Injury-plagued Nebraska waits for bowl assignment
Nebraska’s priority is to heal up during the weeklong wait to
find out its bowl destination.
The 22nd-ranked Cornhuskers’ first run through the Big Ten took
a physical toll. Five starters were injured or re-injured during
the regular season-ending 20-7 victory over Iowa on Friday.
”I appreciate the effort those guys gave out there,” coach Bo
Pelini said. ”I think our resolve was something special. I loved
the approach our football team has. They had a never-say-die
The Huskers (9-3, 5-3 Big Ten) will find out Dec. 4 where
they’ll go for a bowl. They’re hoping for the Capital One in
Orlando, Fla., on Jan. 2 if a second Big Ten team receives a bid to
a BCS game. Otherwise, they could be looking at the Outback in
Tampa, Fla., on the same day.
Nebraska had been a popular pick to win the Legends Division but
was knocked out of contention for a spot in the first Big Ten
championship game when it lost at Michigan a week ago.
Offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles said he and his teammates are
disappointed they won’t be playing for a title, as they did the
last two years in the Big 12, but they are excited about the
prospect of winning 10 games for a third straight season.
”It’s the ultimate goal right now,” Sirles said. ”If we’re
not competing for the championship, we want to go out and have as
many wins as possible. We have a chance at 30 wins in three
seasons, and that’s pretty special.”
Nebraska’s athletic training staff will be working overtime to
get players back on the practice field after the rugged game
Quarterback Taylor Martinez dinged his left ankle and was
limited to handing off and passing after the first quarter.
”He’s going to be hurting for a few days,” Pelini said. ”We
basically couldn’t run him in the second half. He sucked it
Defensive linemen Terrence Moore and Baker Steinkuhler were
banged up on the first play from scrimmage; Moore returned,
Steinkuhler lasted two more plays.
Another defensive lineman, Chase Rome, has been playing hurt for
weeks and Eric Martin missed the game with an injured right foot.
Reserve defensive ends moved to the interior to shore up
Offensive tackles Marcel Jones and Jermarcus Hardrick had to be
helped off the field with undisclosed injuries, requiring Sirles
and Tyler Moore to shuffle in and out.
Rex Burkhead might have appeared fine running a school-record 38
times for 160 yards. But his right foot was in a walking boot four
days earlier, and he twisted his left ankle during the game.
Offensive line coach Barney Cotton played both sides of the line
for Nebraska in the late 1970s when the Huskers were known as one
of the most bruising teams in the land.
Cotton isn’t happy about all the injuries, but said the Huskers
are comfortable in the Big Ten environment.
”We’re in a great conference for us,” he said. ”We like to
think of ourselves as a physical team, and every year the Big Ten
is going to be as physical as any in the country. The league is
everything we thought it would be as far as how physical it
Hardrick said there was a huge difference between playing in the
Big Ten this year and the spread offenses of the Big 12 a year
”Every defense in the Big Ten was big and physical, not a lot
of finesse,” Hardrick said. ”In the Big Ten, you really get to
know your opponent because you’re going to hit him about 80 times a
Nebraska’s offense meted out its own punishment, with Burkhead
hammering away at the Hawkeyes’ front seven all afternoon.
Running backs coach Ron Brown said Burkhead grudgingly sat out
of two practices last week because of his sore right foot.
”His worst nightmare, because he loves to play,” Brown said.
”Considering he didn’t practice a whole lot this week, he played
Burkhead’s longest run went for 14 yards, and he averaged 4.2 a
carry. He didn’t lose yardage until his record-setting 38th, and
final, carry, when he took a knee in victory formation.
After that, he made his way off the field with a slight
”We knew it was going to be a physical blood bath,” Brown
said. ”We tried to get the guys through it and they played with