LINCOLN, Nebraska — Today, Craig Bohl will be coaching at Nebraska.
The third-year Wyoming coach was born in Lincoln, played at Nebraska and coached at Nebraska during two separate stints. He will become just the third former Nebraska player to coach against the Cornhuskers.
Surely, he must be excited.
“Not really,” he said. “It is a business trip. My parents still live there. I’ve got a daughter that lives there. But that’s all, as coaches, you travel around the profession and a lot of guys end up coaching at a different school than what you played at. It really is a business trip, and like I said, it’s about our players.”
All week, Bohl has downplayed the idea that this game might mean a little extra to him, given his history with the Huskers.
“I mean, that’s what coaches are for,” said C.J. Johnson, a Nebraska-born wide receiver whose father played for the Huskers. “They’re here to say it’s just another game. And it really is just another game. We’re going to be very well-prepared going into that game, and we’re not going to go down there just to play in the Memorial Stadium. We’re going to go down there and win. It’s going to be a very fun game.”
Wyoming defensive coordinator Steve Stanard also played at Nebraska, as a linebacker in the ‘80s, and coached at Nebraska as a graduate assistant and student assistant coach.
“It’s a great opportunity for our football program and our players, to play a program with great tradition,” he said. “And for me, it’s an opportunity I haven’t been back (to Memorial Stadium) in 20 years. I’ve never coached against Nebraska, so that’s a great opportunity, but it’s a great opportunity for our guys to make some improvement against an outstanding opponent, and that’s usually what you look for.”
First-year Wyoming wide receivers coach Mike Grant played quarterback in Lincoln from 1988-92 and coached at Nebraska as a recruiting assistant and a graduate assistant.
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In contrast to Bohl and Stanard, this will be Grant’s 10th time coaching against Nebraska. He said it was harder coaching against them the first time, when he was an assistant coach at Iowa State.
“It was just difficult, because a lot of the guys I still knew on the team, and then the coaching staff was very familiar with me,” he said. “... It was just a different feeling going over against the guys you went to war with at one point. Now you’re going up against them, but now, we’re so many generations removed.”
The Nebraska connections extend down to the players, too. Wyoming has six players from the Cornhusker State on its roster: Johnson, offensive guard Gavin Rush, defensive tackle Youhanna Ghaifan, defensive end Kendall Dickson, defensive end Trevor Meader and defensive tackle Shane Henderson. Safety Andrew Wingard of Arvada, Colorado, was born in Nebraska.
“Oh, I am so stoked to go back to Nebraska and play,” said Ghaifan, who was born in Sudan. “It’s going to be so fun. My family’s going to be there. It’s going to be everything I hoped for, I think, because I’ve been to games when I was in high school. It was the most exciting times of anything just to see the Sea of Red, so I’m really, really excited to be there.”
Ghaifan still considers himself a Nebraska fan.
“But once we play the Huskers,” he said, “I can’t be a fan at that time.”
Rush grew up in the Kansas City, Kansas, area, so his allegiance is more to Kansas State than Nebraska.
“In my four years at Nebraska, (I) became a little bit of a fan,” he said. “All of my friends are Nebraska fans, so it was a little bit of a Nebraska influence in me. It’s not going to affect me in the game.”
Just how his coach would want it.