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November 13, 2012

Jerry Kill

COACH KILL:  I appreciate everybody being here this afternoon.  We're in the progress of working hard to get ready for the Cornhuskers, which is a tremendous challenge for us, so we got a lot of work to do and looking forward to getting out on the practice field.  So with that, any questions and we'll go from there.

Q.  What is the injury update, coach, and also as far as plans or developments or thoughts about a backup center?
COACH KILL:  You know, until we get out to practice and work, Zach Mottla is out for the year and Jon Christenson will be questionable.  We'll just have to see.  He will practice today, but we'll see how he comes along with high ankle sprain.  Sometimes those are slow, but he's a tough kid, so we'll see how that goes.
And then Zach Epping finished the game and that would be our situation going into today's practice.  If we were playing today, Zach would step in and between we'll be moving him from a guard spot.  Then we've gotta fill that in.  We'll just see how practice goes.  I wish I had a crystal ball that gave me the perfect answer right now, but hopefully we'll get some of that answered over the next couple of days.

Q.  A.J. may last the first half?
COACH KILL:¬† He's fine.¬† He's okay.¬† A.J. Barker, Engel, we'll see how practice progresses.¬† They're both better, but again, if they're going to be able to play on Saturday, I don't know that.¬† Only thing I know right now is what our biggest concern certainly is at the center spot.¬† But Zach has snapped and then we gotta get ‑‑ find out who that other guard is going to be, and Tommy Olson has been banged up and is he ready to go and play full speed.¬† But we'll just have to see over the next couple days.¬† That's a challenge for us, but that's part of the game.

Q.  Are you going to teach someone else the position?
COACH KILL:¬† Yeah.¬† We'll have to find out a way to ‑‑ who's going to be the backup center.¬† But with the rules we're under and all those kind of things, that's what we'll do today.
And we'll snap both Olson, both those young men, see what they can do.  That's the choice.  We're not going to pull any red shirts or anything like that this late.  Can't do that.  So that's where we're at.

Q.  Are you pretty thankful on Saturday, though, that you had a guy like Zach Epping who's pretty much played all across the line?
COACH KILL:¬† I've coached for 30 years.¬† I don't feel sorry for ourselves because each kid went in and did their job and it's much appreciative and it's a good thing we snapped those three guys.¬† It could always be like Maryland.¬† We're not playing a linebacker at quarterback.¬† There's some unusual things that happen in college football and this is a little bit unusual that you play three ‑‑ even travel three people that can snap in a football game with the travel rules.¬† So we're fortunate, actually.¬† And Coach Limegrover since I've been with him has always snapped three or four guys to make sure if we ever were in a situation, hoping that we never would be and never thought we would be.¬† But we were.¬† But we move on and go from there.

Q.  How important is it to have two running backs in Kirkwood and Williams that you can get production from?
COACH KILL:¬† I think it's really important.¬† I think Wisconsin has proved that, and Nebraska has proven that, because you know, somebody's going to be banged up and you're going to have an injury, and you better ‑‑ I've always said when we were productive at Southern and Northern we always had three of them that could line up and really get after it, you know, different sizes.
But both of these young kids are really playing well.¬† They're physical.¬† And one's a true freshman and one's a sophomore.¬† So those are good things for the horizon.¬† But certainly I thought Donnell the more he got the ball on Saturday, the more productive he was.¬† I think he got better as it went.¬† And then Rodrick ‑‑ when he got tired, he'd tap out and Rodrick would come in.¬† He's got good hands and got the ball out in the flat and did some good things.¬† So both those two kids have gotten better.¬† There's no question, and that position has gotten better.

Q.  Is Donnell just the physical style that he has can wear a defense down the more he comes at them?
COACH KILL:¬† I think ‑‑ I do think he's a physical back.¬† I think both of them are.¬† I think Rodrick is still learning how it all works and Donnell is gaining confidence.¬† A year ago he was learning, but I think Donnell has gained some confidence, and then you start feeling good about yourself and it's like anything, you start performing pretty well.¬† And I just think through the weeks he's gained confidence in what he's doing and the offensive line, what they're doing and so forth.¬† So I think it's just a confidence deal.¬† But it's good for him and they've both certainly got bright futures here.

Q.  Does this success also speak to the success the offensive line has been able to have despite the injuries?
COACH KILL:  Coach Limegrover doesn't sleep too much right now.  He hasn't slept all year.  It's why he's lost all that weight.
I can't explain.  Again, I've coached for 30 years, and this has been a unique on the offensive side of the ball, some of the things that have happened.  But I think we're doing with the zone scheme and what we're doing is giving us a chance to be successful.  And we're also running option football where we're reading some people.  And that helps us a little bit divide the defense.
So I think it's a combination of a couple things, and then the kids that are playing have gained some confidence.  I mean Caleb Bak played very well in the game.  Zach played very well.  Josh Camping has had a really good year.  Again, he's a freshmen, redshirt freshmen and I think he's played very well.  The only tough thing is I think sometimes Josh is a very physically strong, gifted kid.  I haven't seen him wear down as much.  Jon Christenson got hurt, and part of that's just being young, got in a bad position.
So I think the older you get and the more mature you get physically I think that helps you.  And I think that's part.  We're playing so many young kids on the offensive side of the ball, I think that's why we got some of the issues we do.
But again, the good thing is as a group, as a team we don't talk about it too much.  The staff meeting today we didn't say, this is what we're going to do and we gotta do this.  We gotta make sure this kid's ready to snap and let's march on.  We gotta get ready to go play Nebraska.

Q.  Where if you don't make mistakes, protect the ball you stay in the game?
COACH KILL:  I think every coach would take a game like that.  Any time you can play good defense, you're in very windy conditions, you play good defense, you hold field position, you don't turn over the ball and you can run it, I mean you got a good chance to have success.  But that's easier said than done, and we're fortunate that at half time we met as a group and talked to the defense, talked to the offense and they were blitzing us from everywhere they could come from.  I mean it's the most we've been blitzing since I've been here and they were getting to the point where we said we gotta go downhill and take our chances and hopefully somebody gets out of a gap or somebody doesn't do their job or somebody blitzes and runs.  And that's what happened.  We ran the weak side power and strong side power and outside zone.  And was able to have some success.

Q.  Coach, I've seen conflicting information on the number of bowl practices allowed.  What is the number now?
COACH KILL:  I hadn't really thought too much about it because we've been getting ready for Nebraska, but I think it's 15.  According to when the date is and all that.  A lot of that has to do with when you play and so forth.  But you're not allowed over 15, I don't think.  Is that right, Mark?

Q.  You're not going to play more redshirt.  What will that leave you with this season redshirts?
COACH KILL:¬† We've redshirted over 20 kids, which is good.¬† I mean there's probably seven or eight of them right now that ‑‑ we've worked to change college football.¬† You'd like to be able ‑‑ a lot of people have talked about if you did get in a bowl game is allowing those kids to play and not count it as a redshirt year.¬† But it ain't going to happen this year.¬† You'd like to have it happen, I can tell you that, because it makes a lot of sense because there's a lot of people going to bowl games all beat up.¬† So there's some proactive movement in the coaching profession to see that happen.

Q.  (Inaudible)?
COACH KILL:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.

Q.  Next year?
COACH KILL:¬† I don't know if it'll work that fast.¬† I'm on rules committee, so I'll try.¬† But I don't think ‑‑ my voice ‑‑ I think there's a lot ‑‑ the basketball coaches have done a great job, they really have, with their sport.¬† Football coaches, we gotta get caught up, to be honest with you, because from recruiting, the whole thing, basketball is different than football is right now.¬† And their group has done a great job of getting legislation passed through, and football we've gotta work on that at the coaches' convention.

