October 7, 2008

Tuesday notebook: Pelini discusses effects of loss

Most of the talk surrounding Saturday's 52-17 loss to Missouri centered around what Nebraska was going to do adjust its game plan and get back into the win column.

On Tuesday, NU head coach Bo Pelini talked about how the loss, combined with the loss to Virginia Tech two weeks ago, had impacted him personally during the past three days.

For a brief few minutes, Pelini let down his guard and discussed how he's been dealing with his first taste of disappointment as a head coach.

"I'm the head of the program, so it's a tough challenge," Pelini said. "After my first two games at LSU (in 2005) they wanted to run me out of the state. You can ask anybody down there, I was number one on the hate list in Louisiana for a while, but we changed it around. I know this: I know how to get the job done. I've been there, I know exactly where we want to head, how to get there and I'm committed to doing it.

"I'm working day and night to get it done. I believe in where we're headed. I believe the team has bought in to myself and the staff, where we're headed and what we're doing."

In the past two weeks, the Huskers have allowed 87 points and 839 total yards. For a coach who has built his entire reputation around defense, and had nothing but success in doing it, it's been quite the humbling experience for Pelini this season.

In his first two games as the defensive coordinator at LSU, Pelini's unit gave up 61 points in a 1-1 start to the year. After some adjustments by Pelini and the rest of the Tiger coaching staff, LSU rebounded to 10 of its next 11 games capped off by a victory in the Sugar Bowl.

"Trust me, I've been there before," Pelini said. "We've all made mistakes. If we had executed, it would have been a lot different. We had some opportunities, early especially. Things kind of got out of control. I've gone through tough times before… At all times you've got to stay the course, stay within your philosophy, stay within your beliefs. I've been able to do that.

"You can't let outside influences, you can't let other people, you can't let criticism, you can't let anything stray you away from that. If you start making decisions for the wrong reasons, usually those are going to be the wrong decisions."

Pelini said he's been able to block out second-hand advice and outside criticism by keeping in mind how the tide can shift on a head coach in the span of only a couple weeks.

"I said going in, they're going to love you when you're undefeated," he said. "When you lose a couple of games, it's reality. That's the way it is. That's my job. Do I feel like I have to crawl into a hole and separate myself from the world? That's not how I approach things. I'm the same guy I was two weeks ago. The reality of where we are and where we need to go changes a little bit, but I know one thing, we need to stay the course and keep working."

Pelini said he's focused on getting the Huskers completely adjusted to he and his staff's schemes and philosophies. When executed and understood completely, Pelini said he has no doubt in his staff's game plans.

Though he's working with a young team and adjusting to his first season as a head coach, Pelini said his expectations have not, and will not, stray from the ultimate goal of perfection.

"There is enough talent here to play better than we did Saturday and to compete and win," he said. "I'm not a guy that sits there and makes excuses. I'll never be that way. Are we where want to be at? No, but we're working our butts off to get there."

Tuesday practice takes
Running game boost by committee: Though none of Nebraska's players or coaches were willing to get too detailed in how they planned on improving their running game this week, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said tight ends would play a key role. Watson said he plans on involving the tight ends in a variety of different blocking schemes to help open up holes for NU's running backs. He also said players like senior Hunter Teafatiller would play a major role in the modified strategy.
Tech's other weapon: As if Nebraska's defense didn't have enough to handle with Texas Tech's nation-leading passing game on Saturday, defensive coordinator Carl Pelini also said the Red Raiders have improved drastically in the running game this season. Tech is averaging nearly 145 yards per game on the ground, and senior Shannon Woods seven rushing touchdowns ranks fourth in the Big 12.
Injury update: Carl Pelini said senior linebacker Cody Glenn is "doing fine" despite missing the past two games with a minor injury. Junior safety Rickey Thenarse returned to practice on Tuesday, though only dressed in shoulder pads.
What's on tap next: The Nebraska football team conducted a two-hour full-padded practice on grass fields north of Memorial Stadium on Tuesday. NU will come back for another full-padded workout on Wednesday.

