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  1. 2009 Oct 27

    Bo Talks Toughness


    By HuskerLocker

    Intangibles, intangibles, intangibles. An afternoon full of talking about them – especially mental toughness – at Nebraska's football press conference Tuesday.

    The wake continued, to some extent, for the 9-7 loss to Iowa State; scant questions about Saturday foe Baylor, and even fewer about the Bears' defense, which is the stronger of the two units.

    Head coach Bo Pelini, reflecting a calmer, more introspective persona that he's been trying on since the ISU post-game presser, was fairly blunt when describing his team: “Consistently we're not mentally tough enough.”

    “I'm a strong believer in culture. My vision I have for this football team – that process is well under way. I cannot proclaim it has completely taken over yet. It is a process. And it's not something that happens overnight. I understood that coming in.”

    Proclamation. I like it.

    Bo said he wasn't trying to make excuses. This is a team, he said, with the “tools” to win now. But it struggles with focus and execution because, well – that part is harder for Pelini to define. Maybe the Huskers struggle because of a lack of talent. Maybe it's a lack of consistent leadership. I'd argue that, but Pelini's definition of leadership-by-example, which I assume has permeated the team, negates some need for vocal types. Not that Pelini would turn them down. It's just not, to him, necessary.

    “I always look at leadership, it’s not about barking,” he said. “It’s not about talking, it’s about doing. It’s about making plays and overall consistency of what you’re doing. You have to take care of yourself first. As far as our leadership, as far as our effort, as far as our want-to, our attitude, that’s been good.”

    A circular approach to the issue, because, frankly, the team is young, and as we pointed out in last week's column, still searching for leaders.

    Maybe it's a lack of fire, although Pelini – and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who was sitting in the back of the room – bristled at that notion. Suh had a nice, long stare at the reporter who asked more fire and emotion from the bunch. Suh, who burns hot on the inside but doesn't show much emotion on the outside, often gets that criticism specifically. He's tired of hearing it.

    Suh touched on the culture around the program, and Pelini's process, too. Intriguing answer: “Do I know exactly what he means? No. Do I have some idea? Yes, in certain instances. I think he just wants this program to be a very dominant, hard-nosed, blue collar team. That's what he wants. That what he expects.”

    The answer suggests that NU is still in an earlier phase of its growth than some may appreciate. Pelini never overhyped Nebraska after its 4-1 start. The media did. Just a reminder.

    Tags: ndamukong suh, bo pelini, bolosophy

  2. 2009 Jan 12

    'Rome Wasn't Built In A Day'


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    Green photo courtesy of hsgameonline.com

    Already, the Cody Green sightings have begun to pop up on message boards. Here he is, at a basketball game. There he was, walking on campus.

    The true freshman quarterback - who recently led Dayton High School to the Texas 4A state championship and is considered one of the best prospects in the nation - started classes at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Monday, enrolling at mid-semester to participate in spring practice and get a head start on Nebraska's West Coast Offense.

    He’s also entered the fishbowl that is Big Red Nation.

    “There are probably unrealistic expectations for that young man already, but he’s a mature kid,” head coach Bo Pelini said Monday in his first comments about Green. “He knows what he wants and that’s why he’s here early.”

    Nevertheless, Pelini said, Green is headed for an intense and difficult four months, starting with winter conditioning. He’ll have to put his trust in coaches and block out distractions to fit in with a bunch of guys already familiar with the Huskers’ offseason program.

    “You’re gonna have rougher times than if you started in August,” Pelini said. “Once you start in spring ball – really winter conditioning up into spring ball – there aren’t a lot of freshmen to put him on the field against. He’s gonna be breaking in against kids who are more mature than he is, who have been in the system. That’s the hardest situation to bring into.

    “Some of the guys in that situation really start doubting themselves after couple days, so you’ve got to prepare them for that. Hey, Rome – it wasn’t built in a day. You have to put a lot of hard work in. It takes time. His process just begun a little earlier. For that, he’ll take advantage, but it’s gonna be rocky at times. He’s just gotta have the maturity and the support from us to make sure he gets through it.”

    Tags: recruiting, bolosophy

  3. 2008 Dec 10

    Six Strengths of Bo's Year One


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    A team that gets better in the second half: Nebraska is not a good team in the first quarter. No other way to say it. NU was outscored 113-98 in the opening 15 minutes. It practically took itself out of two games – Virginia Tech and Oklahoma – and put itself in a hole in two others – Colorado and Baylor. Why did the Huskers’ defense struggle so much out of the locker room? That’s a riddle Pelini has to solve in 2009.

    But once Nebraska’s defense settled down, executed better and made subtle adjustments, it became a team that could actually make a second-half comeback. The Huskers turned a 20-17 halftime deficit into a 32-20 win over Baylor, and transformed halftime ties with CU and Kansas into wins. After falling behind VT 26-10, they made a furious fourth quarter rally. But the best work might have been at Texas Tech, where, trailing 24-10 midway through the third quarter, NU scored on three consecutive drives and was a broken fourth-down play away from upsetting the Red Raiders in regulation.

    You don’t remember these kinds of moments from the Callahan era. That’s because they didn’t happen.

    A philosophy that keeps time with the current trends of college football:Pelini wants a fast, agile defense, one durable and flexible enough to withstand offensive personnel changes from play to play without making its own. Pelini was forced to use a whole array of packages and players in 2008, calling on guys like Matt Holt and Matt May, linebackers in safeties’ bodies, to attack spread offenses. Long term, Pelini wants two dominant safeties, active linebackers and a couple heroes in the interior defensive line. This how the great college defenses are generally built today, with a back seven who can cover and tackle in space, with two shortish fireplugs down low.

    Willingness to admit errors: Pelini hasn’t been shy about shouldering blame for big losses. He rarely, if ever, singles out one player for criticism. And he’s clearly instructed his team and coaches to adopt a similar “blame me first, credit everyone else” attitude. It’s led to a couple creative answers – offensive coordinator Shawn Watson tried to talk himself into a couple mea culpas on plays where quarterback Joe Ganz had just plain screwed up, by Ganz’s own omission – but the approach fosters unity, if nothing else.

    A smart S&C hire: By all accounts, luring James Dobson away from Iowa to become Nebraska’s strength and conditioning coach has been a hit. Dobson’s philosophies were and are in sync with the kind of team Pelini wants to build: Quick, lean and athletic. The long endurance runs for big guys were out. More explosive drills were in. The Huskers – by design – were a giant team in 2007. In 2008, they were still big, but considerably more cut, starting with guys like Matt Slauson. The defensive line especially looked a step faster than the 2007 version and step faster than opposing offensive lines for most of the season. Dobson’s offseason work was part of why.

    What’s more, Dobson isn’t an attention-seeker, looking to patent this or turn the media onto that. I remain struck by statements made by Michigan’s strength and conditioning coach at the beginning of last year, when Coach Rich Rodriguez decided to spend almost a million bucks overhauling the whole program. Their big secret: Drinking milk.

    Saving for the future: Pelini resisted the urge to burn most redshirts – especially on defense – to get those freshmen and one junior college transfer acclimated to the Pelini Way before they hit the field. And some of those freshmen – linebackers Will Compton and Alonzo Whaley, JUCO guard Ricky Henry, tight end Ben Cotton – probably could have helped the Huskers in a few games. What’s smart about Pelini’s approach is getting four true years from these guys. They’ll have a whole fall season and a spring practice under their belts.

    A personal touch: Bill Callahan, for better or worse, was an island unto himself in the athletic department, toiling away on his dual computer screens late into the night.

    Pelini works hard, too. Plenty hard. But he’s reached out to other coaches within the athletic department and created bonds with volleyball coach John Cook, basketball coach Doc Sadler and wrestling coach Mark Manning, whose staged “Oklahoma Drill” showdown with Brandon Rigoni – Pelini served as a master of ceremonies, you might say - is a YouTube sensation. Making allies comes easily for Pelini. He might be better at it than Tom Osborne was, to be honest.
    Inter-departmental relationships are not a small thing, folks.

    Former athletic director Steve Pederson flunked that part of the exam and nobody, outside his coaching staff, really seemed to know Callahan. Pelini stops at a local coffee shop nearly every morning before he drops his kids off for school, signs autographs, orders his drinks – you know, the regular people stuff. Those little details are the glue that helps makes a football coach an institution, and not just the richest public employee in the state.

    See also: The uplifting story of Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney.

    Tags: bolosophy, bo pelini

  4. 2008 Dec 08

    NU Kicks Off Bowl Prep


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    There were so many cameras and reporters at the end of Nebraska’s football practice Monday that one could have easily figured a scandal had just hit the wires.

    Nope. Just the start of NU’s Gator Bowl prep for Clemson.

    Cornhuskers’ Coach Bo Pelini, who won the 2003 Alamo Bowl as Nebraska interim coach and rattled off three straight bowl wins at LSU as defensive coordinator, is confident the plan he’s laid out is, in his words, “smart” – balancing rest and final exams with the intense workouts NU had in the regular season.

    “I’ve had a lot of success in bowl games since I’ve been back in college football,” Pelini said. “Everybody has a different view, everybody has different philosophies. We’ve put together a schedule we think will work for us.”

    Expect a mixture of Clemson preparation, underclassmen work and conditioning done at the Huskers’ usual tempo.

    “When we come to practice, we come to practice,” Pelini said. “There’s only one way we do things. That’s full speed. I think our guys have grown up in that manner, they’ve developed, they understand what we’re asking of them.”

    Offensive guard Matt Slauson welcomed a plan that kept Nebraska sharp for a month while bowl season unfolds methodically over 20 days.

    “You’ve got a month off,” Slauson said. “It’s hard to focus for a month, so you’ve really got to buckle down.”

    Will the Huskers mix in some fun? Sure. Slauson said he considered the trip a “work vacation” that will include some perks and presents. Slauson said he wasn’t entirely sure which gifts the Huskers would get for their presence in the game, but did involve a combination of “Oakley sunglasses, luggage, a watch, the basic bowl stuff.”

    Tags: matt slauson, gator bowl, bolosophy

  5. 2008 Dec 06

    Closing in on the Big Names


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    Bo Pelini saw a lot of living rooms. The inside of a bunch of airplanes and rental cars, too.

    Nebraska’s head coach spent the week on the road trying to close the deal on some prospective recruits and pay a visit to some players who already have committed.

    “Brother, I was in every time zone,” Pelini said. “I couldn’t look at my watch because I never changed it because I kept changing time zones.”

    And the verdict after a week of wooing?

    “We had some good momentum in recruiting right now,” Pelini said. “I really like where things are headed We’re working toward finishing this class well. We’re in on some good guys.”

    Those “guys” including running backs Rex Burkhead of Plano, Texas and Jarvis Giles of Tampa, Fla., and defensive tackle Latu Hemuli of Salt Lake City, among others. Pelini talked to all of them this week in that traditional "closer" head coach role.

    "I believe it's one of my strengths," Pelini said.

    Pelini said players and their parents had been paying attention to Nebraska’s three-game winning streak, particularly the 40-31 thriller win over Colorado.

    Another late-season advantage will be playing in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, long a hotbed of football talent. Pelini said NU is trying to re-establish a recruiting base in the Sunshine State and the southeast in general, a region all but abandoned during Bill Callahan’s regime, which focused more on California.

    “We’re trying to get back into Florida,” Pelini said, “so every little bit of publicity and presence down there will help us...we’re gonna go where the players are. We have some guys with connections in that area.”

    So what’s left to pick up for NU? At least one more running back, receiver, defensive tackle and safety. After that, Nebraska might select one or two more guys based on need.

    “Basically if you just look at the guys who are graduating and say ‘OK, we lost two here, we want to pick up two there,’” Pelini said. “We’ve altered that a little bit, but not much.”

    Tags: bolosophy, recruiting

  6. 2008 Nov 26

    Bo Tightens A "Loose" Ship


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    Nebraska suffered a little football fever at the beginning of Thursday’s practice, NU head coach Bo Pelini said. In preparation for Friday’s game vs. Colorado, the Cornhuskers were “a little bit looser than I would have liked to have been.”

    “Sometimes as a coach that freaks you out a little bit,” Pelini said to reporters in an empty, darkened Memorial Stadium. “I felt as the practice went on, we got focused, and locked in. I felt good about what I saw the last three quarters of practice. Good tempo, good execution. I think we’ll be ready to go.”

    Pelini made sure NU tightened up its practice.

    “I’ve been known to do that every now and then, in my own little way,” Pelini joked. “The kids felt it. You get a little late in the year, and I just felt like they were excited but maybe a little too distracted. Sometimes you gotta put them a little back on course.”

    That done, Pelini said he’d like to see 7-4 Nebraska play its most complete game against 5-6 Colorado.

    “We haven’t put four quarters together yet up to our potential,” Pelini said. “…I wanna see four together. I don’t want to see any lapses. I want to see our best football. I want us to play to a higher standard.”

    That would certainly look good for the nine recruits heading to Lincoln for the game. The Huskers picked up a verbal commitment Tuesday from California defensive back Dijon Washington, but is still looking for two more receivers, a small, quick running back and a few more defensive players, including at least one safety.

    “I want every best player in the country,” Pelini said. “But I like the group coming it. It’s a good group.”

    The Huskers will celebrate Thanksgiving with team dinner Wednesday night, then have a normal walkthrough on Thanksgiving Day. Pelini said his own family will “do the turkey thing” at some point during the weekend.

    His favorite dish?

    “Spaghetti,” he joked.

    Tags: bolosophy, colorado week

  7. 2008 Nov 12

    Bo Talks Blackshirts, Glenn


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    It was the “right time” for 11 Nebraska defenders to start wearing the Blackshirts, NU head coach Bo Pelini said Wednesday in his first comments about his decision.

    “You go for a feel for how they’ve been preparing,” Pelini said. “Thought it was time.”

    Pelini said the Blackshirt honor is a “day-to-day” thing and that there “might not be ten next week.”

    “You earn it,” he said. “You gotta earn to keep it.”

    Pelini said only ten had been handed out thus far, not the 11 defensive coordinator Carl Pelini mentioned Tuesday night. Bo Pelini may have been not counting middle linebacker Phillip Dillard, who has not played in two weeks.

    Dillard will again not play Saturday at Kansas State. Because weakside linebacker Cody Glenn has been idefinitely suspended, Pelini was asked whether NU would have to shift to a dime package to compensate for their losses.

    “Depends on what they come out in,” Pelini said. “We feel OK. We’re really similar to the packages we carried (against Kansas) except that we’re not going to see as much four wides.”

    When asked whether Glenn could return to the team this year, Pelini said “I issued my statement on Cody. I’m done talking about that.”

    Yes, we want you to join! It's free! It's fun!

    Tags: cody glenn, blackshirts, bolosophy

  8. 2008 Nov 04

    Bo Expresses 'Regret' for Sideline Tirades


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    It was the kind of subplot during Nebraska’s 62-28 loss to Oklahoma that ESPN clearly loved and NU fans probably didn’t: Head coach Bo Pelini’s recurring, animated outbursts of anger toward referees, assistant coaches and, on one occasion, a Husker player.

    The images – particularly three profanity-laced tirades that Pelini directed into his headset – caught the attention of fans – and maybe prospective recruits – gathered around their televisions.

    “I regret that,” Pelini said. “I was made aware of it by some of my family. I wasn’t so much yelling at the kids as I was on the headset. It was kind of out of character, that aspect of it. You have to be aware of it.”

    They were Pelini’s first comments in a series of several at his Tuesday press conference. He had been previously reluctant to even suggest that his sideline demeanor had been a problem; after the Virginia Tech game in which he received an unsportmanslike conduct penalty, Pelini offered a brisk “no” to whether he had any concerns about outside perception.

    On Tuesday, citing “perception is reality, and that’s something I’ve got to fix,” Pelini reversed course, patiently answering questions about his emotions, including the penalty near the end of the VT game.

    “There’s a difference between animated and over the top,” Pelini said. “You can still be (animated) and still get your point across. Know what I’m saying? There’s a difference between going over the top and not going over the top. Obviously if I got a personal foul, I went over the top in that particular instance, in that guy’s mind.”

    Pelini said he had “grown a little bit in the aspect of how to talk to refs. What to say and what not to say.” But he also disagreed with the notion that he’s “lost it” on players or that his emotions have played any role in Nebraska’s 17 personal fouls this season, including the latest on Saturday night against Terrence Moore, who was ejected for trying to punch an Oklahoma player.

    ESPN captured Pelini grabbing Moore’s facemask, talking to him sternly, and pointing to the bench. At the time, Pelini believed he was ejecting Moore himself, but, as it turned out, Moore was ejected by referees, which means he wouldn’t be available for the first half of the Kansas game.

    While mentioning that Moore’s personal foul was “out of character,” Pelini did not apologize for grabbing Moore’s facemask and getting his attention.

    “The young man took a swing at somebody,” Pelini said. “To me that’s something that’s very undisciplined, something that we’re not going to tolerate on our football team. Will I grab a facemask so he gets the point and looks me in the eye? I’m not going to hit the young man. I don’t believe in something like that. But I’m going to get my point across.”

    It’s a style that Nebraska players say is a change from the aloof, almost wistful persona of Bill Callahan, and one to which they’ve adjusted.

    “When he needs to get a point across, he’ll get in your face,” defensive end Zach Potter said. “Next play, you do something right, he’ll be making a joke. There’s no difference to us whether he’s in our face or making a joke. It’s just who he is.”

    Said linebacker Cody Glenn: “He’s trying to get problems fixed. He’s trying to fix things that’s going on during the game…He’s a player’s coach. He’s not going to get too much into attacking the players.”

    Still, Pelini said he felt strongly enough about the perception of his behavior that he approached athletic director and former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne about it.

    “It was a pretty short conversation,” Pelini said. “Coach Osborne knows the type of person I am and what kind of heart I have. He also knows I’m an emotional guy.

    “But I know, from my standpoint, I’ve got to be smarter than that.”

    Tags: kansas week, oklahoma week, bolosophy

  9. 2008 Nov 03

    Bo Turns The Page


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    Bo Pelini hasn't been one to specifically explain many of the errors his 76th-ranked defense has made throughout the season. He tends to keep his analysis at "busts" and "lack of execution."

    Once again, when prompted to go into detail on the Big 12 Coaches Teleconference, Pelini stayed his usual course.

    "We didn't execute very well. We didn't line up. We didn't play our responsibilities on a consistent basis. We just didn't execute to a large extent. That's the name of the game. You gotta make plays.You gotta be in right spots, and you gotta be disciplined and handle your responsibility."

    Was it related to inexperience?

    "Some of the things we did we busted on. We just - we just didn't play well. I'll just leave it at that. I'm about done talking about that game."

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    Tags: kansas week, oklahoma week, bolosophy

  10. 2008 Oct 30

    Getting Through the Grind


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    Good thing Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini didn’t talk to the media after Tuesday’s football practice.

    “I was in my moods after yesterday’s practice,” Pelini said.

    The verdict Wednesday, after a two-hour workout in preparation for Saturday’s primetime, nationally televised game with No. 4 Oklahoma, was sunnier.

    “I saw better execution, better understanding today,” he said. “We’re gonna need it. We’re playing a heckuva football team. The more I look at OU, the more impressed I am.”

    Pelini has said more than once this week that Oklahoma provides Nebraska’s stiffest challenge of the year – more so than Missouri or Texas Tech.

    “They have talent across the board,” Pelini said. “…There’s a reason they’re ranked No. 4. It’s obvious.”

    As the Cornhuskers hit their stretch run of the season, Pelini said he’s encouraging his players to push through some of the fatigue and pain that comes as the weather turns cold and the season gets longer in the tooth.

    “It’s week nine,” Pelini said. “We’re at that point of the season where everybody’s a little bit tired, everybody’s a little bit sore, and we gotta push and we gotta finish.”

    That included senior running back Marlon Lucky, who completed his second practice of the week after spending Monday with his foot in a boot. Pelini Lucky practiced well and should be ready to go for Saturday’s game.

    In other news, redshirt freshman running back Marcus Mendoza continues to work with the receivers, Pelini said, in an effort to get him on the field. Mendoza, from Houston, only have five carries and two receptions this year, but he’s generally considered one of the fastest, if not the fastest, player on the team.

    NU may not have the services of its No. 3 receiver, junior Menelik Holt, for OU.

    “We just thought he was a guy who could add some speed to what we’re doing,” Pelini said. “He can’t handle the whole offense right now, but to his credit he’s come a long way in a short amount of time.”

    Tags: oklahoma week, bolosophy

  11. 2008 Oct 25

    The Tenets of 'Bolosophy'


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    He’s not a shrink. Bo Pelini’s been adamant about that a couple times this year. Not sure if he’s got a beef with the psychiatric community like Tom Cruise – all right, nobody does – but Nebraska’s head football coach tries hard to diminish the extent to which the odyssey of the mind is applicable his players.

    “I don’t think it’s something where you can become a psychologist all of a sudden and wave a wand and improve their confidence,” Pelini said at Tuesday’s press conference.

    OK, fair enough. But something has happened during Pelini’s last two press conferences, which just happens to coincide with NU’s two best weeks of practice and on-the-field play. Pelini will start talking to the media and then, somewhat obviously to me, he starts coaching, right there in front of the cameras. The room gets even quieter than it already is, pens stop writing so fast and people start “listening.” Or maybe it’s “hearing.” Whichever euphemism you prefer.

    Two straight sessions have lasted nearly 30 minutes. For a guy who’s not into psychology, Pelini sure gives nuanced answers. Consider this one, as to whether players are buying into his coaching:

    “There are certain principles that I and our staff, a culture that we believe in, that we think will ultimately lead us to having the success that we want, which is to be the best out there,” he said. “You have to translate that over time to a bunch of young men that are anywhere from the age of 17 to 22, that come from a lot of different backgrounds, a lot of different areas of life and try to get them to think the same way. That is one of the great challenges you have in the coaching profession and in sports, for that matter.”

    It’s been an intriguing phenomenon, really, and one to the media is typically immune. And yet, after these sessions, you hear reporters comparing notes and the word “introspective” comes up. Or you’ll hear a joke about “Bo really bared his soul up there today.” Those jokes and conversations among writers, you should know, generally point to one thing: The speaker is having an impact on the listener, whether the listener is admitting it or not.

    Pelini was supposed to be a little rough around the press, and after a few bad practices – or when you ask him about the virtues of the spread offense – he has been. Mostly, though, Pelini has been a refreshing change from Bill Callahan, not merely because of his candor, but his general willingness to engage and “unpack,” as they say. Although few get to see these press conferences or take the time to watch them all, he’s having a conversation with NU fans about his teaching principles – the foundation upon which his Huskers will be built.

    Call it Bolosophy.

    Is it unique to Pelini? No. Many football coaches skin the motivational cat in similar ways. But Pelini’s thoughts have gone beyond the populist “desire and effort” mantra that fans tend to ascribe to him. Anybody can talk about hard work as a catchphrase. Based on his recent talks, here’s three ways how Pelini is actually creating a culture of winning.

    Stick with the “process”: Pelini uses this word as much as any when talking about Nebraska’s improvement. Note that it’s different from “program” or “belief system.” Because Pelini is a player’s coach, easily able to relate and talk right at his team’s level, he’s easy guy to follow. It doesn’t mean he’s an easy guy to play for. Players have quickly learned technique is valued over raw talent; just ask guys like Rickey Thenarse and Major Culbert, who didn’t grasp the defense as quickly as others. Pelini seemingly coaches by feel, but his principles suggest a much deeper strategy.

    “When you set goals and want to get from point A to point B, and point B is your goal, everything you do better match up to getting to point B,” he said. “You can’t deviate - go down different roads somewhere along the way. What we’re trying to do within our philosophy and culture is to show them that you are going to get from point A to point B a lot quicker if you go through C, D, E, F every single day.”

    What are the parts that make up the process? Many Pelini wants precision and he wants an environment of constant competition. Those two things take time to gel. When players try to exceed their previous limits, the result isn’t always perfect. .

    “I want them to be better when we walk off the practice field than we were when we walked on,” Pelini said. “The end of the year will take care of itself.”

    Get back to the facts: Pelini is admittedly emotional, and can often be seen having, shall we say, loud conversations with his coaches and players on game day. Chats with offensive line coach Barney Cotton and running back Quentin Castille after a botched fourth-and-one play at Texas Tech were two such moments. And while some of Pelini’s outbursts might be counter-productive – the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty comes to mind – he seems very good at resetting those emotions by the beginning of next week. He’s even done that from the end of one Monday practice to the beginning of the press conference one day later.

    “I’ve been at places where you win football games but ignore the reality of it and don’t get any better,” Pelini said. “If you lose, you’re pointing out every little thing and you’re screaming and yelling about the things they might have done last week when you won, you’re not acting in a consistent way as a coach. The players feel that, you have to be consistent coaching-wise, playing-wise in every manner, win or lose.”

    Work Within The Personality of Your Team: Maybe the most refreshing of Pelini’s principles. It sounds trite, but the Huskers just seem…happier in 2008. Even after losses, interviews are no longer about guys trying to find the right words to back up their embattled leaders. No more “Coach is a good coach” lines. Aside from not allowing freshmen and junior college transfers who are redshirting this season to talk – a fair policy, in my book - Pelini isn’t trying to control his players. They joke. They smile. They seem on the same page. When a guy is chewed out, as Castille was a couple weeks ago, he doesn’t shrink from anyone.

    Pelini’s handle on the captain situation – rotating guys each week – at first seemed a bit laborious, but it has worked. The guys who have earned it get their turn, and team decides after the season the real leaders. The Huskers aren’t looking, therefore, at certain players artificially, or participating in a popularity contest.

    Beyond that, Pelini and the staff has tailored coaching styles to the individual players. Some guys need a shot in the arm. Others who take mistakes hard – like quarterback Joe Ganz – need confidence boosts. How Pelini and offensive coordinator Shawn Watson have handled Ganz, who has thrown at least four awful interceptions in 2008 – is part of why NU’s fortunes are looking up heading into the backstretch of the season.

    “That’s part of the deal, that’s part of being a coach, you have to figure out how to reach different guys. You have to learn that as you go along. Bottom line is some guys crawl into a shell when you get in their face, other guys respond the right way. As you are around guys longer and have more experience with them, you have a better understanding of how to reach each and every individual.

    “…I’ll tell you what, you learn a lot more when you see them react in a game. Some guys can handle it during the week, but when something bad happens to you in the game you learn more about how a kid responds and how you need to address them. That part of the process continues, it’s never ending.”

    If you imagine every coach is cut from that cloth, think again. Pelini seems to thrive with adapting and adjusting to current conditions. Maybe that’s his nature as a defensive coach, but his ability to shift Nebraska’s collective gear after the Missouri game isn’t just a mark of toughness. It’s the proof of his intelligence.

    Tags: bolosophy

  12. 2008 Oct 23

    More Bolosophy


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    Another Bo Pelini gem after practice, when he was asked whether practice went well:

    "It was good. Some guys need to toughen up when it gets a little bit brisk out here. Wearing tights and stuff like that - for the love of God."

    Pelini was wearing shorts to NU's practice in Memorial Stadium.

    Tags: bolosophy

  13. 2008 Oct 21

    More Bolosophy


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    It was never a question of effort, Bo Pelini said. Nebraska’s head coach had little doubt that his football team could or would put in the hard work.

    The Cornhuskers’ execution was harder to lock in.

    “The light was not coming on consistently,” Pelini said in his Tuesday press conference. “We were losing our focus in practice at times. Our attention to detail was not there on a consistent basis. That’s still the case at times. You can’t afford mental lapses.”

    But Pelini has seen his team turn the corner in recent weeks following a 52-17 loss to Missouri Oct. 4. Mistakes are down. Tempo is better. Belief is real. And the results are in NU’s improved play in a 37-31 overtime loss to Texas Tech and a 35-7 win over Iowa State.

    Pelini didn’t wave a wand, he said, and suddenly instill his confidence in his team. Rather, he kept his basic message of “be better when you walk off this practice field than when you walked on it” consistent during a tough stretch of three straight losses. Stick to the scheme. Stay mentally tough.

    And his coaching staff clarified its approach, too. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson simplified the attack, removed some of the heavy sets and placed quarterback Joe Ganz in the shotgun more. Pelini stuck with a core group of defensive backs on defense in both the Tech and ISU games.

    In practice, the Huskers stopped fixating on the number of reps in a particular period, and instead pursued better reps.

    “Bo’s about quality,” senior offensive lineman Matt Slauson said. “If we sacrifice quantity, all right. But we’re gonna get the best reps we possibly can.”

    The defense has used those reps to reduce the kind of busts that hurt the Huskers in three losses. Iowa State only had one significant offensive play on Saturday – a 67-yard run for a touchdown – and that seemed as much the right play against NU’s defense as it was anything else.

    “You have to be extremely disciplined,” Pelini said. “It’s the ultimate team game. One guy busts an assignment and it looks like no one out there knows what he’s doing. If you’re not all on the same page consistently, you have problems. That’s offense, defense, special teams. One guy not handling his responsibilities can really make it look ugly and that was happening pretty consistently.

    “I’m seeing a lot more consistency, from front to back, in all aspects of our game. That has to be an every time, all-the-time thing…our guys have been doing that.”

    Pelini related two stories he presumably used with the team to illustrate his point. The first involved the Tampa Bay Rays, the once-moribund baseball franchise that now plays in its first World Series on Wednesday.

    “They thought they were a couple years away,” Pelini said. “But they believed in the process, they believed in themselves and what they were gonna do. They stuck with the process and playing, playing together and eventually it won out.

    The second was about NFL Hall-of-Famer Howie Long, and Long telling Pelini he didn’t become a complete defensive player until he was well into his career.

    “Most of these young men will never even approach their potential until later,” Pelini said.

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    Tags: bolosophy, howie long, tampa bay rays, the missouri moment

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