CU Buffs embracing opportunity to play rival Nebraska

Mel Tucker: ‘You really can’t downplay rivalry games in my opinion’

Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
Colorado head coach Mel Tucker said the team is embracing the rivalry with Nebraska.

Just another game?

Not quite.

While the Colorado football team is preparing for Saturday’s showdown with long-time rival Nebraska like any other game – film study, game planning, etc. – CU head coach Mel Tucker can’t deny the impact of seeing a rival on the schedule.

Saturday’s matchup at Folsom Field (1:35 p.m.; TV: Fox) will be Tucker’s first experience with the CU-Nebraska rivalry, but he’s certainly no stranger to these types of games, having coached in many of the sports’ most bitter showdowns.

“You really can’t downplay rivalry games in my opinion,” he said. “You have to embrace them. They are what they are and that’s what makes this game great.”

There’s a way to embrace the game and not lose sight of the task at hand, however, and that’s Tucker’s message to his team this week.

“Our focus is really on the preparation and what it’s going to take to put ourselves in position to perform the way we need to perform in the game,” Tucker said.

No doubt, Nebraska is focused, as well. There is no love lost between these teams and CU’s 33-28 victory in Lincoln, Neb., a year ago only fuels the fire.

“Oh, for sure,” CU linebacker Jonathan Van Diest said. “We weren’t expected to come in and beat them (last year), especially in a stadium and an atmosphere like that, and the fact that we did I think really upset them. There is some bad blood, but it’s also football and we’re all going to come out and ball.”

Nebraska fans – and even head coach Scott Frost – have thrown some verbal jabs at the Buffs this week. So far, none of the Buffs have taken the bait.

Steven Branscombe / Getty Images
Colorado quarterback Steven Montez is ready for a packed Folsom Field on Saturday.

“They’re talking enough for both of us,” Buffs quarterback Steven Montez said.

Tucker sees no need for the verbal jousting and made it clear to his players that he wants none of it.

“I don’t want our guys talking (trash),” Tucker said. “This is not a time to talk. It’s about preparation. There’s already a date for the game; we’re going to play. What are we doing to do up until the game to get ready? That’s what I expect from our guys, period.”

Nebraska’s first trip to Boulder since 2009 will create an electric atmosphere. The game is nearly a sellout (limited seats are available through season or three-game packages) and athletic director Rick George said Tuesday that this will be the highest revenue-producing game in CU’s history.

“The stadium is going to be packed,” Montez said. “Highest revenue in the history of Colorado football. That’s huge; that’s big stuff. The atmosphere should be great and we’re just excited to get out there and play.”

For Tucker, this will be his first home game as the Buffs’ coach and he even joked that “Ralphie is going to be running probably a little bit faster” because of the energy in the stadium.

Van Diest, a Colorado native and Cherry Creek High School graduate said he will soak in the atmosphere before the game just to “get it all out so I don’t have to think about it when I’m playing.”

“It’s going to be really fun,” Van Diest added. “I’m excited for the fans to enjoy it and just to bring a college football atmosphere back to CU.”

In getting his team ready for the Cornhuskers, Tucker hopes the Buffs don’t get caught up in the moment.

“To keep our guys focused and keep our guys on an even keel it’s about playing the next play,” he said. “We talk to our guys all the time about not watching the scoreboard. It’s about our performance, our behavior and playing the next play. That’s how you stay focused.”

Given all the rivalries Tucker has been a part of in his career, he was asked which one was the most intense.

“I anticipate this one being probably the most intense because it’s up next,” he said. “Rivalry games, it’s my experience that those are usually the hardest hitting, cleanest football games that you’re going to play.”

With the game still several days away, however, Tucker isn’t quite ready to focus on Saturday. In that regard, this week really is no different for the Buffs.

“Right now it’s all about the day to day preparation,” he said. “It’s about the preparation leading up to the game, and the game will take care of itself.”