Q.  Your players said from the beginning of the year that getting to a bowl was the goal.  What was the message on Saturday when they finally did?
COACH KILL:¬† I think the biggest thing is I let the kids ‑‑ it's hard to win games.¬† It's hard to win on the road, and I let them enjoy it.¬† They were excited.¬† Let them enjoy it.¬† I probably said less in the locker room than I've said all year.
So I was happy.¬† I was happy for ‑‑ it's all about the kids anyway.¬† I mean at the end of the day you just want to see them feel good for all the things they put into it.¬† So they felt good about it, but as a coach, we're in the coaching deal trying to figure out what are we going to do at center.¬† We're going to Lincoln, Nebraska.¬† You're already working ahead.¬† That's the tough thing about coaching.¬† You don't get a chance to step back and, boy, this is great, because you gotta move forward.¬† We got two games left and we gotta keep getting better and we gotta find a way to keep some healthy bodies out there.

Q.  Your history in Lincoln, have you coached there?
COACH KILL:¬† Well, I had the opportunity ‑‑ I was fortunate ‑‑ you know, you coach for 30 years and you start off, coaching high school football, I've seen Mike Gundy play there because I coached Mike Gundy and then the Wistrom brothers, I coached the Webb City High School.¬† I knew Coach Solich for a long, long time, was a good friend.
So I've had the opportunity to watch games and so forth, but certainly didn't figure that I would be coaching in Lincoln, Nebraska.¬† So I mean it's ‑‑ they love their football in Lincoln, and they got good fans, and I respect their program tremendously like I do everybody.¬† I mean they got great tradition, and our kids ‑‑ I will share with them today in the team meeting they need to be excited about it.¬† They need to embrace it and get excited about it and let's go play.¬† Let's go play.

Q.  What changes would you like to see in the rules committee?
COACH KILL:¬† What changes in the rules?¬† I think we have to ‑‑ in college football the basketball coaches have done a good job of getting the phone calls, just get everybody on the same page, get basketball and football.¬† It would be a lot easier for the compliance people, get us all on the same page with the same rules and same amount of phone calls and text messaging and all that.¬† We're all different and it would be good to get everybody on the same page.
And then I think it's real important, like I said, with the opportunities with in bowl games being able to let the red shirts start during that time and not let that count as a year.  That's something that we've talked about.
But most of the things have to do with the recruiting rules and those kind of things.

Q.  Would you like to get where football can work with the guys in the summertime?
COACH KILL:  Absolutely.  Yeah.  I think every football coach would like that opportunity because they're here in the summertime, but you can't have any contact except the weight room and classes.  If they're here, it's a lot easier to keep them out of trouble if you got them out there working.  So yeah, I think it would be great if football could get it to where a position would get two hours a week or whatever it would be.  Any of that would be good.
That's what I'm saying, the basketball coaches have been able to push that legislation through and that's something in football, as coaches, we can't blame anybody but ourselves, as coaches we have to unite to come together to get that done.  Basketball's done a good job.

Q.¬† Is Philip showing any signs at all of feeling any pressure he's under to get the team‑‑
COACH KILL:  No.  He don't say too much.  I don't know what he says to you all.  He just goes out and plays.  He's not a big talk active guy.  Just goes out and plays.  He talked to the kid that played quarterback for me.  Probably talked more to him than he did me over the last three weeks, quarterback to quarterback.  I think they visit about different things.
I mean the quarterback I had at Southern Illinois came in and his first year he was 4 and 8 and then the next three years he won over 30 games as a quarterback.  And he went through some of the same things on the offensive line had been beat up and so forth.  So there was some continuity there and hang in there, keep your guys going in the right direction and so forth.
It's good for guys to reach out to each other, and he happened to be at the game.¬† But he stayed pretty ‑‑ even through camp and stuff, he's a very confident young man.¬† I mean he's confident in what he does and carries himself very well.¬† And not being cocky or anything.¬† He just carries himself well.¬† Feels confidence in his ability.

