The good news for Nebraska started a soon as they walked off the team buses and into the San Diego Sheraton Hotel and Marina lobby on Friday night.
Senior wide receiver Niles Paul, who missed the past 32 days after breaking a bone in his foot, said he expects to return to practice when the team begins its Holiday Bowl preparations at the University of California-San Diego on Sunday morning.
"I think I'm going to practice tomorrow," Paul said. "I've got to go through a test with the docs to see if I'm ready. We'll take it day-by-day, but I'm optimistic about it."
After suffering the injury during a non-contact drill on the Tuesday before the regular-season finale against Colorado, Paul missed Nebraska's win over the Buffaloes and then its loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship back on Dec. 4.
All together, the Omaha native hasn't been cleared to practice with the team for more than a month. While both he and the NU coaches were hopeful to get the Huskers' leading receiver back for the Holiday Bowl rematch with Washington, there was no official word on whether he would fully rehab in time.
So long as he can get cleared by team doctors tomorrow morning, Paul should be well on his way to being ready to play his last game as a Husker.
"I think he's looking good," head coach Bo Pelini said. "Niles is looking good. I think there's a good chance he's going to play in the game."
For Paul, just getting back out there with his teammates will make all the hard work during his recovery well worth it.
"It was very hard for me," Paul said of sitting out the past two games. "I was so mad and so frustrated because I couldn't be out there with my teammates in a lot of different ways. I'm just glad to have the opportunity to play again this week."
Huskers ready to get back to work
Even though Nebraska's players and coaches had to spend a chunk of their Christmas Day on an air plane, knowing they'll finally be getting back on the field for one last game week had the Huskers smiling nonetheless.
After taking off a full week to go home and spend some time with their families for the Holidays, the Huskers held their first game week practice in Lincoln on Saturday before boarding the flight to San Diego.
While the travel schedule wasn't the most ideal, the team seemed excited to get back to work and gear up to pick up NU's first 11-win season since 2001.
"It was Christmas and we wanted to be home, but everybody focused up and got it together, and we had a good practice," Paul said. "That's the goal. We plan on going to get a win."
Pelini said he was pleased with the way his team came back after the break, and that while some Husker fans might still be upset with Nebraska's post-season fate, his players are as excited as ever to play one more game.
"They came back good," Pelini said. "We had a really good practice today, and obviously just traveled on out. We're excited to be here. We're excited to back at the Holiday Bowl. It's a first-class bowl run by first-class people. We're excited. We're looking forward to the week."
***Holiday Bowl Associate Executive Director Mark Neville said the bowl has already sold more than 60,000 tickets for Thursday's game. In comparison to last year, Neville said Nebraska and Arizona combined to sell roughly 65,000 tickets.
***Asked about the mass amount of rain San Diego received last week and the flooding that went on at Qualcomm Stadium, Pelini said he wasn't worried at all about the quality of the field by the time game day rolls around.
"They deal with this kind of thing all the time," Pelini said. "I know one thing: they'll be ready to go come next week. It's not an issue for us."
***Pelini gave another injury update of sorts on redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez, who obviously was far from 100 percent during the Big 12 Championship earlier this month.
"He's fine," Pelini said simply.
***Overall, the flight into San Diego went about as smoothly as possible, Paul said.
"It was relaxing," Paul said. "We had a nice plane and we just sat down and relaxed."
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