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Yes, Keith Jones remembers playing South Carolina. How can he forget rushing for a team-leading 103 yards in Nebraska's 27-24 win at South Carolina in 1986? And why wouldn't he remember another team-leading 129-yard rushing performance a year later when he scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to bail the Huskers out of a 21-13 deficit en route to a 30-21 win over the Gamecocks in Lincoln? Both games against South Carolina went to the wire, triggering Jones to wave more than one caution flag in front of his alma mater as the Huskers take on the Top Ten-ranked Gamecocks in the 2012 Capital One Bowl Jan. 2 in Orlando.
"The thing I remember most about South Carolina is how great their athletes were, and I'm not just talking about Sterling Sharpe," Jones said. "Both years we played South Carolina, they were loaded with guys that had speed, agility and the ability to make big plays. You pretty much had to match 'em score for score, and they still have that ability today, even though they lost the country's most dangerous player (Marcus Latimore) with that knee injury."
If you haven't noticed, Jones still keeps up with college football in between moments of the highest-pressure job he's ever had - being a stay-at-home dad for his 18-month-old fraternal twin daughters, Esley and Xonia. "I come up for air when they go down for a nap," he said. "I'm very fortunate. My wife (Jeanne) is director of Consumer Affairs for ConAgra Foods (in Omaha), and the two of us are a team to make this work. Oh my gosh, it's not easy, because we also have a 12-year-old son (Quincy) and a 6-year-old son (Kaydon)."
That makes for some fast footwork for Jones, who once rushed for 248 yards at Colorado and 240 against Iowa State in that same 1987 season - 448 combined rushing yards and four touchdowns in those two games on just 41 rushing attempts. Even though Jones is NU's No. 15 career rusher with 2,488 yards (Rex Burkhead moved ahead of him this year with 2,565 yards), Jones' 6.25-yard per- attempt average ranks fourth among the Huskers' top 20 all-time career rushers.
"I was really glad to see Nebraska draw a team like South Carolina in the best bowl game outside the BCS," Jones said. "South Carolina is an SEC team that gets a lot of respect, and this is a great chance for Nebraska to gain some confidence and set the tone for next season."
Jones believes Nebraska needs to end the 2011 season with a win over a Top Ten team. "I know it's a huge challenge for us," he said, "but I think in the next year or two, we need to take a couple more big steps to satisfy everyone inside the program and those watching it. We have such great history and such great tradition, and with guys like Burkhead, (Lavonte) David and (Alfonzo) Dennard, I think it's time to show the SEC that the Big Ten can win a big game, too."
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