San Antonio, Texas -- The Nebraska football team took its preparations for the MasterCard Alamo Bowl indoors on Saturday morning, going through a 1 ˝ practice in sweats and helmets at the Alamodome.
The workout was Nebraska’s final practice before Monday night’s contest against Michigan State. The Huskers will head back to the dome on Sunday morning for a team photo opportunity, but will not practice on Sunday.
Husker receivers Coach Ron Brown said the team’s intensity has increased throughout Nebraska’s five days in San Antonio. He said the Huskers should be well-prepared for a strong performance against the 8-4 Spartans.
"Our guys are fired up about playing," Brown said. "We should play well on Monday. With all the potential distractions out there our players have done a good job of staying focused.
Brown hopes the Huskers continue their strong record at the Alamodome. The Huskers are 3-0 all-time in the building, winning Big 12 Championship Games in the facility in 1997 and 1999, in addition to a 66-17 victory over Northwestern in the 2000 Alamo Bowl.
"We’ve got some good memories here," Brown said. "We won both of our Big 12 titles here and also the Alamo Bowl a few years back."
Following Saturday’s practice, both teams attended the Alamo Bowl Kickoff Luncheon at the Marriott Rivercenter. ESPN’s Mike Tirico was on hand for the event that also featured brief talks by Michigan State Head Coach John L. Smith and Nebraska Interim Head Coach Bo Pelini.
Defensive backs coach Marvin Sanders and defensive standouts Josh Bullocks, Trevor Johnson, Demorrio Williams and Barrett Ruud met with the media at an afternoon press conference at the media headquarters. Sanders said the Huskers’ top-ranked pass defense will face a stern test on Monday night against the Spartans’ high-powered offensive attack, led by senior quarterback Jeff Smoker.
"We’ve faced several good offenses throughout the year," Sanders said. "Jeff Smoker is a different kind of quarterback than those we’ve faced through the year. He’s a very patient quarterback and that is scary to us as a defensive staff, and specifically in the secondary. He poses a big threat and we have to be very disciplined on the defensive side of the football."
Nebraska will have to pressure Smoker to have slow down the Spartans, according to Bullocks, who has a nation-leading 10 interceptions this season.
"We have to put pressure on the quarterback and not allow him all the time in the world to throw the football," Bullocks said. "No matter who it is, if you give the quarterback plenty of time back there, eventually they are going to find someone open."
The 6-1, 220-pound Williams will play a key part in the Huskers’ pressuring the passer. The senior linebacker has lined up at defensive end in passing situations and leads the team in sacks with nine a Husker position record and also has a team-high 13 quarterback hurries. Sanders said Williams’ versatility has been a key factor in Nebraska’s defensive success throughout the 2003 season.
"We’ve asked a lot of Demorrio throughout the season," Sanders said. "We’ve asked him to play two different positions and he has played both at a high level."
Outside of the team picture at the Alamodome, Nebraska will have a light day on Sunday, with team meetings and a press conference for Coach Pelini on the agenda.