Greetings. Unlike some of my counterparts, I arrived in the greater San Diego area a little later. Spent some much-needed time home with family and loved ones, and didn’t get on a flight until Sunday night (flew into Ontario, Calif. and drove down Monday).
I did race to La Jolla, and the campus of University of California at San Diego where I met an equally-disoriented Bob Condotta, of the Seattle Times, on where the morning Nebraska practice was.
We found it located near the UCSD basketball venue, came down to the sideline where 40-50 people were standing around, plus others in the stands watching the workout.
The Cornhuskers’ practice had a bit slower tempo, and was more workmanlike than what Washington usually runs with its hooting and hollering and what-not.
And, man – Nebraska still looks massively bigger and more mature than the Huskies (gulp!).
The real revelation came from talking to Nebraska receiver Niles Paul, who has been hobbled by a foot injury. When informed that some of the UW faithful hoped – no, prayed – the Cornhuskers would come into the Holiday Bowl on Thursday apathetic and not motivated, he had a quick response:
“That’s definitely not it, if you come out here and watch practice, you see a whole bunch of guys with a high-level intensity who can’t wait to play,” Paul said. “We had a disappointment in the Big 12 championship game (loss to Oklahoma), and this game we feel we’re going to redeem ourselves as a team.”
Then Paul said the team has found another source for motivation – the Huskies themselves.
“This (UW) team likes to talk, so I’m pretty sure they’ll motivate us out there on the field,” Paul said.
“They talked a lot of trash, a lot of trash – before the game, during the game, after we led. They were non-stop,” Paul said.
When pressed on specifics, Paul declined to answer, only saying it was “football talk.”
Later, when Cornhuskers defensive back Prince Amukamara was asked about the Huskies’ chatter, he said the UW offense said nothing the whole game.
Other relevant stuff from the Nebraska practice:
* From defensive coordinator Carl Pelini, on whether he is expecting the Huskies’ offense to be a tad different:
“They’re very creative offensively, and they use formations well. You can only prepare for what you’ve seen, and you take into account what they’ve done in the past. We’ve gone back a couple seasons, and looked at some different things we haven’t seen this year. You do the best you can, but you know in a bowl game with a month to prepare, you’re always going to have to make some sideline adjustments.”
* From offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, on how the UW defensive personnel has changed:
“They’ve changed themselves. They’re doing a lot of things better now than they did at the first of the year, which makes us account for their changes. They’ve gotten better.”
* From running back Roy Helu, Jr., on if he expects anything different from the Nebraska rushing production than the first time around against the UW:
“You always want to outdo your last perfroamce, and the goal would be just to run as hard as we can. Maybe running hard this game is less (yard) than, but you’re doing your job. Productivty will come from how hard we run.”
* From Amukamara, about how the defensive back’s physical play at the line of scrimmage on receivers sets a tone:
“It just seems second nature to us. We get hands (up there) until the ref says we’re doing something wrong. If the ref doesn’t warn us, then we just keep doing what we’re doing.”
* Quick-hit stuff: Quarterback Taylor Martinez (toe) and Paul (foot) have been given a clean bill of health for the bowl game. … Running back Rex Burkhead, who is expected to run the ‘Wildcat’ offense plenty for Nebraska on Thursday, said he did play quarterback as a sophomore at Plano High in Texas when the starter went down early in the season. Last week, UW defensive coordinator Nick Holt said he was impressed with Burkhead as a passer in that formation. Asked if it was just natural ability, he sheepishly answered, “I guess so.” …
Helu admitted he wasn’t a big fan of the San Diego Zoo. “I’d rather watch them on TV in their natural surrounding,” the running back said. … The Nebraska staff gave a 90-minute clinic to local high school coaches Monday. Up to 180 coaches registered to attend the session.