NU head coach Pat Fitzgerald met with the media on Monday to discuss the team’s Big Ten Championship rematch against No. 3 Ohio State this Friday Night. Cornerback Greg Newsome, defensive lineman Joe Gaziano, running back Drake Anderson and wide receiver Riley Lees also answered questions at the podium. Here’s what they had to say:
The “OR” between Hunter Johnson and Aidan Smith has returned! https://t.co/w50UM2LCMA— Inside NU (@insidenu) October 14, 2019
On Nebraska: Ethan Wiederkehr and Riley Lees were our offensive players of the week, Cam Ruiz was our guy on defense.
On special teams: Great job by that group. They’ve been good all year.
On Friday: We’re really fired up to have Sherrick [McManis] back. he’ll be our honorary captain
On Ohio State: We’re playing an outstanding team.
On the injury status of Trae Williams and Bennett Skowronek: Bennett is still out indefinitely. No update on Trae right now.
On playing on a Friday: You move everything up in practice by one day.
On being a dad (in reference to their last Friday night games, in 2006 and 2007): It’s crazy stuff, man. It’s wild.
On Justin Fields: We recruited him. He’s a rock star person. We were blown away with him out of high school. Just a stud of a guy. He’s playing outstanding football and he’s taking it to the next level just being explosive with his feet and being smart with that.
On last year’s matchup against Ohio State: We had some plays in the championship game where we just had outstanding coverage and they still beat us.
On the last time Ohio State came to Ryan Field (the infamous Kain Colter game of 2013): I think we played great. the students had a great time. We just came up a few plays short. (He did not comment on whether he believed Colter got the first down.
On this year’s superback struggles: We are young at the position. A lot of attrition in that room. Lot of depth issues. A year ago Cam [Green] had around 65 receptions, and we’re just not quite there yet. First and foremost we have to get better fundamentally there.
On the ongoing battle between Aidan Smith and Hunter Johnson: Hunter has to keep getting time on task and getting involved and familiar with the offense. He doesn’t have as much experience in the system as Aidan does.
On containing Chase Young: He’s a great player. He’s a first-round talent. He can do everything. He plays with a high motor. He’s one of the best I’ve seen in this league, so we gotta do a lot of things to contain him. None of those I’m gonna share with you, obviously, but I appreciate the question.
On the comparison between HJ and Justin Fields as transfers: Every player has a different maturation throughout their career. in my opinion, they have no similarities...you’re talking about different schools, different starts, different environments.
Do i expect Hunter will get his play up to where Justin is now, I believe so, we just gotta give it time. For some players, it just clicks.
On this year’s o-line play: I think Rashawn and the o-line have been outstanding. I don’t look at that group being the issue with our offense at all. I think this is some of the most consistent o-line play. I’m really proud of Jared Thomas’ leadership. He’s been outstanding. Our issues and struggles on offense this year have not at all been the fault of the offensive line.
On who is struggling offensively, after yet another reference to Wii and golf: It’s no secret that we’ve got a few key players that just aren’t executing right now.
Continuing on the offense: I think we have the most points against Wisconsin this year. Did any of you guys write articles about that?
After being informed that Noah wrote a tweet about it: “Well la-di-frickin-da.”
Greg Newsome II
On leading the secondary without Trae Williams: I don’t think there’s too much pressure. We prepare everyone with that game mentality. Always the next man up.
On defending Justin Fields: We know he can scramble. they [the defensive line] know he’s trying to get out of the pocket and we just got to stay in coverage. i feel like any game we should be stuck to our man all the time. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a running quarterback or not.
On Cam Ruiz: He’s been playing well. He’s been hurt a lot so we haven’t been able to see him much but when he’s healthy, he can play top notch football.
On playing Ohio State: We treat every opponent the same. We’re going through this week just like we do for every another time.
On playing in front of JR Pace and Travis Whillock: I think they’re the two best safeties in the country. knowing they’re behind me it gives me more opportunity to progress.
On the main priority against defending Ohio State: “We win the turnover ratio, we should win the game.”
On the lack of explosive offensive plays: We need to execute accordingly. I need to make the most out of some of the one-on-one matchups when I’m put into those situations.
On Hunter Johnson: He’s pretty shy until you really get to know him. Over the offseason and these first four/five weeks we’ve really began to grow a bond.
When asked about the lack of explosive plays offensively, Drake Anderson praises McCall and the offensive staff, putting the blame entirely on a lack of execution.— Inside NU (@insidenu) October 14, 2019
On his perceived lack of execution: In the past five games, the line has done a great job opening the holes. i definitely feel like I’ve left a lot of yards on the field.
On defending Justin Fields: Pass rush-wise it just creates an extra responsibility for us. we can’t get engulfed in the center/guard and. We gotta be physical, clog the middle and not let him escape the pocket like we know he can.
On the defensive gameplan: We’re just trying to give the quarterback different looks so he won’t pick us apart and know where we’re gonna be.
On similarities between Adrian Martinez and Justin Fields: They’re both dynamic players. both can run the ball and drop back, they can both make plays with their feet. They drive the ball well down field and they have good guys on the perimeter. Nebraska is more willing to run the quarterback.
On playing on Friday night: Ithink it’s going to be interesting. Brings you back to high school. It’s gonna be funny when NU students are going to class and fans are in the parking lots getting a little tipsy, but we’ll be in the hotel so we won’t have to worry about that.
On his golf partner Aidan Smith: Just spending a lot of time together. We’ve golfed a lot. Not sure how much it helps with football, I guess he’s just used to seeing my face. We know a lot about each other.
On Hunter Johnson’s style: He’s vocal. Confident.Aall of our quarterbacks are. He’s a guy that everyone can feed off of. He does everything with high energy and expects us to come with him.
On Anderson’s comments about execution: I think we’ve had a good gameplan going into each week and we’ve had the right playcalls. Just one man breakdowns. All 11 guys have to execute and do their job on every play.
On different preparation for the Friday game: “Today is Tuesday. That’s how we’re doing it. I have class, except I don’t, but I do. I’m pretty confused, but it’s Tuesday.”
On where he and Aidan like to golf: “We go where GolfNow says it’s cheap.”
On the best part of his golf game: Nothing. I play and I have fun. That’s about it.