Bowl business trip for Bowman

These bowl trips are something. You get to see neat places, take all the cool tours and in most circumstances, you are practicing in some pretty darn nice weather. There's lots to enjoy about the Alamo Bowl experience and the players will be doing just that. But as junior cornerback Zack Bowman will tell you, yes, there's some fun, but this is a business trip for the big red.

When it's hovering in the teens and snow covers the ground, you wouldn't have to ask any of the players for the Huskers if they would mind heading south to play a game. You'd probably have to fight them off the bus.

If there's one player that shouldn't mind the cold, though, it's Zack Bowman, who during his high school career was living in Alaska, where his parents were stationed as members of the United States Air Force.

Ok, maybe not

"I like this weather a whole lot more than Nebraska right now," Bowman said. "When it's warm like this, I think everyone just has a little more energy."

The critics say that Nebraska will need the energy, double-digit underdogs to the Michigan Wolverines. They have their typically large offensive line, talent at quarterback and of course, they have some big-time receivers.

When don't they, though?

Derrick Alexander, Desmond Howard, Anthony Carter and most recently Braylon Edwards – the list is long of the NFL bound wide receivers that have called the "Big House" home.

This year's versions probably won't garner the kind of respect of their predecessors, but ask the head coach of Nebraska what he thinks about Michigan's best receiver, senior Jason Avant. "I'm telling you, Jason Avant – we know how productive he is, but physically, when you watch him perform, he's a very strong-gifted wide receiver," Bill Callahan said. "We're going to have to be very aware of him, because he's an dominant wide receiver in every respect of route running."

"He's a fine receiver – really an excellent, excellent player."

Bowman knows this as well, having watched the Wolverines for years. He knows that while Avant doesn't have the publicity around him that prior ball-catchers for Michigan have had, he knows what he brings to the table. "He's a strong guy, uses his body well and he's really physical off the line," Bowman said. "It's nothing I haven't seen, but it's something you have to prepare for."

Bowman probably talks about what he hasn't seen with a little grit of the teeth as he's had to go through the growing pains of being a first-year Division 1-A DB. Sometimes it's been good, sometimes not so much, but there wasn't a day that went by that he didn't learn from the experience. "I've seen it all this year," Bowman said. "From what receivers look like to how they run, speed, size, everything. That's helped me to better my technique and against receivers like this, that's going to be the key."

Bowman is riding a bit of a high right now, coming off easily his best game of the year. The stats don't bear it out, but Bowman's game against Colorado in the season-ender was as close to flawless as he has played all year.

It's good timing for the junior college transfer, because at 6 foot, 2 inches and 190 pounds, he's got the size, and with the 4.4/40, he's definitely got the speed. He's just had to let his mind catch up to his impressive athleticism. "Everything is about technique at this level," Zack said. "You have to know how to use your hands. You have to know how to use your feet. If you are a little bit off, that's when your guy makes the play."

"The coaches have taught me everything I need to know to beat guys like this, so it's up to me go out there and make it happen."

Doing it against a receiver like Avant would be something. Doing it against fellow Wolverine-wideout Steve Breaston wouldn't be too shabby either. But it's because of who they play for that make this game mean so much for Bowman, because he's been thinking about those guys for years. "I have always wanted to play on a team that beat those guys," Bowman said. "That's a credit to them for always being so good that so many want to take them down, but I would personally love being on a team that beat them in a bowl game."

Of course, it doesn't have to be Michigan, though, the luster of playing the Wolverines makes this game mean that much more. The fact that this is a bowl game at all is enough to make Bowman ecstatic about the opportunity. "This is my first bowl game, so it's pretty exciting," he said. "It just gets you even more pumped up for the game."

There's actually a few players on this team that haven't been to a bowl game as a Husker. When Nebraska missed the bowl last year, it was the first they had missed in over four decades. There's enough satisfaction from just getting back to a bowl, that some think how the bowl turns out, in the end won't matter.

While Bowman agrees to a certain extent on what the Huskers proved to themselves, this game offered them too many good opportunities to pass up. "We want to win, there's no doubt about that," he said. "But the thing is, we want to get better. We have been getting better almost every week we played and in order for us to feel good about this game, we have to be better than we were the last time."

"I don't know if that means a win, but for next year the most important thing is that we leave this game knowing that we did our jobs and gave everything we had. That way next year we can work on getting even better than that."

For Michigan fans this could very well be the insult-game, fans and even players and coaches still stewing over getting shunned by the Outback Bowl in favor of Iowa, a team they beat earlier in the ear.

For Nebraska fans, it's a chance to rekindle that feeling of confidence in knowing there's a post-season, and when that post-season arrives, Nebraska is the team to beat.

The Huskers aren't there yet, but this is only year two of the Callahan era, and there's youth aplenty, with even more standout talent coming in. Bowman knows that he's probably going to be out the door when all this really starts gelling, but he's happy that he's starting to see everything start to turn around.

"I've seen us getting better throughout the season and I know that it will translate to next year," he said. "You've seen what this team can do at times when they are on the same page and I think when that happens we aren't easy to beat."

"Next year you go for more, trying to make it harder for opponents to stop you on either side of the ball. And sooner or later, if everyone keeps trying to get better, nobody is going to want to play you."

"That will be the Nebraska everyone is used to seeing."

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