LINCOLN, Neb. — There seems to be an unofficial motto circulating in the Nebraska football locker room.
“This team has been through too much.”
Senior Michael Rose-Ivey says it all the time, senior Trey Foster explained on Monday.
And Foster listed off reasons why.
There was the uncertainty of going from Bo Pelini, the ultimate players coach who recruiting most of the current Nebraska players, to trusting their new coach, Mike Riley. The 5-7 record last year. The rebuilding in the offseason. The death of punter Sam Foltz over the summer. And now the injuries that have plagued the Nebraska offense this year.
A close loss to Wisconsin? Just add it to the list.
“Getting tested throughout the year, even in the offseason, just shows how much this team has been through,” Foster said. “The successes that we’ve had so far have shown that, even though things are going to come at us, we’re still a team that will fight, still a team that will fight every single down of the quarter.”
That mentality is the reason why, after a heartbreaking 23-17 overtime loss to Wisconsin on the road last Saturday, Nebraska remained upbeat about the rest of the season.
The Huskers (7-1, 4-1) are 15-point underdogs Saturday at Ohio State and must win out to ensure a spot in the Big Ten title game in December. But senior wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp said there is no panic in the locker room.
“The mood is good,” Westerkamp said. “It was a tough loss. But we had it at some points where we thought we should have come out of that a game with a win. We’re excited for this week.”
The dreams Nebraska has of playing in Indy and the College Football Playoff haven’t been crushed with one loss, Foster said. That isn’t necessarily different from any other locker room of a 7-1 team at the top of its division. But this year, Westerkamp said, the mood is “definitely” different from past years after Nebraska losses.
Part of it is how close Nebraska was, and how well they played, considering the circumstances. The other, Foster said, is the leadership of Riley.
“Getting a new coach you sometimes don’t know if your new coach is gong to care for you the same way as your other coach did,” Foster said. “Having a coach like coach Riley, who makes sure that you know he cares for you and that he’s looking out for us past football, making sure that he wants us to all graduate and be successful, with or without football, I think that’s shown because you get the effort that you do out of the guys.”
Nebraska still controls its own destiny. But next is a game in The Horseshoe against the No. 6 team in the country, Ohio State.
“They’re kind of a different animal,” Westerkamp said. “They’ve been so good for so long. This is a huge game for us. We know how good they are, but they’re beatable.”
Westerkamp hates losing but appreciated the tiny moral victory Nebraska got last week in Madison.
This week? He doesn’t want a moral victory.
Nebraska’s been through too much for that.