Ohio State coach Urban Meyer remembers well Nebraska coach Bo Pelini; Meyer served as an OSU graduate assistant in 1986 and 1987 — the first two years of Pelini's Buckeye playing career.
“He was a really tough guy,” Meyer said. “Just like his personality is now.”
Pelini had a similar recollection of Meyer.
“He was an energetic and hard-nosed football coach then,” Pelini said. “It's carried over into who he is today.”
Pelini and Meyer have matched wits three times — 2005, 2006 and 2007 — when Meyer was the head coach/offensive coordinator at Florida and Pelini ran LSU's defense. Although the Gators and Tigers play in different divisions of the SEC, they play a divisional crossover game each year.
The record shows Pelini got the better of Meyer on those nights.
2005: LSU beat Florida 21-17 despite losing three fumbles. The Tigers held the Gators to 206 total yards. Florida averaged 373 offensive yards per game that year.
2006: Florida beat LSU 23-10, but the Tigers' defense held UF — the eventual national champion — to 288 yards. LSU primarily lost because of five turnovers. The Gators averaged 397 offensive yards per game that year.
2007: LSU beat Florida and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow 28-24, holding the Gators' offense to 314 yards. Florida averaged 457 yards per game that year.
To recap: Pelini's defense held Meyer's offense 167, 109 and 143 yards under its season average in consecutive years.
Is Pelini excited for another matchup with Meyer?
“Neither one of us are playing,” Pelini said. “It's our football teams going against each other. It'll be a great challenge for us.”
Another NU assistant who remembers Meyer: defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski, who played at Notre Dame during two years while Meyer coached the Irish wide receivers.
“Just a fiery guy,” Kaczenski said. “We had a tough receiver crew ... he made them block. He'd coach those guys like offensive linemen.”
Kaczenski kept in touch with Meyer while working for Lou Holtz at South Carolina. Meyer counts Holtz among his football mentors.
Burkhead, Abdullah still push each other
Judging by their summer sprint workouts together, Rex Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah have never shied away from challenging each other despite their friendship.
Now that friendly competition has transitioned to the field of play, where the two have split carries in wins over Idaho State and Wisconsin as Burkhead continues to recover from a low-grade knee sprain.
Burkhead has had 26 carries for 205 yards in the last two weeks. Abdullah has had 18 carries for 119 yards after carrying the ball a combined 46 times against UCLA and Arkansas State.
“Seeing who's going to make the big play next — that's what we do every day in practice,” Burkhead said. “Our opportunities — we want to make the most of them. As a competitor, you want to do that. And it's a healthy competition.”
Said Abdullah: “You see one person be successful in the game, you want to get in the game and do just as well as he did.”
Burkhead, who said he's “getting closer” to 100 percent, committed an early fumble in the Wisconsin game, which afforded Abdullah the chance to pick up his senior teammate. Burkhead “really motivated me,” Abdullah said, when the sophomore made his own mistakes.
“Herky-jerky,” said Abdullah of his own play. “I ripped off some pretty good runs, but as far as a groove, I'd like to find myself in a better groove. I wasn't comfortable as I was (in previous weeks).”
Abdullah said he'd like to see more of the shotgun split-back formation that Nebraska used in Saturday's game versus the Badgers. There, Abdullah and Burkhead played at the same time, flanking quarterback Taylor Martinez on each side.
“That's the best way to go at times,” Abdullah said. “It gives us two dimensions. You can fake it this way and come back the other. Then Taylor himself is a great runner. I feel like it's a triple threat.”
Beck remains close with Buckeye OC
Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck said he maintains regular contact with a member of the Ohio State coaching staff, but the two haven't spoken in a few weeks.
In 2007, Beck was on Kansas' staff with Ed Warinner, now the co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Ohio State. The former colleagues will likely find time to reconnect briefly this weekend.
“I think he's a great coach,” Beck said. “I've always thought that. He's a hard worker. He's smart. He's a good friend of mine.”
OSU going scarlet for homecoming
Ohio State's athletic department is encouraging its fans to wear scarlet-colored clothes to Saturday's game against Nebraska.
It's a “Scarlet The Shoe” campaign.
The Buckeyes will be celebrating their homecoming weekend. Their prime-time match-up with the Huskers is just the 11th night game in Ohio Stadium history. Ohio State is 7-3 in those games.