“Calmness” and “Bo Pelini” is as perverse a combination of words as you’ll ever encounter, but yet calm is the ideal way to describe the Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach after his team’s 40-7 romp of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Mocs this past Saturday – in less than dominating fashion.
Many Husker faithful came away unenthused despite the final tally of Saturday’s game because of a perceived lack of smoothness to the offense. Taylor Martinez, for all of the talk about how he was healthy and would greatly benefit from Tim Beck’s more up-tempo scheme couldn’t surpass 116 yards through the air, doing most of his damage with his feet.
Rex Burkhead, who many expected to be innately apt when it came to running through the tackles, couldn’t create space for himself on any but one attempt. And the offensive line, for all of the re-shifting and retooling due to injuries, looked like it had been thrown together out of what couldn’t be described as “spare parts.”
Despite everything, though, the hot-tempered Pelini -- who some have predicted will explode at some point in 2011 -- seemed oddly at peace during Monday’s meeting with the press. In fact, he even went so far to insinuate that Sunday’s uneven performance came as a result of the Huskers trying out various schemes and seeing what fits best against, well, underwhelming opponents.
"You get to a certain point in the game ... I'm not trying to knock down our opponent, but we were trying to work on some things and see some things. Sometimes we didn't put guys in the best opportunities to have success. That was not the goal every single time. We wanted to get some looks, see some plays, see us executing certain things, and we were able to do that.
"There was a method to the madness. I'm not going to sit here and explain the whole thing. I would say Tim (Beck) would call a different game if it were two or three weeks from now."
Fair enough. Much in the same way that the first game of the year -- unless you’re the LSU Tigers and Oregon Ducks, apparently -- is typically utilized as a way of bringing players back into the fold slowly, it can also be used to try out a variety of gameplans and strategies in real-time situations that you may not get again all year. And when you figure in the fact that Nebraska is still in the process of acclimating to a completely new conference with a completely different style of play to call their own, it there really any doubt as to why they would want to experiment versus the likes of the Mocs?
Saturday’s outing aside, Pelini was then asked how he felt about the Huskers’ next opponents – the Fresno State Bulldogs.
“They are a very athletic team, and very aggressive. They are a physical football team that's well coached. History shows they have given a lot of people problems. The venue is not going to bother them because they've played in some different places against some good football teams and won a lot of games.
"We've got to step it up this week and I think our football team understands that."
Cooler heads will always prevail, and if the traditionally colorful Pelini remembers that, he could have a big leg up on his competition in the coming year. He’s right, of course, it’s way too early to judge Nebraska, particularly if you’re only going by what they did against the Chattanooga Mocs.
That being said, if Pelini did spot problems – would he really have brought them up in the first postgame news conference of the year?