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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “‘Cats, Huskers anxious for Holiday Bowl”

    Alan Walsh/Arizona Daily Wildcat
    Alan Walsh
    Alan Walsh/Arizona Daily Wildcat

    SAN DIEGO — The life-long friendship of Arizona head football coach Mike Stoops and Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini has been well documented, but the two will be forced to put that aside for at least a few hours when their teams clash Wednesday night in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl.

    Each coach spent the days leading up to the bowl game soaking in the sights of San Diego with their teams as both squads visited Sea World and the San Diego Zoo, but it’s almost game time and both Arizona and Nebraska are ready for the different challenges that await.

    The No. 20 Wildcats’ main challenge will be trying to slow down vaunted Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, but Stoops said the Heisman trophy finalist won’t be their sole focus.

    “”Ndamukong Suh is a great player, but they’re defense goes way beyond one player,”” Stoops said during a Tuesday morning press conference at the Omni Hotel in downtown San Diego. “”It’s a system, it’s the way they set it up, it’s the way they play, it’s an attitude — so that will be our greatest challenge is playing all 11 of those guys. We certainly have great respect for Ndamukong Suh, but we understand their front four as a group is as good as any that we’ve faced.””

    No. 22 Nebraska’s challenge will be to stymie Arizona’s offense led by quarterback Nick Foles. Foles ran the UA offense effectively this season — Arizona ranked 40th in the nation in total offense — and gives the Wildcats a chance to do well in the seasons to come. However, the Cornhuskers have been good at slowing down opposing offenses as they rank ninth in the country in total defense and second in scoring defense.

    “”Nick Foles is a guy who we feel very comfortable with leading this program into the future,”” Stoops said. “”That’s an extremely critical position to win at the level of competition that we compete at and we feel like we have an elite quarterback who will be tested in a big way (during the Holiday Bowl).””

    Both Stoops and Pelini commented on how similar Arizona and Nebraska are as programs as each school is primarily a defensive team and both were a game away from winning their respective conference championships. The fact that each school was so close to playing in a Bowl Championship Series game shows that the two programs — which were both down in the dumps in recent years — are back in the national spotlight.

    “”I think what you see is you see two football teams on the way up,”” Pelini said. “”I think regardless of what happens (Wednesday) night, obviously only one team can win, but I think we’re going to find out that both programs are here to stay.””

    While both the Wildcats and the Cornhuskers are disappointed they’re not playing in a BCS game, that doesn’t mean they’re not excited at the prospect of becoming Holiday Bowl champions.

    “”I think it’s certainly very important for us to end our season in the top-15 or the top-20 or whatever that puts us in,”” Stoops said. “”It will catapult us into next year a lot like it did a year ago.””

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