Coach Steve Roberts prepares ASU for Nebraska game

JONESBORO (9/9/09) - Arkansas State, which plays its first road game of the season Saturday at 1:10 p.m. against No. 18/22 Nebraska, held its weekly football press conference with head coach Steve Roberts on Wednesday at the ASU Football Facility.

Coach Roberts discussed last week's Mississippi Valley State game and the challenges this week's game at Nebraska will present.

ASU will play its ninth nationally-ranked opponent under head coach Steve Roberts on Saturday when it faces Nebraska in the first ever meeting between the two teams.  The game will mark the seventh consecutive year the Red Wolves have played a Big 12 opponent in one of their first two games to begin a season. ASU is coming off a 61-0 victory over Mississippi Valley State, while Nebraska defeated Florida Atlantic 49-3 in the first of its three games this season against Sun Belt Conference opponents.





Last week, we obviously took care of the biggest thing which was to get a win.  We felt confident going into that ball game that we would be able to do that and prepared well.  The thing I'm most proud of from last week was the preparation of our players.  We don't try to pull anything past our players, build anybody up or make anybody even more beatable than they are.  They watched a lot of film and saw a lot of tape to understand the task that was ahead of them last week.  We were much more concerned about ourselves and how we prepared than our opponent, and obviously that paid off.  We're really proud of the way they came out and prepared.  We took that preparation to the game field on Saturday.

We played 70 players, and in that game they saw some things on special teams that they haven't practiced before.  It was just a good opportunity to get players in the game.  I was real pleased with most of it.  We did not have a unit or a position group in any phase of the game that wasn't able to take something out of that ball game.  There were several things out of that game that we need to continue to work at and improve.  That was a good aspect of that game.  We were able to get the win and still see that we have to play much better throughout the year to continue to win.

I was very pleased with our crowd.  I thought our students were awesome and showed up in a big way.  It was a three-day weekend when they had Monday off, and most of the time you see students take advantage of that and leave town.  But, I was very proud that they showed up and that all of our fans came to watch this team.  It was a great atmosphere and a good win.


This week we obviously have a much bigger challenge ahead of us in the University of Nebraska, a team that is ranked as high at 18th in the polls.  They are a very, very good football team, good all-round team.  They're talented in every phase of the game and at every position.  They are the Nebraska that you expect when you say you're playing the University of Nebraska.  We have our work cut out for us going into one of the best venues in college football to play a game.  We're going to have to play exceptional in order to have an opportunity to win.


Several things that they present to us that are big time challenges-they are very multiple offensively and very balanced.  They show you a lot of formations, shifts, movement and motions that make you have to communicate, realign and get things sorted out.  We have to be very good at that or they'll make us look silly.  That'll be a point of emphasis all week-to take care of communication, and obviously that's tough in that type of environment where you can't hear and you can't communicate through your normal calls.  So, that is something we'll continue to work on this week.


They are very good at the tailback position.  Both of their tailbacks can really run the football.  Helu is a very powerful runner, has great speed, great moves and is a tough guy to tackle.  The backup that they brought in looked very good as well.  Zac Lee, their quarterback, operates their offense very proficiently; he's a first year starter, but you can tell he's very good at managing the game.  He has a very accurate arm and has all the throws, the touch throws, the arm strength, all of that.  He can beat you running the football as well, although they didn't ask him to do that much last week.  Up front they have a lot of players in the offensive line that have played a lot of snaps and are very physical up front.  They play together extremely well.  One of the other things that stands out on film is the strength and size of their wide receivers.  They're all 200 plus pounds, big guys that are very powerful and can obviously run very well.


From a defensive perspective for us, it's going to be a tremendous challenge.  We'll have to tackle better than we did last week, and we've got to communicate well, do our jobs and make sure we're running to the football.


From an offensive perspective, I think that when you look at the University of Nebraska this year, one thing that stands out in a hurry is how good they are on the defensive line.  One of their defensive tackles, Suh, is a preseason All-American, a guy who makes a lot of plays, and one of their leading tacklers last week which is difficult to do as a defensive lineman.  I know Coach Pelini got after the defense for not playing physical enough last week and not changing the line of scrimmage enough so we expect their best.  They have four defensive lineman who can really play the game, so that's going to be a challenge for us.  They're big, strong, fast and everybody on defense can run, so that will be a challenge.


In the kicking game, they are very, very good.  Their returns are very good, their coverage teams are very good, they can punt the ball very well and their kicker is one of the top kickers in the country.  We've got to find a way to do some things through special teams and in the kicking game to create field position to get momentum for our team, and that is going to be a challenge as well.


I'm looking forward to it, looking forward to getting up to Lincoln and our first road trip.  Obviously, it's going to be a big time test for our football team.

Their production is very balanced.  They are not the team that will just toss it to the I-back and let it go, like you and I grew up watching.  No, they're very, very balanced.  They throw the ball around, three-step drops, five-step drops, play-action and they obviously get the backs involved as well.  They didn't look soft to me. They played very hard and very physical.


He's (Helu) a complete back and a very tough guy to tackle.  He runs through a lot of tackles.  He has good speed, good vision, good moves and he's a complete back.  They're very good and very athletic.


At times, they (FAU) would have a big play throwing the ball then not be able to back it up and continue a drive.  They even busted a couple of runs for solid gains but were not able to back it up and continue the drive.  They did some things that kept Nebraska off balance, but Nebraska was able to bow their neck and get stops.  I thought he (Rusty Smith) played very well, still a very accurate thrower.


I think it's good for our program and good for our university.  Obviously, we'd like to limit them as much as possible and give our kids the best chance to compete and reach our goals of having a winning season and going to a bowl game.  Games like this make that aspect very challenging, but our kids are excited about it and are looking forward to it.


We don't spend any time talking about what we did last year.  We're all about this year, but players definitely draw from past experience, motivation and confidence, so past experience does play a role but not as big as people think.  I don't think we'll be overwhelmed at Nebraska.    Obviously, that was a huge win for our program.  There's no way to discount how big that was, to do something that only four other teams have been able to do in the last 54 tries or something like that, at Kyle Field which is another historic venue of college football against a top-tier team.  It was obviously a big win for our program.

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