It will likely be a while until the Nebraska football team has a season opener even close to this week’s unique experience.
Getting on a plane for a road game isn’t a new concept, but crossing the Atlantic Ocean is.
The mouthguards are definitely full, Nebraska coach Scott Frost joked Sunday.
A common theme emerged from Husker leaders at Sunday’s press conference at Memorial Stadium — this trip is for business, not vacation. The sentiment was repeated several times as Frost and numerous players returned to the podium.
“We’ve talked to our players about handling this the right way and making sure it’s a business trip,” Frost said. “But if we have enough work done and feel confident enough with what we’re doing there, I think we’re confident we can enjoy another country and the culture there and focus on the things we need to do. “
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Nebraska leaves for Ireland on Monday night and getting some sleep on the overnight flight will be important. When the Huskers land in Dublin on Tuesday afternoon, their first stop will be Aviva Stadium for a quick practice followed by a team dinner and a bit of immersion in the 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 season-opening loss to Illinois — Frost said Sunday that his players “were a little too tight” before kickoff.
That’s why Ireland’s itinerary mixes local culture with practice, team meetings and the build-up to an opening season the players would expect.
“I think it’s a mistake to go out there and have guys’ minds on football 24/7 because that’s how you tighten up,” Frost said. “We will try to please 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 executives, an overseas game also represents a different frame of mind than a simple home or road game during the season. Reflecting on his pregame approach, junior quarterback Casey Thompson said he never gets nervous before big games. Instead, Thompson hopes his poise, confidence and body language will help his teammates know they can count on their preparation even in big moments.
Nebraska’s lone offensive captain, tight ends coach Travis Vokolek, is excited for his first overseas trip. But like Thompson, Vokolek said confidence will be the factor that helps the Huskers overcome any fears of the moment.
“This game is big and it’s different for us,” Vokolek said. “We’re crossing the pond that a lot of guys 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 too, so we’ll try not to be tense all the time.”
In their downtime between practice and other team activities, Nebraska will try to soak up the local scene for a taste of Ireland’s offerings (junior running back Garrett Nelson hopes liver is on the dinner menu).
A newly elected captain of the team, Nelson spoke about the importance of players controlling what they can control and simply taking the different cultural experiences as they come.
“Yeah, we’re going overseas, which is bad,” Nelson said. “You can focus on the giant plane ride and the weird conditions and how it’s raining all the time and how people speak differently, or you can focus on being together and controlling our mindset and our steps.”
What is Nelson up to this week?
“Winning the game,” he said.
A captain’s answer – no doubt about it.
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Contact the writer at 402-473-7437 or at LMullin@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LjsLuke