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Nebraska’s Heskew Dismisses Excuses

December 26, 1998

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Josh Heskew treats excuses like defensive linemen. The senior center from Nebraska likes to knock them down.

Mention that the Cornhuskers rank sixth in the country in rushing heading into Wednesday night’s Holiday Bowl against Arizona, and Heskew says that’s not good enough. Of course, he’s comparing that with the previous season, when their ground game led the nation.

The fact Heskew was the only returning starter on the Nebraska offensive line this year doesn’t matter to him.

``You can make all the excuses in the world, but it just comes down to we didn’t get it done,″ Heskew said after the No. 14 Cornhuskers completed Friday’s practice in preparation for the No. 5 Wildcats. ``Whether it was injuries or inexperience that contributed to that, it really doesn’t matter. At Nebraska we expect to be deep and use every player to do the job.″

The Cornhuskers (9-3) averaged 253.8 yards rushing this season, their lowest showing since an average of 219.8 in 1976. Last season, when they went 13-0 for the No. 2 ranking, their average was 392.6 yards.

``After coming off last year, we had a bid dropoff and that’s something we don’t like to experience around here,″ said Heskew, also one of Nebraska’s captains. ``We on the offensive line take pride in the ground game. When we look at the statistics, we want to see 400 yards rushing and it just hasn’t happened too much this year.″

That’s the kind of attitude Nebraska coach Frank Solich can appreciate. As for Heskew’s leadership this season, Solich has no complaints.

``He has been a steadying force for those guys up front,″ Solich said. ``They’ve been asked to do an awful lot in a very short period of time with relatively little experience. So he’s the one guy that’s been able to help bring them along since the beginning of the season. He’s been an excellent leader.″

An All-Big 12 performer, Heskew topped the Cornhuskers this season with 122 ``pancakes,″ or knockdown blocks. That includes a school-record 23 in the 24-3 victory over Cal.

Plus the 6-foot-3, 290-pounder said he knew he would have a take-charge role in practice this season.

``In group work, we’ll go over plays. I’ll listen and hear if someone needs to do this or that,″ Heskew said. ``When we go through the cadence, I’ll go, `Remember what we did in group work. This is what we saw.′ Then it just kind of clicks in and gets everything going. It’s kind of fun. Everyone does it. That builds our congruency on the line and that’s when things are going to happen for you.″

All the while, he has reminded himself it takes time to build a line that can meet Nebraska’s high standards.

``The biggest thing I had to keep in mind was to just be patient,″ Heskew said. ``These guys didn’t have a lot of experience coming into this year. Cleaning up in a game is a whole lot easier than starting out. I knew these guys would come along and they have.″

The Holiday Bowl will complete Heskew’s Nebraska career. Just a week ago, he also received his diploma in secondary education.

While in San Diego, Heskew plans to visit nearby Escondido, where he lived for three years until settling in Mustang, Okla. Then, after the game, his schedule calls for duck hunting in Nebraska, followed by the Hula Bowl.

But at the top of his agenda is the chance to upset Arizona (11-1).

``Our confidence level is up there already,″ Heskew said. ``At Nebraska we come into every game knowing that we are going to win. If we don’t win, that’s something that they taken from us and we’re going to get back later.″

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