Nebraska coach Mike Riley addressed the media after Saturday’s 30-28 loss to Northwestern. Here’s what he had to say.

Opening Statement
“All right, that’s a really disappointing game for us. All those things that we talked about and thought were making some strides in some ways, like balance, run/pass ratio, all that stuff didn’t look too good today. We threw 48 passes and it was just really inconsistent. Defensively, man we played a ton of good defense. (We made) lots of good plays. We gave up probably three or four big plays. That was probably the name of the game in that regard. A couple of quarterback runs or long passes near (Northwestern’s) last score were major differences in the game. I think that was probably it. One of the biggest problems we had today was having a hard time blocking their front to run the football. That part of it was tough sledding. We ended up with some rushing yards, but a lot of them were, I think, some ad-lib stuff as we went. I think that was a key, key issue in the game.”

On the lack of offensive line substitutions

“That’s probably a good point. We have historically allowed the line to get a rhythm and play together and haven’t brought guys in and out. They can get a rhythm going. That’s kind of been historically what we’ve done. With our players right now, an opportunity for them to get to play, especially with Zach Sterup back in there now and Nick (Gates) getting healthy, is going to be something we re-examine probably tomorrow and see if Nick could be ready. Zach has been playing, (we’ll ask ourselves) how does that work?” 

On whether there could be changes to the substitution patterns at the guard and center positions

“Well, I would say there’s some guys in there. Jerald Foster is a guy. At one time, we were really considering that with Chris Long, to do that with. David Knevel had a concussion in practice. That is one area that we don’t (substitute), and we might.”

On whether Northwestern’s success was based on game plan

“Well, they do a nice job of coaching it, but those guys are good, too. We had to block them, and they were coming off blocks and making plays. Their linebackers were extremely fast to the football. We didn’t get them cut off, it looked to me like, often enough and that’s what created their opportunity.”

On Tommy Armstrong Jr.’s performance

“Quarterbacking, and every position, is all about choices. (The interception) wasn’t a great choice, he knows it, everybody in the world knows it. He made some good throws. We dropped a number of balls that really could’ve helped him out. When you’re doing that for the quarterback, then the rhythm of stuff (goes away). He made some nice plays, but it was not enough. There was too much inconsistency within all that that helped contribute to the loss.”

On whether the team showed a lack of intensity

“I hope not. I think that, except for that quarterback run, I know I’m throwing a “but” in there, but the defense played a lot of good ball early on in the ballgame. I thought really good. We ended up losing inside containment, (Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson) breaks it. I don’t know, as a general statement about our team, if that is correct. Now I would say other parts of it look like that. The opening kickoff team looked like that. Offensively, we were not in sync from the get-go, we looked like that. And then you’ve got to give them a little credit. That’s a good defensive team. (They’re) solid. I think they’ve been third in the league in rush (defense), third in the league in pass (defense).” 

On whether the team showed a lack of urgency

“Possibly. I think you could throw any of that in there. Like I said, I don’t know if I could sit here and apply that to everybody. I don’t know if that’s fair.”

On special teams struggles

“I was really shocked. Contest-wise, special teams against special teams, it feels the most lopsided that we’ve played this year. And penalties on special teams, too, really bothered me today.”

On concerns with personal foul penalties

“The last one was just emotions at the end of the game, which is not an excuse, but that’s what happened. The other one, I really only saw the end of it, where we pulled the guy down and they had a foul on the play, and then we pulled a guy down late in the middle of the field, all I saw was the end of it and the flag. No, I don’t feel good about it.”

On his message to the team

“Well, I told them we’re going to coach football and practice football on Monday, and we’re going to continue to work to get better. Everybody that wants to do that will be there. I think that this group will be.”

On changes to the practice routine to improve physicality

“Well, we’ve been at the edge at a lot of positions, injury-wise, especially at linebacker. Most of your wide-open hitting would be with a group like that. Our bye isn’t until the end, so there’s a wear-down theory factoring in here that you have to be aware of. I think that we practice with really good intensity two hard days a week. I don’t think that contributes necessarily to what that looked like. I think that we were prepared physically, we just didn’t make enough plays. 

On the failed two-point conversion play

“They moved into coverage, Tommy went to the backside. The guy got a hand in on the backside route. (Tommy) got through the progression, they covered the front side of it pretty well, we had a guy coming over the middle with the back clearing it, and the guy got a hand in there and knocked the ball away.”

On whether it was the same two-point conversion play that was run against Miami

“Not quite, but close. It looked to me like a tipped pass, but we’ll know more tomorrow. We’ll talk about it on Monday.”

On whether Northwestern’s defense was the best Nebraska has played against

“Wisconsin was good too. Similar-type deals. They had some front guys that we had a hard time with. Big #94 (Northwestern defensive linemen Dean Lowry) was a good player. Those linebackers were really active. That’s a good defense.”