Pelini concerned with Nebraska's image following "Spit Gate"

Though nothing ever really came from Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel's claim that a Nebraska player spit on him during warm-ups on Saturday, Pelini said he was concerned about the potential hit NU's image took as a result of the claim.

On Monday, Pelini said he talked with his team and Missouri coach Gary Pinkel about Daniel's accusation, ad decided there wasn't enough to confirm or deny it ever happened.

Even so, with stories published about the allegations across the nation, Pelini said he hoped the Huskers' reputation would not be tarnished.

"It hurts, because that is not the kind of program I run and I'm going to run," he said. "I think the allegations are unfortunate. The last thing I will say to that is that there are two sides to every story. That's about as far as I'm going to go. By no means am I calling Chase Daniel a liar, but I wasn't there and there are mixed stories. Unfortunately I can't turn back the clock and get a video to see exactly what happened, but I know there are two sides to every story.

"I promise you this, I addressed my team on the issue. We talked about it. They fully understand that nothing like that would ever be acceptable around here. That's as far as I can go. I addressed it, we talked about it and we put it in our past and are moving on. In this situation, I don't know what much more you can do than that."

Huskers preparing for first road trip

For the first time in the first six weeks of the season, the Huskers will be forced to leave the comfort of Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

With five straight home games and a bye week mixed in, Nebraska has had the uncommon luxury of not playing a road game until the seventh week of the season. During the five-game homestretch, the Huskers are 3-2, but have dropped their past two contests.

As they prepare to head south to take on No. 7 Texas Tech, they know snapping their current losing streak won't get any easier.

"Anytime you go on the road, especially for the first time, it'll be an added challenge for us," NU head coach Bo Pelini said. "But I think our guys are up for it… The first time you go on the road and learning how to handle a road trip and all that, you wish you had one, but you got to do it for the first time at some point. It was an advantage for us being able to the first five games at home.

"We've got to take the attitude that we don't care where we play, we've just got to play our football."

To help prepare for playing in front of their first antagonistic crowd, Pelini said the Huskers would use artificial crowd noise with their offense to help adapt to playing in a hostile environment.

While the simulated crowd noise should help a bit in the team's preparation for its first road game, Pelini said the Huskers could prepare as much as possible, but it would all come down to how they respond when they actually step on the field.

"You've just got to do things right, keep them focused," he said. "We don't change a whole heck of a lot in our routine, but you've got to go on the road. You have to have an us-against-the-world mentality when you go on the road. (You have to be) cohesive and emphasize team.

"You've got to emphasize execution no matter where you are. That's what we need to focus on - us and executing our game plan and playing really hard."

Potter still going to be aggressive

As has already been well documented, Nebraska has committed eight personal foul penalties in five games this season, leading the Big 12 conference.

The most recent of those came last week when senior defensive end Zach Potter was flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel seconds after Daniel released the ball.

Though the Huskers have obviously had their issues with penalties, especially personal fouls, Potter said he has no plans of being hesitant to deliver a big hit for fear of drawing a flag.

"No, not at all," he said. "I'm going to keep playing hard. I got called for the helmet-to-helmet or whatever. It's just unfortunate. He was shorter than I am, and I think that's the reason it got called.

"I'm never going to back down from playing hard just because I got a personal foul. I don't think Coach Pelini wants us to back off our game and play timid or anything like that. I'm going to keep going 110 percent every play."

Potter said penalties such as pass interference calls, false starts, etc., we "inexcusable" and needed to be controlled immediately for the Huskers to have any chance at competing against elite teams like the No. 4 Tigers.

However, he said the personal fouls Nebraska has been called for this season have primarily been the result of the players simply being aggressive, and that the team likely won't change anything in that regard.

"If you're talking late hits and stuff like that, that's just guys being aggressive," he said. "I think the coaches and fans around here would rather have players making plays than that and being aggressive than not being aggressive and letting a guy go or something like that. Those, you can't really control. That's just playing hard."

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