He may have a reputation for being loud and rough with players on the sidelines, but Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Bo Pelini has been strangely calm this season. Even with his defense not up to stuff for, well, the entire season thus far, Pelini has continued to preach patience and execution. When the offense fell apart against the Wisconsin Badgers last week, Pelini said that he believed in quarterback Taylor Martinez and wouldn’t make any changes on that end.
So, given this softer side that he’s exhibited as of late, is it reasonable to assume that Pelini will get a little sentimental when the Huskers host his alma mater Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday night? Maybe even misty-eyed?
"It isn't more or less meaningful. It's about doing a job," Pelini said recently. "I want our team to be better and to walk off the field Saturday night a better football team than we were when we started this week."
Although the Nebraska head coach may want to leave his Ohio State memories in the past, it’s hard not to look back at his times as a Buckeye and draw parallels to his behavior now as the man at the helm of Nebraska’s football program.
Even though his Ohio State teams were never particularly great -- 25-18-3 in a four-year stretch -- and never placed higher than third in the Big Ten, Pelini seemed to always take pride in his place with the team. As a free safety -- and captain in his last two years -- for the Buckeyes, Pelini was known for his toughness and knack for challenging coaches when he felt something they told him wasn’t entirely correct.
Pelini’s coach back in those days, Earle Bruce, recently discussed his player in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle:
"He came out of Youngstown, which at that time was breeding tough kids, and he was one of those," Bruce said. "He was no dummy. He caught on very quickly to all the schemes so he could play as a freshman — except for the fact we had a couple really good football players at that time at corner and safety and he had to wait his turn.
"He did the right things, moved to the right places," Bruce said. "Naturally, where he was, there was success. He added to that success with the way he coached, the way he teaches. He put a good defense out there every time. That's why he is where he is. He earned it."
Even Pelini had to laugh about his mildly rebellious nature when pressed about it.
"There would be a lot of arguments. As a player I thought I knew everything."
It was that understanding of schemes and how plays formed that would ultimately turn Pelini into the perfect man to reshape Nebraska’s football program. His gritty attitude coupled with an undeniable understanding of football intricacies eventually rubbed off on defensive unit after defensive unit, and in turn made the Huskers one of the most formidable squads in the nation.
Pelini may not want to talk about Ohio State this weekend or reminisce about his days there, but there is no doubt that it was his time with that program that made him the man that he is today. Much like Wisconsin has a bit Nebraska’s DNA in their playing style, Pelini has a bit of Ohio State’s in his coaching style.