Guided by a steady approach, the No. 14 Nebraska football team wrapped up major preparations for Saturday night's nationally-televised game against No. 1 USC with a two-and-a-half hour workout in shells and shorts at Memorial Stadium on Thursday.
"This is a mature team," Coach Bill Callahan said. "It's a team that has a good focus and a concentrated effort."
Among the players most indicative of that "mature" mindset is senior cornerback and co-captain Zackary Bowman. After a knee injury during spring camp put Bowman's status for the non-conference season in question, Bowman endured a rigorous rehabilitation program that sped his recovery to allow him to return to the field in time for the Huskers' opener against Nevada. He also played in the road victory at Wake Forest last week and is expected to play a large role this year against USC after missing the 2006 contest.
"I think he's been pushed," Callahan said. "In himself, he has the mental toughness to get back on the field. He wants to do this so bad. He has a passion to get back out and do this. He's paid a price in his rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is much tougher than conditioning in terms of what you put your body through. He's paid a dear price to get back on the field, to his credit. I applaud him. He's been outstanding in that respect. To be on the field playing in his third game this season, it is incredible."
Bowman and the rest of the Husker Blackshirts will be challenged by a high-powered, balanced Trojans offense that netted 420 yards of total offense including 206 passing yards in their first game against Idaho on Sept. 1, a 38-10 USC victory. While the Trojans' style of the West Coast offense is fairly similar to Nebraska's offensive scheme, there are slight differences in Callahan's eyes.
"There are similarities, but there are differences," Callahan said. "Just watching SC, we're similar, but there are differences in route structure and protection philosophy."
On the injury front, Callahan said Nebraska has the entire roster available for action after playing significant portions of the Wake Forest game without a pair of defensive starters, safety Tierre Green and tackle Ty Steinkuhler.
The Huskers close preparations for Saturday's game with a walk-through Friday afternoon at Memorial Stadium, before kicking off against the Trojans at 7:13 p.m. Saturday in a game that will be televised by ABC.