JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory wasn't surprised to find himself lying on the field, with several Georgia guys piled on top of him just before halftime at the Gator Bowl.
He'd been chirping with the Bulldogs all game, hoping that generating some frustration would shift their focus away from the game plan.
But the whistles blew and Gregory was still trapped. He said he felt a jab from somewhere.
And suddenly his teammates were sprinting over to the scrum, transforming the whole thing into a shoving and shouting match that started on one hash mark and migrated to the opposite side of the field. By the end, junior cornerback Josh Mitchell was getting held back as he shouted toward Georgia running back Todd Gurley, one of the Bulldogs initially tangled up with Gregory.
“I knew I kind of wanted to get in their heads. I think I kind of do that every game,” Gregory said. “I didn't think it was going to escalate that much.”
But no flags were thrown. And there were other minor skirmishes before and after.
“I think it kind of helped us out,” Gregory said. “We were talking about it at halftime. It kind of brought our anger up, and I think set the tone for the second half.”
NU's intensity and passion seemed to feed into their commitment to physicality, which is what coaches and team leaders had preached about all week.
The only way to slow the Bulldogs' offense was to win the battle in the trenches and dictate the tempo. The Huskers couldn't back down.
“We said, going into bowl prep, that we were just going to play our hardest, play our heart out for the seniors and for our coach and for our team,” redshirt freshman defensive tackle Vincent Valentine said. “We were just going to lay it all out on the line.”
Nebraska was doing its share of yapping right back at Georgia all game, too. More so than in a Big Ten game, according to Gregory.
“I couldn't really go into details, but I like that type of game,” Gregory said. “I like being able to trash talk and things like that.”
Said linebacker Michael Rose: “It was fun being in that atmosphere — kind of with the tensions rising between the two teams. But I think both teams just wanted to win.”
Win, yes. But also stick up for one another. That was Mitchell's mission, especially when he looked over and saw Gregory surrounded.
“We're a family, and when you see one of your brothers down, you're going to mob on them,” Mitchell said. “When I looked up, I saw about four people over there by Randy, so I threw my little self in there just to get a body in there until the rest of the cavalry came.”
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Video: NU coach Bo Pelini and others at the postgame press conference:
Video: Gator Bowl highlights:
Video: Sam McKewon's postgame analysis: