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October 18, 2008AMES, Iowa - Though Saturday's trip to Ames, Iowa, will be Nebraska's second road game of the season, it will also be a homecoming of sorts for offensive coordinator Barney Cotton.
Following his one-year stint as NU's offensive coordinator in 2003, Cotton assumed the same position at Iowa State the next year and stayed there from 2004-06. When former ISU head coach Dan McCarney was fired following the '06 season, Cotton decided to stay in town and serve as a volunteer coach at Ames High School, where his son and current Husker freshman tight end Ben Cotton played.
Before returning to Lincoln this past offseason to join NU head coach Bo Pelini's staff, Ames was home for Cotton. Now, for the first time in two years, he'll coach at Jack Trice Stadium once again.
"I had a good three years there (at Iowa State)," Cotton said. "Last year I had probably the best year I'd ever had coaching. I volunteered at Ames High School and got a chance to help coach my son, and (my) other two kids, I never missed a game. I kind of got a chance to rejuvenate myself and kind of realize what coaching's all about. That was home for four years."
This isn't the first time Cotton has had a coaching reunion this season. Cotton also served as offensive coordinator at New Mexico State from 1997-2002, and the Huskers knocked off the Aggies 38-7 on Sept. 13.
Saturday will be a bit different for Cotton, though. There will be Cyclone players he recruited on the opposing sideline, and the many of the people he worked with for three years will be there as well.
Still, Cotton insists that he won't get caught up in the emotion of returning to the place he once considered home.
"To be honest with you, I think too much is made out of going and playing a school you used to work at," he said. "Even when I was over there and I worked over here, we were working our butt off to try and win a football game. You don't really worry about who you're going to play a lot of the time, at least I don't. We want to go 1-0 this week, that's all I care about."
Cotton's players say their coach hasn't changed his style at all this week than he would preparing for any other team.
"He's been even-keel all year long," senior guard Matt Slauson said. "He's put no extra emphasis on this game. Every game seems like there's extra emphasis on it, because that's the way it needs to be."
Whether there will be any nostalgia on Cotton's part on Saturday will likely never be known, as he's not one to spend much time reminiscing. Some old memories might resurface before and after the game, but for Cotton, from the opening kickoff to the final whistle, it'll be business as usual.
"I'll know a lot of those guys, and after the game I'll probably stop by and shake a couple players' hands and stuff like that," Cotton said. "But before the game we're going to go out and try to do our best."