Callahan, Huskers on Oklahoma

Nebraska head coach Bill Callahan, QB Zac Taylor and LB Stewart Bradley talk about Saturday's matchup against Oklahoma. (AP Photo)


On Oklahoma

Callahan: They've done a nice job with their football team. They're awfully talented. I've been studying their offense the last few weeks because of the crossover matches that we have within conference play, so I've seen quite a bit of them from the offensive standpoint.

Then I'm studying them now on defense and special teams. Their defense — boy, they're awfully talented. They were awfully talented a year ago and they've seemed to mature a little bit more. Their younger safeties have grown up a little bit more.

They just seem awfully, awfully talented from an athletic standpoint. They've got good athletes up front, at linebacker especially. Of course, their back end has really been solidified.

They've really made themselves more complete as a team. There's good speed, good pursuit. Their range to the ball and closure is outstanding. I just think they're maturing like any other team. But they've done a fine jab.

On Oklahoma's running game

Callahan: I think they've done an excellent job. They're playing hard, running the ball very physical, downhill. They've done an excellent job. The guys seem to grasp onto what they're trying to get accomplished from an assignment standpoint. They're very sound, very solid in their structure. Pretty physical in nature in terms of what they do.

On the job Bob Stoops has done with the adversity he's dealt with this season, and is it the head coach's task to keep the teams' mental outlook up during times of adversity

Callahan: I believe it does. There's no question about that because the buck stops here. You always want to be in that position to rally your troops and take the next step.

We've had a number of guys here in the offensive line that we started the year with who are no longer in the lineup. We're down three starters in our offensive line and we've gone through tremendous adversity at that position. We lost a key tight end a year ago and had to do some gerryrigging to shore up that spot. You know, anything can happen anywhere.

We all do, as coaches, go through that adversity whether it's injury or whether it's a crisis. You just gotta have the ability to work through it and persevere.

On what is the state of Nebraska football right now

Callahan: I like to believe we're getting better. I see progress across the board. I'd like to think the statistics validate the improvement. And, of course, the most important statistic is winning here at Nebraska.

To be in this game is a great accomplishment for our players, but we came here to be in this game. That's what Nebraska's all about. It's a very high standard here. We embrace that standard of excellence here and we try to live up to it every day.

On what it means to the program to play in this game

Callahan: We set a goal each and every year to win the North. That started the first year we were here, so we had hoped to be in this position earlier.

I just think we're a little bit more prepared to reach that goal entering the season. Then I feel like we're a more complete team than we've been in the last three years.

As far as winning the Big 12 title, like I said our goal is always to win your division and get into that game. And then at that point you're only 60 minutes away from winning a conference championship.

We're really excited to be in this position.


On Oklahoma's defense

Taylor: They're a very sound football team. They've got a lot of talent like they always have. They're very well-coached. Last year they got the better of us up here in Lincoln.

We've already started watching a little bit of film on them and they've got a lot of the same guys they played with last year. They just have a lot of talent and they're a smart team. They're probably going to be the best defense we face all year.

From everything I've seen right now, it's going to be a tough test for us on offense.

On making it to the Big 12 Championship game

Taylor: This was our goal from Day One. Back in July, we made it our goal to be playing in Kansas City on Dec. 2nd and we've made it there so far.

Obviously, we're playing the best team we could've been playing against in Oklahoma, and we look forward to that challenge. We know it's going to be a hard game, probably the hardest test this season.

But in order to win the championship you're going to have to beat somebody good and so we're excited to play Oklahoma.

On if he has any special feelings about the matchup having grown up in Oklahoma

Taylor: I grew up an Oklahoma fan, but it's just another team we're playing in the championship game. We played them last year and people hyped that up a lot, but once that first play takes place it's just another team and you've just got to make the same plays you make against anybody else.

I don't personally know any of the players there so there's not really a connection between me and that school. I'm just excited we're playing anybody in that game and just happy that we're there.

On growing up watching the OU-Nebraska rivalry

Taylor: The games that I remember, more than anything else, were the Oklahoma-Nebraska games when I was a little kid. Those were definitely the most vivid memories that I have.

Back then I was probably an Oklahoma fan cheering against Nebraska, but now it's the other way around. I think it's just a great game for this championship game to be between two respected opponents and two programs with such tradition.

I definitely know a lot about this rivalry. It's always been a respected rivalry and not one with much hate. It's going to be a great opportunity to go get a chance to play against Oklahoma — a team that's played in this game so many times over the last couple of years.

On this being the first time OU and Nebraska have met in the Big 12 title game

Taylor: You would've thought that over the last how many years it's been — 10 years — that Oklahoma and Nebraska would've played in the championship game. But for whatever reason it hasn't happened. Now both teams have stepped up and got in the game. It's going to be a great game.

On his memories of the Oklahoma-Nebraska rivalry

Taylor: The first one I remember was in Norman and Nebraska won 13-3. I think it was in 1993. It was Garry Gibbs' last year at Oklahoma whatever year that was. That's probably the first game that I can remember being at, and Nebraska won that game.

I went to the Nebraska game every year they were at Oklahoma, and Nebraska always had great teams and Oklahoma always had great teams. I went to the game in 2000 that Oklahoma won down in Norman. I remember watching the game in 2001 that Nebraska won at the very end of the game.

I definitely remember just about every game they've played over the last 15 years.


On what he's seen of Oklahoma's backup running backs

Bradley: They're really hard runners. I think it's a credit to their coaching staff and their offensive line that whatever backs are in there are producing.

They have great talent all over the field. I don't think anyone doubted they'd still be productive on offense, even with Peterson hurt. He's a great player and there's rumors that he may come back so we're excited.

On if he believes Bob Stoops when he says Peterson won't play

Bradley: We'll see. I think with the future he has beyond this year and the damage he can potentially do to his shoulder, I'd be surprised he plays. But you never know, so we'll be prepared for him.

If he plays, then he plays. And if he doesn't, he doesn't. But he's obviously a great player and we'll see how it works out.

On what Oklahoma's done differently without Peterson

Bradley: It seems to me like they're still in a lot of those I-back or heavy running plays — power, counter, strong zone. They put in three tight ends and pound the rock.

They only threw the ball 11 times against Okie State, so you can't run the ball much more than that. I think with the personnel they have on offense and the quarterback they have, they've been pretty consistent with running the ball and they've had the same style of offense all year.

From what I've seen, they're pretty consistent.

On if the Texas players told them 'we'll see you in Kansas City' after their game in Lincoln

Bradley: Actually, yeah they did.

On playing Oklahoma instead of Texas

Bradley: We were excited at the time (to get another shot at Texas). We felt like we left some plays on the field and definitely could've won the game. A few key plays obviously changed the outcome.

So we were definitely excited to see them again, but I'm equally excited to play Oklahoma. It's a perfect scenario for our seniors in our last year. You never get to play Texas and Oklahoma in the same year usually, because you get to play one or the other with the rotation.

So you get a chance to play both Texas and Oklahoma in the same year as a senior. I'm really excited about it, so I couldn't be happier.

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