This may be bad timing, what with Nebraska handing out black helmets and shoulder pads this week. But I have a special request for Husker Nation.
Could you guys tone it down a bit?
Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini has issues with your constant noise. He calls the 365-days-a-year passion a “challenge” for his program. He says the “constant barrage” from NU fans is more than what programs get at Oklahoma and LSU. Thank goodness Nebraska beats them at something.
It seems curious why the head man at Nebraska would call out his fans' passionate ways, especially at a preseason event designed to pump preseason sunshine. But Pelini brought this up last winter, intimating that it was a cause for his team's roller-coaster ways.
If Husker players have a problem with the fans, with Twitter and Facebook and all of the other dangerous elements of a college campus, I've yet to hear them say it.
Chances are it's the head coach who can't handle the dizzying effect of Husker Nation love.
A word of advice: Don't fight it, Bo. Go with it.
This is part of the package at Nebraska. Maybe you can't fully grasp it until you're sitting in the head chair and feel the hurricane winds from the Sea of Red.
Tom Osborne felt them. So did Frank Solich. Bill Callahan, too. But I don't remember them lamenting, at least publicly, the Big Red spotlight. Osborne let his actions speak when he took his talents to Boulder, Colo., for a brief job interview. This after finally beating Oklahoma in 1978.
You know what? Osborne came back. Because of that Big Red passion. He said as much. Oh sure, he sent his message to the fans. They backed off, for about a week.
Nebraska fans are not louder or more constant than LSU's or Oklahoma's or Alabama's. You have to learn how to manage the noise, manage your team. Bob Stoops and Les Miles do it. No hurricane is more forceful or constant than Kentucky basketball fans, and coach John Calipari is a master at embracing it, using it to his advantage.
Heck, Husker fans are not any more passionate than they were in 2002 or 1972. There are more outlets for them to make themselves heard.
But they must be heard.
Husker fans are the one edge that Nebraska football has over programs that have weather, big cities or beaches to sell. It's the one place Nebraska can go toe-to-toe with Alabama.
And this is no time to complain about the noise from Husker fans.
I don't recall hearing less buzz entering a football season, or sensing softer expectations. Obviously, that's not everyone. There are those of you who expect 10-2 this season. Those who feel that the Pelini Express is about to turn the corner.
But many more of you expect 9-3 and 8-4. Nebraska is picked third in its division, and I don't hear a lot of arguing here on the home front.
Expectations when Coach Bo arrived were sky-high. And he almost delivered that league title, and BCS bowl, but fell short twice. Now, Pelini's program has settled into a place where it's a Cap One/Holiday/Outback Bowl program.
You hear some people say Nebraska is closer to Iowa than LSU, and they don't mean geographically.
No offense to Iowa. The Hawkeyes' program is rock solid, with more success than NU the past 10 years. But Husker fans like to think that they have higher standards for their team. They want to associate with the big boys. They want to aim for that level.
Forget the 1990s; that may never happen again. There are new, harsh realities for today's Husker fan. The Big Ten isn't great at the top but is tougher in the middle. It's a lot harder now to waltz through a division, or league, as NU did in the Big Eight and the early years of the Big 12.
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But you still have to reach. High standards are the beach and mountains in Nebraska.
The other day, Nebraska senior linebacker Will Compton said he, Rex Burkhead and Kyler Reed talked over dinner and came up with the idea that they could win every game this year, like it was a revelation. Way back when, Nebraska players expected to win every game. It was a huge upset, to them, if they ever lost.
The program desperately needs to get back to that mentality. The Big Ten, the league that plays for the Rose Bowl, will make it hard.
That's Pelini's greatest challenge, his enemy. It's not fans or media who want to question his hiring of inexperienced coordinators or jump on blowout losses or smother his players with too much love. It's not Twitter or Facebook.
Those fans, and their passion, are his friends. Pelini and Nebraska need them now more than ever.
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