LINCOLN, Neb. — After losing to Iowa 40-10 to complete the regular season, Nebraska’s seniors held on to their faith that a 10-win season was still out there. As the Huskers prepare to face Tennessee in the Music City Bowl on Friday, Dec. 30, that opportunity is more prominent than ever.
“We still have a lot to play for,” safety Nathan Gerry said. “There’s not a lot of teams in the country that can say they’ve won 10 games in a season. Especially last year with that win over UCLA, it kind of helped us boost into this season so for us seniors, we want to help lead this team one more time, help the younger guys hopefully get another win so we can hopefully boost their confidence into [the next] season.”
Nebraska’s seniors know it won’t be easy to secure a win over Tennessee. As a tough SEC team, the Husker seniors know it’s going to take a lot of preparation but they feel confident they can do it. After all, they’ve overcome just as big of hurdles before.
“One great thing about this team is that we’ve been through a lot of adversity so we’re not going to let a game like [Iowa] hold us back,” wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp said. “We got the bid to play in a bowl game and we earned it. We’re really excited about it. Almost night and day from last year now so we’re looking forward to playing a great team in Tennessee.”
Finding the motivation? According to the seniors, that’s not a problem for the Huskers.
“Again, looking at the situation and getting beat pretty bad by Iowa, people are saying we’re not really 9-3 team or whatever it may be,” Westerkamp said. “This team does a great job of finding motivation anywhere and for the most part we don’t even need the motivation. We go out there every day and we get to work and get after it every single day. We love to get out here and practice and we’re really looking forward to Tennessee.”
There is a little extra motivation this year to win for punter Sam Foltz though. After he was tragically lost in a car accident this past summer, Nebraska has ensured his memory will never be forgotten. For the seniors, getting that 10th victory would be the perfect way to honor their friend and teammate.
“It’d mean everything to leave these boys and go our separate ways with a good taste in our mouth,” linebacker Josh Banderas said. “At the end of the day, this season is for Foltzy so to send him out on the right note and have him watching us and this group, this class that he came in with, go out on a win would be huge for all of us.”
As bowl practices kicked off on Friday, Nebraska’s seniors are ready. With the goal of 10 wins in mind, the Huskers plan to do what is needed to get healthy and be ready to face Tennessee. They expect Husker fans to be 100 percent behind them in support. And if any fans are on the fence about heading to Nashville, Banderas had one thing to say about that.
“Come support, just like you come to any other game,” Banderas said. “This is the last time you’ll see this exact team on the field together and I think we’ve done something pretty special together. The way we finish it is going to be how we top it off and it’s going to be a good finish and I hear Nashville is cool.”
The seniors are ready to put the loss to Iowa behind them. It’s now onto the Music City Bowl, Tennessee and the opportunity to finally snag 10 wins for the 2016 season.
“It’ll be a great experience for all of us on the team,” Westerkamp said.
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.