Quinton Newsome and Travis Vokolek have not yet traveled abroad in their lifetimes. Nebraska’s trip to Ireland to face Northwestern in Week 0 will be the first time out of the country for both of them.
There’s excitement, of course, but Coach Scott Frost is clear on what the goal of the trip is for his team.
“We’re excited to go play in Ireland,” Frost said. “There’s some challenges that go along with that. We’ve been planning for it for a long time. We’re going to try to handle it as well as we can. Our players understand that it’s not a bowl trip. We didn’t earn it.
“We’re going over there to play a football game, and that’s got to be the focus.”
Part of that means Nebraska will head to Ireland earlier than originally anticipated to acclimate to the time difference. Dublin is six hours ahead of Lincoln and Evanston, so that’s something to consider when taking a team overseas.
“We’ve got the NAPL lab with some really smart people at Nebraska and that helps us quite a bit,” Frost said. “And talking to those guys about what’s best from a sleep standpoint and a schedule standpoint has really helped us develop a plan for going over there. We’re going over there early than earlier than was suggested.
“(We’re) going to try to get our players to sleep on the way over there, then give ’em a little time and work ’em out without practicing and get up the next day and and try to start up our week again, where we left off. So we we’ve got a plan for it. A lot of it is that we’ve gotten help from some really smart people.”
Those conversations with the players have already begun, especially as Nebraska starts to prep them for what to expect.
“We’ve talked about it a little bit,” Vokolek said. “I think Coach Frost and this staff are going to do some things to try and get us used to it. I’m not 100% sure just yet, but it’ll be different. Both teams are going to be tested so I think the team that does better at adjusting will win the football game.”
On the Northwestern side of things, the Wildcats will stay a day later in than Nebraska in Ireland. While the Huskers have a quick turnaround to face North Dakota at home on Sept. 3, Northwestern has a week off following the trip overseas. That provides a little more breathing room on the return side of things.
“Ton of logistics. That’s the biggest thing,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said about the trip. “Kind of like a bowl game but starting off week one. Being able to have enough events for the guys to have fun while we’re there, but still be focused and ready to play come kickoff time. Then just embrace the culture. It’s going to be a fun week and we’re staying a day later so we should have a lot of fun and be able to enjoy it.”
While both Frost and Fitzgerald are focused on the game itself, the ability to enjoy Ireland is still important to both. That’s especially true because of players like Vokolek and Newsome.
Vokolek, for instance, is a big golfer. That has some intriguing aspects for him in Ireland.
“You know, I’ve never been outside of the U.S. so I’m super excited about that,” Vokolek said. “I heard there’s some pretty nice golf courses down over there so if I could see some of those, I think it’d be pretty sweet.”
About that football game, though…
“Obviously we’re going down to win the football game,” he added. “But it would be pretty sweet (to see some courses).”
The pressure to win that first game is ever present too. Offensive coordinator Mark Whipple brought it up during a recent interview on Sports Nightly, saying he’s a fan of opening with conference games only “if you win it.” That message was reinforced by Frost and the players present in Indianapolis for Big Ten Media Days.
Taking that conference game overseas also makes things more interesting. That’s not to say Nebraska doesn’t plan to have some fun. The Huskers will—they already have a few events planned throughout the week—but Garrett Nelson likely summed it up best.
“I don’t care where we play. I just want to win,” Nelson said. “It’s cool that we’re going to Ireland and it’s cool that we’re playing there but the fun part about football and the fun part about going there is coming home when you’re winning.”
Erin is the Deputy Editor and Digital Marketing Strategist for Hail Varsity. She has covered Nebraska athletics since 2012, which has included stops at Bleacher Report, Cox Media Group’s Land of 10, and even Hail Varsity (previously from 2012-2017). She has also been featured on the Big Ten Network, NET’s Big Red Wrap-Up, and a varsity of radio shows nationwide. When not covering the Huskers, Erin is probably at Chipotle.