Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE
This is a tough call to make, because so much of Nebraska’s comeback win against Wisconsin was down to things that Bo Pelini and his staff did.
Pelini made the adjustments necessary to counter the success Wisconsin was having through the air. He was able to design a defensive scheme to neutralize Heisman Trophy finalist Montee Ball as a weapon. And he was able to instill a never-quit attitude in his team that allowed it to weather getting punched in the face more than once in the game—although a more apt metaphor may be taking a stepped-on rake in the face.
But it shouldn’t be lost that there were a number of struggles that Nebraska had on Saturday which can be laid at Pelini’s feet. Much like in other high-profile games, Nebraska came out tight and nervous, resulting in first quarter fumbles. At one point in the first quarter, Nebraska had three fumbles on six snaps.
And, early in the game, Nebraska made the curious decision to put single man coverage on Jared Abbredaris, Wisconsin’s only true down-the-field threat. The Badgers made Nebraska pay for that decision early, with Abbredaris accounting for the long pass to put Wisconsin in scoring range on its first touchdown and hauling in a 29-yard strike for the third.
It didn’t help matters when Pelini, in his postgame press conference, went out of his way to tell the assembled reporters (as quoted by Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star), “Contrary to what you guys think, I haven’t forgotten how to coach defense and stop the run...the wheels didn’t come off, as some of you like to say.”
This shot at the media is eerily reminiscent of Pelini’s shot at Dirk Chatelain of the Omaha World-Herald after last year’s comeback against Ohio State. In both instances, he could say what he wanted with impunity because of the victory. But such gratuitous, self-serving snipes take away from the performance his players gave on the field and look like an attempt to ensure he gets proper credit for Nebraska’s win.
Look, we get it. Pelini views most of the media with contempt and disdain. And yes, Nebraska won a close game. But the gamblers had Nebraska as nearly a two touchdown favorite, and (as they usually are) it appears that Nebraska is that much better than Wisconsin. Nebraska out-gained Wisconsin 440-295 and only allowed Wisconsin to remain competitive due to turnovers and penalties.
Against that disparity, Nebraska scraped by with a three point win. If Wisconsin would have gotten a competent performance from placekicker Jack Russell (missed extra point, missed 41 yard field goal) the Badgers might have won the game anyway.
For much of the night, the game looked to be a repeat of Iowa State in 2009, Texas in 2010 and Northwestern in 2011 whern Nebraska lost at home to a double-digit underdog. Yes, Pelini deserves credit for the win. But he also deserves to take responsibility for cutting things as close as Nebraska did. He might want to consider that when taking his shots at the media.