Humbling Homecoming

Huskers struggle to defeat Jackrabbits Bo Pelini addressed the possibility beforehand. “Human nature is part of it, but we ask our guys to overcome human nature and push them along,” he said on the Tuesday before Nebraska’s final non-conference game. “It’s always going to be a factor. But as a coaching staff and a coach you have to work and do something to help them overcome that, constantly talk to them about it.” Despite those efforts, however, human nature almost certainly was a factor in the Huskers’ 17-3 victory against South Dakota State. “We expected a blowout,” junior linebacker Lavonte David said, admitting an opinion shared by most in the Memorial Stadium crowd of 85,573. No disrespect toward South Dakota State, but the Jackrabbits compete in the Football Championship Subdivision of the NCAA while Nebraska competes in the Football Bowl Subdivision. There are significant differences between the two divisions, formerly I-A and I-AA. FBS schools can offer more scholarships, for example, 85 compared to 63. So when FBS schools play FCS schools, they’re expected to win, and win convincingly. When they don’t, it’s cause for concern. That’s even more the case when the FBS team is nationally ranked, as is Nebraska, and the FCS school is winless, as is South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits came to town having already lost to Delaware and Illinois State. And yes, Delaware and Illinois State are FCS teams, as well. The Huskers should have handled South Dakota State more handily than they did. That they didn’t is “on us,” said David, who seemingly did his part, however, by making 19 tackles. The last Husker to make that many was Barrett Ruud, against Kansas State in 2004. But Pelini wasn’t in the mood to commend anyone on his performance against South Dakota State. “He’s got a lot to fix,” Pelini said of David. “It goes well beyond statistics.” Pelini directed the harshest criticism at himself, though. “Give those guys credit,” he said. “That football team out-coached us. That’s my fault. They outplayed us. That’s my fault. I didn’t get our football team ready to play. We didn’t execute. We played bad football. Tonight we were a bad football team, and that’s my fault. “It’s squarely on my shoulders, I promise you.” Just a week before, Nebraska went on the road for the first time and overwhelmed Washington and its (then) Heisman Trophy-candidate quarterback Jake Locker, 56-21. Against Washington, for the third game in a row, Taylor Martinez, the Huskers’ redshirted freshman quarterback, had shown his big-play ability and seemed unfazed by the attention. Against South Dakota State, Martinez played like a redshirted freshman. “He made bad decisions. He didn’t execute the offense the way he has been,” said Pelini. “Why? I don’t know. He’s a young guy who didn’t respond very well. He didn’t have a very good day. (But) it goes well beyond the quarterback position, I promise you. I could also say this, we didn’t make enough adjustments. It was pretty much a team effort in being a bad football team. “That comes squarely back to the head coach.” Martinez struggled enough that sophomore Cody Green replaced him with 9:46 remaining and finished the game. And Nebraska was at its own 1-yard line when Green entered. “If someone isn’t playing their best football, it’s going to go to the next guy,” Pelini said. The game was a “reality check,” said David. Pelini also used “reality check” during the Big 12 coaches teleconference on the Monday following the game. “I think to a certain extent, our guys bought into the hype,” he said. “All the things that were being said about them they started believing it instead of taking a good hard look at what we talk about each and every day. You’ve got to respect the game or you get humbled.” The Huskers were humbled. But then, buying into the hype is human nature. With Nebraska opening Big 12 play at Kansas State in a Thursday night game (Oct. 7), televised nationally by ESPN, the timing of the South Dakota State game couldn’t have been better. “You have to keep progressing,” Pelini said. “I said last week we’re not nearly where we need to be as a football team. We have a lot of improvement that needs to be made.” That was apparent against the FCS Jackrabbits. “It was a wake-up call,” he said.

posted at 09:15 pm
on Thursday, September 30th, 2010

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