Steven M. Sipple: It's been very good week for Pelini

2012-11-15T21:20:00Z 2012-11-16T00:45:04Z Steven M. Sipple: It's been very good week for Pelini JournalStar.com

No wonder many major college football coaches are control freaks.

Their profession can be ridiculously volatile.

Consider Bo Pelini's last seven days.

Nebraska trails Penn State by two touchdowns at halftime Saturday. The Nittany Lions out-slug Pelini's crew for 30 minutes. One of NU's senior leaders, safety Daimion Stafford, engages Pelini in a heated discussion on the sideline. TV cameras catch the exchange (of course). Fans wonder if Pelini is losing the team.

I receive a slew of text messages at halftime, including this from a usually even-tempered Husker fan:

"Pelini is gonna be under big heat if we lose this one."

Nebraska rallies, as usual, and shows us once again that the line in sports between joy and doom can be extremely thin.

"Remarkable coaching job this season," reads a text I receive from a former Husker great as the game's final seconds tick down.

How quickly the tide changes.

Pelini's fortunes kept improving:

* Rex Burkhead, an All-Big Ten running back last season who has missed most of this season with a knee injury, tells media Monday he hopes to return for Saturday's game against Minnesota. Talk about a late-season boost for a Nebraska team that's already surging.

* Three of the team's foremost leaders — Will Compton, P.J. Smith and Stafford — request Tuesday to speak to media to make clear the team's respect for Pelini. It's a rare, if not unprecedented, request at NU. Their words are passionate and unfiltered. They reflect the team's strong unity and family atmosphere Pelini fosters. It's a very strong P.R. moment for the head coach.

* A college football coaching website reports that Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long — who's looking for a permanent head coach — could target Pelini.

Why does the report represent good fortune for Pelini? Because perhaps it will remind folks of Pelini's best qualities — qualities that would endure with or without a win against Penn State.

Indeed, in the wake of Bobby Petrino's scandal at Arkansas, it's easy to understand why Long might be interested in Pelini.

Three reasons immediately come to mind: 1. Bo's a family man to his core; 2. He runs a very clean program that emphasizes academics and good behavior on and off the field (When is the last time a Husker has gotten in serious off-field trouble?); 3. Nebraska is 8-2 overall and 5-1 in the Big Ten despite the fact Burkhead — the offense's heart and soul, according to offensive coordinator Tim Beck — has missed five games and large chunks of three others.

Yeah, pretty good coaching job by Pelini and his staff, at least to this point.

And a pretty good week for the head coach.

Thumbs up to Nebraska for persevering (and thriving) while facing a rugged Big Ten schedule. NU's five wins in league play have come against opponents that have a combined 18 conference wins (Wisconsin, 4; Northwestern, 3; Michigan, 5; Michigan State, 2; Penn State, 4). Meanwhile, Wisconsin's four wins in league play have come against opponents that have a combined five conference wins (Illinois, 0; Purdue, 1; Minnesota, 2; Indiana, 2)

Thumbs down to Jimbo Fisher, the Florida State head coach, for his contention that college coaches should have more input on where teams are ranked. "You've got to have people who have a clue. ... It's nothing against y’all (reporters)," he said, apparently unaware of the term "conflict of interest."

Numbers crunch

43.5: In six Big Ten games, Nebraska opponents have completed only 43.5 percent of their passes. The next lowest opponent completion percentage in the conference is 54 percent.

Reach Steven M. Sipple at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.

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About the writer

Steven M. Sipple | Lincoln Journal Star

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.


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