LINCOLN — The way Nebraska receiver Quincy Enunwa sees it, playing Georgia in a bowl game for a second straight year might have been a challenge if the Huskers had won the 2013 Capital One Bowl.
“But we lost,” Enunwa said. “So it's great to play them again. I like the opportunity. The guys on the team like the opportunity. We're ready to go play them. They were a good team, physical, and we're ready to go play them again.”
Other Nebraska players said they took the pairing for the 2014 Gator Bowl in stride, finding optimism where they could.
“The bowl committee picks who they pick and you have to live with it,” tackle Brent Qvale said. “I have no control over it. No player has any control over it. It's all what they feel is best. The committee people wanted this matchup, so that's what we have to deal with.”
Said tackle Jeremiah Sirles: “The initial reaction was like it's been the last few years — back to the same type of the thing. But at the same time, we had a good chance of beating these guys last year and we kind of let it slip through our fingers. So it's almost a chance to get back and get a little redemption.
“Coach Bo said it's good to play the same team twice. We have some game tape on them. We have a pretty good idea of how they're going to try to defend us and we're going to try and defend them.”
Enunwa said he watched Georgia a few times this year — but only its offense. He didn't plan to play the Bulldogs again, so he'll have to study up on their defense, which had ups and downs throughout its SEC schedule. He'll also take a look at last year's Capital One Bowl, which Georgia won 45-31. The Bulldogs scored the last 22 points after the Huskers had taken a 31-23 third-quarter lead. A key fumble by Ameer Abdullah turned the tide against NU, which was driving for another touchdown. Similarly, turnovers stymied Nebraska's hopes of winning its regular-season finale vs. Iowa.
Sirles said he'd like to give his senior season a different, happier ending.
“I don't want to go out as a loser,” he said. “I want to go out winning our last big game against Georgia, down in Florida, on Jan. 1 and leave that mark.”
Remembering full well what Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray did to them a year ago, Nebraska defenders still would have preferred seeing the senior one more time in the Gator Bowl.
Murray was the MVP of the Capital One Bowl a season ago when he passed for 427 yards and five touchdowns against the Huskers. Murray's last three TDs came as the Bulldogs scored the last 22 points.
But junior Hutson Mason is finishing the season for Georgia after it lost Murray to a torn ACL on Nov. 23.
“Personally I would like to play against him,” NU cornerback Josh Mitchell said. “He was a great quarterback, and obviously you always want to play against great players. But they have another good quarterback, so you just take advantage of every opportunity you get.”
Both Mitchell and cornerback Ciante Evans said they were impressed by Murray's accuracy and arm strength a year ago, when he completed 18 of 33 passes but also was intercepted twice.
“Last year he had a good game against us, but we knew we could have got at him,” NU defensive end Jason Ankrah said. “It's unfortunate that he got hurt, not just for the fact that we wanted to play him but that it was a season-ending injury for him. But it's just off to the next person who's up in line, and we'll approach it the same kind of way.”
A.D. statement a relief
NU players were available to the news media Wednesday for the first time since Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst issued a statement Nov. 30 supporting coach Bo Pelini.
Sirles said he was glad to see an end to the speculation.
“I came out and I wore my heart on my sleeve and I told everyone how I felt about it (after the Iowa game),” Sirles said. “Then the administration came out and said the same thing. It was nice to have answers. It was nice to have a base and a foundation moving into this bowl game, that people won't have to worry about anything.”
Sirles and other seniors have not won a bowl game during their Husker careers. Nebraska hasn't won a postseason game since the 2009 Holiday Bowl.
“It would mean a lot, and not just because it's a bowl game but we want to get to nine wins,” Ankrah said. “I haven't had no less than nine wins since I've been here, and we want to end on the right note.”
Abdullah seeks pro evaluation
Abdullah doesn't want to think about the NFL draft right now. But every now and then, his mind starts to wonder.
“Of course, you think about it,” he said.
Just not for very long.
Abdullah confirmed that he'll get an assessment from the NFL draft advisory board, a compilation of scouts who evaluate an underclassman's potential draft stock.
But that's “normal protocol for anybody,” he said.
At this point, Abdullah said, it's about getting healthy, studying for finals and starting the Huskers' early preparations for the bowl game against Georgia.
“For me right now, I'm just focused on the bowl game,” Abdullah said. “I'm not focused on the NFL or anything else.”
Enunwa shrugs off slight
Only one Big Ten player, Shane Wynn of Indiana, had more receiving touchdowns than Enunwa this year, but the NU senior was not recognized when the league released its all-conference teams last week.
Not even an honorable mention for Enunwa, who had a team-high 10 touchdown catches.
But Enunwa said he's not “too upset” about it. He knows he could have done more to help Nebraska down the stretch.
“If I go off my performance on the field,” he said, “I haven't played as well as I should have.”
He'll try to prove the coaches and media members wrong when he takes the field for the final time against Georgia.
“If that's what their opinion was, then I can't change it,” he said. “I've just got to play hard my last game.”
Sights on Sawgrass
Qvale will take his golf clubs down to Jacksonville. Just in case.
He's heard that Nebraska's Gator Bowl team hotel sits next to the TPC Sawgrass golf course (featuring the infamous island green on hole 17).
“I hope I can get a round in early in the week,” said Qvale, the fifth-year offensive tackle. “We'll see what happens.”
Don't let Qvale's 6-foot-7, 315-pound frame fool you. He's always been a big golf fan.
Qvale just got new clubs last summer. He said he shoots in the mid-80s (usually). He, junior center Mark Pelini and junior wide receiver Tyler Evans played regularly before the season.
“It'd be once in a lifetime to play a course like that,” Qvale said.
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>> Video: See Quincy Enunwa speak before practice:
>> Video: See Ameer Abdullah speak before practice:
>> Video: See Jeremiah Sirles speak before practice: