Bo Pelini’s Calmness Over Nebraska’s Defense is Getting Weird

| by Alex Groberman

Perspective is a rare but wonderful thing in college football, where one win can be overblown into something that it isn’t and one loss can undeservingly alter any and all perception of a program. Fans rarely exhibit perspective, pundits rarely acknowledge that it’s necessary, and team personnel are usually too close to the situation to apply it.

As great as having perspective is, there are certain people you just wouldn’t expect to have it. Take, for instance, Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Bo Pelini. Whereas you might expect Tim Beck to preach patience as the team adjusts, and urge spectators to not jump to any conclusions regarding the 2011 incarnation of the squad based on three wins, there is something odd about the usually hot-tempered Pelini being the voice of reason.

Don’t forget, Pelini was responsible for this memorable moment from 2010:


And yet, on Monday, after his group gave up three fourth-quarter scores and 38 total points to a Washington Huskies squad that just wouldn’t die this past Saturday, Pelini seemed oddly at peace. When questioned about whether his club’s current place in the defensive rankings -- 61st rushing defense, 66th scoring, 67th total, 78th pass in the country via HuskerExtra -- troubled him, the shockingly collected coach had this to say:

"Yeah, I don't worry about that," he replied.

"I'm not concerned," Pelini said. "Our approach doesn't really change no matter what happens."

Fair enough. Nothing is going to change but, giving up four touchdowns to Keith Price a week after not sacking Derek Carr even once, and allowing back-to-back breakout rushing performance to Robbie Rouse and Chris Polk has to be a cause for some panic, right?

"It's why they put 'Coach' in front of our name," Pelini said. "You don't panic, you don't sit there. You look at it for what it is, and you work to get it fixed.

"That's what I've learned over a long period of time. You don't make rash adjustments. You do hold guys accountable. But you don't chuck what you do, because you know what you're doing works, and you've got to trust in that."

Pelini’s eerie composure aside, he did take the platform on Monday as an opportunity to address some of the more noticeable holes in the defense.  

"It's not like we are getting pushed around," Pelini said. "It is misfits. It is not using the scheme the right way. It's not like anybody is blowing us off of the ball. The things that have happened are pretty easily fixed. We just have to fix us. It's not a big concern."

Obviously the Nebraska head coach is doing the right thing, not blowing anything from this early season out of proportion. Still, it’s peculiar to see a guy with such a well-known reputation for being a hothead display an attitude so unlike what he’s showcased in the past. You certainly wouldn’t expect Pelini to come out and bash his squad, obviously, but even the tone of his voice at the news conference was oddly tranquil.

"I've been there. I've been doing this for a long time. I feel like that game (against Washington) will help us in the long run," Pelini said.

"I feel confident that some of the things that happened to us will make us better. I think we can really, really grow from the things that happened, both good and bad, on Saturday."

It remains to be seen how this new spirit exhibited by Pelini will impact the squad. Perhaps they’ll respond to his disappointment in a more ready fashion than they would to his usual tough love approach. What is for certain, though, is that in a season of change for Nebraska -- between their offense, defense, conference and coordinators -- the biggest and most influential change may be coming from where you would least expect it – the coach’s attitude.