COLUMBUS, Ohio — He did not snap. He did not snarl. His face didn't even turn red.
Anyone expecting Bo Pelini to lose his temper in the post-game press conference after giving up 63 points to his alma mater was sorely disappointed.
Here's what he did do: He paused, took a breath and delivered a statement so unlike Bo Pelini, it was stunning.
“Like I just told the football team, we need to win out. We need to win out.”
Moments later, Pelini said it again.
“We have six weeks. And we need to win the next six football games. Get to Indianapolis.”
This a man dedicated to “the process.” A man who rarely acknowledges obstacles next month, let alone next week.
A man obsessed with the old coaching cliches: Winning is a by-product of doing the little things right, practice after practice, day after day, week after week. Focus on the task at hand. Put your head down, go to work and good things will happen.
It's hard for Pelini to make that sale — even to himself — after the collapse in Columbus. It's hard to make that sale because this is Year Five and nights like Saturday aren't supposed to happen, especially to a team as experienced as his.
Look at the lineup.
Nebraska starts eight seniors on defense. Eight! Nine of the 11 starters on offense are upperclassmen.
Ever since New Year's Day, we've heard about this team's maturity and cohesion. About how this was the year the Huskers learned from their mistakes. There would be no more excuses, especially with the Big Ten playing like a junior-varsity league.
Ohio State isn't eligible for the Rose Bowl, so it's not like Pelini's dreams are dashed. Nebraska can still get to Pasadena; in fact, the Huskers might even still be favored to get to Pasadena.
But for Pelini to spell it out so explicitly tells me he's worried — and maybe a little desperate.
|THE SOCIAL GRIDIRON|
|Check out the Social Gridiron to see which team's fans made a bigger dent on Twitter during Saturday's Nebraska-Ohio State game.|
Football coaches are cautious creatures. They do not back themselves into corners, especially the second week of October. Why?
Because what happens if this team loses at Northwestern? Does it all unravel, a la 2002 or 2007? You get the sense this team is on the verge.
Pelini's comments suggest that he, too, is growing impatient with the same results in different seasons. He clearly does not know how to solve the problems that plague his program, especially in big games.
Turnovers — Taylor Martinez committed four. Penalties — nine for 75 yards. Missed tackles and missed assignments — too many to count. The defense, after an excellent first quarter, gave up 481 yards in the final 45 minutes.
Pelini boasted a week ago, after Nebraska shut down the nation's 109th-ranked offense in the second half, that he hadn't forgotten how to coach defense. Well, Urban Meyer hasn't forgotten how to coach offense.
Meyer's team scored touchdowns on five straight possessions Saturday.
How embarrassing was it?
At a TV timeout with 3:17 minutes left in the game, the Ohio State mascot — Brutus — tried to match the Buckeyes' score with push-ups.
The crowd started chanting, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5...”
Brutus kept working his arms and fans started chuckling.
|BIG RED TODAY ON FACEBOOK|
|Join the conversation on the Big Red Today Facebook page.|
“Go! Go! Go!”
“All the way down!”
When he reached 56 push-ups, the Ohio State crowd gave him an ovation.
How embarrassing was it?
With 1 minute left, Ohio State had first down at the Nebraska 16-yard line. The game was over. All Meyer needed to do was take a knee.
But this being Urban Meyer, he ran a real play and Carlos Hyde ran 16 yards untouched for a touchdown, giving Ohio State 63 points, the most a Pelini defense has ever allowed.
Then, in the locker room, Meyer didn't even know how many points Ohio State had scored. That's according to Braxton Miller.
“No comment,” Meyer said. “Just got caught up in the moment.”
While Meyer is trying to go undefeated — and take the shine off someone's Big Ten championship trophy — Pelini is making no bones about the significance of the next six games.
He is staking the foundation of his program — and his credibility with the fan base — on the Rose Bowl.
6-0, he says. No more losses.
After this night, he better take one at a time.
Contact the writer:
* * *
>> Video: NU's Bo Pelini after the Nebraska-Ohio State game:
>> Video: Postgame analysis with Rich Kaipust:
>> Video: The Huskers arrive at Ohio Stadium: