LINCOLN — If it comes down to a team's veterans to set the tone for bowl preparations, Nebraska has a senior class that wants to embrace that responsibility before the Huskers leave for Orlando.
Even when it's a challenge, like the one Nebraska faces coming off the 39-point loss in the Big Ten championship game.
“Basically the team goes how the seniors go,” defensive lineman Cameron Meredith said. “So it's essential for us to set an example and get that intensity at practice, get the emotion going and just make it a fun environment to be out there in. It falls on us to create that energy.”
Nebraska was at about the midway point Friday between the 70-31 loss to Wisconsin and the team's travel to the Capital One Bowl.
So far, so good, senior safety P.J. Smith said.
“We're excited to be back, to get back to work, and we've got to take care of business,” Smith said. “So we're flying around and having fun these couple days that we've practiced, and we'll get back to work on Monday and just get better.”
Several Huskers said Friday that they watched the film just once of the title game loss and moved on. For linebacker Will Compton and the other 28 seniors, that has meant no pouting despite the realization that they will finish their Nebraska careers without a league championship.
It wouldn't help to stay down for long, Compton said, with the Huskers trying to maximize the five practices they've had in the last two weeks.
“It's big that we have the right attitude and mindset coming in every day,” Compton said. “We can't hang our heads about what happened.”
The Capital One Bowl appearance against Georgia (11-2) offers its own list of incentives for the Huskers (10-3).
The chance to go against a high-powered Southeastern Conference team that was one play from making the national championship game. The opportunity to show a national television audience on New Year's Day that they're better than their last game.
And the chance to reach 11 wins, something Nebraska hasn't done since 2001.
“I want that more than anything,” Compton said. “Every year we've been here it's been a four-loss season, and you really can't get over that 10-win hump. Winning 10 games is hard to do no matter what, but it'd be incredible to go out 11-3.”
Smith, Compton and Meredith said NU has gone through some physical practices, with an emphasis on tackling. The No. 1 units have spent a lot of time going head-to-head rather than against scout teams.
Husker coach Bo Pelini said his team is in the right frame of mind at this point.
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“They're resilient,” he said. “They look forward to going out and playing again. They were hurting. But you know what? They're grown men. You move on. That's what you have to do. We'll be ready to go.”
Nebraska was in half pads Friday, but Smith said “it's still like full pads to us.” The only difference is that defenders aren't tackling all the way to the ground.
The focus on tackling comes after missed tackles were among the problems in the Big Ten championship game when Nebraska allowed 640 total yards to the five-loss Badgers.
“I think there's an emphasis out there to 'thud up' the tackle, get into form to make a tackle,” Meredith said. “These are our own players. We don't want to hurt Rex (Burkhead). We don't want to hurt Ameer (Abdullah). But I think we've brought it every day, going against our offense, especially.
“I think we've made it kind of a competition, which is fun. We always like going against the offense, and they like going against us.”
Barney Cotton, NU's associate head coach, has watched the Huskers get after it, running practices while Pelini and many assistants are on the road recruiting. The return to the practice field actually has been therapeutic.
“The best way to start the healing process,” Cotton said, “is to start hitting somebody again.”
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