November 28, 2008

Husker seniors determined to go out on top

When Nebraska's 21 seniors take the field at Memorial Stadium for the last time today against Colorado, the hope is that their final sendoff will be the start of something great.

After a career full of more highs and lows than arguably any class the Huskers have ever had, Nebraska's seniors know their careers haven't gone quite as ideally as they would have hoped. That's why ending this season on a high note is so darn important.

In many ways, the goal of this year has been to lay the foundation of future success - to turn around a once proud program and get the Huskers back to national prominence. At 7-4, NU is well within reach of a nine-win season with a potential victory in a respectable bowl game.

For the seniors, doing just that means everything.

"Last year, with the season we had, we knew as seniors that we wanted to go out on a better note than that, and we really came together in spring ball and summer and just really told our guys that we weren't going to go out like that," senior defensive end Zach Potter said. "We're going to have a good year this year. Even though we've had some losses this year, we've played pretty well and risen to the challenges that we've had each week in trying to have a good solid year."

"We're going to go out there and play our best game (against Colorado), especially for our seniors, the last game at Memorial Stadium. Not only do you get a win, but it's your eighth, and I think that eighth win is going to be huge for our seniors to go out on that type of note."

While it may not be the national championship season the senior class may have hoped for when it first came to NU, in the wake of last year's 5-7 debacle, this season has already been a giant morale victory.

The Huskers did drop tough losses to Missouri and Oklahoma, but they were able to show the resiliency it never could last year in bouncing back and getting big wins to keep the bulk of their season goals alive.

A lot of the credit for that has to go to first-year head coach Bo Pelini and his staff, but it also has to go to the players - especially the seniors - for buying into Pelini's philosophies and putting enough trust in their coaches and themselves to turn things around in a big way from a year ago.

"It's been tough," senior quarterback Joe Ganz said. "There have been highs and lows, but it feels good to go out on a high this year. We still have some business to take care of, but overall this team has been pretty good. I'm proud to say that I have been a part of it. I don't think you're going to see those highs and lows anymore.

"I think we're going to be a lot more consistent as a team and it starts with Coach Pelini. I think we're on a much more consistent path and I think we have hopefully taught the younger guys what it takes to get back to the winning ways."

Things are definitely on pace to end on a high note for Nebraska's seniors, and considering the lows the program has seen during their Husker careers, it seems only fair that they have a chance to go out as winners.

Since they first walked on to campus, NU's senior class has seen some of the program's longest-standing records come crashing down before their eyes. They've suffered 60-point losses. They've seen record amounts of points scored on them on their home scoreboard. They stayed home during bowl season for the first time in decades.

However, they've all been able to keep things in perspective through it all. As many have said during the past week, the mindset of this senior class is that things are never as good or as bad as they seem, no matter how many people around you might try to tell you differently.

"Just like anything else in life, there have been a lot of ups and downs, but ours have probably been more extreme as far as what this football program has been used to," senior wide receiver Todd Peterson said. "It's just something you ride out. As they say, sports will teach you a lot about life, and you kind of see that with everything we've been through since we've been here. It's been a wild ride, and I've been here a long time now, and I've seen a lot."

When the Huskers take the field this afternoon, emotions will certainly be running high for the seniors in their final game at Memorial Stadium. But that all goes out the window come the opening kickoff.

This season has been far too good to let it end on a bad note.

"Obviously it's going to be hard to not sit back and try and soak everything in for the last time, but at the same time, it's not going to be a memory I want to keep in my head if we don't win the game," Peterson said. "So I've got to keep my head focused on that. That's got to be the first priority."

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