Old and new meet in second Big Ten title game

Larry Hawley

Hawl 'In

7:28 PM EST, November 30, 2012


INDIANAPOLIS - They knew so well the place they were going they bestowed upon a senior quarterback a honor like no other.

Back at Lucas Oil Stadium for a second time in as many seasons for the second playing of the Big Ten's conference football championship, Bret Bielema had a special gift for quarterback Curt Phillips.

"He was a Manning fan growing up," said Bielema, referring to the man who set record after record at the RCA Dome and eventually the venue he sat in on Friday afternoon. "So we put him in his locker. What used to be his locker we were told."

Its a unique honor given to the senior who took over as quarterback after an injury knock Joel Stave out for the season.

"Gave him his own spot there.  He was like a king bee sitting in there today," said Bielema. "It was fun seeing that, and our kids are rolling with it and having a little fun."

Comfort might be a little easier for the Badgers, since they were the champions of the inagural Big Ten Football Championship Game a season ago. Their 42-39 victory over Michigan State sealed up a second straight Rose Bowl appearance.

A season later the advantage of knowing the lay of the land is an advantage that Bielema acknowledges-using his quarterback again to point that out.

"Jim Sorgi, who was a backup quarterback here to Peyton for a long time, told us about the one end zone with the suites down there," said Bielema, referring to the Colts' former backup.  "He said on Sundays when all of those people are wearing Colts jerseys, it looks like 50 people are playing defense against you in the end zone. 

"So little things that Curt has made aware."

Nebraska doesn't have that kind of luxury. In the Big Ten for just the second year they are experiencing their first championship game, arriving in Indianapolis having never played in the city before.

Winners of their last six games the 12th-ranked Huskers are hoping to lock up a Rose Bowl big having reached Indianapolis as the Legends Division Champions.

"We had our growing pains, so to speak, the first year," said Pelini, who brought Nebraska to Big Ten Football in 2011. "But I think one of the keys to our football team this year is I think they've shown the type of character I believe you have to have to have a good football team."

Already they've been up to the challenge against the Badgers, beating them in Lincoln 30-27 on September 29th. It was one of 12 wins the Huskers have in two seasons in the Big Ten which is a sign of the team's ability to quickly find their footing in a new conference.

"I haven't really thought much about it, to be honest with you," said Pelini of the Huskers' quick success in the Big Ten. "I'm just concerned with playing the best.  As far as our football team, it's the next opponent. 

"It's obviously a big game because you're playing for a championship, a title.  That's all I put my focus on."