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  • Pelini, Huskers need a major shift

    During the bye week after a 63-38 loss to Ohio State, the Nebraska coaching staff took time to evaluate its team. Hopefully, there was some serious self-evaluation going on as well.

    Well over a million Husker fans also are evaluating. Judging by the e-mail I get, a lot of them are chewing on this question: Has Bo Pelini hit his ceiling as head coach at the University of Nebraska?

    The recent evidence does not look encouraging. For the first two and a half years of Bo Pelini's tenure at Nebraska, it felt like the Huskers were slowly getting better. Two years later, the Huskers have sunk into the mushy middle of major college football.


    Greg Bartram-US PRESSWIRE
    On Nov. 19, 2010, Nebraska had won 15 of its last 17 games. Pelini had a 29-9 record as Nebraska's head coach, for a .763 winning percentage. The next night, No. 9-rated Nebraska went minus-2 in turnovers and lost 9-6 at Texas A&M. Since that night in College Station, Nebraska has gone 14-9, clunking along at a .609 clip and losing eight of its last 10 games played away from Lincoln, looking very bad in six of them.

    Pelini and the Huskers have missed some good chances to show clear-cut progress along the way, most notably by going minus-3 in turnovers and giving up a 17-0 lead in the final Big 12 Championship against Oklahoma, then enduring a dismal 19-7 loss to the barely respectable Washington Huskies in the 2010 Holiday Bowl (going minus-2 in turnovers), which changed an 11-3 season into a 10-4 finish. The Huskers slid back into the mud of mediocrity.

    Everyone remembers the embarrassing road losses to Wisconsin (minus-2 in turnovers) and Michigan (minus-2 in turnovers), but Nebraska still had opportunity for clear-cut progress last year. That all dissolved when 3-5 Northwestern came into Memorial Stadium and upset Nebraska 28-25, the game where the Husker run defense collapsed even though the Big Red was plus-one in turnovers. It was the last time Nebraska was rated in the Top 10 and the only time Pelini has lost at home in the last two years. After a 30-13 Capital One Bowl loss to South Carolina (you guessed it, minus-2 in turnovers), Nebraska finished 9-4 – Pelini's fourth consecutive four-loss season.

    Two and a half years of climbing followed by nearly two years of sliding. If Pelini and the Huskers are going to gain traction in the Big Ten – and regain some national respect – it's time for a decisive turnaround.

    The two-year slide has been marked by serious problems stopping the run, but the biggest issue is turnover margin. The Cornhuskers are 104th this season in turnover margin. Last year, they were 59th. It absolutely has to swing in the Huskers' favor if Nebraska is to become nationally relevant again.

    If Pelini is to show clear-cut progress, his opportunity is staring him in the face. The Big Ten is as weak as it's been in a generation. The best team, Ohio State, is ineligible for the title. Now is as good a time as any to make a charge for the Rose Bowl. And the Huskers have a senior-dominated team.

    That is most evident on defense, where three of the most athletic – Daimion Stafford, P.J. Smith and Eric Martin – and two of the most experienced – Baker Steinkuhler and Cameron Meredith – need to start disrupting and clamping down. Remember the second half of the Wisconsin game? That aggressive surge from the front seven would be welcome again.

    They're going up against mobile quarterbacks in Northwestern's Kain Colter and Michigan's Dennard Robinson, the type of situation that has been deadly for the Blackshirts lately. The Wildcats and Wolverines likely will get their 350 total yards of offense, but the Huskers have to make them pay with turnovers along the way. Problem is, this defense has not shown much ability to get takeaways. The last time the Huskers got more than two was the Northwestern game a year ago.

    The Huskers need a decisive statement on the road. The last two times they walked off the field after a Big Ten road game, they looked like a mid-major team. That needs to change right away.

    In about a year, Nebraska's new athletic director may be doing the evaluating. Will Pelini be trending upward?

    Formerly the sports editor at the North Platte Bulletin and a sportswriter/columnist for the North Platte Telegraph, Tad Stryker is a longtime Nebraska sports writer, having covered University of Nebraska and high school sports for more than 25 years. He started writing for this website in 2008. You can e-mail him at tad.stryker@gmail.com


    Comments 14 Comments
    1. schuskerfan's Avatar
      schuskerfan -
      GBR!
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Quote Originally Posted by schuskerfan View Post
      GBR!
      Under Charlie McBride, kids like Stafford and PJ Smith would be playing outside linebacker! Kids are not tackling and the front four are applying NO pressure so the secondary is gettign picked apart! Nebraska is mediocre and Pelini keeps saying things need to be fixed and this that and the third? Enough excuses! Pelini has had 5 years to recruit and implement his systems and this is the best it going to get! Nebraska football will always be 8-3 or 7-5 under Pelini! Great coach, but not for college.
      Either hire Scott Frost form Oregon or Frank Solich. These individuals understand the culture and expectation of Nebraska Football!

