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By Randy York
Coming off one of its worst offensive performances of the season at Michigan, Nebraska fans wondered what to expect when the Huskers launched their Heroes Game rivalry with Iowa Friday, and what they saw was an offense accepting a challenge and showing considerable dominance. Take it straight from one of two biggest men on Nebraska's team. Everything that happened on offense Friday, Jermarcus "Yoshi" Hardrick saw coming all week long.
"I knew after Wednesday's practice where our minds were," Yoshi said. "I knew because of the way everyone on the offense laid it on the line in our team meeting before practice. Coach (Tim) Beck and Coach (Ron) Brown usually have a speech, but they told us seniors when the offense met in the football auditorium before practice that they wanted us to speak. A lot of people broke down and started crying in that meeting.
"Everyone was emotional because we all wanted to send the same message," Yoshi said. "This is our last time together, so let's embrace it and create a memory that will last forever. We talked about all of our ups and downs and how we stayed together. As people started letting their spirit out and talking about how much we loved playing on this team, tears started dropping all over the room. I'll never forget that meeting because it wasn't planned and yet it really showed how much we love each other."
Yoshi remembers seven seniors accepting their coaches' 11th-hour challenge and joining him to address the entire offensive team - Mike Caputo, Curenski Gilleylen, Brandon Kinnie, Austin Jones, Tyler Legate and Kevin Thompson.
He Couldn't Stop Himself from Tearing Up
"We stayed strong as one, and we all just wanted to leave with the memory that we were leaving it all out there on the field," Hardrick said. "We didn't do it for someone else. We did it for ourselves. I still can't believe how just about everybody in that auditorium was crying. I told myself I wasn't going to cry, but when I started talking, it was just way too much for me. I stopped for what seemed like a minute or two. I was really surprised. I didn't cry like some of the others, but I definitely teared up.
"It really did shock me, but it just showed how much love we have on this team," Hardrick said. "I think it was a smart move by Coach Beck and Coach Brown, asking us to share our thoughts without knowing in advance. I think they wanted our thoughts to come straight from our hearts, and they sure did. No one had time to write anything down, but we'll always remember what happened in that room because we shared what we all feel about each other."
According to Hardrick, Jones was the one who stopped everyone in their tracks. "Everybody's just used to Austin being funny about everything," Yoshi said, "but right before he got his chance to talk, he just started breaking down before he could say anything. We were all looking for a joke, but when he started talking about how much he loved us and things like that, we knew it wasn't any joke. It shocked me, and it stunned everybody in the room. He was the one that started it all, and everybody just kind of fed off him. Coach Beck wrapped it all up. He told us we all heard the right message and said it was our last time together, and all we needed to do was the absolute best we could and to have fun out there on the field.
"And that's exactly what happened," Hardrick said. "We were ready to play. It was a short week, but one of the best weeks, if not the best week of focus all year. We didn't look back at Michigan. We looked ahead to Iowa. I could feel the energy, the camaraderie and the vibe all week long. We all wanted to play for each other more than anything else. We kicked off our newest rivalry with a win. It was a fun week, and we hope we get a good draw in the bowl game, so we can be at our best for that, too. All we needed was a little love, and I think it will definitely carry over."
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