Published Saturday, December 28, 2013 AT 2:00 PM / Updated at 2:26 PM
Gator Bowl: Game important to NU; rain falls at practice; Cross talks future
Jon Nyatawa Omaha World-Herald

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A couple Husker veterans smiled Saturday when asked about what kind of impact a bowl win could have on a passionate Nebraska fan base. They know how crazy it can get back home.

Said senior Jeremiah Sirles: “You win that bowl game, it gives nothing but good things — maybe some bad, but less bad — for people to talk about in Nebraska. You lose the bowl game, it gives them all negative (things) to talk about until the season kicks off again.”

Judging by other comments from Sirles and a few fellow NU players Saturday, beating Georgia on Wednesday would provide a significant boost to the morale within the walls of the football facility, too.

The Huskers have lost their last three bowl games. No one on the roster has experienced a postseason win (not counting the handful of fifth-year players who were redshirting in 2009).

The seniors want to leave on a positive note. The upperclassmen want to kick off the offseason with some momentum.

This is a big game, according to Ameer Abdullah.

“We want to win,” he said. “We’re preparing each day to win. We’re not messing around. We understand what a win could do going into next year and what it could do for this program.”

A few items of note from Saturday’s half-padded practice and the interviews afterward are below…

>> Rain fell from the cloudy skies for nearly all of Nebraska’s Saturday practice. The players seemed to adjust just fine, though. Many were prepared for it beforehand. Jordan Westerkamp said it was productive to practice fielding punts and kickoffs in those elements. Abdullah said varying weather conditions help remind guys to stay focused. “Can’t think about the environment,” he said. “Got to think about what we’ve got to do.”

>> Senior tackle Brent Qvale said Georgia’s defense blitzes about as often as the average team, but the Bulldogs’ varying fronts (from the 3-4 look, to the traditional 4-3, to the occasional five-man alignment) can cause issues for opponents. NU has to be sharp. Said Qvale: “Being able to identify what they are, what front they’re in, will be crucial.”

>> Running back Imani Cross, known as a meticulous worker, has already thought about what areas he’ll be targeting for improvement this offseason. He plans to stay around 230 pounds. But here’s a sampling of what is going through his mind: “Weight room reps, speed reps, agility, flexibility, working on my balance — there’s countless things I’ve thought of to do this offseason.”

>> Maliek Collins’ role at defensive tackle continues to increase, it appears. He took a significant number of reps with the first-team Saturday. Look for the true freshman to get more chances at making an impact Wednesday.

>> Senior quarterback Ron Kellogg said he plans to stay around the program next season, perhaps serving in a graduate assistant role or becoming an intern.

>> Nebraska’s staff hosted a clinic for area high school coaches after Saturday’s practice. The rain seemed to thin out the crowd, though.

About Jon Nyatawa

Jon Nyatawa has covered local sports, primarily Nebraska football, for The Omaha World-Herald since 2008. He and his laptop, cell phone, tape recorder, pen and notebook all live in Lincoln. Follow him on Twitter: @JonNyatawa. Email him here: He welcomes feedback.