Christopher Hanewinckel, USA Today Sports

Transcripts: Mike Riley Music City Bowl

Nebraska head coach Mike Riley talks about the Huskers loss to Tennessee.

COACH RILEY: Okay. You know, we're obviously very disappointed in losing the game. We congratulate Tennessee. They did what we couldn't allow them to do.

Kind of two major factors: We had a hard time blocking defensive front, and of course, No. 9 in particular, and then we gave up big plays. You know, I think that that was -- you know, when we crawled back in it and gave up that big pass, that's kind of indicative of what that game was like for us defensively. We just gave up too many big plays.

Q. What would you attribute the struggle today to?
COACH RILEY: Well, I think that the athleticism of the quarterback was a factor. I think that he, you know, he did a nice job of throwing a lot of balls right on time, but it looked like to me, too, that when it wasn't there, when it wasn't right on time, he moved around, bought time where he moved around and ran. Those plays were hard on us. You know, they had a big impact on that. I think he went for two touchdowns off of scramble plays.

You know, his athleticism gave them a lot of extra opportunities. But the other thing is, too, we gave up I think probably the biggest thing on defense besides that was probably giving up good -- the kind of leveraged coverage position you need to have on a receiver in certain coverages, you know.

And so there are some coverages where you will play a guy outside position, and you'll have help inside, or some coverages where you'll have -- where you won't have any inside help, so you need to stay inside. And if you're going to give up anything, it's going to be something short and out. We gave up big plays against, you know, in parts of the coverage where we shouldn't have been able to do that.

This guy played a heck of a game. He made all the plays he could have despite a bunch of pressure, and kind of crawled our team back into a chance to win it late.

Q. What positives did you take from this game to go back for the next season?
COACH RILEY: You know, this game was for us, part of our process now in going forward with of course the players that played the game will have gained great experience in playing against guys that are -- they have some good players on that team and good athletes.

So I think the experience of playing in this game for us will be good for our team. And it's kind of the end of one team and the beginning of another, as leadership emerges right after the results of this game are in and we get back to campus. It should be a great motivator for the guys that were playing in this game that are coming back for next year's team.

Q. Can you take more about Ryker's performance, what he was up against stepping in against a guy like Barnett?
COACH RILEY: I think that atmosphere-wise, it was great. We are really thankful for being in this Bowl game. It was a big-time deal. You don't see many games in a situation like this. It's not maybe a playoff game, sold-out Bowl game, lots of enthusiasm for the game. The group of people here are just awesome. The Music City Bowl people, Scott Ramsey and his crew, it was great for us to be a part of it.

But as far as offensive performance, the biggest factor going in was going to be could we block the Tennessee defensive front and could we block Barnett. You know, when we did get a little bit of time, we made plays. And that's why I said, he just about made all the plays that he could have made that had any semblance of just giving him enough time to do it.

We knew he was well prepared and that he's a big player and that given the chance, he would make plays.


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