Huskers see urgency in need for improvement

Updated: August 6, 2003, 3:41 PM ET

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska football players, like their fans, are looking for immediate improvement after a 7-7 campaign that was the program's worst since 1961.

That means the Aug. 30 opener against Oklahoma State has assumed "must-win" status.

"Everybody's been working hard this summer," quarterback Jammal Lord said during Wednesday's Media Day. "For us to go in there at home and lose, that would be a big letdown -- a waste of the summer, I believe."

Offensive tackle Dan Vili Waldrop said the game will serve as a measuring stick.

"It will be a good chance to see the difference between last year and this year," he said.

The Cornhuskers, who return five starters on offense and nine on defense, figure to have a different look with six new assistant coaches, including both coordinators.

Offensive coordinator Barney Cotton said he'll introduce more passing but that Nebraska will remain true to its running roots.

"I'm not reinventing the wheel here," Cotton said.

Head coach Frank Solich said he is looking for a defense that is "better coordinated" under Bo Pelini.

Pelini, previously the linebackers coach with the Green Bay Packers, said he'll make adjustments in the Huskers' 4-3 scheme but that the premise of his defense will be hard work, dedication and attention to detail.

After last season, fullback Judd Davies said, the players are willing to buy into the coaches' systems.

"Last year, it was devastating how the whole course of the year went, just playing poorly repeatedly," he said.

Playing the opener against an OSU team that beat Nebraska 24-21 last year will be a good test, Davies said. No season-opening opponent has come within two touchdowns of the Huskers since Baylor in 1990. The Huskers haven't lost a season opener since Florida State beat them 17-13 in 1985.

"It's cool we get to open up with a Big 12 game," Davies said. "You have more of a sense of urgency because you know it's a Big 12 game."

Solich said his expectations remain as high as ever for the Huskers, who played Miami for the national championship after the 2001 season.

The public's expectations are another matter. The Huskers are picked to finish third in the Big 12 North. If they don't appear in the Associated Press ratings on Aug. 16, it will mark the first time since 1969 that they have not been ranked in a major preseason poll.

Solich, who's starting his sixth year as head coach, said the only pressure he feels comes from within himself.

"Pressure is always a part of college football in this day and age," Solich said. "Anybody slips up in an established program and doesn't have a good year, you're under pressure."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index

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