It may be a while until the Nebraska football team has a season opener that’s remotely close to this week’s special experience.
Getting on a plane for a road game isn’t a new concept, but crossing the Atlantic is.
Mouthguards are definitely overwhelmed, Nebraska head coach Scott Frost joked Sunday.
A common theme emerged from Husker leaders at Sunday’s news conference at Memorial Stadium — this trip is for business, not vacation. The idea was repeated several times as Frost and several players took turns on the stage.
“We’ve been talking to our players about handling this the right way and making sure it’s a business trip,” Frost said. But I think if we do enough work and feel confident in what we’re doing there, we can experience another country and culture and still focus on the things we need to work on. “
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Nebraska travels to Ireland on Monday night, and sleeping on the overnight flight is essential. When the Huskers land in Dublin on Tuesday afternoon, their first stop will be the Aviva Stadium for a quick practice, team dinner and immersion in local culture.
Frost said he hopes his team will be back to normal on Wednesday for the next two days of practice.
Lessons can be learned from last year’s opening loss to Illinois — Frost said Sunday that the players were “a little too tight” before the game.
That’s why Ireland’s itinerary mixes local culture with practice, team meetings and the build-up the players look forward to in the season opener.
“I think it’s wrong to go out there and put the guys’ minds on football 24/7 because that’s how you narrow it down,” Frost said. “We try to enjoy the people and the country.
“I’ve met a lot of Irish people in my life and they’re great to be around.”
For NU leaders, an overseas game also represents a different frame of mind than the simple home or road game of the season. Reflecting on his pregame approach, junior quarterback Casey Thompson said he never gets nervous before big games. Instead, Thompson’s poise, confidence and body language help his teammates know they can count on their preparation, even in big moments.
Nebraska’s lone offensive captain, senior tight end Travis Vokolek, is excited for his first trip overseas. But, like Thompson, Vokolek said confidence is a factor that will help the Huskers overcome any early season jitters.
“This game is big and different for us,” Vokolek said. We cross a pond that most people have never done before. We’re a confident football team, we know what needs to be done and we know we’re going to have fun out there so we try and don’t always be upbeat.
In their downtime between practices and other team activities, Nebraska tries to soak up the local scene to get a taste of what the Irish have to offer (junior edge rusher Garrett Nelson hopes liver is on the dinner menu).
Newly elected team captain Nelson spoke about the importance of taking control of what the players can control and adopting different cultural practices when they come easily.
“Yeah, we’re going overseas, which is wicked,” Nelson said. “You can focus on the big plane ride and the weird situations and how it’s always raining and how people talk, or you can focus on being together and controlling our thinking and behavior.”
What is Nelson waiting for this week?
“Winning the game,” he said.
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Contact the writer at 402-473-7437 or at LMullin@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LjsLuke