What you're saying is generally true, but the games with Pelini that most frustrated me were those where it was clear that he had no answers schematically for what the other team was doing, and it was doubly frustrating because he clearly was an excellent DC. Let me give you one potent example of when it was scheme more than personnel or players' attitude that was the problem.Obviously I can't prove it but in many of those disasters the past 20 years we had players phoning it in. Bo had his share of issues and more than his share of blowouts but I wouldn't call his coaching poor. Once again I can't prove it but some of it had to be mental as with few exceptions we would fold like a cheap suit at the first sign of adversity.
Do you remember Melvin Gordon running for approximately 16.8 miles against us in 2014? Many (most?) of those longer runs were a simple zone-blocking scheme where he attacked the perimeter, forced the LB/Safety to commit to a hole, then ran to the other side of the hole, and then it was a long, painful jog to the endzone as nobody touched him, and nobody could catch up to him. It wasn't a complicated concept, but Wisconsin's offensive coaches either scouted well or stumbled upon the goldmine of figuring out that they could put Nate Gerry into conflict as a Safety--who had to both cover a TE coming out for a pass and contain the perimeter against the run--and they rode that simple concept to what felt like 12,000 yards of rushing in that one game.
Nate Gerry plays on Sundays now, and he now plays a hybrid LB/Safety position, which was basically what we needed that day, so we can't pretend that he wasn't talented enough. Go back and watch the film, and the camera angles often showed the frustration and pain in his eyes as he was repeatedly doing his best, but he could never be right. That's what happens when the coaches aren't able to make adjustments, and a player has to just sit out there all day and embarrass himself, repeatedly. Like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football while Lucy's holding it, he knew what was going to happen, he tried his best, and the Nebraska coaching staff allowed Wisconsin to make him look like a fool, over and over again. Knowing that he's doing what he's told, that it's not working, and that everybody watching the game probably assumes that it's his fault, wouldn't most people give up eventually?
The same happened in 2017 against Ohio State and Minnesota. Offenses that were putting our defenders in a conflict where any choice would be wrong have had a hey-day with Nebraska over the past decade+ because we haven't made the adjustments to change the calculus. As long as Gordon does what he was supposed to do, and Gerry does what he was supposed to do, Gordon was always going to win that matchup,... so the coaches need to change the matchup. Shift a D-lineman into the C-gap or blitz a LB or do something, but all you do is destroy your defense's soul if you continue to put them in situations where they cannot win and expect the other team to somehow screw up things on their side.
Do you want another painful example of coaching ineptitude? Go back and watch the 2012 B1G Championship Game. Based on how radically they changed their schemes coming into that game, I am convinced that Wisconsin thought that they were going to get pummeled if they didn't make wholesale adjustments. A coach who is confident in his base schemes and personnel doesn't suddenly unveil the Amoeba-Front defense as the foundation for stopping your high-powered opponent's offense in a championship game. Bielema and his staff were desperate, and they didn't think that they'd win if they didn't change things up dramatically. They also probably assumed (correctly) that if they threw some unexpected curveballs at the Nebraska coaching staff, they'd run around in circles like chickens that got popped in the head.
That Amoeba Front--Wisconsin's version had 2 D-linemen who were stationary at the DE positions while 5 other defenders swarmed in and out until the snap of the ball--looked so cool and effective that I decided to try it as a coach a couple times: we got drilled even worse than we would have without it. Why? Because all you have to do as an offensive coach is attack the 2 DEs that you know are there and assume that someone else is going to show up for each individual run fit to either side because ... that's what every effective defense has to do. If they don't, they'll be right sometimes, but approximately half the time you'll be off to the races. The Nebraska staff never figured that out until sometime after the game was over, and somebody else apparently explained it to them. That's NOT the fault of the players. That's poor coaching. Or maybe the caliber of coaching at the junior high and JV levels in rural South Dakota is just far more superior than I ever suspected.
And how about our defense that day? Do you remember Wisconsin running approximately 500 Jet Sweep plays for approximately 48,000 yards? Baker Steinkuhler was injured and didn't play that day, so we moved Cameron Meredith inside from DE (where he was already under-sized) to play DT against the largest, most hammer-and-anvil like offense in the United States of America in the year 2011. Sure, that should work, right? They ran the Jet Sweep not only so that it was setting up that same sort of Pick-the-Hole scenario on the perimeter (against the same Safety position coached to do the same technique as Gerry), they also had the whole O-line doing outside-zone blocking in one direction while the RB who was lined up behind the QB would run a counter to the Jet (and the O-line) in the opposite direction; it kept working ... again ... and again ... and again ... and you get the picture. Why? We didn't make any adjustments, and our LBs and Safeties were in situations where they couldn't choose the right response because the RB could always go where they weren't.
When you're getting trounced the way that we were that day, maybe that's the time at halftime to change things up instead of hoping that Wisconsin would stop pounding the same nail with their same very effective hammer? It's as though the whole staff decided to just bend over and get it over with, nice and hard. Why? It was a lack of leadership. In that situation--even at the high school level, even at the junior high level, even at the smallest schools with the most inexperienced staffs--I have NEVER seen an entire staff that was devoid of ideas for ways to change things up, at least at the margins, to try to shore things up. Was our staff so dunce-like that they couldn't figure out any way to do anything different? Or were the people at the top so stubborn that they couldn't admit that their schemes weren't working, and they couldn't allow their assistants to make changes? I'll bet you a month's salary that there was at least one guy on the Nebraska staff that day who had answers for how to make some relatively simple adjustments that probably would have worked, but a) he was scared to speak up, or b) he was over-ruled. That's what bad coaching looks like.