“I had heard somebody say it was five days until the game or five days until the show time,” said Nelson, who will be taking on a bigger role in OU’s secondary after multiple key members left during the offseason. “So, it’s somewhat hit me but it hasn’t like fully hit me. I know that it’s game week and preparation, but I’m really focused on each day. Just one day at a time.”
But, some players are not able to be as calm about the season opener as Nelson, who admits to having some jitters and nerves prior to his first game but quickly got over then when he was inside the stadium.
It is understandable for players who have never gone through an opening day to be nervous and not be on top of their game.
“Guys can get so worked up they’re not even focused,” Nelson said. “Guys can get revved up and get physically and mentally ready, and then – you know – they mess up a call because they’re so worked up. You have to have that really good balance between worked up and ready to work.”
And this year’s opener is especially important for redshirt freshman linebacker Tom Wort.
Wort was expected to make a contribution as a backup during his true freshman season a year ago, but he missed the entire season because of an ACL tear shortly prior to the opening game against BYU. Now, he is listed as the starting MIKE linebacker on OU’s depth chart, and he expects to take advantage of every minute of it after having to watch his teammates from the sidelines.
“I can’t wait,” Wort frankly said. “I haven’t been able to sleep because I’ve been thinking about it, and it’s going to be hard sleeping this entire week. I’m going to get my studying in, and it’s just going to be running through my head – the plays.”
To make sure Wort and his teammates are mentally ready for this game, they have been going through PX2 workouts, which are designed to help the players visualize what’s to come.
“I just visualize the plays over and over, and I can’t wait,” Wort said. “It’s been a long time coming, and I can’t wait to get on the field.”
Now that the Sooners are days away from lining up against Utah State, practice has taken over a different feel.
“You can just sort of hear pins dropping,” Nelson said. “You can just feel people really focused and you can feel the buzz around campus and whatnot. It’s just a different vibe, a different feel about game week as opposed to two-a-days or spring ball.”
Still, this game is just the first step toward the ultimate goal of winning the Big 12 title and a national title. OU can’t accomplish those goals if it doesn’t beat Utah State on Saturday, a task that could be easy to overlook despite learning a year ago how important a non-conference season opener is.
“[This game is] really important,” Nelson said. “We have to make sure that we’re really sharp going into this Utah State game, and hopefully we can contain this quarterback and contain their high-powered offense. Hopefully we come up with the win and go to the Florida State game with our confidence high.”