LINCOLN — Nebraska coach Bo Pelini praised the practice tempo and his team's focus during workouts that started last Saturday, even though NU “started out a little bit rusty.”
There's been more “good on good” in practice — No. 1 offense vs. No. 1 defense. And Pelini said Nebraska is much healthier after two weeks off with pretty much everybody practicing. However, quarterback Taylor Martinez is unlikely to play Jan. 1 in Jacksonville, Fla. Martinez did not practice Thursday.
“This whole season's been hard on him,” Pelini said. “Not ideal, not the way you want to see him go out. I feel for him. It's been a difficult deal, but he's not 100 percent right now.”
Quarterback Tommy Armstrong, who missed most of the Penn State game and the Iowa game with an ankle injury, looked good walking off the Hawks Championship Center field. No heavy tape.
Colorado transfer still facing legal hurdles
Offensive lineman Alex Lewis, the Colorado transfer currently charged with two felonies stemming from a May 2013 fight in Boulder, is enrolled at NU and taking classes but is not currently on Pelini's radar, the coach said.
Lewis goes to trial Jan. 20 on the charges, and prosecutors have consistently been unwilling to plea bargain the charges to misdemeanors.
“He's got things he needs to take care of that are obviously out of my hands,” Pelini said. “When that situation plays out, we'll see where it goes. There's always a possibility.”
Bo: No correlation between injuries, conditioning methods
Pelini dismissed any notions on Thursday that Nebraska's strength and conditioning program played any factor in the Huskers' glut of injuries this year. NU was hit particularly hard on the offensive line, where several players suffered MCL strains in their knees.
“I've never seen a strength and conditioning issue as far as ...” he paused. “When you have MCLs, you're gonna get MCLs.”
James Dobson, Nebraska football's strength and conditioning coach, has created a team that does well in the fourth quarter, Pelini said.
“Since I've been here, since Dobson and his group have been here, we've been a good fourth-quarter football team,” Pelini said. “That's a testament of strength and conditioning. There's a reason why (Ndamukong) Suh, Prince (Amukamara) and Barrett Ruud and the rest of them train with Coach Dobson in the offseason — because they believe in what he does. To me that speaks for itself. I don't know where (such notions) come from, but that's just somebody who doesn't have very much knowledge making comments.”
Cunningham in booth for Gator Bowl broadcast
ESPN announced Thursday that play-by-play announcer Mike Patrick, analyst Ed Cunningham and sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards will be the broadcast team for Nebraska's Gator Bowl matchup against Georgia at 11 a.m. on Jan. 1. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
Cunningham drew the ire of some Husker fans in 2010 when, in back-to-back NU wins over Oklahoma State and Missouri, he sharply criticized hits from former players Eric Martin and Courtney Osborne as being too dangerous. Neither hit was flagged during the game, although Martin served a one-game suspension for his block on a Niles Paul kickoff return for a touchdown.
Pelini said he still expects I-back Ameer Abdullah to return for his senior year. ... Pelini said he hasn't been contacted by any other schools asking to interview his assistants for other jobs. ... NU will practice until Saturday before players take a holiday break. They'll reconvene Christmas night and travel to Jacksonville, Fla., on Thursday. NU will practice Dec. 27 to 30 at the University of North Florida.
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Video: Nebraska coach Bo Pelini after practice Thursday