Pelini says Huskers will be ready come Jan. 1
The last time the Huskers took the field, they were trounced by Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game. The Badgers bloodied Nebraska and left the team wondering what hit them.
The Huskers have about three weeks to recover before taking on what appears to be an even bigger challenge - facing Georgia, which was one play away from earning a spot in the national title game, in the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day.
Both Bo Pelini and Georgia's Mark Richt met with the local media in Orlando Thursday to talk about the upcoming match-up. Not surprisingly, Pelini faced questions about how his squad would respond from the beatdown in Indianapolis.
"It's not the first time we've gotten hit in the mouth," Pelini said. "Everybody who plays the sport of football, or plays athletics, goes through a tough time. The way you're defined isn't by what happens to you, but the way you react to it. Our guys are looking forward to the next opportunity to go out there and play. The opportunity to play against Georgia is great."
The Huskers struggled mightily on the ground against Wisconsin, giving up a school-record 539 yards and eight touchdowns. The road doesn't get any easy with the Bulldogs, who were fourth in the SEC with an average of 184.2 yards per game and had the conference's leading rusher in Todd Gurley.
"They're not the first team we've played and they're not going to be the last that has a good running football team," Pelini said. "We've played enough of them this year, physical running backs, physical groups up front. We'll be ready for it. We won 10 games for a reason. It's not easy winning ten. We've got a tremendous challenge ahead of us to try to get 11."
There are questions about just how motivated Georgia is to be playing in this game. The then-No. 3 Bulldogs lost 32-28 to Alabama in the SEC title game last weekend. The Georgia offense moved the ball to Alabama's five-yard line but saw the clock expire and its national championship hopes crumble.
But Richt believes his team won't stew over what could have been and thinks they will be fully prepared and motivated to face the Huskers.
"I don't look at the bowl as a plan B, but plan A was to win (the SEC Championship) and play in the national championship," Richt said. "We have a lot of veterans on this team that came back for a special year, and to some degree it is a special year. We didn't quite get to the mountain top like we wanted to, but these guys still have a lot of pride and they want to go out here and leave our program on a high note and in a first-class manner."
Nebraska comes in a bit disappointed as well. The Huskers hoped to be playing in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day, but Wisconsin spoiled those plans. So NU was sent to the Capital One Bowl, the same bowl game as last year, when it lost 30-13 to South Carolina.
The last time the Huskers played in the same bowl two years in a row was in 2010 and 2011 when they played in the Holiday Bowl. The first time around, Nebraska thrashed Arizona 33-0.
But in 2011, a sluggish NU team lost to Washington, a team it had already plowed over earlier in the season.
Pelini said he isn't worried about a letdown this time around. He believes there is plenty of motivation to be gleaned from the Big Ten championship performance and the team will be ready to go.
"I know I can speak for everyone and say that we're excited to be coming back to Orlando," Pelini said. "We're coming to a first-class bowl game, great hospitality, great city of Orlando, and the opportunity to play a tremendous football team, one of the top five, top couple football teams in the United States, so we're looking forward to the challenge, a great football game, and a great trip for our team and our fans."