LINCOLN — Save the nostalgia for after the season. Nebraska’s seniors are approaching Saturday’s home finale focused solely on getting a win.
There will be a day when the 14 veterans allow themselves to get swallowed by a rush of memories, when they’ll reflect on their Husker careers.
Not now, though. Not after a 59-24 loss at Wisconsin. Not with skeptics surfacing about where NU football is headed.
“We have to win. That’s not an option,” senior Kenny Bell said. “It’s not just about what I want. This program needs a win. Bad.”
So the 14 suiting up for their final game in Memorial Stadium will try not to view senior day as their own send-off, but an opportunity to build momentum for a program that’s flirted with a breakthrough at various point in their careers.
That was the objective as they met and outlined goals during the offseason, growing closer along the way. There’s an assortment of personalities and backgrounds within this group, but it meshed because of that common purpose.
Now the seniors have another chance to prove themselves.
“The last game in that stadium is your opportunity to show yourself and everyone what kind of player you have been over your career, your four or five years here,” senior cornerback Josh Mitchell said. “The result that you put out there is ultimately what you’re going to live with the rest of your life.”
It hasn’t resonated with Mitchell yet that his time at Nebraska is coming to an end. He’s not thought much about it.
Senior offensive lineman Mike Moudy is the same way. Jake Cotton and Bell, too.
They don’t really want to think about how they’ll feel when they shake Bo Pelini’s hand and give him a hug before the game. Or when they’ll trot out across the field as the fans cheer. Or when they’ll stand alongside family as the rest of the ceremony unfolds.
It’ll be an emotional pregame.
Said Cotton: “You’ve got to take the time to appreciate the moment out there, but you’ve got to be able to rebound quickly.”
Each guy will handle it differently, but Pelini said he assumes all will be locked in by kickoff. That’s how it worked for him.
It’ll be special. His senior day, a November afternoon in 1990, came to mind Thursday after practice.
“Mine was against Michigan in a big game,” Pelini said. “I remember the emotions flowing. There’s so many things going through your head.”
Then the game started. “Usually you’re able to get it under control and just play ball,” he said.
His Ohio State team lost 16-13 on a last-second field goal.
That still stings, Pelini said.
Nebraska’s seniors would prefer not to finish on that note.
They say that the key, though, is to prepare for the day as if it were any other.
The seniors want their thoughts centered on a Minnesota squad that beat them 34-23 last year.
Looking back at this point? That serves somewhat of an individual agenda. And it will take a team effort to win Saturday, so there’s no place for that.
“You’ve really got to approach the game not trying to do anything special, not trying to do anything memorable,” Cotton said. “Just go out there with the same approach that we’ve had the last four years, and we’ll like the result. Then after the game, you can think, ‘Wow. I’ll never be able to go out there again and play.’ ”
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