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Monday notebook: Diaco addresses no postgame interview

In the wake of some heavy criticism for not speaking to the media following Nebraska’s 43-36 win over Arkansas State, defensive coordinator Bob Diaco got right to the point and addressed the situation following Monday’s practice.

Before taking any questions, the first-year NU coach gave a lengthy opening statement explaining what happened after the game on Saturday night and why he did not give an interview.

“Coach (Mike Riley) thought it would be a good idea for me to just immediately address the group after being attacked this morning the way that I was,” Diaco said. “Communicating for a long period of time about the fall, the season, media, and noodling it, I was under the impression that I didn’t have to do postgame media. That’s what I was told.

“But I wanted to come here and address that, because contrary to at least what was depicted, I’ve never run away from anything in my life. I’ve never not stood out and been accountable and responsible to my work and what I’ve been entrusted to do. That’s never happened, and will not ever happen.

“So to be painted in that light and in that way is just absolutely ridiculous and very disappointing to me. From your perspective I could see, with the lack of communication and the miscommunication, that that was your perspective, so I’m not even upset with what was said or written or whatever. It’s a product of a lack of communication and miscommunication.

“In fact, when I got to the locker room, no one was there, because we got stuck in the freight elevator. So I didn’t get the chance to talk to Coach (Riley). I saw one of the associate athletic directors in charge of media who wanted me to go do media, and I said I was told that I didn’t have to do the postgame media. I said after that, ‘But I’ll be up in the coaches’ locker room if you need me. If you need me to do it I will come down and do it.’

“As I was walking up I saw Danny (Langsdorf) walking down, so by the time I got out of the locker room, it was at least an hour - Coach (Langsdorf) was already occupied and almost finished, and by the time he finished I asked him, ‘Coach, do you need me to do anything right now?’ And he said, ‘No, everyone I’m sure is gone.’ By that time it was at least an hour later.

“So we’re situated now. I felt we had a good plan, thought I had a good plan, but onward and upward.”

Head coach Mike Riley said during Monday afternoon’s weekly press conference that the understanding going forward would be for Diaco to speak with reporters after every game from now on.

- Robin Washut

Lee happy, not satisfied with Husker debut

One of the most anticipated aspects of Nebraska’s season opener on Saturday was the unveiling of Tanner Lee as the new starting quarterback.

After an offseason full of hype regarding the junior transfer from Tulane, he put together a strong overall performance to the tune of 19-of-32 passing for 238 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions.

Head coach Mike Riley said he was definitely pleased with Lee’s Husker debut.

“Tanner Lee made some beautiful plays,” Riley said. “I’m thinking (that was) just a snapshot as we go forward with him, but I think everybody saw the plays that he can make and the ability that he has.”

Lee maintained his usual humble demeanor when asked for his evaluation of his play during Monday’s press conference.

“I think every game there’s throws I wish I had back or a couple decisions I wish I had done differently,” Lee said. “Just keep trying to be perfect or as close to it as I can.

“A lot of the throws that we have been working on this summer with J.D. (Spielman), Stanley (Morgan), and DPE (De’Mornay Pierson-El) that we were able to hit in that game and we could see it pay off. I was happy to see that.”

Lee, who became just the third NU quarterback to start a season opener since 2010, tallied the third-most passing yards by a Husker in his first career start. Only Ryker Fyfe (407) and Joe Ganz (405) threw for more yards than Lee’s 238.

- Robin Washut

Riley returns to Autzen with unfinished business

Riley was never in for a walk in the park when visiting Oregon’s Autzen Stadium.

Though the former Oregon State head coach was 1-6 at the 54,000-seat noise funnel, he still remembers watching games in Autzen as a kid.

But although Riley's return has special personal meaning, he says this trip is all about the 2017 Nebraska football team.

“I’ve spent a lot of time and had too many hard times at that stadium,” Riley said. “We’re excited to go play and win the game for this 2017 team.”

While Riley’s history in the Oregon-Oregon State rivalry ended on a skid - seven straight losses, to be exact - the 17-year college head coaching veteran says his teams got better at playing in Eugene each time.

