December 13, 2010

Monday notebook: Preparing for a rematch

While Nebraska has done its best to stay positive about its second straight trip to the Holiday Bowl and rematch with Washington, Lavonte David admitted he and many of his teammates weren't exactly thrilled when their postseason destination was announced.

Many of his teammates were disappointed to learn they would be going San Diego for the second year in a row, while others like David, who wasn't on the team last season, were more upset about having to play a team it had already beaten in the regular season.

Though the bowl may not have been their first choice, David said the Huskers are going to make the most of their opportunity to end the season with one last victory.

"A lot of guys were disappointed we were going to the Holiday Bowl again, and the part where I was disappointed was we were playing Washington again," David said. "It's always difficult to play a good team like twice, so we just have to step our game up and just continue where we left off."

David said the worst part about playing a team twice in a season was having to prepare for new wrinkles the Huskies might throw into the game plan specifically to counter what they saw from NU back in September.

"It could be easier, but then again they might throw a couple tricks at you and stuff you didn't see (the first time)," he said. "We'll just try to go by what we've seen on film and go back to the things in the first game we messed up on, and if they do something new we'll adjust to it in the game."

Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini said he didn't address the team about staying focused and preparing as usual the next few weeks. When asked about keeping his team motivated, Pelini said the chance to get to 11 wins is all the motivation they need.

"There's no disappointment," Pelini said. "We are looking forward to playing a football game… It's our next game and an opportunity to win our 11th game and that's what we are looking forward to do."

Pelini said he's never had to face an opponent twice in the same season, but guessed that it would actually be easier for both coaching staffs to prepare the second time around.

"It actually makes it a little bit easier probably for both staffs," Pelini said. "You have a little big of familiarity. It's kind of like being in the NFL again."

While some players may have been disappointed with the way their bowl situation played out, some Huskers were able to keep a positive mindset.

"I could care less that we've played them already," junior wide receiver Brandon Kinnie said. "It's even better because I can evaluate the film from when we played them and the film down the line against other teams to see how they switched up what the did and stuff like that. It'll be a challenge."

- Robin Washut

Monday bowl practice takes
Big Ten Division names revealed: The Big Ten Conference officially revealed its new log on Monday, along with the names of their two six team divisions. Nebraska, along with Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, Michigan State and Northwestern will be a part of the Big Ten Legends Division, while Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State, Indiana, Purdue and Illinois will be a part of the Big Ten Leaders Division. It's definitely a different approach to division naming, but Commissioner Jim Delaney said on Monday that using geographic names didn't make sense with the division names, since they really aren't drawn up that way.

Rimington honored by Big Ten: Starting next season the Big Ten Conference will award the Rimington-Pace Trophy in honor of Nebraska offensive lineman Dave Rimington and Ohio State offensive lineman Orlando Pace to the league's top offensive lineman. The Big Ten released the names of 18 different trophies on Monday, and the Rimington-Pace Trophy was the only one that featured a Nebraska player or coach.

Injury update: Head coach Bo Pelini said that wide receiver Niles Paul is continuing to make progress with his foot injury and hopes to be back by the Holiday Bowl. Pelini also said that senior offensive lineman Mike Smith is still fighting his way back from his broken leg injury and hopes to be back to practice when the Huskers arrive in San Diego.

What's on tap next: The Nebraska football team conducted a two hour half-padded practice inside the Hawks Championship Indoor Facility on Monday. It was their third practice since last week's Big 12 Championship game loss to Oklahoma. They'll come back with two more practices on Wednesday and Friday of this week.

Papuchis: "Nothing to address" on his status

Along with Pelini and offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, co-defensive line coach and special-teams coordinator John Papuchis's name has been linked to a couple of new job openings.

After being listed as a potential candidate to assume the same position at Texas, rumors started swirling that Papuchis could join former Longhorn defensive coordinator and now new Florida head coach Will Muschamp with the Gators.

Though he already issued a statement denying the rumors he might leave NU, Papuchis reiterated Monday that nothing had changed regarding his status on the Huskers' coaching staff. He added that while people outside the program may be concerned about the many coaching rumors, nothing has changed for the coaches themselves.

"Around here it's been business as usual," Papuchis said. "I don't know how the outside world has felt about the last week, but we're worried about recruiting and preparing for a bowl game. It's been business as usual."

Papuchis said he was out recruiting on Monday and Tuesday, and said the questions about his status weren't much of an issue with the recruits he visited.

"Most recruits understand that surrounding your program there's going to be speculation and rumors that are always circulated," he said, "but if you have a good relationship with your recruits and you communicate well, you can reduce any concern on their part.

