The Huskers held their first bowl practice in Orlando Thursday morning, working out in full pads for more than two hours at Freedom High School.
“I thought it was a good practice today,” said head coach Bo Pelini. "I thought we had good energy. We were a little rusty in a couple areas, more mentally on things we installed the week before we left. I thought overall it was good, good energy. We obviously still have a lot of work to do still leading up to the game.”
Pelini was asked about the team’s mindset heading into the Capital One Bowl and he said he felt good about how the team is preparing, noting excellent leadership from a large senior class.
“It’s a pretty mature group and I think they understand the challenge we have ahead of us. We’re playing a really good football team. These kids have been through, at least most of them that are playing, have been through a bowl experience before and they understand the balance you need to have between enjoying the city and enjoying your time down here, but also keeping in mind that the big picture is being ready to play a football game.”
Pelini also commented on Cole Pensick’s absence from Thursday’s practice, noting that the junior was ill and did not travel with the team on Wednesday, but is expected back for Friday’s practice. “He’ll be back. He was sick. He’s feeling a lot better. He’ll land tonight and he’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”
Pensick and sophomore Mark Pelini have both worked with the top unit at center throughout bowl preparations, following a season-ending injury to Justin Jackson, who started at center for the first 12 games of the season.
“I think they’ll both play,” the coach said, referring to Pensick and Mark Pelini. “Cole was probably lined up as the starter for most of the bowl practices. Mark had a good day today. We feel confident in both those guys, plus it gives us the flexibility to have Cole move out to guard.”
Pelini noted that the player under center, first-team All-Big Ten quarterback Taylor Martinez, is preparing well for his third bowl game as a starter. “Taylor’s approach doesn’t change much. He’s a guy who has a lot of confidence. He’s a competitive guy. He’s a guy who wants to play well every single time out. He knows he’s going to have to play at a high level and I think he’s done that. He’s had a good year, but I think this will be a real good opportunity for him leading up to next year.”
Following practice, the Huskers departed for their first recreational activity of the trip, spending the day at Walt Disney World. Nebraska will continue preparations for its January 1st Capital One Bowl game with Georgia by practicing again on Friday morning.
The Bulldogs conducted a two-hour practice in full pads on Thursday.
"Today was one of the most crucial practices because we want to stay focused on our business,” said Georgia offensive guard Chris Burnette. “We want to enjoy our time after practice at the parks, but we’re here to win a football game. It’s going to be a tough battle and we need to make sure we’re ready."
Head coach Mark Richt announced Wednesday that senior starting defensive tackle John Jenkins would not be participating in the bowl game. "John Jenkins won't be here. It's academic related, he will not be at the bowl and that will be all I'll say about that."
Jenkins, a second-team All-SEC selection, is projected to be a first-round NFL draft pick.