September 15, 2008

Pelini pleased with NU's physical attitude

Aside from maybe the final score itself, Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini was as pleased with his team's attitude as much as anything in Saturday's 38-7 win over New Mexico State.

In Monday's Big 12 Conference coaches' teleconference, Pelini talked about how he and the rest of NU's coaching staff has tried to instill a more physical approach in his team since the day he returned to Lincoln.

Though he said the Huskers were still far from reaching perfection in that sense, Pelini has been pleased with the progress of his team's mentality during the past three weeks.

"We're trying to get a physical mentality going around here," Pelini said. "At the same time, I think we're progressing as a football team, but we're nowhere near where we want to be yet. I like the attitude of our team. I like their approach; we're practicing well.

"We've been practicing physical, and we wanted to take that to the game on Saturday. I think we were able to do that."

While the coaching staff stresses physical play and an aggressive mindset in every practice, Peini said Saturday was one of the best examples this season of the Huskers taking those approaches with them into game day.

With a couple key red zone stops and forced turnovers on defense and the first strong performance in the running game on offense, Nebraska controlled the game on both sides of the ball all four quarters.

For the players, it was a great way to gain some much-needed confidence and momentum heading into their bye week this week and next weekend's game against Virginia Tech. For the offense, it was especially nice to finally dictate what they would do with the ball - specifically running the ball - to the defense, as opposed to the other way around.

"It was huge," senior guard Matt Slauson said. "We get really tired of everyone ragging on our running game, asking what's happening with that. We were never concerned with our running game. We knew it was going to happen. We were waiting for the right timing and the right blocks, and it all happened."

Though the Huskers still have a long way to go before they meet Pelini's expectations of perfection, they certainly took a right step in that direction with their performance against the Aggies.

With the Big 12 schedule now just one game away, Pelini is hoping that attitude only continues to carry over from practice on the field more and more all season.

"Part of the deal is, to play this game and to play at a high level you have to play with a bit of an edge," Pelini said. "I think our guys are starting to understand that and they're starting to buy in and take the mentality that we're practicing with to the football field."

***Despite the defense's near shutout on Saturday, Pelini said he wasn't in any hurry to finally hand out Blackshirts.

"Maybe sometime," he said. "I'm not sure when. To be honest with you, that's the furthest thing from my mind right now. Time will tell."

The good news for the defense is that not everyone on NU's coaching staff shared the same hesitation on handing out the Blackshirts. Defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said that in his opinion, his defense played well enough to warrant the prestigious title once again.

"I would think so," Carl Pelini said after the game on Saturday. "Again, that'll be a staff decision. I thought we played well front to back tonight, and that's what we were looking for, is a team effort."

***Bo Pelini said there was nothing to worry about concerning Patrick Witt's two fumbled snaps late in the game on Saturday. Pelini said one was likely due to Witt pulling away from the center too quickly, but the other fumble was more on the center than on Witt.

Pelini noted that Saturday was Witt's first taste of extended playing time, and that mental mistakes can be expected in that situation. He has no worries about getting Witt's problems with the snap exchange solved quickly.

"That hasn't been an issue at all," Pelini said. "We haven't had any problems with that at all in practice. One, I think you can put on the center. The other I think you can put on Patrick. It was unfortunate, but I don't think it's something that will carry over. It's something where you gotta hang in there and make sure you're not jumpy.

"It's the first significant action he's got for any length of time. He probably pulled out on one of them, the other you couldn't tell whose fault it was. But nothing you can't get corrected."

***The Huskers have the day off today and will resume practice on Tuesday. They'll practice through Friday and have another day off on Saturday before resuming their normal game week routine on Sunday.

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