BOULDER – University of Colorado head football coach Gary Barnett held his weekly media luncheon Monday at the Dal Ward Athletic Center, as Barnett and senior captain Sam Wilder addressed the media during the afternoon press conference. The following are excerpts from the gathering.
On the Nebraska Game: “It’s a big game. Shoot, everybody knows it. This is a huge opportunity for us. It’s one of those games that I think the only thing I have to do is tell our players what time the bus leaves. Not much more has to be said. We had a good (practice) week last week, and we gave our players three days off – Friday, Saturday, Sunday – and we’ll come back today and practice hard today and tomorrow. Then we’ll taper it off and get ready to go. We can only control how we play in the Nebraska game; that’s all that is really important to us. Anything else that happens is up to someone else, and we could certainly benefit from it. But, there is not a thing we can do about (the Iowa State-Missouri game).
“This team has seemed to have found the ability to separate things that are important from the things that aren’t important and focus on the important things. A perfect example of that was when we played last week against Kansa State. I know that several folks have made issues about us (not) having names on the backs of our jerseys. I was asked if we were going to put the names back on the jerseys, and I didn’t even really think about it, so I said, ‘Sure.’ We played the game and then I got home and my wife pointed out that, ‘You didn’t put the names back on the jerseys?’ And I said, ‘Sure we did.’ But she said, ‘No they weren’t on there,’ and sure enough they weren’t on there. So, I asked our players on Monday when we met if anybody had even realized we didn’t have our names on the backs of the jerseys, and no one even noticed. No one even knew. So, when your team is thinking that way, and when they aren’t concerned about little things like that, the only thing that is important is playing the game and getting ready to play the game. We have got a team that has been able to separate the things out that are important from the things that aren’t important. If there is a place that you want your team, especially this time of year, then that’s where you want it. We have emphasized playing better at the end of the season. We have a gold box drawn around the games in November, and our emphasis is to always play our best football at that time because they remember what you do in November. That’s when you win championships, so we’ve at least put ourselves in a position to maybe have that happen.
“Nebraska, for our team, is always a big game. It is a rivalry that Bill McCartney started. We haven’t done our part of keeping the rivalry up at Colorado. I think in 22 years we have only won five games, or something like that. I know that Bill picked a program he respected so much that he wanted to beat it, and that’s how the whole thing got started. And, it has stayed that way. We have a tremendous respect for Nebraska – always have. So much so that we have picked them out to go after.
“Their season has been one of those seasons where they’ve had a coaching change, had some back luck and some injuries. It is not unlike what happens in many, many places after going from a tenure of progression of coaches that often came from the same staff. To have a wholesale change in styles and coaches, you generally have this kind of season where things have to even out.”
On NU’s Offense and Defense: “We have to find a way to seal down Cory Ross, who’s a tremendous football player. On the other side, we’ve got to find a way to run the ball. Defensively, they are the second best run defense in the league. Everybody has thrown the ball really well on them. But, we can’t get one-dimensional; we’ve got to find a way to run the ball. We have to have a respectful run game in this game.
“Our special teams have been really good for us all year. On paper, this is an area where we do have an advantage, but we need to make sure that we play that way on Friday.
“They have narrowed some things down. Early on they were trying to do a lot of things (on offense), but they’ve narrowed it down a little bit. (Joe) Dailey has gotten more comfortable at the quarterback position. I think they have used Ross more and more. Losing their big tight end (Matt Herian), I know, hurt them. But, they still have got ample talent and guys that play well. It’s not going to change their scheme; they are still going to do what they’ve been doing. It’ll be a matchup of obviously our front seven guys trying to slow down Ross and their receivers on our DBs.
“(Their defense) has really good players. They have all their players back from last year. Their linebackers have seemed to have grown up; they are just really solid. They tackle well. They have the leading tackler in the conference (Barrett Ruud). Up front they are just really stout, they are really big and it’s a big team. Their linebackers run well.”
On the Pressure on Nebraska: “Of course (they have much to play for). They are playing at home and they have so many things riding on it. But, that’s a lot of pressure on them too. We’ll get their best shot, there is no question about it and they will get ours. It should make for a great contest. Both teams have a lot to play for. That is the way you want this game. It’s not two undefeated teams playing each other, but it’s still two teams who have a lot at stake. So, the game means something. Every year that we’ve played them since I’ve been back it seems like it’s been a war, and it’s gone down to the last play because both teams have so much to play for.”
On What Could Have Been This Year: “Having seven wins and going to a bowl game, you tend to think more about those than the ones you lost. Even though the game at (Texas) A&M will haunt us a little bit, we just can’t let it. It can’t be an issue. I am going to have a great deal of pride in his team (no matter what). I am very proud of the way this team has kept together and handled everything, and played hard.”
On the MU-ISU Matchup: “I’ve got to get those Tigers fired up. Truthfully, I had trouble sleeping Friday night waiting for those two games Saturday, so it’ll be an issue. I’ll be sitting by the TV Saturday just waiting for that game to roll around, as will our players. But, that doesn’t make any difference. All that’s really important is Friday.”
OT SAM WILDER
On the Nebraska Game: “It is an important game every year, no matter what the records are between the two teams. This is one of the few games on our schedule that we have red-lettered because it is such an important game. There is not a better way to finish the season than by beating Nebraska. This game is important every year that we play it. We make it important as players and the coaches make it important as coaches. It is important to all of us, and I’m sure it’s important to everybody in Nebraska.
“I’m sure we are going to get their best shot. We always do from those guys. It’s a rivalry game; and it’s important for them. They have been to a bowl game for 35 straight years, and I’m sure they are going to want to get to that bowl game. But, I’d like nothing more than to send them home.
“They are a pretty good defense. They are going to be well-coached, they play hard and they have a great linebacker (Ruud) who makes plays. He is a good player. They play a lot of man coverage, so that’s about all I know. If I remember correctly, they brought a lot more pressure last year than they have this year, so we’ll see how that goes this game.”
On the O-Line’s Progression: “I think last week against Kansas State was the best game we’ve all played together this year. We played really well together and did a lot of good things. I think we really kept it together. So, we definitely have to grow off of Kansas State’s performance from last week and continue to get better for Nebraska.”
On if NU Recognizes CU as a Rival: “We are still going to prepare the same regardless if they think it’s a rivalry or not.”
On Attaining Season Goals: “We can still make our goal that we set out for at the beginning of the year, which is getting to the Big 12 Championship. It is all right in front of us. We just have to get some help from Missouri. We’ll see what happens, though. But most importantly, we have to beat Nebraska first.
“Quite a few of us got together to watch that (Iowa State-Kansas State) game. It was a little frustrating. But, that’s the way it went. Regardless of what happened last week or what happens this week, we have got to beat Nebraska.
“It has been a rough year for this team and for this program. Things did not always go the way we wanted them to this year. But, this team has kept fighting. So, I guess there’s some comfort to know that we kept fighting. If we don’t get to the Big 12 Championship, I don’t think we’ll have met our goals that we decided to make at the beginning of the year. I think it would be a bit of a disappointment for me.”