Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini held court Monday with one of his longer opening statements during his time at Nebraska following the 20-point loss the UCLA Saturday. The sixth-year head coach hit just about every topic one could imagine Monday - from Tommie Frazier’s tweets to the culture of the program. Pelini said the staff is exploring ways to move the team in the right direction, saying he believes the team has “a chance to be a really good football team.”
“At times on Saturday we were a very good football team. It has to be a consistent thing,” Pelini said. It has to be an every down thing. It has to be an every game thing. A big part of this game and a big part of athletics is the mental drive behind it and the focus. Culture is real. A culture around the football team. And who sets the culture? It’s the head football coach. I understand that.”
Pelini reiterated sentiments from Saturday’s post game that the Huskers seemed to play with a demeanor of trying not to lose, rather than trying to win. As the head coach, he said, it falls on him to put each player in the best position to win football games.
“I can say this, I wholeheartedly feel I failed in that regard on Saturday for whatever reason,” Pelini said. “We got away from playing aggressive football and got on our heels and didn’t recover on Saturday.”
Pelini, a self-proclaimed perfectionist, said the first thing Nebraska will do is move practice up to Sunday, giving the players Monday off.
“I’m evaluating and looking at everything we can do to give our guys the best opportunity moving forward to be the best football team we can be. I believe in our group of guys. I believe in them wholeheartedly. I believe in the players in that locker room. I believe in the staff. We’re going to move forward. We have a lot of football left to play. The process continues. We’ll finish up the process on UCLA and how it relates to our football team today and we’ll move forward and get better because of it.”
–One of the topics Pelini brought up that caught fire early was the issue of the players enjoying their experience. Pelini said ensuring it is his first priority.
“I push, push, push,” he said. “Believe me, there has to be some of that, but there also has to be a fine line. I want our players to get back to having fun again. I want them to go back to going out to play to win and not worrying about losing the football game.”
Senior offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles said he’s not necessarily always concerned about having fun, however.
“A lot of people think that you have to have fun all the time when you’re playing football. You have fun at practice, but there are times when practice isn’t fun. It’s work, and work isn’t always fun. The fun part of practice is when you’re out there having fun and competing hard against each other. And then, when you get back in the locker room, you’re with 150 of your best friends. That’s the fun part.
“The fun part of the game is walking out in front of 92,000 people screaming loud and cheering in Memorial Stadium or walking out in front of 100,000 people in the Horseshoe at Ohio State. I mean, that’s fun. When it’s time to work, it’s time to work, and sometimes work isn’t fun. I’d say the majority of time we have a good time at practice because the leadership really pulls people along when we’re having a good time.
“Yeah, I think there are times when it’s not fun, but it’s hard not to have fun playing a game you love and a game that has done so much for you. If you’re at the Division I level playing college football, the game of football has done a lot for you in your life. It’s hard not to have fun playing a game that you love.”
–Big losses are beginning to feel all too familiar around Nebraska, with Nebraska giving up at least 36 points and over 500 yards of offense in each of the last five losses. Junior running back Ameer Abdullah said the Huskers can’t let the losses define them.
“What’s going to define us is how we respond and react this upcoming Saturday,” he said. ”Understand that everything that happened on Saturday is because of us, but don’t let that bring us down for the next Saturday.”
Saturday’s loss to UCLA was the first witness at home by many Nebraska freshman and redshirt freshman defenders; the Huskers went undefeated at Memorial Stadium in 2012.
“It’s not so much motivation as it is a learning experience,” freshman defensive end Avery Moss said. “I haven’t been a part of this. Just watching the film from Saturday I heard Sirles talking about all those little details. Details, details, details. Little things can affect the big picture so much, but you don’t see it until you watch the film yourself and study it. I think that’s going to be a learning experience for our defense. Once we get those nit-picky things out of the way, then we can be a good defense and overcome adversity.”