Ironic that Nebraska was a team just fighting for national dignity rather than a national title, but suffice it to say this game was significant for coaches and players alike. "This game was huge for us," junior defensive end Adam Carriker said following the game. "It showed what we are made of, that we never give up and that we are a team you are going to have to watch out for in the future."
Defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove concurred to an extent, but he attributed this team's success to the resiliency of the players. "They don't quit and they always stayed together," Cosgrove said of the team. "As a coach you can only do so much, because it's the players that have to get it done on the field."
"We haven't won them all, but these kids never stopped fighting for one second."
|A.J. Wallace said victory over Michigan|
showed what Nebraska was all about
There was one prominent recruit, though, that did say the team and what it showed certainly made him think. "It just seems with that team, no matter how far they get down, they aren't going to give up and don't think they can't win the game," A.J. Wallace said. "That shows a lot about a team's character and watching them and the way they played really makes you think."
It made everyone think, most of it having to do with how this team finished the season and how it projects to next year. Coach Callahan found himself on the rocks early on in the year and even more after the run of losses to some of their division foes. Since Kansas State, however, especially Colorado and now Michigan, fans have begun to believe.
"I was one of the few people that thought Nebraska was going to win in Colorado," Gene Searcey of Wymore, Nebraska said. "So, I thought they had a chance in this game, but it doesn't take away from how much a win like this means."
"The players are on board, the coaches are doing the right things, so now we just have to get the rest of the fan base out of this negativity and we can really watch this program move forward."
Much of this year has been as much about forgetting the past as it has pertained to building a new future. Last year's noted turmoil within the locker room made a unified team on the field seemingly impossible.
This year's team has preached about its unity and this game was yet another example that it wasn't coach speak, it was legit. "We have been saying all year about being all-day fighters," sophomore middle linebacker Corey McKeon said. "You can't think we are going to get down and just quit, because it's not going to happen."
"We're never going to get down. There isn't going to be a game where we don't believe that we can win, no matter what."
At 28-17, Michigan holding what seemed to be an insurmountable lead, there were many that had written the team off, but not negatively as Nebraska had already proven throughout the season their worth. It was that worth, which Searcey says they didn't have last year and was the reason 28-17 in favor of Michigan ended up being a 32-28 victory for the big red.
"They got rid of those players that weren't team players," he said. "You could see that on the field. They played together, because the whole team believed in each other. They didn't have that last year at all."
What of the future? After a 5-6 season and now a 8-4 season, what's the next step for NU? Can the team progress as it has or will there have to be much smaller steps as they try to regain their status amongst the elite?
Prior to the Michigan game, the optimism was certainly there, but after the Michigan, some of has turned to certainty. "You better watch out for Nebraska," Moore said immediately following the game. "This was huge. This (the team) is going to take off."
For some players who won't be here for next year and beyond, they don't look at the future with disappointment, because they won't be there to experience it along with this still rebuilding team. They feel pride, because they know they were part of something special and it wasn't a team that started great, continued to be great and this is just another game to solidify that.
This was a team on its way back to the top
|Bill Callahan has done a masterful job in|
rebuilding not only a team, but an attitude.
"It's something to be part of a team that always wins, but if you are part of this, with everything this team has gone through, to get back to this point is something special," defensive tackle Le Kevin Smith said. "Sometimes you didn't know what was going to happen, but we never gave up on each other and what we wanted to do."
"To get here, right here, it says something about this team. This wasn't a national title, but, look at where we were just a year ago and look at where we are now."
"You have to have pride about what we have done."
After the Colorado game, a teary-eyed Bill Callahan talked about the pride he had in his team. Their resiliency, character and perseverance were all things he regaled the media about, citing that it was them that made this kind of success possible.
His players are more than happy to return the favor. "(Coach) Callahan brought this staff together and helped to bring this team together," junior linebacker Stewart Bradley said. "I don't know where we would be right now without a lot of the things he did to bring us together as a team."
Next year the Huskers will take on one of the tougher schedules they have had in a few years as they will play both teams that are playing for the national title this year. They will be bringing in yet more youth, while losing some key players like Le Kevin Smith, Titus Adams and Cory Ross.
So much has been said about Nebraska getting back to where they once were. So much about getting back to national prominence and the respect that usually follows. I asked one player after the game where he thought Nebraska was on that long return road to respect. I asked him if this team was indeed back.
"Who did we just beat tonight?," McKeon said emphatically. "Damn right we're back."
"And we're back to stay."
THAT is what one game can do.