Nebraska Football: Holiday Gifts Coach Pelini Will Be Returning
Nebraska football fans know that the day after Christmas is reserved for many as the day to return the gifts that were unwanted or unneeded. So if we spent some time before Christmas thinking about what would be on Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini’s holiday wishlist, it’s only fair to spend a little time thinking about the stinkers Pelini has received and would like to take back.
Just remember to keep your receipts if you don’t want to get stuck with store credit.
All stats from cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted.
After the Iowa game, at the very least Nebraska made the arithmetic easy. In 12 games, Nebraska was minus-12 in turnovers, making NU an even minus-1.00 per game in turnover margin. That was good for No. 121 in the nation, better only than Texas Tech, California and Southern Mississippi.
Nebraska fans saw in vivid, horrifying detail how losing the turnover battle can destroy everything else a team does. Nebraska outgained and, in many ways, outplayed eventual Big Ten champion Michigan State during their contest in Lincoln. But Nebraska was minus-five in turnovers against the Spartans, and as a result NU lost the game—and its shot at a return to Indianapolis.
A bottle of stick-em might have been a good gift for Pelini this year. But at the very least, Pelini needs to take the turnover bug back as soon as possible.
The Punt-Return Game
Nebraska has been at least decent in the punt-return game recently. Take a look at this chart of Nebraska’s national ranking in punt returns during Pelini’s tenure:
Nebraska’s 2013 ranking, worse only than California and Mississippi State, was a huge drain on NU’s field position all year. And that statistic doesn’t take into account the turnovers that came from Nebraska’s punt-return game, which made matters even worse.
Again, it’s not like a Pelini-coached team can’t return kicks well. A prompt return of Pelini’s hardback copy of the Santino Panico Guide To Effective Punt Returns would be wise.
The Angry Nebraska Everything-Hating God
OK, in fairness, Nebraska’s injury problems in 2013 were nowhere near the kind of length and baffling specificity than those Iowa suffered at the running back position over the last few years, giving rise to the creation of the Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God (AIRBHG) meme (as compiled by Hawkeye Nation).
But there is little doubt that injuries played a huge part in Nebraska’s struggles last year. Of course, the injury to quarterback Taylor Martinez was the most prominent and one of the most damaging. But Nebraska also lost all-American offensive tackle Spencer Long, wide receiver Jamal Turner and a host of other important starters on offense and defense throughout the year. Nebraska’s offensive line was a crazy-quilt of substitutions born out of necessity after injury at the end of the season.
Yeah, ANEHG isn’t nearly as good of an acronym as AIRBHG was for Iowa. But Pelini could certainly do with bringing the ANEHG back to wherever he (or she) came from before the 2014 season begins.
After Nebraska’s loss to Minnesota, the rumblings from the Nebraska faithful began about whether Pelini was the right man to lead NU to glory. This dope even wrote an article right after the loss to Minnesota listing coaches that could replace Pelini if he were dismissed.
The rumblings got louder as Nebraska’s season unraveled, and Pelini’s frustration with his uncertain job status became clearer. He drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Iowa for swinging his hat at an official and all but dared Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst to fire him after the game.
Eichorst’s statement of support for Pelini seems to have settled the waters—for now. Here’s exactly what Eichorst said about his decision, less than 48 hours after the Iowa game, and the timing of his decision (as reprinted by BTN.com, emphasis added):
My approach has always been to not comment publicly about our coaches until their full seasons are complete, as I strongly believe it is unfair and counter to best practices. However, given the volume of unfounded speculation and conjecture about our head football coach, I want to reaffirm what I have said many times since I have arrived at the University of Nebraska — that I positively respect, appreciate and support our football student-athletes, coaches and staff, as we do everyone in the Husker family. We very much look forward to our upcoming bowl game and Coach Pelini continuing to lead our program in the future.
Did you catch that? Eichorst had said throughout the controversy that he did not want to comment on the job status of any Nebraska coach until the end of that coach’s season. But he quickly came out with his decision “given the volume of unfounded speculation” about Pelini’s future. It was the fanbase, fueled by the Internet’s ability to magnify voices, which forced Eichorst’s hand—and gave the controversy the oxygen necessary to grow in the first place.
If Nebraska struggles next year, expect those same voices to raise questions about Pelini’s tenure in 2014. While the genie is most certainly out of the bottle, if Pelini could, I am certain he would take the entire Internet back to the store where Al Gore bought it from to start with.
Or, you could always use the Twitter machine to follow @patrickrunge.