Huskers Conclude Final Practice for Capital One Bowl
After a week of preparation for their upcoming game against South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl, the Nebraska football team hit the practice field for the final time on Saturday for an 80-minute workout on the grass fields of Freedom High School in Orlando, Fla.
The Huskers practiced in helmets and shorts and will finish their week with a scheduled walk through on Sunday. After Saturday's practice, offensive coordinator Tim Beck and defensive coordinator John Papuchis, along with junior Rex Burkhead and senior Lavonte David addressed a contingent of media at a press conference for the Capital One Bowl.
“It's been a great week,” Beck said in his opening remarks. “Obviously, a special thanks to FCS (Florida Citrus Sports). The hospitality in Orlando has been incredible down here so far. Our players have enjoyed it. The practices have gone very well. We've been very upbeat and we're looking forward to the tremendous challenge that lies ahead. We're looking forward to finally putting this thing in action. We have been preparing for it for quite a long time. I know the players are excited for the opportunity to go play.”
After facing some of the top defenses in the country throughout the Big Ten season, the Huskers will face another stiff defensive challenge from South Carolina. The Gamecocks finished the season ranked fourth in the country in total defense, and feature All-American defensive end Melvin Ingram, who tallied 8.5 sacks this season. Burkhead said the Husker offense is looking forward to the challenge of facing another stout defensive front.
“It's going to come down to who's the more physical team,” Burkhead said. “They're very athletic, up front especially. They're defensive line is one of the best in the country, so up front we're going to have to win the battle.”
On the offensive side of the football, South Carolina is led by quarterback Connor Shaw, who started the last seven games for USC. The dual-threat signal caller averaged 53.7 rushing yards per game, to go along with his 1,218 passing yards. Papuchis, who will coach in his first game as the defensive coordinator for NU, says limiting Shaw will play a big part the Huskers' game plan.
“I think the biggest key in the game defensively is going to be our ability to slow him (Shaw) down,” Papuchis said. “He makes plays with his feet, but throws the ball well, too. A lot of his throws come off scrambles and adlibs. That's going to be a big, big piece of the puzzle, and then when it is the designed quarterback run game we can limit his gains. That's been huge point of emphasis for this bowl prep.”
Nebraska and South Carolina will kick off from Orlando at Noon (CT) and can be seen nationally on ESPN.