Nebraska is seeking its 10th win of the season in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Huskers Face Wildcats in Holiday Bowl

By NU Athletic Communications

Nebraska makes its 46th all-time bowl appearance and its second trip to the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl. The contest will be played in front of a sold-out Qualcomm Stadium crowd and a national television audience. Kickoff for the game is set for 5 p.m. (PST) with ESPN providing high-definition television coverage.

The Huskers enter the game with a 9-4 overall record following a last-second loss to No. 2 Texas in the Big 12 Championship Game in Arlingon, Texas on Dec. 5. Nebraska's nine victories mark the second straight season the Huskers have reached at least nine wins, the first back-to-back nine-win campaigns for the Huskers since 2000 and 2001.

Nebraska comes into the game ranked 19th according to the coaches poll and 20th in the Associated Press poll. A win would likely allow Nebraska to finish the season nationally ranked for the first time since 2005. Arizona enters the game with an 8-4 overall record, and the Wildcats tied for second place in the Pac-10 with a 6-3 league record. Coach Mike Stoops' team closed the regular season with a 21-17 victory at USC to earn the Holiday Bowl invitation. Arizona is ranked 23rd in the USA Today Coaches Poll and 22nd by the Associated Press.

The matchup will mark just the third all-time meeting between the schools and the second in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl. Arizona was a 23-20 victor in the 1998 Holiday Bowl matchup between the teams. In the only other meeting, Nebraska and Arizona battled to a 14-14 tie in Lincoln in 1961.

Nebraska: Nebraska to nine wins in each of his first two seasons as head coach, joining Bob Devaney, Tom Osborne and Frank Solich in accomplishing that feat. Prior to taking over as the Huskers' head coach, Pelini served as defensive coordinator at NU, Oklahoma and LSU. Previously, he had stints as an NFL assistant with San Francisco, New England and Green Bay.

Arizona: Mike Stoops (Iowa, '86) is in his sixth season as Arizona's head coach and owns a 33-38 record withBo Pelini (Ohio State, '90) owns a 19-8 record in his second season with the Huskers. Pelini has guided the Wildcats. Stoops has guided Arizona to back-to-back eight-win seasons in 2008 and 2009. He was previously an assistant at Oklahoma, Kansas State and Iowa.

Nebraska enters the Pacifi c Life Holiday Bowl with a 9-4 record, and the Huskers also captured the Big 12 North Division crown with a 6-2 conference record. For the second straight season, Nebraska was among the nation's best teams in the second half of the year, winning five straight games before a one-point setback against Texas in the Big 12 Championship Game.

The Huskers cruised to victories in their first two games, defeating Florida Atlantic 49-3 and Arkansas State 38-9 in front of the home fans. Nebraska's defense first showed its ability to dominate at Virginia Tech, shutting down the 13th-ranked Hokies for most of the game, before falling 16-15 on a touchdown in the final minute. Nebraska completed non-league play with a 55-0 shutout of Louisiana-Lafayette in Lincoln, NU's first shutout in three seasons. The game also marked the 300th consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium, a streak that dates back to 1962.

Big 12 play opened with a key North Division contest at Missouri. In a steady rainstorm in Columbia, Nebraska struggled offensively for the first three quarters. However, the Huskers found a fourth-quarter spark, posting 27 unanswered points to end the game with a 27-12 victory. In addition to the offensive outburst, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh dominated the game and was named National Defensive Player of the Week.

Nebraska returned home for a pair of October games, but suffered back-to-back losses against Texas Tech and Iowa State. The high-powered Red Raider offense was held in check for much of the day by the Blackshirts, but Tech made crucial plays in a 31-10 victory. A week later, Nebraska committed eight turnovers and lost 9-7 to Iowa State, despite easily out-gaining the Cyclones.

With the Huskers standing at 1-2 in Big 12 play and 4-3 overall, NU went on the road to Baylor where it relied on special teams and defense to post a 20-10 victory. A blocked punt returned for a touchdown started the scoring on the day, and Nebraska's defense dominated yet another opponent, holding Baylor without an offensive touchdown.

A week later, Nebraska returned to Lincoln for its matchup with old rival Oklahoma. In a throwback defensive struggle it was the Cornhuskers who were standing at the end in a 10-3 victory. Five takeaways by the Nebraskad efense, including a school-record three interceptions by Matt O'Hanlon, along with the running of Roy Helu Jr. provided enough for Nebraska to end a four-game losing streak to the Sooners.

