Octavien healthy, ready for Cotton Bowl

Dallas, TX - It's one thing to be out for the season, but it's another to be hampered to the point where you are in some games, out other games, seemingly plagued by injuries. That's been a theme of sorts for senior linebacker Steve Octavien. Finally healthy he just wants to play.

It'd take two fingers to count all the times on your hand the games where senior linebacker Steve Octavien played for an entire game. First it was a hamstring which basically carried over from the fall. Then it was an injury to an area around his chin, which limited the junior college transfer even more.

That's the story, but going into the last game of the 2006 campaign, the first game of the 2007 year and yet another opportunity to face a top 10 team, Octavien is happy he's finally good to go. "I'd say the Oklahoma game was the first time I felt like I was 100 percent, where I could just go out there and not worry about hurting anything or anything slowing me down," he said. "It's a lot worse having these nagging injuries than just being out for the year. You can deal with that, but with this, you don't know what's going to happen one week to the next."

Husker fans have probably felt Octavien's frustration as they have seen smatterings of what he's capable. Back to his first game as a Husker, it was one quarter, but he had enough of an impact against Maine in 2005, fans talked about his impact when he would eventually make it back to the field.

This year has been a disappointment, because once again the injury bug has followed him, but it hasn't dampened his spirits in the least. "Once you get on the field you forget about everything up to that point," Octavien said. "It's frustrating, but once you strap it on and know you are going in, you only think about what you have to do."

"That's all I am thinking about right now, and this is big for us, because Auburn is the kind of team we haven't beaten yet."

When Octavien refers to Auburn and the type of team they are, he's talking of course, about the fact that Auburn ranks as one of the top 10 teams in the country, and sports a 32-5 record over the last three years, ranking them third in all of Division 1-A. Included in that is an unblemished record during the 2004 season.

It's a darn good team, and the senior linebacker looks at this team similarly to how everyone looked at the USC and Texas games this year. "Everyone said we got some monkey off our back when we beat Texas A&M in their house, but there's no way Texas A&M is even close to a team like Auburn," he said. "We've had our cracks at teams like this when we played USC and Texas, and we have to get one of these. You can't be the Nebraska everyone wants to be unless you beat these kinds of teams."

The fact that Octavien is healthy won't change the rotation at the weakside linebacker spot. Steve said that he expected the rotation to go as it normally would when he's healthy enough to play. Junior linebacker Bo Ruud will get the first two series of the game, and Octavien said they should rotate every series after that.

One thing about this particular Husker is that he looks at events like this as just part of the game. He's not enamored by Texas Stadium, where the Dallas Cowboys play, nor is he wowed by even the team the Huskers are facing. He looks at Auburn like he does any other team which is ranked real high at the time.

"I don't look at teams like ‘Oh wow, they are so great, can we even beat them'," he said. "It's another team and there isn't any team that can't be beat. But they are where they are, because they do a lot of things well, they play in the best conference by far, and they are where we want to be."

"It doesn't change no matter what sport you play. If you want to be where a team like that is, it's simple: you have to beat them. If we can do that, it's a huge step forward for us, the program and it's a big boost for us next year."

It's a murderer's row come next season, Nebraska playing nine bowl teams out of the 12 regular season games. They go on the road to play ACC Champ Wake Forest and then USC comes calling for game three. Then it's road games in Austin, Lawrence and Husker fans know what playing in Columbia, Missouri has been like the last couple of times.

It's a huge road, and Octavien says there's no better time to get that journey off to a good start than the first day of the year. "We got a lot of chances at good teams this year and we just couldn't get it done against the best of the group," he said. "But this is another shot at another great team."

"It would mean a hell of a lot for next year if we started it off with a victory over a team like Auburn. It would end this season off right and we would have a ton of confidence going into next year."

"We need this. We need this one bad."

Big Red Report Top Stories