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September 10, 2012

Husker Buzz: Pelini 'sick to his stomach'



You could just see it in Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini's eyes and you could hear it in his voice on Monday.

The fifth-year Husker head coach came to Monday's press conference to talk about this week's game against Arkansas State, but any time somebody racks up 653 yards of offense on you it's hard to forget - especially when you are considered a defensive minded head coach.

"I've been sick to my stomach since that game," Pelini said of the Huskers 36-30 loss at UCLA on Saturday night. "I thought we should've won that football game. We didn't and it hurts. It's hard to live with. But you know what, you move on. You have to. That's part of the deal and part of this profession. It's sickening to you. You can't turn back the clock. That's part of the deal."

Now the job for Pelini and his coaching staff is to figure out what went wrong on Saturday.

The biggest thing I saw besides the missed tackles was an overall lack of communication on defense. UCLA did a lot of pre snap motioning and shifting, which crossed Nebraska's safeties and corners up and guys were running open that should've been covered.

You can bet a veteran spread-minded head coach like Arkansas State's Gus Malzahn will take notice of that when he watches the tape. Malzhan is one of the top spread coaches in all of college football and you have to think he's going to attack the Huskers with a similar type of game plan that forces Nebraska to communicate before the snap and tackle in space.

"(UCLA) was doing a lot of motions to confuse us," senior safety P.J. Smith said. "If you are not on the same page with your corner or linebacker big plays like that happen and that's exactly what happened."

During Monday's press conference Pelini had zero doubt that the problems we saw on Saturday are correctable.

He even got fired up when a local TV reporter questioned the "want-to" of Pelini's football team on defense.

"Come on. Want-to from our players? Let me tell you something about our football team and our football players and everyone associated with our football program - there isn't any more want-to out there," Pelini fired back. "Don't start questioning the integrity of our football team. Believe me, there ain't a guy out there that took that football field or ever will take that football field for Nebraska who doesn't want to make the play."


The ups and downs continue

One of the biggest problems with Nebraska the past few seasons has been buying into their own hype.

After a strong game something we've seen with the Huskers the last few seasons is a letdown performance against a team they should beat. We saw that on Saturday at UCLA and junior wide receiver Quincy Enunwa even admitted it on Monday.

"The week's preparation wasn't as good as it was with Southern Miss," Enunwa said. "We were kind of a little high on ourselves, getting a little complacent and obviously this brought us back to earth. We have to realize we haven't done anything yet. We are 1-1 now."

How do you fix this? Your guess is as good as mine, but it continues to be an issue with Nebraska.

Lining up a yard off the ball

Over the first two weeks of the season my phone seems to blow up with text messages from people asking me 'why do Nebraska's defensive linemen line-up a yard or more off of the ball?' Followed with 'doesn't this style prevent you from being aggressive when the offensive linemen fire right at you?'

It's a good question, and not one that I'm going to pretend to know the answer to because I have no idea what standard distance is across college football.

I asked Pelini this on Monday and I can't say he really gave me a good answer other than they do a lot of different things with their defensive linemen.

"There's a number of different styles," Pelini said. "We probably moved defensively on the defensive line a pretty good deal the other night and we came free of it a good amount, we just have to make those plays. We had a number of opportunities. We ended up with eight tackles for loss and three sacks. That's 11 loss yardage plays. We probably had the opportunity to have almost double that and we didn't. That's a concern.

"You say that we line up off the ball a lot, but we moved a lot and we did some things and got after them pressure wise. To get them back off their heels and get into winnable third downs, you have to make those plays for a loss when you have that opportunity and we missed too many of those. We ended up with a lot of second and mediums and second and shorts and it is hard to play defense when you get into those positions. We had our opportunities and we didn't do it. We didn't take care of our business."

Around the state

***Millard South quarterback Anthony Cloyd is a name to watch for 2014. The talented junior led the Patriots to a win over defending Class A state champion Lincoln Southeast. Cloyd was 11-of-13 passing for 125 yards, to go along with 61 yards rushing. It was Southeast's first loss in over a year.

***Lincoln North Star's Austin Rose continues to be a punishing runner for the Navigators. Rose had three touchdowns in a 30-13 win over Bellevue East on Friday. With Michael Minter's dismissal from the team at North Star, it should really open the door to allow Rose to shine even more this season.

***In Lincoln Southwest's loss at Kearney this past Friday, the Silver Hawks had a 17 play, 80 yard scoring drive where they handed the ball off to Husker recruit Josh Banderas 14 times for 71 yards on that drive alone. Banderas has become quite a workhorse back for head coach Mark King this season.

***Iowa Western C.C. got their biggest win in program history when they went down to Texas and beat No. 6 ranked Trinity Valley C.C. 44-20. With wins over New Mexico Military and now Trinity, it really legitimizes the Reivers as a national title contender.

Three and out

***Junior wide receiver Quincy Enunwa made arguably the hit of the night for Nebraska after Taylor Martinez's interception. I jokingly asked Enunwa if there's any defense in his future.

"I actually said to Coach Bo (Pelini) after that 'put me on defense' and he kind of gave me a glare," Enunwa said.

***I predict we will see linebackers David Santos and Zaire Anderson on the field the next weeks. Pelini needs to do something to give his defense more speed and athletic ability.

***I say this with tongue and cheek, but Lincoln East graduate David Oku will be making his homecoming this week with Arkansas State on Saturday. The former four-star running back out of Oklahoma moved to Lincoln for the final quarter of his senior year to apparently be closer to a girl he met while in Lincoln for his official visit during the Virginia Tech-Nebraska weekend in September of 2008.

Oku waited a month until after signing day before he eventually chose Tennessee in March of 2009. I always got the impression Pelini and company backed off of him, even when he moved to Lincoln unsigned. I think taking that "Burkhead guy" over Oku may have been the right move.


Sean Callahan can be reached at sean@huskeronline.com and he can be heard each day at 6:50 am and 4:50 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha during the football season. He can also be seen on KETV Channel 7 TV in Omaha during the fall and each week he appears on NET's Big Red Wrap Tuesday's at 7 pm.



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