a wide receiver on the Huskers’ weekly depth chart for the Wisconsin game.
Hickman played his first four snaps against the Boilermakers, including getting targeted on a pass that fell incomplete (and was ruled a fumbled lateral out of bounds).
He has two games remaining to preserve his redshirt eligibility for this season, so he could see some playing time in over the final stretch.
“He is going to be a good player," Frost said. "I have a lot of excitement about the future when I see a lot of the young kids, and Chris Hickman is one of them. He hasn’t played a lot this year, but he has really shown us some things in practice and on the game field. We are going to use him as much as we can and still try to save his year.”
6. Lincoln native Williams won’t play in return to Nebraska
An intriguing local storyline for this week won’t play out the way some had hoped, as Wisconsin nose guard and Lincoln, Neb., native Bryson Williams was ruled out for the game due to a lingering injury.
Williams, a former three-star prospect from Lincoln Southeast, is still dealing with a left leg injury he suffered in last week’s win over Iowa. The sophomore already missed three games with a leg injury that happened in the season opener.
Along with being a local product, the storyline would have taken on some added drama considering how the previous Nebraska staff drug its feet in recruiting Williams out of high school.
Frost and his staff made a late push to try and swing Williams back to NU after he verbally committed to Wisconsin, but the effort was too little, too late.
Williams played in all 13 games with three starts last year as a true freshman, finishing with 12 tackles and pass breakup. He’s only played in six of nine games this season and has six tackles.
7. Frost felt good about recruiting progress made over the bye week
While much of the focus for Nebraska’s coaches over the bye week was on their current team, the staff also put in some work for the future on the recruiting front.
With only two more home games and two recruiting weekends available in December, Frost and Co. knew they had to be smart with how they capitalized on the limited remaining recruiting opportunities for this cycle.
Frost said on Monday that he felt he and his coaches made the most of the rare second bye week and got quality face time with some of their top targets.
“We kind of balanced our bye week time with going back to work with our team and getting our coaches out," Frost said. "We made some good progress on the road with recruiting, and we needed to have that week. It was good for us to get out and I think it’s going to make a difference for us in recruiting...
“(The) response is great. Out and about, people know our program. The reaction to Nebraska football around the country is still unbelievable. People understand our staff and the direction we’re going. We’re getting nothing but positive response."
8. After a rocky start, Jurgens is settling in at center
The fact that Cam Jurgens’ name has hardly come up over the past few weeks can only be viewed as a positive compared to where things were earlier this season.
Jurgens’ issues with simply snapping the football had become a major concern through the first half of the year, as they were many times the starting point for the offense’s struggles.
But Jurgens seems to have figured those mechanical problems out, and bad snaps have become the least of the Huskers’ worries.
“Knock on wood, the problems with the snaps have gotten a lot better," Frost said. "That was a real issue early. I think that kind of upset our timing a lot early. You've got to understand with Cam Jurgens, we've got high hopes for him. He’s never played offensive line. He’s a redshirt freshman, and we threw him in the fire because of his talent.
"He’s done a really good job. Some of the issues he is working through right now won’t be issues going forward. It’s kind of like playing a freshman quarterback. You have to live through some of those things. Cam is going to be a pretty good player around here.”
9. The door appears to be closed on Washington’s return this season
When Frost first announced that running back Maurice Washington was not with the team due to a violation of team rules back on Oct. 21, Frost didn’t close the door on Washington potentially returning to Nebraska at some point this season.
Frost was asked on Monday if that were still a possibility, and his answer pretty much closed the book on that idea.
“I will talk about that after the New Year,” Frost said.
"There's certain standards that we ask our players to uphold," Frost said back in October. "When those standards aren't upheld, it doesn't matter who it is, they're not going to be a part of our plans that week or potentially longer."
10. Mazour receives the final 2019 scholarship
Nebraska has had an unclaimed scholarship for the 2019 season since the start of fall camp, and for whatever reason Frost was reluctant to award it – at least publicly.
It took nine games into the season to announce it, but the recipient of that 85th scholarship was finally revealed on Monday. Frost said that senior running back Wyatt Mazour had been placed on scholarship for the second time.
The scholarship will be retroactive and will cover the entire fall semester.
Mazour was one of three walk-ons to earn a scholarship last fall. The has played in seven games this season and has nine carries for 41 yards and has returned three kickoffs for an average of 19.3 yards.
“We wanted to give it to a guy that earned it and represented Nebraska best, and I ended up giving it to Wyatt Mazour," Frost said.