October 11, 2008

Huskers ready for next big challenge

In the Big 12 Conference, there certainly is no rest for the weary.

Nebraska is finding that out first hand, and the Huskers will try to end a two-game losing streak today against No. 7 Texas Tech. A week after suffering their worst home loss in 53 years in a 52-17 drubbing at the hands of then-No. 4 Missouri, the Huskers are looking to reverse their fortunes under less-than-idea circumstances.

The last time Nebraska traveled to Lubbock, Texas, it limped away with a 70-10 loss, the worst defeat in school history.

"No matter what, I think we just need to keep improving and getting better," NU head coach Bo Pelini said. "Like I said, I didn't have them well-enough prepared last week and I take that upon myself. Sometimes you try too hard as a coach, and we weren't able to execute what we wanted to do last week. That equates to a bad plan.

"I like what we're doing this week. I think our guys will step up and play well."

The Huskers were left trying to pick up the pieces after last week's loss to the Tigers. Not only did Missouri score on eight of its 10 possessions in the game, it also never even punted in the game.

If Nebraska thought the Tigers' offense was tough, they might not have seen anything yet.

Led by record-setting quarterback Graham Harrell and wide receiver Michael Crabtree, the Red Raiders (5-0 overall, 1-0 Big 12) boast the nation's second-ranked offense.

If the Huskers want to have any chance at slowing down Tech's offense and preventing their first 0-2 start in conference play since 1968, their defense will have to pick things up quite a few notches in today's showdown.

"You want to play against good competition," Pelini said. "Texas Tech is obviously good competition. That's who you've got to measure yourself against defensively, the best out there. I don't know what they're ranked right now - the top 10. It's going to be a heck of a test for our football team."

Offensively, Nebraska will be looking to get back on track after two straight less-than-impressive performances. The biggest disappointment in NU's back-to-back losses has been the ineffectiveness of the running game, which has failed to eclipse 100 team rushing yards in three of its five games this season.

Senior quarterback Joe Ganz said the biggest key for the Huskers to dig out of their current hole is to not dwell on the past and instead focus solely on pulling off the upset today.

"Putting the game behind us, forgetting about it as quick as you can and moving on because we have another tough opponent on the road," Ganz said. "Our first road game is going to be another big test for us. Hopefully the guys have put it behind them already. I know I have. The quicker we can do it the better."

Another opportunity for the Huskers in today's game is a chance to knock off a ranked opponent for the first time since beating No. 24 Texas A&M in 2006. For the players - especially the seniors - NU's inability to pull off wins over highly-ranked teams in recent years has been quite the point of frustration.

"I'm definitely frustrated," senior wide receiver Todd Peterson said. "We've had numerous opportunities to beat top-tier teams. We've come close a couple times, and it's been frustrating. You can't head into it with a big-game mentality. It's just another football game. You don't have do anything extraordinary. Every guy has to do his job. You'll come out all right if you do it that way."

If nothing else, the Huskers simply want to show that they're a far better team than the one that let Missouri come into Memorial Stadium and hang a 35-point win on their heads.

"We're competitors," Peterson said. "Everyone in that locker room has played sports all their lives. When you get hit in the mouth like we did, it is embarrassing. No one wants to lose 52-17 like we did on our home field. We have a group of guys that feel that way. On Sunday, you heard guys whispering, 'That was embarrassing. I never want to feel this way again.' It's good to hear that, because when guys are taking it to heart, they're going to do something about it."

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