Q.  Would you say he's beyond the wow factor of being overwhelmed by the surroundings that he'll be in on Saturday?
COACH KILL:¬† We'll see.¬† We'll see, you know.¬† I can't answer that question until you get out there and so forth.¬† But I don't know if you could put any more pressure.¬† He went and played at Wisconsin and that's where his dad went to school.¬† I mean first game, at Madison.¬† I mean that's pretty good opening game to get educated in.¬† So I look for him to be excited.¬† Big thing is we need to make sure we put him in good situations as a coaching staff.¬† Gotta make sure we got the center‑quarterback exchange.¬† That's the most important thing.

Q.  The Nebraska quarterback's awful good.
COACH KILL:¬† He's very good.¬† I was talking to somebody this morning is that people talk about Denard and there's some great quarterbacks in this conference, but Martinez probably can get it over with ‑‑ he gets it out on the edge, he gets it over with pretty quick.¬† So he's very athletic, gifted.
But I think what makes Nebraska, in my opinion, better than a year ago, much better is their offensive line.¬† Their offensive line is pretty good.¬† They run the ball with a purpose.¬† And Coach Osborne may be retired, but he's still got a lot of influence there.¬† They still run the toss‑lead and a lot of things they did when he was there.¬† So there's still some old Nebraska tradition in that football game.
And defensively Bo coaches like he's in the Southeast Conference.¬† They're athletic and going to lock you up and play matchup zone and bring five or six and get after your tail end.¬† He's out of ‑‑ coached there at LSU and so forth.¬† That's how he coaches defense and that's how he coaches special teams.¬† And their players are intense, and that's why they've got ‑‑ they've done a good job.
I think them and Wisconsin are really ‑‑ I haven't seen Ohio State, but I've seen Wisconsin and Nebraska a lot, and they're probably playing as good as anybody in the Big 10 right now, both those schools.

Q.  What did Zach's injury turn out to be and is it anything you worry will carry over into next spring?
COACH KILL:  He broke his lower leg.  And you know, he had surgery on it and went well, and you know, those things, you know, any time you have surgery, it's just time.  But everything I've heard, he'll be ready to go and if you talked to him, he'd say he's going to be ready to go in two months.
I think it'll be a while.

Q.  Coach, you mentioned Taylor Martinez.  He's a much improved passer this year than he has been in years past.  How much more dynamic does that make their offense?
COACH KILL:¬† I think he's improved passing but their receivers probably physically they catch the ball.¬† They block very well.¬† I think he's got great people around him, and I think any quarterback ‑‑ he's a good quarterback.¬† He's improved his throwing skills.¬† There's no question about that.¬† But they've also surrounded him with good people.
Somebody laid an article on the desk.¬† I don't know if they're making me nervous or what, talked about their offensive coordinator talked about they really don't even need to practice or whatever because they're so ‑‑ so I'd say if you got an offensive coordinator that's that confident in what they're doing, they got a lot of weapons.

Q.  Instead of you going to a bowl, and congratulations on that, did you stick your chest out when you saw Syracuse beat undefeated Louisville?
COACH KILL:¬† I think it makes you feel ‑‑ it does.¬† I don't know about sticking your chest out, but it certainly makes you feel ‑‑ it feels good about playing Syracuse and what they did to Louisville.¬† And I happen to know the head coach at Louisville.¬† And like he said, Syracuse just lined up and got after them.¬† I think their football team, I think since they've played us has improved every week.¬† But it's certainly ‑‑ I'm happy for coach.¬† And I know them both.¬† So I'm happy for one and sad for the other one.¬† But that's how Saturdays are.¬† Somebody's gotta win, somebody doesn't.