In 2013, Riley’s last trip to the stadium as the Beavers’ head coach resulted in a back-and-forth thriller in the Civil War rivalry game, one that ended when the 12th-ranked Ducks completed a furious comeback in the final minute to defeat Riley’s squad 36-35.

“The stadium, for whatever reason, the way it’s built is one of the top-five noisiest places I’ve ever coached,” Riley said. “We had the ability to make (the noise) a non-factor and have a chance to win the game.”

The Nebraska offense and defense will stress communication in what promises to be a raucous atmosphere, but senior linebacker Chris Weber says he gets fired up to go into new stadiums around the country.

“Oregon’s going to have a great stadium and they’re going to be loud,” Weber said. “I think it’s going to be a fun game to play in."

- Matt Reynoldson

Spielman's dad offered different take on kickoff return score

While most parents would offer compliments or words of encouragement to their son after a football game, redshirt freshman wide receiver J.D. Spielman’s household is a little different.

Spielman is the son of Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, and after the game was over on Saturday, he was obviously proud of his son’s performance but warned him about his long celebration on the 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

“He was proud of me as a father, also as a coaching figure at the same time,” Spielman said. “He also joked around (saying), ‘Next time don’t point.’ I kind of learned my lesson on that one. He’s definitely proud.

“He said, ‘If you’re going to make a play like that, at least try not to get a penalty.’ So, you know, that’s fair enough.”

After going back and watching the replay, Spielman realized he was probably toeing the excessive celebration line by slowing down like he did and pointing his finger at the crowd as he crossed the 40-yard line.

“Honestly, I didn’t even know that I wasn’t allowed to point,” Spielman said. “I thought it was completely legal until I got to the sideline and everyone started telling me not to point. So I said, ‘Now I know not to point.’

“I realized that when I pointed, I started to slow down a little bit, so that’s why I brought my hand back down. I realized I had to speed up again because of the possibility of getting caught. There would be nothing worse than pointing at the 40 and then getting caught at the 30.”

- Sean Callahan

Quick hits

***Asked about his impressions of the game, Diaco said they never pay attention to stats or yards, and that the only thing that mattered was the scoreboard and having one more point than their opponent.

***Diaco said he thought his players did a “wonderful job” of executing the defensive game plan and gained valuable experience from the game. He said the main plan was to not allow 50/50 jump balls downfield and explosive plays, and the defense did just that.

***Diaco added that the ending of the game “didn’t need to be as exciting as it was.”

***Diaco said the game experience so many young players gained on Saturday night was invaluable, and now they have actual game film cut-ups to show the players in meetings and film sessions to show them what the coaches are talking about.

***Diaco coached against Oregon head coach Willie Taggert while he was at UConn and Taggert was at South Florida, and he said they both have a pretty good idea of what each other likes to do.

***Diaco described Taggert’s offense as a run-oriented scheme that has “a lot of window dressing” but is really a run-first system.

***Diaco said Oregon essentially runs a triple-option attack out of a spread look with big play potential in the downfield passing game.

***Diaco said every player knew exactly how many plays they were going to get against Arkansas State by Thursday of last week. He said everyone knew what their role was going to be and there were no surprises on game day.

***Diaco said NU’s young cornerbacks were poised and kept their heads despite being thrown in the fire right away against ASU. He said their tackling was sound and they didn’t get beat deep in coverage, and he was really proud of their effort.

***Linebacker Marcus Newby was supposed to sit out of Monday’s practice while nursing a hamstring injury, but he was suited and went through practice.

***Defensive line coach John Parrella said freshman nose tackle Damion Daniels didn’t play on Saturday, but there was still a chance he could see action this year.

***Linebackers coach Trent Bray said linebacker Luke Gifford was maybe the most unique players he’s ever coached because of his versatility and basically being the complete package in being able to play the run and defend the pass.

***Safeties/special teams coach Scott Booker said he was really pleased with Caleb Lightbourn on Saturday and said the sophomore used excellent technique on all of his punts.

***Booker said the only real difference about Oregon’s Autzen Stadium was that it goes east to west, meaning the wind might be a bit different than Memorial Stadium’s north-south setup.