December 28, 2009

Helu recharged, refocused after bowl game break

SAN DIEGO - Sometimes, all a player needs is just a little time off.

Such was the case for junior running back Roy Helu, who has benefited as much as anyone during the past three weeks of Nebraska's Holiday Bowl preparations.

Having played through nagging shoulder injuries for the majority of the season, Helu has finally gotten a chance to take a step back and let himself recharge and regroup both physically and mentally.

"Health-wise, mentally-wise, just being drained from the season grind getting to come out here and get a break, it's been nice," Helu said. "I feel a lot better."

Helu came into the season with lofty expectations from media and fans, and he more than lived up to them through the first five weeks, racking up 552 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. However, he injured his shoulder during a late heroic effort in the Huskers' win over Missouri on Oct. 8, and his productivity suffered as a result, putting up a combined 116 rushing yards on just 28 carries without a touchdown over the next three games.

Having a healthy Rex Burkhead to back him up certainly helped him get back to his old self towards the end of the year, but Helu admitted that he was definitely getting worn down by the time the Huskers faced Texas in the Big 12 Championship game.

Running backs coach Tim Beck said the time off the past three weeks has served Helu well in getting back to the level he was at earlier in the season, and just getting away on a trip to sunny San Diego hasn't hurt either.

"I think being out here helps a little bit too," Beck said. "Anytime you play in a bowl game and you get some weather, you're outside, and you're not just clamped in quarters inside. Certainly that does help your attitude, and I think that's effected him as well."

When Nebraska took the field at the San Diego State University practice facility on Monday for their final full practice of the season before Wednesday's showdown with Arizona, there team was in noticeably high spirits and seemed rested and recharged.

Helu was definitely a primary example of that, which should only mean good things for an offense that has desperately been in need of a spark of some sort the past few games.

With some time to get back to his usual, play-making self, Helu could very well be exactly what the Huskers have been looking for.

"It's just week after week, preparation after preparation (during the season), and then you get a couple weeks off and you get to relax a little," Helu said. "It's not as stressful for the first couple practices (of bowl week) because you just play ball for two weeks and then game preparation.

"It's just a lot more exciting. Everyone was a lot faster and rejuvenated when we got here."

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