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  • Where Another Big Husker Helping Hand is Needed

    When Bo Pelini did the EPSN car-wash of interviews this summer, he sounded exhausted and unengaged doing Nebraska football's biggest publicity opportunity of the year. My mind went back to December of 2011, where I had thought that Pelini should have hired an elite defensive coordinator to replace his brother Carl and take some of the burden off himself as the head coach. At the time I though such a move would finally get Nebraska football over the proverbial hump and back into the Top 10 on a more consistent basis.

    Sep 14, 2013; Lincoln, NE, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers defensive coordinator John Papuchis and head coach Bo Pelini watch their team during the final minutes of the game against the UCLA Bruins in the fourth quarter at Memorial Stadium. UCLA won 41-21. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports
    Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports
    On Saturday, Pelini once again paid the price for taking on too much responsibility.
    Nebraska football got humiliated again on Saturday, and while that is nothing new, something seems to have shifted. Unlike the routs in Madison and Ann Arbor in 2011, games where Nebraska clearly outgunned, the Huskers had every reason to believe football fortunes were in their favor Saturday. They had two short drives setup by a turnover and a fake punt respectively. A replay overturns a field goal. First downs by penalties. The Huskers were making headway on both lines of scrimmage, and for a second, Nebraska's return to national respect was dangling out there. Fortune said to them, “Here's the game, jump up and take it!”

    But in one quarter, UCLA made a mockery of Nebraska's offense that was working brilliantly six years ago when Kansas was using it to help push Bill Callahan out the door. The Bruins ran the no huddle a team is supposed to in 2013 -- a snap in 17 seconds, not waiting for the quarterback to do a dog-and-pony show. Nebraska's offense did what they did in Indianapolis last December -- they went into a shell, while Pelini blitzed and called fake punts two series after he should have. It was alarming to see Nebraska run out the clock at the end of both of halves and not even try to make a point.

    Yes, I was wrong two weeks ago when I told all of you not to worry. Granted, most of the Big Ten will not be able to exploit Nebraska the way UCLA did. It's not like Michigan State runs their offense with the same kind of pace, although the Spartans (and Purdue) have the luxury of a bye week before they play Nebraska, as UCLA did.

    But back to Pelini. In his first five years, he had slightly more wins than Tommy Bowden or Kirk Ferentz had in any five year-stretch at Clemson and Iowa respectively. The former hot assistant coach is the mirror image of his current quarterback: amazing numbers against the mediocre teams while not intimidating big boys (see the quotes by UCLA's Anthony Barr after yesterday's game or Wisconsin's David Gilbert last year). An 8-4 season could justify a firing, but given the Pelini's consistent track record it would be worth it to match Pelini with an experienced defensive coach. This is not a call for John Papuchis to be fired, but it looks so cheap for a major program like Nebraska to have one of the youngest coordinators in college football. Pelini needs an old faithful hand to entrust with the defense while he manages the team like Ron Zook, Gene Chizik, or, should he be fired by Illinois, Tim Beckman. That's the dream list, but all of them would command at least an annual salary of a million or more. A more realistic dream candidate would be Ohio defensive coordinator Jimmy Burrow.

    I've read on Twitter that Pelini will never fire one of his boys, and that may be true. But let's consider something else: Tom Osborne said he fired two assistants in twenty-five years, and desired strongly that Pelini keep Shawn Watson on when Osborne hired Pelini. Frank Solich, like Pelini, kept assistants a year longer than he should have. What's to say that Osborne, even though he's no longer AD, doesn't encourage Pelini's loyalty to his assistants and promoting from within, rather than plucking experienced, successful coordinator from the MAC or Conference USA?

    But nobody wins in football, college or pro, without elite assistants at their sides. Look at why Brett Bielema dumped Wisconsin. Even if Scott Frost, or another hot candidate, agrees to come home and save his alma mater, it will not matter if he does not have better assistants than Pelini does now. As long as the program does not self-destruct down the stretch, it's worth it to let Pelini try again for another year with new assistants. For the pressure Nebraska puts on its head coach, it owes said great assistants to help him succeed.
    Comments 4 Comments
    1. WVHusker's Avatar
      WVHusker -
      He's lost more games than Solich, he'll loose more games than Calahan. There is no question Pelini should go let the new coach pick his staff. Two points though, regarding his salary; How much has Nebraska lost in Television revenue since Calahan and Pelini have been in charge? Am I the only one who thinks that Martinez was more exciting his first two years then he has been the last two years? He seems to be so worried about looking better as a quarterback that he's overthinking getting ready for the draft.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      WRONG!!...Bo has chosen ALL his assistants!! He needs to go away with them!! Beck makes 700k Frost not even 400k money well spent?? Bo could have grabbed one of the Stoops boys he grew up with but choose Pappy really?? Why? because Bo ONLY WANTS TO CONTROL ALL OF IT!!!! Time for him to go!!

      We rarely have WON a game over a HIGHER ranked team under him. Only Bowl games had a guy named SUH on them with a Prince whom he didn't recruit!!

      Bo don't know how to be a HEAD COACH!!!
    1. wildbill's Avatar
      wildbill -
      Recruiting is the problem. It took TO 22 years to put a complete team togehter. Are we willing to wait for Bo to do the same. This is a different day. For one thing TO wasn't geting paid that much all those years. Well I guess it is up to the guys footing the bill.
    1. Husker Mort's Avatar
      Husker Mort -
      But nobody wins in football, college or pro, without elite assistants at their sides.
      Who are Chris Peterson's elite assistants? How about Gary Patterson? Which top-billing coaches are assisting Art Briles?

      For that matter, Derek, who were TO's hot assistants?
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