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Sunday, December 30
Sneaking a peek at a Rose Bowl diary

By Gene Wojciechowski
ESPN The Magazine

My Rose Bowl Diary:

Monday, Dec. 24 -- Nebraska Arrives.
You didn't miss much. The charter flight landed. Rose Bowl reps, wearing more polyester than the entire cast of "That '70s Show," greeted the Cornhusker contingent in a secured area of the airport. The whole thing was duller than an Agriculture Department briefing on soy production when suddenly Colorado coach Gary Barnett burst from the cargo bay of the Nebraska plane and began chanting, "Hey, hey, ho, ho. . . We beat them, we should go!"

Cornhusker linebacker Jamie Burrow wrestled Barnett to the ground, which if you think about it, is the first time a Nebraska defender has tackled a CU guy since the 2000 game.

Tuesday, Dec. 25 -- Christmas.
Who said the Cornhuskers don't know how to celebrate the holiday season?

What better way to spend Christmas than practicing from 10:45 to 12:45, then having a team dinner that night at a hotel. Later that evening the Nebraska players gathered around a full-size likeness of Gary Barnett and sang BCS carols.

Wednesday, Dec. 26 -- Miami Arrives.
The Hurricanes are something of a disappointment. No combat fatigues. No incidents on the jet way. No brash predictions.

Where's Warren Sapp when you need him?

On the news front, Nebraska's Solich confirmed that reserve defensive tackle Patrick Kabongo didn't make the trip west because of a violation of team rules -- or as it's known at Nebraska, "The Lawrence Phillips Collection."

Thursday, Dec. 27 -- Team Day at Disney's California Adventure Park.
If you've driven Interstate 5 during L.A.'s rush hour you really don't need any more California adventure, but there everybody was, mugging for the cameras with little Mickey Mouse. Or was that Solich?

The players seemed to have a good time, especially the Nebraska players. You'd have a good time, too, if you weren't in Nebraska anymore. I couldn't help but overhear one Husker lineman ask a Disney official, "Excuse me, sir, but what is that bright globule form in the distance?"

"You mean, the sun?" said the escort.

"The sun. . . interesting," said the player.

Later, nine Cornhuskers stars were scheduled to play a simulated game of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," with host Regis Philbin, who is doubling as the grand marshal of the Tournament of Roses Parade. We missed the actual game, but we understand the Huskers requested a lifeline with BCS chairman John Swofford. It was disallowed by Regis, what with NU already using the lifeline after the Colorado loss.

Meanwhile, Coker ended his day by confusing NU quarterback Eric Crouch with Cleveland Browns quarterback Tim Couch, Dickens' Tiny Tim and the movie, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." This is understandable, what with Coker almost three whole weeks removed from watching Crouch win the Heisman Trophy.

Friday, Dec. 28 -- The First Official Press Conferences.
Coker and Solich arrived at the Century Plaza Hotel's Constellation Ballroom and offered all sorts of interesting observations about the upcoming national championship game.

No, not really. Solich said the trip "so far has gone well." Coker said he appreciated "the opportunity to be here and participate in the Rose Bowl." Thrilling stuff.

Then again, the press didn't offer many interesting questions. In fact, questions were in disturbingly short supply. Instead, there were a lot of, "Can you talk about (fill in the blank)?"

The "Can-You-Talk-About. . ." inquiry is short for, "Can you talk about the fact that I can't construct a legitimate question, so I'll lob you this open-ended mush?"

That night the Hurricanes participated in the 46th Annual Lawry's Beef Bowl. Freshman offensive tackle Carlos Joseph won the team eating championship after chowing down five prime rib dinners. As an added bonus, Joseph also won a gift certificate from the UCLA Medical Center for a complimentary angioplasty special.

Meanwhile, about 100 members of the Nebraska team took in a Los Angeles Lakers game at the Staples Center. When they introduced the players, the crowd booed. At halftime, they were booed. When they showed a few Huskers on the big screen, they were booed. When they left the game, you guessed it, they were booed.

Saturday, Dec. 29 -- Tensions rise.
Or then again, maybe not. There were workouts, meetings and some down time for shopping. And that's just what I did.

As for the Cornhuskers and Hurricanes, they practiced and then enjoyed a media-free day.

Sunday, Dec. 30 -- Media Day at the Rose Bowl.
This is where the nation's sporting media gathers for a 2-hour interview-thon with Miami and Nebraska players and coaches. Here's what will happen: the Hurricanes, attired in their game jerseys, will go first. Of the 150 or so hacks who make their way to the 9:30 session, 100 of them will huddle around UM quarterback Ken Dorsey. The rest of them will find safety Ed Reed, running back Clinton Portis or Coker, who will say he's admired Hank Solich for years.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Hurricanes will retreat to the Rose Bowl stands and try to look as if their goose bumps aren't the size of lug nuts.

There is a half-hour break between the Miami and Nebraska interview sessions, which is probably done to prevent any accidental skirmishes between the two teams. If there is a skirmish, it likely will be blamed on Kabongo or former Ohio State coach John Cooper, who gets blamed for everything.

Monday, Dec. 31 -- More Talk.
Nebraska quarterbacks coach Turner Gill and five offensive players will wax poetic about grain silos, lard vs. canola oil and the option play. Actually, Gill and the fellas will have to endure more, "Can-you-talk-about-whatever-we-forgot-to-ask-you-yesterday?" questions. What someone ought to ask is why Gill's name is never mentioned for a prominent head coaching position?

When NU is done, Miami defensive coordinator Randy Shannon and five defensive players will go on and on about Crouch. And they should.

Tuesday, Jan. 1 -- Happy New Year.
This time it's Miami's offensive coordinator and Nebraska's defensive coordinator who chat away. The over-under on questions to NU's Craig Bohl on stopping Miami's running game is 62.

Wednesday, Jan. 2 -- Tensions Rise. Seriously.
Time for the final press conference featuring the two head coaches. Solich will say his team is prepared and ready to "kick some Ibis ass." No, not really. Instead, he'll set a land-speed record for cliches and then be on the practice field by 11:30.

Coker will be gracious. "I just want to compliment Coach Osborne and his team. . ."

Thursday, Jan. 3 -- The Granddaddy Is Played.
Shortly before kickoff someone asks me if I can talk about the final score.

Sure, I say -- about 28-27, in favor of Miami.

Gene Wojciechowski is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at

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