Pete Carroll

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll (left) embraces general manager John Schneider after winning the NFC Championship game.

Things I know and think I know:

Much like Nebraska defensive coordinator John Papuchis attributes a lot of his growth as a football coach to Bo Pelini, Pelini says his early years in the business were dramatically impacted by Pete Carroll.

"He was kind of my mentor," Pelini says.

The 46-year-old Pelini, in his seventh year as Nebraska head coach, makes no bones about the fact he learned many principles of defense from Carroll, 62, who has led Seattle to a berth in Sunday's Super Bowl.

During the mid-1990s, Pelini was an assistant secondary coach with the San Francisco 49ers -- in his late 20s at the time -- when Carroll was the team's defensive coordinator. The 49ers led the NFL in total defense in 1995.

When Carroll became head coach of the New England Patriots before the 1997 season, he hired Pelini to coach linebackers. It was a crucial career move for Pelini, who says he essentially had coached only defensive backs until that point.

"Now, coaching linebackers, I had to be that much more involved in the front and how it pertains to the run game," Pelini told me last week. "It kind of helped me put everything together, you know what I mean?

"It was a whole new world. I had spent time in previous years, obviously, working with linebackers in meetings, but I had never coached that position. It was a phenomenal opportunity."

Ted Johnson and Tedy Bruschi were among New England's linebackers at the time. During Pelini's three years with the franchise, the Patriots were 27-21 and reached the playoffs in each of the first two seasons.

Things unraveled in 1999, as New England lost six of its final eight games. Such a drop-off was unacceptable for a franchise that had reached the Super Bowl under Bill Parcells. Carroll was fired and was out of coaching in 2000, before becoming head coach at USC.

Yogi Roth, who coached under Carroll at USC and wrote a book with Carroll, recently told USA Today that Carroll is an "insanely highly developed competitor."

"That's who he is -- back against the wall, all the time," Roth says.

Pelini obviously has that in common with Carroll. They also were excellent safeties in college -- Pelini at Ohio State and Carroll at Pacific. Like Carroll, Pelini has an easy-going nature (in the right company). What's more, they both immensely enjoy pickup basketball games.

"We played a lot of basketball together," Pelini says. "He's a gym rat. And, yeah, he's fiery."

Although Pelini makes clear his respect for Denver quarterback Peyton Manning, Bo leaves no doubt which team he'll pull for Sunday. It'll be the squad led by one of his foremost mentors.

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"You better believe it," Pelini says. "I owe Pete a lot. I think he's a phenomenal coach. I'd like to see him get what he deserves, and that's to win a Super Bowl."

* Sending out an APB for John Sanders, Nebraska's baseball coach from 1978-97, when he was 767-453-1 (.629). He was fired in 1997 after the Huskers went 7-23 in the Big 12.

Ken Harvey, a 1999 consensus All-American as a junior at NU, has no clue regarding his former coach's whereabouts. The 35-year-old Harvey is now helping coach the Huskers while he completes his bachelor's degree.

Did Harvey absorb any coaching traits from Sanders?

"Not to be disrespectful, but no, not at all," Harvey said.

That hurts to hear. I have a soft spot for Sanders because of the unyielding patience and kindness he showed a certain pimply-faced beat reporter for the college newspaper during the mid-1980s. I retain great respect for the man.

* It perhaps gave you pause to hear Nebraska men's basketball coach Tim Miles say his team, despite guard Deverell Biggs' absence, took its "biggest step forward" Sunday. Granted, NU played well without the cat-quick junior-college transfer, who's averaging 9.9 points. But the Huskers aren't always going to shoot 50 percent from three-point range, as was the case against Minnesota.

Here's hoping Biggs can work through the "personal reasons" that sidelined him. Miles sounded optimistic about the situation. Biggs has a lot to learn as a player, obviously, but he's exceptionally gifted. You never want that to go to waste.

* Something I never thought I'd say before the season: Ohio State could really use a player like Terran Petteway.

* Pinnacle Bank Arena and its surroundings represent an almost astounding upgrade over the Devaney Sports Center.

I wondered in a column last week if PBA had any flaws at all. Apparently, it has a few imperfections (don't we all?).

Several readers chimed in. A few common complaints: 1. In certain seating areas, fans are unable to see the ribbon boards that feature game statistics; 2. Some concession stands are closed during games; 3. Not enough restrooms in the upper levels; 4. Too hot in the upper levels; 5. The room between the back of seats and the front of seats in the next row is too narrow; 6. The "N" at mid-court lacks oomph (I strongly agree).

I still say the arena, in so many ways, screams "big-time."

See you Thursday.


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