      GBR.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      This commentary is the sad-but-highly accurate state of NU football. I hope the new AD has quality head coaching prospects in mind as he heads to Lincoln. Coach Pelini squandered the enormous good will afforded him with temper, hubris, and - at best - terrible public relations instincts. Couple this with an assistant corps who, now, is the envy of no one (with a few exceptions) and the future is not at all good. With four losses in a row a distinct possibility, even ardent fans have to concede this program is once again (still?) in trouble.

      I hope Pelini either has one heck of an overnight epiphany or comports himself better in a new position somewhere else.
    1. Jeff_Georgia's Avatar
      Jeff_Georgia -
      The much talked about process is broken (or wasn't very good to begin with). What process does Nick Saban use? How about Urban Myers? Les Miles? For Pete's sake, Tom Osbourne? Everyone of those guys has a Nat. Champ. hanging on his wall; Pelini doesn't even have a conf. champ. on his. There need to be change in the way Pelini does his business. Can he change? I doubt it...
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Huh. When I look at his record I see the win column and it says 9, 10, 10, and 9. No 8's or 7's.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Interesting thing---I believe Bo was in the hospital during Husker comeback against Wisconsin. Maybe he isn't needed on sidelines!
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      First, I think we lived through the Solich era, how about we go get a quality coach that can recruit, motivate and lead these kids to play above their current level. The old style of beating people to death does not work. Most parents watch Pelini's behavior on the sidelines and say, "my child will not go there." There are more options for these kids in college football.

      Second, we need to start the kids that deserve to play versus the seniors. We have close to 8 seniors on defense and it is the worse defense we have had in years. If we are going to lose lets get the kids in that want to hit, tackle and win.

      Last, this is a great program, but everyone needs to start behaving like it. the team is undisciplined because of turnovers and penalties. We can have a 17 point lead and everyone in Nebraska is nervous. We would not have been nervous under Osborne. Teams feared us because we executed flawlessly.

      I still love'em GO BIG RED!!!
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Tad Stryker for Head Coach of Nebraska (old has ben wash out) Dirk Chatelain (Xbox Defensive Extraordinaire wanna be) as Defensive Coordinator. These two should apply for coaching positions, i would love to see if they could even come close to doing what they imply and trash talk about in their columns. Otherwise just retire and save the rest of us your wind.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      OMG - did you REALLY say hire Frank Solich......REALLY????? The same Frank Solich that was handed the most dominant, most talented football program in ALL of AMERICA, and in 5 short years he had turned it into a talentless group of well intentioned, but none the less talentless group of individuals that went .500....you mean THAT Frank Solich. I won't even go into the fact that not only couldn't he recruit, but he couldn't even coach up the talent he had that he just wasted from 1998 - 2000 when he still had all of the talent that Osborne had recuited. I guess i did go into it...
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Bo didn't forget how to coach defense, he just can't recruit top talent. His defenses eroded as Callahan's talent disappeared. With the exception of David and maybe a few others, he simply cannot recruit. Many of the starters today wouldn't even letter on champ level teams. Forget national, conference, or even division titles... he often can't even compete with top 25 teams period. "We just didn't execute" = "We're unable to execute because we can't get the talent to do so." "Guys didn't step up and make plays" = "Guys can't make plays at this level." And that's against the worst B10 talent on average we've seen in years. And since when did NU become a stepping stone job for rookies? We have a first time head coach, first time coordinators -- the results speak for themselves. I'm sure everyone's trying their best, but we're seeing Cosgrovian failures now, and that is flat out scary. Those red sea crowds that usually travel with the Huskers...??? That number will continue to dwindle over time if NU continues to settle for being irrelevant. I'd hate to see that happen. GBR!!!
    1. Hemlocke's Avatar
      Hemlocke -
      "they looked like a mid-major team" - Don't insult mid-majors like Ohio University. They are 7-0 with a signature win over Penn State. The Huskers may never get that.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Tad, using two QB is not a bad thing!
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      It really does not matter what any of us think. Facts are facts though and we have a very inexperienced coaching staff and it shows. Most notable contenders have a real qb coach not a GA acting as one. Most have seasoned line, back, receivers, secondary coaches too but we just fill the voids with people that are learning on the run. Time to open the checkbook and start paying some high-end coaches to do the job that is needed. I like Bo but 5 years is enough time to start to see some improvement or consistency. WAIT, we do have consistency, turnovers and excuses!
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      i dont know what to say... i think that pelini is a good coach and has the right direction for us but i disagree with his anger and aggression towards his players. why would any athlete want to be treated like that. I play football in high school and i know it's completly different from division I college ball. No matter who you are, nobody will want to play any harder for you when you blow up on them. I have taken my fair share of but chewings, but it is everything i deserved. Sometimes i think pelini blows up because he is not satisfied with with his coaching performance or others coaching performance. Every good football player has an even better coach. I believe that if nebraska and its defense was good it would reflect back to the head coach and the defensive cordinator. I dont know what has to happen but something has got to give... hopefully pelini opens his eyes because i feel he has the talent and capability to lead his team to another national championship. I honestly think that maybe he should get some advice from Mr. Osborne on how to get the team around. Good Luck Bo!!
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