Going Deep: Soccer First Up For Moos
Wednesday’s forecast is for sunshine and 73 degrees, then clear skies and crisp, fall evening weather in Lincoln.
Perhaps that’s a good omen for the first Nebraska athletics event new Director of Athletics Bill Moos will attend.
Moos, who officially began his job Monday, will be present for Senior Night for the Nebraska soccer team, which closes the regular season with its final home match at Barbara Hibner Stadium.
The Huskers (9-4-5) will host Minnesota (10-4-3) at 7 p.m. Nebraska, which will honor nine seniors, is still in contention for a spot in the eight-team Big Ten Tournament that begins Sunday.
Moos, meanwhile, has had a busy first two days on the job, including a segment Monday night on the Huskers Sports Network, when he took phone calls from fans, with questions ranging from Runzas, hot dogs and popcorn, to his task in helping Nebraska football become a hunted program nationally.
“A lot of it gets down to the people that we’re recruiting and making sure that they fit the style of play that they want to be at Nebraska,” Moos said. “And I’m sure they all do. But the great teams that Nebraska has had, or any other program with the kind of tradition and legacy that the Huskers have, there has been that element of, ‘We’ve got to pass that on to the next generation.’ And the next generation comes in and they’re thinking, ‘Hey, we’ve got to meet that level. We’ve got to hit that bar, and then maybe even raise it for the next bunch that comes in.’
“And if you lose that, it’s hard to get it back again. So that’s one of the things that’s obviously going to be a goal.”
Moos also mentioned his meeting with former Nebraska coach and Director of Athletics Tom Osborne.
“Everything was confirmed of how much of a gentleman he was,” Moos said. “And I told Coach Osborne I really wanted to draw on his experience and his thoughts on the University of Nebraska and the great state, and that he could be very, very helpful to me. And he agreed to do that.”
I’ll have more from an interview with Moos later this week.
With Monday’s news that sophomore running back Tre Bryant will have knee surgery and miss the remainder of the season, that leaves juniors Devine Ozigbo and Mikale Wilbon as Nebraska’s top two running backs.
The duo has been sharing the brunt of the carries since Bryant left the second game of the season, against Oregon, with his knee injury, and never returned. Running backs coach Reggie Davis said coaches also want to get true freshman Jaylin Bradley more work, too.
But who starts Saturday night (6:30 p.m., BTN) at Purdue?
“Devine has been running well, so we’re leaning toward him right now,” Davis said Tuesday. “We’ll see how it goes, but it will probably be Devine.”
Ozigbo, incidentally, needs only 28 rushing yards to reach 1,000 career rushing yards. He will become the 65th player in Nebraska history to reach that milestone.
“I didn’t even know until yesterday,” Ozigbo told me. “One of my coaches from back home sent me a text. I was like, ‘Oh, OK, that’s cool.’ I really didn’t have any idea. It’s definitely a feat I’m going to be proud to accomplish. I couldn’t have done it without my team. But it will be cool.”
Ozigbo has rushed for a team-best 351 yards this season and averaged 4.6 yards per carry. Bryant, meanwhile, had 299 yards in one game and three quarters, while averaging 5.9 per carry. Wilbon has rushed for 254 yards but also caught 11 passes, the most of the running backs.
“Everybody just prepares to be the guy,” Ozigbo said. “That’s how the whole running backs room is. We’re all competitive guys. We all love each other and we all want to see each other succeed and push each other.”
The Nebraska volleyball fans always give opposing players and coaches a cordial reception during the introduction of starting lineups.
It turned from cordial to downright heartwarming Saturday night.
First-year Illinois coach Chris Tamas (above) received a loud ovation from the sold-out Devaney Center crowd of 8,256. A Nebraska assistant coach the previous two seasons, Tamas smiled and waved to acknowledge the warm homecoming.
“We’re close with a lot of people here,” Tamas said in the post-match news conference. “We spent two years and a lot of hours of the day with a lot of people in this gym. For me, it was just fun and nice to be back. A lot of people were appreciative of our team here, and it was really good to be back.”
Tamas’ team then gave Nebraska a tussle, winning the second game before Nebraska regrouped, winning 25-19, 24-26, 25-20 and 25-17 to improve to 16-4 overall, and 9-1 in the Big Ten.
“I liked it being on the other side of the net,” Tamas said with a smile. “But I think it’s good for our team to see that.”
Illinois is 16-5 overall, and 7-3 in the Big Ten. Saturday’s meeting was the only one scheduled this season between the Huskers and Illini.
“We gave up some streaks of points that I would have like to not have seen, but for the majority of it, I was really proud with how we responded to a lot of situations,” Tamas said, “just in terms of facial expressions, how the team was communicating. It was a good environment for us to learn in.”
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