The win over OU vaulted Nebraska right back into the thick of the North Division race, heading into a three-game stretch against divisional foes. The first of those games was on the road at Kansas. After jumping to a 10-0 lead early in the game, NU watched Kansas take a 17-16 lead midway through the fourth quarter. However, Nebraska remained resilient, using a powerful running game to score two fourth-quarter touchdowns and secure a 31-17 victory.

The win set up a winner-take-all North Division matchup with Kansas State in Lincoln. The Wildcats got on the board with a field goal on their opening drive of the night, but that was all the scoring the Blackshirts would allow. Nebraska used an opportunisitc defense and efficient off ense to control the game the rest of the way and post a 17-3 victory, ensuring its first outright division title in a decade.

Nebraska closed the regular season with a 28-20 victory at Colorado. The Huskers again relied on defense and special teams to provide the spark, as the Huskers scored touchdowns in all three areas in a game for the first time since early in the 2008 season. Junior Niles Paul got Nebraska going with a punt return for a touchdown, and freshman I-back Rex Burkhead closed the deal with an impressive fourth-quarter rushing effort.

The win sent Nebraska to the Big 12 Championship Game with a five-game winning streak. Nebraska converted two first-quarter interceptions into Alex Henery field goals that gave the Huskers a 6-0 lead. The score remained that way until UT scored a touchdown late in the second quarter to take a one-point halftime lead. After falling behind 10-6, Nebraska got a pair of fourth-quarter field goals from Henery to move in front 12-10 with less than two minutes to play. However, Texas moved into position for a game-winning field goal and connected on a 46-yard field goal as time expired to post a 13-12 win and advance to the BCS National Championship Game. TheNebraska defense dominated the 'Horns, holding UT to 202 total yards and sacking quarterback Colt McCoy nine times, including 4.5 by Suh who earned a spot as a Heisman fi nalist with his performance.

Suh became one of the most decorated defensive players in college football history. A unanimous All-American, Suh won the Outland, Lombardi, Bednarik and Nagurski awards and was one of five players on hand for the Heisman ceremonies. He also won Big 12 Defensive Player-of-the-Year honors and placed his name in a prominent position throughout the Nebraska record book. In addition to Suh, five other Huskers earned first-team All-Big 12 honors from at least one source, including place-kicker/punter Alex Henery, tight end Mike McNeill, defensive tackle Jared Crick, safety Larry Asante and cornerback Prince Amukamara.

Nebraska is participating in its 46th all-time bowl game with its appearance in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl. The Huskers missed bowl games in 2004 and 2007, but have played in the postseason in 39 of the past 41 seasons, including an NCAA-record 35 straight bowl games from 1969 to 2003. Last season Nebraska improved to 23-22 in bowl games with a 26-21 victory over Clemson in the Gator Bowl.

The Huskers' 46 all-time bowl appearances overall is fifth best, trailing only Alabama (57), Texas (49), Tennessee (48) and USC (48). Nebraska's 23 bowl victories rank eighth nationally. Nebraska played the first of its 46 bowls in the Rose Bowl, when No. 7 Nebraska lost to No. 2 Stanford, 21-13, following the 1940 season. Nebraska's 35 consecutive bowls began with a 45-6 win over Georgia in the 1969 Sun Bowl, and ended following its appearance in the 2003 Alamo Bowl. The Huskers have been successful in recent years, winning nine of their last 13 bowl games since the 1994 season.

Nebraska's Holiday Bowl opponent, Arizona, will be making its 15th all-time bowl appearance and enters the game with a 6-7-1 record in bowl games. The Wildcats were victorious in last year's Las Vegas Bowl, defeating BYU by a score of 31-21. That was Arizona's first bowl appearance since the 1998 Holiday Bowl game with Nebraska. Arizona has won four of its past five bowl games dating back to 1994. Like Nebraska, this is Arizona's second appearance in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl.

Nebraska's trip to San Diego for the 2009 Holiday Bowl marks the Huskers' second appearance in the game and fourth bowl game in the state of California. Nebraska is 0-3 in its previous bowl games in California, dropping the 1998 Holiday Bowl against Arizona, as well as the 1941 and 2002 Rose Bowls.

