ORLANDO, Fla. — The most-photographed and sought-after celebrity in Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium was Uga IX, the Georgia Bulldogs mascot, at Tuesday's Capital One Bowl.
Weather-wise, it was a tough day for Uga IX — who also is known by the name Russ — with temperatures in the mid- to upper-70s. But Uga IX travels with his own box fan, and his handler gives him plenty of bottled water poured slowly so Uga can lap it up before it hits the ground.
Before he arrived, bowl officials on the field got on their walkie-talkies to make sure it was OK “for a bulldog to be on the field.” Of course, permission was granted.
Sideline reporter has busy season
It's been a whirlwind five months for ESPN's Samantha Ponder.
The 27-year-old member of the network's “College GameDay” crew and sideline reporter for many college football games — including the Capital One Bowl — started the season as Samantha Steele. But last month she married Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder.
On Sunday, the Vikings defeated Green Bay to earn a wild card playoff rematch with the Packers. Before she came to Orlando to work the Nebraska-Georgia game, Ponder said she was set to attend that game in Minneapolis.
“Originally I was going to go to that game because it was going to be at noon, but it got flexed to 3:30,” Ponder said. “I was on a plane, but fortunately it was JetBlue so I was able to watch the whole game.”
Ponder said these past few months have been hectic yet fun.
“An old boss sent me a message saying I must have set a record for most life changes in a five-month period,” Ponder said. “It really has been fun.”
Two things stood out to Ponder about the Capital One Bowl and all of the activity ahead of the game.
“I was talking to Tom Osborne last night, and that's when I realized what a great game this was going to be,” Ponder said. “There's so much tradition with both teams, and the fan bases for both teams are incredible. There has been red everywhere I've gone.”
Former Huskers Suh, Glenn at game
Nebraska fans saw a couple of familiar faces on Tuesday.
Cody Glenn and Ndamukong Suh were on hand to lend their support to the Nebraska cause.
Suh, who finished his third season as a member of the Detroit Lions on Sunday, politely declined an interview request.
When asked if he was excited to be in Orlando and lend his support, he said, “Yes, but no interviews.” He shook hands and returned to the bench area.
Nebraska fans make presence felt
Husker fans were able to match the intensity of a larger contingent of Georgia fans at Citrus Bowl Stadium.
The traditional chants echoed through the old stadium loud and clear. There were even a few cornheads in the crowd, including one with blinking Christmas lights wrapped around it.
Bell helps calm angered coach
On an intentional grounding call on Taylor Martinez late in the first half, head coach Bo Pelini and wide receivers coach Rich Fisher came out barking at the officials.
To make sure his position coach didn't get a penalty of his own, wide receiver Kenny Bell came out and helped Fisher get back to the sideline.
Walk-ons on hand for bowl festivities
Some Nebraska walk-ons were on the sideline the entire game, many of them standing on the benches to watch the game.
Before the game, they were taking in the pregame festivities that included many mascots in a Disney-like dance routine and an a cappella group that performed the national anthem.
Trey Foster, a tight end from Lincoln Southeast, said that his younger brother D.J. was headed from Alabama, where the family was visiting relatives for the holidays, to San Antonio to take part in combine drills at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
D.J. Foster is one of the top offensive line prospects for the class of 2014 and is being courted by Nebraska and many other Division I schools.
— Steve Beideck