The words Nebraska coach Bo Pelini used to describe his team’s Monday practice were “average at best.” His tone – and the purposeful walk he made toward reporters – suggested a little worse.
Either way, Pelini was not in one of his sunnier moods as the Cornhuskers prepare for their season opener vs. Western Michigan.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Pelini said. “We didn’t play well enough. We didn’t coach well enough. I’m not worried about the game right now. I’m worried about the next day of practice.”
Asked for specific origins of his displeasure, Pelini said “we didn’t compete” and “we didn’t make plays.”
The remedy? “Strive for perfection,” Pelini said.
NU senior linebacker Tyler Wortman agreed it wasn’t NU’s best effort. It might have been tied to do with Monday being the first day of school at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, or the first day that players not on the 105-man roster were able to practice. Those players, mostly walk-ons, spent the day conditioning in their helmets while the rest of the Huskers practiced in full pads.
Wortman also said that NU’s first-team defense had to adjust to working against its scout team, which can be difficult, at times, after spending three weeks against starters.
“It was a different feel,” Wortman said. “That was partially the reason things didn’t go quite as well. We know we just got to keep better.”
During the Big 12 coaches teleconference, Pelini hinted that his team had a touch of fall fever – that itch that comes with finishing training camp and entering game week.
“I think we're tired of hitting each other,” he said. “I think we're tired of going against our offense and our defense. It's time to put an opponent out there and see where we stack up.”
Pelini also has not yet handed out Blackshirts to the first-team defense; traditionally that would have been done last week, or Monday.
What’s it mean? Well, not much – Pelini, as a new coach, will deliver them when he delivers them.
“It’s something that we can’t just be given,” Wortman said. “It’s something we really have to earn ourselves. We really have to deserve them and show that out there. Practices like today, that’s part of the reason.”
Pelini declined to address a question about Western Michigan after practice, but he did mention the Broncos during the Big 12 teleconference.
“Our guys, believe me, they understand right now, that there's a good football team coming here,” Pelini said. “There's going to be no lack of respect on our side for who we're playing.”
* Pelini spoke for two minutes to reporters, making it his shortest post-practice session of the year.
* Sophomore weakside linebacker LaTravis Washington returned to practice, but Pelini had little to report.
* Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops has been busy preparing the Sooners for their season, but he’ll be “looking forward” to watching his friend and former assistant Pelini from afar.
“Bo will do an excellent job,” Stoops said. “The defensive knowledge, I’m sure, will make a difference there where they struggled a year ago…I’m not there, so it’s hard for me to know what he’s working with and what the hurdles are but I know he’s got an excellent coaching staff.”
* Senior Lydon Murtha has spent the last several days at right tackle after spending most of fall camp at left tackle, Murtha's new backup, Marcel Jones, said Monday, while sophomore Mike Smith, a specialist on screen passes last year, has been working as the No. 1 left tackle, with sophomore Jaivorio Burkes backing him up.
Why the shuffle? Could be that Murtha felt more comfortable at right tackle, his spot last year, whereas Burkes, who should be the eventual starter, could move from position to position. It's late to make this change, but NU's line has the depth to do it.