As bye weeks go, Bo Pelini has had better.
This last one? Spent turning over rocks.
“I turn over every rock to find out where we got off of that process and why what happened happened,” the Nebraska football coach said Monday during his weekly news conference. “There's a lot that goes into it. I'm not one who just looks at it and says it just happened by chance.”
Despite the rock turning, Pelini said there was a general quietness around Husker camp in the days after the 63-38 whipping at Ohio State.
He described his players as having a workmanlike approach, with a good understanding of what’s in front of them.
"I wanted an angry team and I think that's what I've got right now,” Pelini said.
Anger sounds like a fitting emotion to have after what happened at the Horseshoe.
But Husker coaches and players know they won't have a chance going forward, with a road test at Northwestern looming, if they don’t channel that anger correctly and stick together.
After the bitter loss to the Buckeyes, senior linebacker Alonzo Whaley said it was important to make sure everyone was on the same page. To that end, a players-only meeting was held last week.
"The guys that are perceived as leaders definitely just stood up and said their piece," Whaley said. "Will Compton, myself and the guys sitting in the front row -- that's where the leaders sit in our team auditorium -- we're putting the team on our backs. Especially us seniors, this is our last go-round.
"We want to make the best of it this year and I think we're doing a good job of making those young guys feel the way we feel.”
Junior defensive end Jason Ankrah said the meeting produced positive reviews.
“Because people just put everything out there and how they felt,” Ankrah said. “Stuff outside of football, how people talked, how people acted. Just getting up for lifting at the right time. Just all the little things that we think add up to gameday.”
All the little things that might lead to better “execution,” a word Pelini used often Monday when talking to the media.
The lack of it against Ohio State, he said, starts with him.
Because of that failed execution, he said players were sick to their stomach when they watched game film.
"Same way I was. Because, the way I look at it is I didn't prepare them well enough to execute. I don't look at it and say, 'Hey, what we do works. It's drawn up to work.' At the end of the day, if our players aren't executing it falls on the coaches first and foremost. That's how I look at it."
Pelini was not much for getting into specifics about what went wrong defensively against Ohio State, but did cite the 72-yard second-quarter run by Braxton Miller as a point “where we lost our mojo a little bit.”
Prior to the run, the Husker defense had produced four three-and-outs to begin the game. After the run, the Buckeyes scored touchdowns on six straight possessions.
“Part of the process is going to the next down,” Pelini said. “You can't let something that happened one play affect you on the next one. You have to go to the next play. You have to execute the next play. Forget about what happened. Have a short memory and go. For whatever reason, I felt like that didn't happen to us."
As for that post-game statement Pelini made that “we need to win out?”
Pelini said that statement doesn't contradict the week-to-week process he often speaks about wanting his team to maintain.
“But I know this, if you win out, you control your own destiny,” he said. “That's what I meant. It's nice to be in a position where you control your own destiny. And today we control our own destiny and can win out."
In pursuit of that goal, it doesn’t appear Nebraska’s defense will have many personnel changes.
While the Huskers may have some younger players who are options for considerable action as soon as next year, the question is if any of those players could make a noticeable difference if called on at this stage of their careers.
“What I've learned in situations like this is there are short-term solutions and long-term solutions,” Pelini said. “In the short term, you have to go with what gives you the best opportunity to win right now. I think we are doing that. You stay the course and don't panic and continue on with what you believe is going to carry you through.”
Panic is to be avoided.
Brutal honesty is not.
As it comes to that, Ankrah believes players have been their own harshest critics in looking to repair the wrongs that played out against Ohio State.
“You've just got to keep it real,” Ankrah said. “It’s either, you did it or you didn’t do it. It’s not, ‘Oh, I could have done this or I could have done that.’ It’s either, you did or you didn’t. That’s how you've got to critique yourself.”