The Holiday Bowl is one of 14 bowl destinations in Nebraska's 46 all-time bowl appearances.

Nebraska's victory in the Gator Bowl last year pushed the school's all-time bowl record over the .500 mark at 23-22. Nebraska will be attempting to push its bowl record two games over the .500 mark for the first time since owning a 21-19 bowl record following the 2000 Alamo Bowl. The Huskers have won nine of their last 13 bowl games since 1994 to get back to a winning postseason record.

By coach in bowl games, Nebraska was 0-1 under Biff Jones, 0-1 under Bill Glassford, 6-3 under Bob Devaney, 12-13 under Tom Osborne, 2-3 under Frank Solich, 1-1 under Bill Callahan, and is 2-0 under Bo Pelini who served as the interim coach in the 2003 Alamo Bowl win over Michigan State, and guided NU to a win over Clemson last year.

Five of Nebraska's nine bowl games from 1993 to 2001 were for at least a share of the national title, with the Huskers on the winning end in three of those games.

Nebraska will enter its bowl game ranked 20th in the Associated Press poll and 19th according to the coaches. This marks the 41st time in 46 bowl appearances that Nebraska has been nationally ranked. With Arizona ranked 22nd in the Associated Press poll, this marks just the second time in Nebraska's past six bowl games that both teams have entered nationally ranked. Nebraska has a long history of facing difficult foes in the postseason.

Nebraska has faced a top-10 opponent in 17 of its past 23 bowl games. Nebraska has faced the AP's top-ranked

The matchup with Arizona will mark Nebraska's fourth bowl meeting against a current member of the Pac-10 Conference. In addition to the 23-20 loss to Arizona in the 1998 Holiday Bowl, Nebraska also came out on the short end against Stanford in the 1941 Rose Bowl (21-13) and Arizona State in the 1975 Fiesta Bowl (17-14).

Nebraska will be facing a Pac-10 opponent for the first time since a home-and-home series with USC in 2006 and
2007, when the Trojans defeated Nebraska each year. Those two setbacks against USC are two of just six losses against the Pac-10 since 1990.

In the last 20 seasons (since 1990) Nebraska is 12-6 against Pac-10 opponents, including 4-1 vs. Arizona State, 2-0 vs. UCLA, 2-0 vs. California, 2-2 vs. Washington, 1-0 vs. Oregon State, 1-0 vs. Washington State, 0-1 vs. Arizona and 0-2 vs. USC. Stanford and Oregon are the only Pac-10 schools Nebraska has not faced in the past 20 seasons.

Nebraska is scheduled to play a non-conference game against a Pac-10 opponent each of the next four years. The Huskers will play a home-and-home series with Washington in 2010 and 2011, before facing UCLA in back-to-back years in 2012 and 2013. Nebraska is 33-20-3 all-time against Pac-10 opponents.

The matchup with Arizona will bring together two families that are very familiar. Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini and defensive coordinator Carl Pelini were childhood friends with the Stoops family, including Wildcat Head Coach Mike Stoops and defensive coordinator Mark Stoops.

All four of the coaches call Youngstown, Ohio, their hometown and attended Cardinal Mooney High School. Nebraska assistant coach Tim Beck is also from Youngstown and attended Mooney as well. In addition to attending the same high school, head coaches Bo Pelini and Mike Stoops also share a birthday-Dec. 13. Pelini turned 42 earlier this month, while Stoops celebrated his 48th birthday.

Nebraska will face 22nd-ranked Arizona in the Holiday Bowl, marking its fifth game of the season against a nationally ranked opponent. The Huskers are 2-2 against ranked teams this season, defeating No. 24 Missouri 27-12 and 20th-ranked Oklahoma, 10-3. Nebraska also suffered a pair of one-point setbacks, losing at No. 13 Virginia Tech 16-15 and to No. 3 Texas, 13-12, in the Big 12 Championship Game. A victory over Arizona would give Nebraska three victories over ranked teams in 2009. The last time Nebraska defeated three ranked teams in the same season was in 1999 when NU defeated four ranked teams in a 12-1 campaign.

Nebraska has faced a top-10 opponent in 17 of its past 23 bowl games. Nebraska has faced the AP's top-ranked

team in a bowl game four times since the 1981 season, when NU faced top-ranked Clemson in the Orange Bowl.


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