ORLANDO, Fla. — The way Nebraska’s players prepare for their Capital One Bowl game against No. 6 Georgia will reveal the true character of the team, NU coach Bo Pelini said.
The 23rd-ranked Huskers lost 70-31 to Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, a stunning blowout that presumably could have lingering effects as the NU players soon return to the practice field to prepare for the Bulldogs.
But Pelini said at a press conference Thursday that his team is “absolutely” eager to play again. The fifth-year NU coach was in Orlando on Thursday, promoting the New Year’s Day matchup with Bulldog coach Mark Richt.
Bouncing back shouldn’t be an issue, Pelini said.
“Everybody who plays the sport of football or plays athletics goes through a tough time,” Pelini said. “The way you’re defined isn’t by what happened to you, it’s by how you react to it. Our guys are looking forward to the next opportunity to go out there and play.”
Richt’s team faces a similar challenge, having lost 32-28 to Alabama in the SEC title game. But a veteran team should respond accordingly, Richt said.
“We didn’t quite get to the mountaintop like we wanted to,” he said, “but these guys still have a lot of pride.”
Pelini and Richt agreed that neither squad will be distracted by Orlando’s attractions, while both were complimentary of the Capital One Bowl staff.
The coaches were each asked to comment on the opposing ground game, which will likely have a key influence on the final outcome in a few weeks.
Freshman running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall have combined to average more than 150 yards per game for Georgia, which ranks 42nd nationally in rushing (184.2). Pelini expects to see a physical approach, perhaps similar to styles the Huskers matched up against in the Big Ten.
The NU defense allowed 8.1 yards per carry in three losses this year.
“We’ll be ready for it,” Pelini said. “We won 10 games for a reason. It’s not easy to win 10.”
Georgia has an 11-2 overall record and a top-30 defense, but the Bulldogs have been vulnerable against the run lately. They’ve allowed more than 300 yards in each of their last three games.
That’s a concern heading into a bowl game against the nation’s eighth-best rush offense (254.5), Richt said.
“They’ve got some very dynamic players,” Richt said. “(Taylor) Martinez of course is a great quarterback, but they’ve got a couple I-backs that are outstanding as well.”