Are you ready for some football?

When you are a big time program, any trip to play another big time program is, well, big time. This weekend, it's Nebraska vs. Penn State and for any Husker player that hasn't been a part of a game like this, you can talk all you want about just playing the game, but amidst 107,000 people, those hopes can often be swallowed just as easily by the moment. This is where players like Chris Kelsay come in. He's been there, done that and now, he's ready to do it again.

There you are, walking into a stadium, but this isn't just any old stadium. It's one of the largest college venues in existence. Grandiose, immense and steeped in tradition from it's origins, Beaver stadium is not just a stadium, it's a landmark. And, there you are, the opposition walking out onto the field and the noise rises, it coalesces and you are engulfed by 107 thousand screaming fans, but they aren't screaming for you. You've just stepped into a serious home field advantage and just the aura of over 100,000 people all clad in similar colors, you become intimidated, humbled and soon, the moment overtakes you. It's over. The home team has won and you haven't even stepped on the field.

Such could be the feeling of younger players on this year's version of the Huskers. Having no knowledge of what it's like to play in a hostile environment such as this, if they don't have someone far more grounded to bring back the reason why they are there into firm grasp, again, they become lost in the moment and the game becomes lost as well. Chris Kelsay is just one of the many Huskers that gives those players that anchor and can tell them from his own experience that for all the hype, for all the size, this is just a game. "All in all, it comes down to how you play on the field." Kelsay stated. "If we keep that in our mind, and not worry about the crowd, who we are playing and play just assignment football, we should be fine."

Easier said than done. How do you convince someone that has never seen what they are likely to see once they step inside Beaver stadium, that this is just a game? What's their point of reference in judging this as just another contest that is the same as any other? Kelsay stated that if you want to know what it's like to go into a stadium all clad in the same color, cheering fanatically for their team and creating a somewhat daunting environment, you don't have to look any farther than the school with the best current home field advantage in the country. "In a sense, it's like a team coming into Memorial and playing us." Chris said. "The atmosphere is relatively similar, so I think you just have to turn it around and get it through the guys' head that this is no different than playing in front of seventy-six thousand people at Memorial. It's just that we are away from home and it's something we aren't used to."

Chris is really the perfect leader for this type of circumstance. His off-the-field emotion exists on a fairly even keel, he doesn't analyze the moments so much as he just looks at the scope of what he is dealing with and he's grounded. Grounded because he's a senior, he's been in that atmosphere before and because of that, the traditions, the hype, the games leading up to this, it's all just a slight buzz in his ear as his focus remains in the here and now. Not even bringing up NU's recent road-woes is enough to distract Kelsay from where his mind really is. "I don't put much into that." Kelsay stated. "It's a new season and a new team. We set goals for ourselves at the beginning of Fall camp and we are looking to pursue each one of those and if we keep those in mind, we will be all right."

People are going to ask though. They are going to ask how NU can be confident on defense after two games from last year. Each Husker player has heard this to the extent that you can literally see the eyes roll up into their heads, in disbelief that this still remains a topic of interest or the vein that slowly crawls across their foreheads in disgust at having to utter the same answers over and over again. It's not a subject any of them want to discuss, especially the defense and expectedly, Chris Kelsay is amongst those that want this CU/Miami nostalgia to die. "Personally, I am tired of talking about Colorado and the Rose Bowl against Miami." Chris said.

And who wouldn't be? A team that went to a national title game, lost only two games all year and prior to that, was touted as one of the best defensive units in the country. Now, they are a group that is supposedly rebuilding from a disastrous season? Doesn't make much sense, does it? It's criticism like that, that makes you scratch your head, but believe it or not, it can be a good thing as well. You harp on a team like NU for being inadequate in any way, those players are likely to take it personal. You keep reminding them of their involvement in giving up more points in one game than any NU team ever, they are probably going to get a little irked. That's enough to bring a team like NU into a season like this with a fire in their belly, not just for winning, but for shutting everyone the hell up. Criticism can work for you as much as it can against you. "Anytime someone tells you that you can't do something or that you are not as good as you think you are, it drives you." Kelsay stated. "It drives you to prove them wrong. A lot of people gave us guff about last year and some of it's deserved I am sure, but some of it you have to keep in the back of your mind and use for motivation."

Nebraska is motivated, the defense especially. This year is about more than the typical Nebraska Motis Operandi. Yeah, it's about trying for a conference title and yes, there is always that thought of making it to a national title game, but this year is special for what Nebraska did, but especially didn't do last season. It's not all a team needs to do to succeed, but for NU's defense, for now and against a noted tradition like Penn State, it will do just fine. "We have been really looking forward to this game against Penn State." Chris said. "It's a game where we can set ourselves apart from some of the critics claiming whether or not our defense is as good as we think it is and it will be a big test for us, but I think we are up to the challenge."

Big Red Report Top Stories