Cornhuskers Looking to Put Distractions Behind Them in Holiday Bowl Match-up with Southern California
Unless a team is vying for a National Championship, motivation levels for players in college football bowl games can sometimes be a tricky thing, as teams find themselves far from home, playing a team they know little about, in a game that doesn't mean much.
Those factors are just the tip of the iceberg for the 2014 Nebraska Cornhuskers, who play Southern California in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego, Saturday night on ESPN 99.1.
In a little more than a month, the Huskers went from contenders for the Big Ten Western Division title, to losers of two of their last three games.
That set off a chain of events that included the firing of head coach Bo Pelini after seven seasons, the hiring of Mike Riley from Oregon State, and very public displays of anger and disappointment from players and Coach Pelini.
When the dust settled, Nebraska had a football game to get ready for, with tight ends coach Barney Cotton serving as interim coach for the USC match-up.
I asked the 'Voice of the Huskers', Greg Sharpe, about the mindset of this team heading to San Diego:
This will be the last hurrah for several Cornhusker seniors, including running back Ameer Abdullah, who will be the offensive key for Nebraska against the Trojans.
Abdullah was hurt down the stretch this season, as as his production dropped off, so did Nebraska's offensive efficiency.
I asked Greg about what to expect from Abdullah and the Husker offense Saturday night:
Defensively, this could be the final game in a Nebraska uniform for defensive lineman Randy Gregory, who is considering leaving after his junior season and entering the NFL Draft in the spring.
This will also be the first time in seven seasons the Huskers defense will not be led, at least partially by Pelini. Instead, all of the responsibilities now fall on defensive coordinator John Papuchis.
I asked Greg about the Cornhuskers defense:
The key to slowing down the Trojans is trying to limit the passing game, and the red hot arm of junior quarterback Cody Kessler.
USC was 15th in the nation this season in passing offense, averaging more than 300 yards a game thru the air.
Kessler was a big reason for that success, throwing 36 touchdowns and just four interceptions.
I asked Greg about the task ahead for the Husker defense:
As for Nebraska fans making the trek to San Diego for the game, Greg expects there to be a decent number in the stands:
Kickoff is 7:00pm CST Saturday night.
Catch the Holiday Bowl live on your home for Cornhusker football - ESPN 99.1 - with coverage starting at 6:30pm.