Published Sunday, December 30, 2012 at 9:59 pm / Updated at 10:18 pm
FIRST DOWNS AND SECOND GUESSES
Shatel: ‘Nebraska Way’ back thanks to senior class

Orlando, Fla. — First downs and second guesses from the Capital One Bowl. Or, what’s in your bowl game?

>> They wanted to win a championship. They didn’t. Instead, Nebraska’s seniors poured a foundation for the future.

There’s something to take from that. A lot, actually.

Are some forgettable performances in big games on their tab? You bet.

But when they signed on to play at Nebraska back in 2008, the program was looking to re-instill the “Nebraska Way” into the culture. Look beyond the disappointments at what they did.

Commitment? Some of these seniors signed on to play for Bill Callahan. They didn’t know Bo Pelini from Bo Diddley. The ones who stayed took a leap of faith but also kept that commitment.

Toughness? Many of the seniors, from Rex Burkhead to Sean Fisher to Baker Steinkuhler, dragged themselves onto the field with injuries time and again.

Class? Despite bearing the brunt of ridicule in the mainstream and social media after the lopsided losses, the young men showed up and took their medicine, never made excuses, never backed down from the spotlight.

Honor? Cam Meredith is my favorite here. Because of injuries at tackle, the 6-foot-4, 260-pound defensive end moved inside, out of position, where he’s had to take on 300-pound maulers all game. He’s been knocked around and bloodied, but he’s kept coming back for more, without one complaint.

Scoff if you will. But these are the things that I’ve always heard were the backbone of Husker football, the Nebraska Way. They brought that back.

But, as senior Ben Cotton said, they aren’t done yet.

“I think we did a good job of setting the culture in the right direction,” Cotton said. “It’s the way it’s supposed to be around here: How you handle yourself on the field; when it’s time to work you go to work; how you handle yourself in the classroom. But I will add, we seniors don’t think we’ve left a good enough mark yet.”

They want 11 wins. They deserve to get that.

>> Shawn Eichorst takes over as Nebraska athletic director Wednesday, but he’s not in Orlando. Tom Osborne said he invited Eichorst to be his guest at the game, but Eichorst declined, saying he wanted to spend some family time at home before he takes over. I don’t have a problem with that. If Eichorst were here, he would be besieged by Nebraska media. He’s left the spotlight for Osborne, and that’s admirable. See you Wednesday, Shawn.

>> More money doesn’t make coaches smarter. It makes them richer. That said, offensive coordinator Tim Beck’s raise was a good idea and well deserved. Beck was pursued by two suitors, and he’s done enough to warrant keeping him. I’d still like to see a bigger, more dominant offensive line with an ability to pound out some wins on the ground. The Big Ten championship would have been a good spot for a dominant run game. But there’s a lot to like about Beck’s offense, and the architect is just getting started.

>> I’ve been here since Thursday and have seen hardly any Nebraska fans. I finally heard a “Gooo, Bigggg, Redddd” chant in a local hangout last night. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t coming. If Husker fans don’t flock here, I understand. It’s not necessarily the back-to-back trips to Orlando; Husker fans used to have no problem going to Florida every January. But back then, they had an expectation they would win, play well or be in the game. That expectation isn’t there now. I also think having to fly around the Big Ten takes a bite out of the wallet. Big Red fans used to drive around the Big Eight or Big 12 and fly once. Also, conference championship games can be buzz-kills for the losing school. We’ll see who shows up Tuesday. But if they aren’t there, I think it’s because they’ve lost some faith.

>> I received a nice email from Taylor Martinez’s father, Casey, in response to my Saturday column on the quarterback. I felt like I should share some of it. Casey said his son is getting more comfortable with his role in the Nebraska fishbowl and wants to fulfill the duties of that role. He said Taylor is fiercely loyal and proud of Nebraska (and the Big Ten) and brags about the Huskers to his friends. His comments the other day about Big Ten defenses were his way of bragging about the Big Ten.

>> Are you pulling for the Big Ten in bowl games? Most Husker fans I know are consumed with the state and fate of their favorite team, not the league. But they don’t want to be part of an embarrassment, either. Whether they admit it, I bet Nebraskans are pulling for the Big Ten to show well. So far, so good for the Big Ten in bowls. Minnesota’s effort was like a win. Jan. 1 will tell the tale for the league. If the Big Ten can win the Rose Bowl and beat an SEC team or two, that would be a good day.

>> Never let it be said that Bo Pelini is an impatient man. The coach said he stood in line for an hour with his 9-year-old daughter, Caralyn, to meet Ariel at the Magic Kingdom on Thursday.

Pelini said a Disney World worker finally came out and said, “If you are waiting for a ride, you’re in the wrong line. The ride is over there.”

“Over half of the line got out and left,” Pelini said. “They were in the wrong line the whole time. So we got up there pretty quick.”

Pelini said his favorite ride was the “Hulk” at Universal Studios. How fitting.

“I thought the Hulk was pretty cool,” Pelini said. “The Harry Potter ride is pretty cool. The simulation. You’re on a broom. It’s kind of like Soarin’ (at Epcot).

“I rode every ride. I’m getting a little too old for those rides. One of the players talked me into going on the one that shoots you up in the air. I don’t like that.”

>> I saw a perfect shirt for Pelini to wear to his weekly press conferences next year. It has a picture of Grumpy on it and says, “I’m Grumpy because you’re Dopey.”

>> A final note: My guest at the Omaha Press Club next Tuesday (noon, Jan. 8) will be World-Herald veteran scribe Lee Barfknecht. We’ll talk bowl games, Nebraska and Big Ten football and hoops.

Contact the writer:

402-444-1025, tom.shatel@owh.com, twitter.com/tomshatelOWH

Contact the writer: Tom Shatel

tom.shatel@owh.com    |   402-444-1025    |  

Tom Shatel is a sports columnist who covers the city, regional and state scene.

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