LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said he watched film “until the wee hours” of Sunday morning after the Huskers’ 37-34 win over Wyoming to open the season.
He said he emerged feeling good about the direction of this team, despite its near collapse on Saturday. Nebraska, which led by 16 points midway through the fourth quarter, needed a defensive stand in the final minute to preserve the victory.
Pelini kept an upbeat tone through his press conference Monday, an attitude that largely carried over to his players.
Here’s a sampling of their comments:
“I think it’ll serve as a wakeup call to our guys in some instances. Most importantly, I think we’ll learn a lot from watching this film. Our players will come in this afternoon, and I think they’ll have a better understanding of what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, how to prepare -- especially some of the young guys.” -- Pelini
Pelini was emphatic in declaring the Huskers’ problems were mental instead of physical and that they’re all fixable. He has said that previously after defensive disasters like Saturday’s 602-yard effort by the Cowboys. It’s all sounding a bit repetitive in the wake of a third consecutive defensive performance that ranked among the nine highest outputs of yardage by an opponent in Nebraska history.
“We didn’t finish blocks the way we need to finish blocks. We were just OK. We’re capable of a lot more. Trust me, we made a lot of mistakes. We made a lot of mistakes that hurt us and took us out of drives.” -- Pelini
The offensive troubles, while often more subtle, came as more of a surprise than the defensive problems. Nebraska looked to have a huge edge on this side of the football against Wyoming, but the Cowboys pushed the Huskers around at times. Nebraska did own the line of scrimmage during much of the second and third quarters, when it made no attempt to hide its desire to run the football, yet still scored 21 straight points to seemingly put the game out of reach.
“We let them come back into the game. Great teams don’t let that happen.” -- senior quarterback Taylor Martinez
Nebraska simply is not a great team. It’s been a decade since the Huskers lost fewer than four games in a season. From 1970 to 1997, Nebraska never lost more than three. Think about that. Expectations in Lincoln remain sky high. Is the standard unattainable? After an opener like the Wyoming game, it’s worth wondering.
“Right now, there’s a lot of people out there doubting what this team is and what we can be. We know what we are, and that’s all that matters. We’re going to go out there and show what we are next Saturday.” -- senior offensive tackle Jeremiah Sirles
Pelini's teams are often at their best when they adopt a circle-the-wagons mentality. Southern Miss brings a 13-game losing streak to Lincoln on Saturday, so there’s no need for the Huskers to get too edgy. Barring a spectacular showing against the Golden Eagles, though, expect some tension to arrive next week ahead of UCLA’s visit.
“I know this team is not looking ahead, especially the way we played on Saturday.” -- senior cornerback Ciante Evans
Well, there’s a silver lining. He’s right. There ought to be no fear of a letdown against Southern Miss. The mood on Monday almost felt as if Nebraska lost to Wyoming. But with a favorable schedule through October -- save for that Sept. 14 visit from the Bruins -- the Huskers appear in good position to enter the stretch run with an impressive record. And if the Huskers make significant progress in erasing those mental errors, no one in November will be too concerned with the season-opening scare.