• Video Below: See NU football coach Bo Pelini and select players at the weekly Husker press conference.
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LINCOLN — Nebraska may have fallen short of its goal to reach the Big Ten title game, but that doesn't mean it's lost a desire for competition.
Not even close. In fact, coach Bo Pelini seemed offended at the notion Monday.
He said his Huskers (8-3, 4-3 Big Ten) are plenty motivated to face Iowa on Friday — in what will be the first time since 2008 that NU is playing a regular-season game without being in contention for a conference championship.
"When you're an athlete and you compete — you compete," Pelini said. "It's not always about trophies. When you go to compete, you go to compete. Trust me, both teams will be out there ready to play."
At some point in the future, a post-Thanksgiving matchup between Iowa and Nebraska will serve as a play-in game for the Big Ten championship.
Not this year, though. Both the Huskers and Hawkeyes (7-4, 4-3) have lost two of their past three games. Michigan State has capitalized, earning the Legends Division's spot in the conference title game with a win last weekend.
That's tough to swallow inside the NU locker room. Nebraska won Big 12 North Division titles in 2009 and 2010. In 2008, Pelini's first year, low expectations accompanied a season-long quest to rebuild, but the Huskers still earned a share of the division crown.
On Sunday, the NU players gathered at the football complex for their shakeout run. Not much was said. Pelini addressed the team. It was quiet after that.
"It's a mix of emotions. Disappointment. Mad," Pelini said. "There's a lot of emotions that go into it when you put a lot into something and it doesn't come out the way you want it to come out."
But quarterback Taylor Martinez said the Huskers bounced back well after the blowout loss at Wisconsin in October. Nebraska did the same after a disappointing defeat against Northwestern three weeks ago.
Just like those scenarios earlier in the season, Nebraska can't afford to get stuck in a state of depression this week.
"We don't have time to sulk," senior safety Austin Cassidy said. "It's time to move on. We've got a big game this weekend."
It's the first installment of what's expected to become a heated rivalry. It's the final home game for Cassidy and 20 other Nebraska seniors. It will help determine what bowl game takes the Huskers — Capital One? Outback? Insight? Gator?
Plus, Friday is about pride.
Cassidy spoke Monday about the reasons he originally decided to come to Nebraska. The prospects of winning on the big stage were intriguing, but the opportunity to mature and grow as an individual was the biggest selling point.
Freshman Ameer Abdullah had a similar thought. Championships aren't always a player's primary source of motivation on a day-to-day basis.
So on Friday, the NU players plan to be just as emotionally juiced as they always are.
"Just going out and packing it up? That's not the winning spirit," he said. "That's not how Nebraska carries itself. We're winners here."
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Video: NU coach Bo Pelini at the Monday press conference:
Video: NU's Taylor Martinez at the Monday press conference:
Video: NU's Austin Cassidy at the Monday press conference: