Feistiness doesn't mean lack of togetherness, Huskers say

2012-11-12T23:50:00Z 2012-11-15T16:35:05Z Feistiness doesn't mean lack of togetherness, Huskers sayBy BRIAN CHRISTOPHERSON / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

Daimion Stafford didn’t need two days to move on from a fiery sideline exchange with Bo Pelini on Saturday.

He only needed about two seconds.

The Nebraska senior safety was well aware the video clip of his heated discussion with his head coach had been replayed more than a few times on ESPN.

But the cameras, he said, did not capture the full story.

“Right after, me and Bo were talking calm, but they just played that piece where we were kind of barking,” Stafford said.

People making something out of nothing, he thinks.

“Me and Bo, we know what's going on, we know we're good,” Stafford said. “That's all that really matters.”

If that scene between Pelini and Stafford jolted a few fans, it was brushed off in the Husker camp as no big deal.

Nebraska players spoke Monday of being closer than ever after Saturday's 32-23 comeback win against Penn State.

Football is an emotional game, they said, and they’re more than willing to follow their emotional leader to what they hope is a return trip to Pasadena, Calif.

"I would definitely consider (Bo) a players' coach," said senior center Justin Jackson. "We have his back and he has ours. I firmly believe that. He's showed it to me before. He's an intense guy, and the way we play and the way he coaches, it creates us to be intense players. It translates on the field in our drive and not to give up.”

And those squabbles the cameras catch?

That’s competitive people in the heat of competition, says senior linebacker Will Compton.

“Bullets are flying and there’s going to be disagreements just like there would be in a household. We’re a family and we all know that. There’s never anything that puts somebody down … or embarrasses him. It’s never about that,” Compton said.

“We’re out there trying to get a win and we expect to win. When that’s expected, you have high standards and you’re going to have disagreements when things go wrong. And things do go wrong.”

Things were definitely going wrong in the second quarter Saturday when Penn State’s up-tempo pace had the Husker defense off-balance, sometimes confused as the ball was being snapped.

The Huskers didn’t appear to be settled defensively when Penn State scored on a 10-yard pass to tight end Jesse James to give the Nittany Lions a 17-6 lead. That’s when Stafford’s frustrations came to the surface on the sideline.

Pelini apparently understood, taking the blame after the game for not getting some defensive calls in on time in the first half.

The second half played out much differently, with Nebraska outscoring Penn State 26-3.

And Stafford played one of the best halves of his season, intercepting a pass to set up a touchdown and recovering a fumble for a touchback on the game’s most pivotal play.

Stafford is among a group of seniors that Pelini has shown more trust in than probably any senior class before it.

Pelini will readily tell you he asks for more feedback from players than in previous years.

“I've learned a lot from these kids, and hopefully they have learned a lot in their time here,” he said. “They have had to put up with me for four and five years, and we are not easy on them. We are demanding. We hold them to high standards every single day.”

The fifth-year head coach admitted he’s made some mistakes along the way

“But I think I've grown a lot as a head coach, the same way they are still in progress of trying to be the best football players they can be,” Pelini said. “We've done that together. I think we have a pretty strong relationship, we believe in each other and it's been an honor to coach these kids, because I love each and every one of them.”

Reach Brian Christopherson at bchristopherson@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. You can follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.

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