Don't tell any player on the Nebraska team that this game is all for pride. That it has no bearing other than on their own state of mind, trying to create an image if not a facade of belief that no one game, but the entire season of 2002 has been an aberration. It's about more than that, because they aren't just trying to impress themselves of that, but to all those that have so impressed upon them just how far they have fallen.
It's about respect.
"I know people have probably lost a little bit of respect for us." LB, T.J. Hollowell stated. "But, if we beat Colorado, I believe we get a lot of that back. Despite the season we have had, we expect to go out there and beat them."
"After what they did to us last year, mainly, that's what I want to get out of this game."
When you are a team however, caught in the middle of a season that could just as be easily dubbed a nightmare that won't end, do you have the will to say "payback" or even the desire? "Of course it's payback." T.J. said. "We have to get them back."
"This has been going on for years and last year took the cake. We need to score and by a large margin."
To do that, Nebraska is going to have to do something it's only done on occasion this season. To best CU to any degree, Nebraska will have to put together a game they haven't managed against a ranked opponent in over a year. The motivation seems obvious because of last year's game, but now, especially now, motivation isn't as easy to come by as you might think. "It's been rough." Hollowell stated. "It's been hard on a lot of people's mind. It's been rough, but for a game like this, it's not too hard to get motivated to play."
T.J. exemplifies the energy a player needs on the field to succeed. Without taking a look at his stats, you have only to look at his play, he's all over the field. Some say it's that lack of intensity , team-wide that is part of the reason for this year's failures. Others say it's heart. Even captain John Garrison was reported to have actually called his own team out for lacking just that. T.J. disagrees. "I wouldn't question the heart of anyone on this team. It's been real frustrating. Everyone wants do everything they can, but when things don't go your way, it's just hard."
"It's not like anyone is giving up, but sometimes you don't know what to do. Your mind just goes kind of crazy. Guys around here just aren't used to this and aren't sure what to think, but this team has heart."
They will need it.
To finish off a year such as it has been, goals for this team from the outside may not be high, but they are hardly reflective of the attitude within. For T.J., he thinks some of that craziness is actually useful, but more towards games yet to be played. "I think everyone needs to go out there crazy and jacked up as possible." T.J. said. "We just need go out there, be jacked and crazy and win."
It's hard to think about that when so much else is going wrong, but you listen to T.J. and feel that there is at least one that believes all is not lost. T.J. even points to a bright side of this and these up-coming challenges in how their desires to win will get them what they so desire, but jokingly, he made light of possible loss. "It's not like we aren't going to a bowl game and the only thing we lose is the rest of our respect."
It does mean something to him though. It's a year for respect or as T.J. said, the loss of. It's a year as he put it, incomprehensible to some as a season like this at this university, well, it's just not possible.
It happened, it's almost done, but the fight isn't quite finished and for Hollowell, he's got one goal in his mind. "Two wins." T.J. said. "One against Colorado and the last one in the bowl. That's all we should be thinking about right now."
Steve Ryan can be reached at email@example.com or 402-730-5619