“Life goes on. Everything happens for a reason.”
That’s how Taylor Martinez opened Nebraska’s press conference two days after the Huskers lost 36-30 to UCLA. Some players said they were “angry,” others said they were anxious to get back on the field.
But the strongest comments came from head coach Bo Pelini.
“I’ve been sick to my stomach since that game,” Pelini said Monday. “We should have won that football game. We didn’t and it hurts. It’s hard to live with, but you move on. It’s sickening, but you can’t turn back the clock.”
While Nebraska struggled at times on both sides of the ball, the biggest concern right now lies with the defense, Pelini’s area of expertise. The Huskers allowed 653 yards on Saturday, the most under Pelini and the second-most in school history. There are 41 teams in college football that have given up fewer yards in two games than the Huskers allowed against UCLA. Nebraska currently ranks 98th nationally in total defense.
Despite the near record number of yards allowed, Pelini remains confident in his defensive scheme.
“I know what I’m doing defensively,” he said. “The last thing I’m going to be doing is shaking my confidence. That won’t happen.”
Some other news and notes from Monday’s press conference:
–Running back Rex Burkhead is still “day-to-day” according to Pelini. The staff initially thought Burkhead would need 10 to 20 days to recover but the senior appears to be ahead of schedule. “He’s feeling a lot more confident but we’ll just have to see as the week goes on,” Pelini said of Burkhead’s chances of playing this weekend.
–Pelini said the Nebraska defensive line has not been up to his standard so far this season. Missed tackles have plagued Nebraska at all levels, but the defensive line in particular really struggled on Saturday, missing out on a number of lost-yardage plays.
“We came free a number of times, we just need to make those plays,” Pelini said of missed tackles in the backfield. “We had seven tackles for a loss and three sacks. We probably had the opportunity to have double that and we didn’t. That’s a concern of mine.”
–When asked, Pelini bristled at the notion that perhaps the missed tackles came down to “want-to.”
“Let me tell you something about our football team and our football players and everybody associated with our football program – there isn’t any more want-to out there,” Pelini said. “Don’t start questioning the integrity of our football team. Believe me, there ain’t a guy out there who took that field, or ever will take that field for Nebraska, who doesn’t want to make the play.”
–Nebraska found itself playing uphill most of the night on Saturday. For the game, Nebraska’s average starting field position was at their own 22-yard line. In the first half, it was the 18-yard line. UCLA’s average starting field position was their own 37-yard line. In the second half, the Bruins were even better, starting out on average at their own 41-yard line.
Quarterback Taylor Martinez said that affected Nebraska’s tempo on offense.
“It’s very important to establish a rhythm and tempo early,” Martinez said. “It’s kind of difficult if you’re stuck on the 5- or 10-yard line every time or if it’s 1st-and-15, 3rd-and-15.”
–Nebraska’s home game against Idaho State on Sept. 22 is scheduled for 2:30 pm CT and will be carried on the Big Ten Network.