Q.  When you go into a game, the area from the 30 and 40 is no man's land on fourth down.  Do you go into the game knowing we're going to go for on 4 and we're not going to punt?
COACH KILL:¬† No.¬† I will tell you ‑‑ I can just tell you what we did at the Illinois game.¬† That's the best case scenario.¬† We got to Illinois.¬† It's always windy in Champaign.¬† I went right from the bus right out to the field, by myself and just walked around and checked the wind conditions for my standpoint.¬† Then we got the kickers and punters out.¬† Instead of me usually going to the locker room, I went out to the field, grabbed a seat, got my chart out.¬† I watched our guys kick and punt and see where they were at.
Then I met ‑‑ I talked to them, what do you think, here's where we're at, this is what we can do.¬† What are we going to do into the wind.¬† You know, I watched our punter kick into the wind.¬† What are we going to do a different style punt or whatever.¬† And so we talked about all that before we went in.¬† So I guess the best example you're probably talking about, we had the ball on our own ‑‑ they had great field position.¬† They stuck us back on the one.¬† We drove it all the way down and we were in that 35 yard line, I think, somewhere in there.¬† And we knew we had to get inside the 25 for him to make it because we went out there in pregame and that was all we could do, with any accuracy at all.
And so we couldn't get it inside the 25.¬† And then you know, where do you ‑‑ is it worth punting, if you take a penalty or take five yards and get it to the 38, is that going to be better or whatever.¬† So you play that game.
And when we got in that situation, before the games, we got in that situation and it was a makeable first down then we'll go ahead and take a shot.  If it wasn't a makeable first down you maybe take the penalty and punt it from your own 38 and try to stick it down in there.
Now, the punt before, we kicked it in the end zone.¬† But we try to do all that stuff before.¬† Then I'm always communicating ‑‑ like I went down to Jordan as we were moving down, hey, are you sure we can't go from 30, you know.¬† Then you can always ‑‑ when you pinpoint them during the game, you can tell if they go, oh, yeah, coach, let's go.¬† Or awe.¬† I didn't get that, hey, I'm ready to stick it.¬† So I felt that we at that time made a decision.¬† But it is a very ‑‑ and then the other part of that is the wind conditions in itself and the score of the game.
You know, field position was critical.  And sometimes you'll get around the 40 and you go be aggressive as a coach because you feel you gotta do it that day to beat that team.  We were in that game, so we wanted to play the field position game as much as we possibly could.
There's some games when you know that you're going to have to go make a play that you're going to have to roll the dice to win a game and so you have to do some things different.¬† And so you just kind of pick ‑‑ but you try to talk about because as a head coach you don't want the ten other guys that worked their tail end off all week long and head coach goes and makes a crazy decision.¬† We try to get everybody on the same page, there's a possibility we may do this.¬† How do you feel about it.
Just like managing right there at the end, you know, when we scored a touch down.  It was third down and 2 or 3.  We scored.  Do you kick a field goal then.  Where we were at then, too.  So we were talking about that as it went and fortunately we scored and we didn't have to make any decisions on anything.

Q.  Would you have kicked at the other end with the wind?
COACH KILL:¬† If we were ‑‑ yeah.¬† Oh, yeah.¬† I think he was 55, 57 with the wind.¬† That's how strong the wind was during warmup.¬† We thought we could go 50 to 57 yards with the wind, because it was a strong wind.

Q.  Phil faced a lot of blitzes on Saturday.  Was that particularly a teachable game and learning game for him?
COACH KILL:¬† I think it's teachable for the line really and everybody else.¬† I think we all got ‑‑ I mean they did some unconventional things.¬† I think they felt like, hey, we're playing Minnesota and we're going to go after it.¬† We're going to do whatever it takes here.¬† And they sold out.
We had trouble ‑‑ we'd have liked to have thrown the ball in some certain situations, but even in the play action game where we could get the ball out quick, they had people in our face and had so much pressure on us.¬† But when you do that, sometimes you can gash them with the downhill running game and we were fortunate to be able to cease them when they brought ‑‑ we did a great job of picking up the blitz schemes they did in the run game.¬† But part of the run game is designed to help you on that.

Q.  Have you coached a game in Lincoln?
COACH KILL:  I have not coached a game.  I've watched a game in Lincoln, but I have not coached one.

Q.  Pretty tough down there.
COACH KILL:  Oh, I know.  Most of the time I watched it it was pretty tough, too, because I happened to be from Kansas and they were Nebraska and Kansas didn't beat Nebraska very often.

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