It’s a statistic that gets gaudier as the season wears on. Come the fourth quarter, Nebraska doesn’t just look ready to keep playing, but the Huskers appear fresher, crisper, and more focused than their opponents.
The result is a cumulative 78-6 advantage in the final stanza through five games thus far. A little luck is part of winning in college football, but that’s not what’s behind a 72-point margin of victory as the final seconds tick off the game clock.
Nebraska’s resilience from player to player as games have gone on is a direct result of its strength and conditioning program under Mark Philipp and his assistant coaches. In the offseason, they lay the foundation for what you’re seeing now.
“We see these kids a lot more than they’re going to see the football coaches,” Philipp said in a 2015 interview.
“I think it’s super important to have five different strength coaches that will help the kids out because everyone sees things a little different.”
In the Huskers’ last game against Illinois, the Big Red went into the fourth quarter down 16-10 with several starters out including two offensive linemen. Despite the personnel losses, Nebraska was able to score 21 unanswered points. Running back Terrell Newby churned out 113 of his 140 total rushing yards.
You’ll hear about Tommy Armstrong’s legs, the pros and cons of four different Husker backs, and of course the Blackshirts. The guys who get even less publicity than the big uglies up front are the ones that make sure they can extend the drives like the 18-play steamroller effort Nebraska put out against the Illini.
Expanding on his approach towards developing programs to keep the Huskers in games until the very end, Philipp said, “Coach Riley’s job is to train you as a football player. I’m going to put tools in your toolbox to help you become a great athlete, so that way it transfers to the field for you to become a better football player.”
Some of Philipp’s colleagues include Pender, Nebraska’s Jamie Belt, who operated Visible Impact Fitness; helped train UFC fighters; and has even worked closely with current unified WBC, WBO, Ring magazine, and lineal light welterweight champion Terence “Bud” Crawford in the past.
You’ll see the strength and conditioning team’s work bleed into practice as Philipp gets his boys fired up and his assistants keep a watchful eye helping to focus the enthusiasm. Watching Nebraska’s head football strength coach, it’s easy to see where the Huskers draw their energy from.
“I think that’s the fun part of my job. I get to come in and do this and watch these kids grow. There’s a lot of things I look forward to, but I look forward to tomorrow. I look forward to seeing them again tomorrow and training them and pushing them. That’s what I look forward to.”
With a force like Philipp and his crew behind it, Nebraska football is climbing back to the days when a team physically felt that it played the Big Red, win or lose. Bruises and exhaustion either served as badges of honor or a painful reminder of defeat.
You’ll see that conditioning pay off as the Huskers’ games wear on. Nebraska may take a few losses before 2016 comes to an end, but the teams that gain victories will earn them in every sense, especially once a contest hits the final quarter.