"I think they understood that what they were hearing was rumor and speculation, and that was that."

Papuchis added that, like Pelini, he hasn't had any formal discussions with his players about his status, saying simply they all trust him enough to keep them informed if he ever were to consider leaving.

"There's nothing to address, and I think they understood that," Papuchis said. "We're a tight group around here, and there was really nothing to address on that end."

- Robin Washut

Coaches confident in Moore

Nebraska's defense definitely took a hit when sophomore defensive tackle Bake Steinkuhler was suspended for the Holiday Bowl after being arrested on suspicion of DUI last week.

However, the coaches are confident the Huskers will be just fine thanks to junior Terrence Moore.

After playing in 12 of NU's 13 games and racking up 14 tackles, a sack and three tackles for loss this season, Moore will likely fill in for Steinkuhler as a player his coaches already consider to be as experienced as a starter.

"We try to create enough depth in our rotation that you feel comfortable plugging any of our guys in, and Terrence has played well," Papuchis said. "When you talk about d-line, you're talking about rotating guys a lot anyway, and Terrence has a lot of quality snaps. To me, I consider him a starter anyway."

Papuchis added that Moore's biggest gains this season have come in his overall consistency in practice and in games, saying the New Orleans native is finally growing into his potential.

The job hasn't been handed to Moore just yet, however. Papuchis said redshirt freshman Thaddeus Randle would be competing with Moore for the starting defensive tackle spot next to junior Jared Crick for the rest of bowl practice.

Losing a player as talented as Steinkuhler will always hurt, but Nebraska is confident that it has enough talent and depth to step in and pick up right where it left off.

"We'll miss him," Papuchis said of Steinkuhler. "I mean, when you take a guy out of the rotation you're going to miss him a little bit, but part of the way we've always practiced is our two's get the same reps that our one's get, so whether it's because of injury or other circumstance, you have another guy who can step up ready to roll."

- Robin Washut

Paul eying comeback

The plan still remains the same for senior wide receiver Niles Paul and that's to hopefully be back in action by the Holiday Bowl.

Paul broke a bone in his foot the week of the Colorado game and Pelini said he continues to be on track with his rehab.

Kinnie said on Monday that he's hoping he can have Paul back out there with him for the Holiday Bowl against Washington.

"I'm always cracking on him and playing with him with his boot on," Kinnie joked. "I always try to grab his arm and run with it. I'm ready for him to get back. That's a big loss when you lose somebody like that.

"It's kind of different because we are always joking and laughing and for me to look over there and he's not over there is kind of different. I'm ready for him to get back. Like I said every time he walks around with shoes on or when we are lifting, I tell him 'to go put your boot on man and relax.' I'm ready for him to get back though."

Most importantly Kinnie joked that Paul has to return to the Holiday Bowl to defend his MVP trophy from last year's game.

"He better come back or I'm going to try and take it," Kinnie said of Paul's trophy.

- Sean Callahan

Quick hits

***Pelini said NU practiced twice last week, but none of the workouts focused on Washington.

"We had some good, short practices at the end of last week to get back our timing and we are doing some bowl practices this week and we'll give them some time off and we'll get back together," Pelini said. "It will almost be the exact same schedule we had last year."

***Pelini said he's looking forward to the Holiday Bowl for the chance to have an 11-win season.

"It's our next game and an opportunity to win our 11th game and that's what we are looking forward to do," Pelini said.

***Since the Big 12 Championship game Nebraska's coaching staff has had the tough job of balancing their practice schedule with recruiting. Pelini said it's been a tough job to balance.

"It's a balancing act trying to get out and see some guys," Pelini said. "You can't see everybody in a week like this. We saw everybody last week, so we are just trying to balance it out. Our No. 1 priority now is getting ready for the bowl game."

***Green said that redshirt freshman Taylor Martinez has done a nice job of bouncing back in practice since the Big 12 Championship game.

"He's come back to being Taylor (Martinez) just going out there and making plays," Green said. "That game was a rough game, everybody has them. It's just tough that he had it on that day. Himself personally, he just put it behind him. It's required of him. He has to. Just like the rest of us he's got to move on from the past and learn from it and keep moving forward."

***It's been a few weeks since Nebraska walked off the field following its second straight Big 12 Championship loss, but that doesn't mean the pain has worn off completely just yet.

"I think it's still kind of dwelling around a little bit," Kinnie said. "We've been there two years and didn't get it done, so I mean it's still dwelling a little bit, but we've got to move on. Like I've said, we've got a bowl game to win."

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