Illini coach Lovie Smith postgame press conference following 31-16 loss at Nebraska

Illini head coach Lovie Smith discusses the team's 31-16 loss at Nebraska in his Postgame press conference

Opening statement

"We were pretty excited about going on the road and playing our first Big Ten road game. We knew this was a hostile environment to play in. I am proud of the way our team played today. We got better as a football team. It's about wins, 'W' or 'L,' at the end. We know we still have a loss, but we made improvements in a lot of different areas. We played some different guys. Coming off a bye week, you look at a few more different combinations, which we did. Offensively, we looked at different guys at the running back position and thought they did a good job and gave us something different, both Kendrick Foster and Reggie Corbin also. We hung in there throughout. We led most of the game, but it is about finishing strong, and we didn't do that. Defensively, we knew coming in that this was a productive offense with a great quarterback and again our guys fought throughout. Just not pleased in the way we finished the football game. We were plus-two in the turnover ratio. That's a good thing, but you have to be able to get them down and get our steal. But we were one score away from tying the game, so that is a bad taste in our mouth."

On decision to punt on fourth down late in the game

“There were three minutes left to go with three timeouts. You stop them, you get the ball back with over two minutes left to go. The clock starts and stops every first down, so there was no decision on that. Make that call every time. A part of that is getting them stopped hough.”

On if he was worried the defense was tired when he decided to punt

“I wouldn’t have done it if I worried about that. I thought that gave us the best chance to win under those circumstances.”

On two penalties on Nebraska's almost 11-minute, go-ahead drive

“They were critical, especially the first one. We were off, third and long on their part. Chunky’s playing hard. Horse collars happen. But it’s a penalty. Kept the drive going. We would’ve been off the field. The next one. Fourth down and you’re playing for the ball. Antoher critical penalty that kept drives going. And of course, the fourth down call, we thought that it was short. But they converted. That’s a long drive. That was a long drive.”

On how team will use experience of this game for future

“There are no moral victories. I understand that. But you as a player, you have to analyze what you’re doing. And what we talk about is improvement. Each play. Each game. I think a lot of guys in the locker room did make improvement. If we continue this pace, we’ll eventually be OK. I understand it’s four games into the season and that it’s the second quarter (of the season), and it’s tough to go on the road in a hostile environment and win a game, period. Those guys aren’t holding their heads down in that locker room. We see promise for our future.”

On if officials explained the spot in the fourth quarter that gave Nebraska a first down

"They always explain. 'This is where we think the ball is.' Again, the spots and calls don't affect the outcome of the game. We need to not let them get down there in that position. Going back to the long drive, we had plenty of opportunities to get off that football field. Somebody has got to step up and make that play."

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