Craig Bohl working overtime with Osborne blueprint ahead of return to Nebraska

A little hard work has never bothered Craig Bohl.

Whether it was long childhood days clearing the pasture on the family farm in Nebraska, the walk-on grind when he was a defensive back with the Huskers or the challenge of overhauling a program that had fallen on hard times, Bohl has spent his whole life embracing a challenge.

But as the weather delay ticked on and pushed back Wyoming's kickoff on Saturday and a triple-overtime battle stretched the final whistle into the wee hours of Sunday morning, even Bohl was starting to wonder when the first shift of the season was going to end.

"I started looking at my watch and thought, 'Oh, my goodness,'" Bohl said. "There was some adversity there, and that will test you.

"But our guys answered the bell. And that kind of tells the tale of our program. When you climb up a mountain, even when it's a big mountain, you've got to take it one step at a time."

The stretched-out, thrilling 40-34 win over Northern Illinois last weekend was just a single step, but the difficult process it took to complete it might be emblematic of the entire project Bohl has taken on with the Cowboys.

As Bohl prepares for a return to Nebraska -- a place where he spent eight seasons as an assistant before becoming a national-championship winner with North Dakota State using Tom Osborne's blueprint -- the lengthy opener might have given the Cowboys some momentum as they try to knock off one of the Big Ten's top contenders.

Bohl deflected any questions about his lifelong ties to the Huskers this week in an effort to keep the focus on his players. He routinely referred to the test for his Mountain West Conference program as merely a "business trip." And if he feels any sort of motivation to show Nebraska what it might be missing after he was forced out as defensive coordinator in 2002 or nostalgia to go back to Memorial Stadium as just the third former player in program history to coach against the Huskers, he's certainly not showing it.

"There's really not," Bohl said. "I mean, I learned a long time ago that it's about the players and staying focused on the task at hand. A lot of my colleagues are probably in a similar situation that I'm in, and you just get to be pretty dog-gone compartmentalized. That's the real focus.

"I do track a score, and Mike Riley is a friend of mine and we serve on the [American Football Coaches Association] board together, so in passing you track. OK, you look at the ticker and Nebraska won. I saw some plays last year when they beat Michigan State and I saw their bowl game, so that's exciting. But as far as really diving in and having a heartbeat like you are part of the state or part of the coaching staff? It's really not that way."

The Cowboys, though, certainly have had Bohl's blood pumping since he arrived after loading up the trophy case with three national titles with the Bison. And while he acknowledged going into his first season that the rebuilding job would be sizable given the change in recruiting philosophies, offensive and defensive systems and the installation of Osborne's culture, it might have been even more demanding than he imagined in the summer of 2014.

The Cowboys won just six games during Bohl's first two seasons, and despite almost immediately winning over the fan base with his blue-collar approach and little heat on his coaching seat, it has taken longer for all his behind-the-scenes work to show up on the field. Even a victory that put it on display to start the season was pushed back nearly two hours thanks to the unpredictable Laramie weather, but it wasn't hard to see for anybody that stuck around or watched it on film.

"I know the job [Bohl] will do there, so I know they are being put in a foundation that is growing to be a good football team and you can sense that in their recruiting," Riley said. "As I talked to all the coaches ... it was almost uniform in describing Wyoming that they are well-coached -- and I talked to them [all] separately. So that is kind of the pervading thing as you look at it.

"This is a team that is going to be on the rise. They already started off with a nice win."

Not surprisingly, it didn't come easily for Wyoming. The climb only gets steeper for it on the road against the Huskers this week, too.

But Nebraska should also know full well what it's getting in a native son: Bohl has never backed down from a hard job.