Lincoln. Neb. The mental side of football is taking on greater importance as Nebraska recovers from a 35-point loss to Missouri, prepares for Saturday's game against Oklahoma State and tries to save its season.
The Cornhuskers (4-2, 1-1 Big 12) say it's crucial to avoid a crisis of confidence after getting beat 41-6 last week.
The players say the biggest challenge is for everybody to keep his head up.
Coach Bill Callahan said the Huskers have an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive.
"When you have tough times, it creates chemistry," Callahan said. "It creates closeness and togetherness. Guys really, truly understand how to battle for one another and they know exactly what they're playing for and who they're playing for, and that's for this state, for this program and for each other."
Four straight opponents have gouged Nebraska for more than 400 yards, including two for more than 600. Three opponents have scored 40 or more points. The defense is on pace to be the worst statistically at Nebraska since 1943.
The offense has failed to generate a dependable rushing attack, and receivers are averaging three dropped balls a game.
Receiver Maurice Purify said he and his teammates come into each game fired up and ready to play.
But he said it's difficult to maintain that emotion when the opponent takes a quick lead, as Missouri did.
"You don't have a lot of emotion when you're losing," Purify said. "We're losing games, and we're like, 'Oh, this again.'"
Players say the coaches do a good job motivating them in practice and during the pregame routine.
Pump-up videos are shown to the team, and Callahan and his assistants are said to be animated in the locker room.
"They come in the locker room fired up as can be - fired up and high on Red Bulls," Purify said.
Much of the motivational responsibility falls on the players themselves, Purify said.
"There are 85,000 people in the stands," he said. "If that doesn't fire you up, I don't have the answer for it."
Linebacker Phil Dillard said some of his teammates tend to get down on themselves when things go wrong, and that causes them to play with hesitation.
"It's hard to move on to the next play sometimes, but that's what you have to do," he said.