LINCOLN — Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said Tuesday that he won't change what has worked for his football team during bye weeks in recent seasons, even though the Huskers face a serious repair job before meeting Northwestern on Oct. 20.
Not only has NU won its next game after a Saturday off each of the past three years, all three of those victories came on the road and by at least two touchdowns.
“I think our recipe's been pretty good,” Pelini said. “We're going to stick with it.”
Pelini admitted on the Big Ten teleconference that one of the challenges during bye weeks is to mix work with recovery. But the Huskers (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten) were sharp enough coming back the past three seasons to post the following results:
Ľ A 41-14 win at Minnesota last season, which came two weeks after the Huskers' school-record comeback against Ohio State.
Ľ The 48-13 rout at Kansas State in 2010 in a Thursday night ESPN game. That kicked off Big 12 play after a 4-0 nonconference run by the Huskers.
Ľ Another Thursday night win in 2009 at Missouri, a 27-12 comeback in the rain that also started Nebraska's conference schedule.
The difference this time is that Nebraska is coming off a loss — a bad one, 63-38 at Ohio State — and having to assess and address the damage instead of simply maintaining the momentum.
In that sense, NU assistant coach Ross Els said, the timing is good, especially for the hurting Husker defense.
“We need the extra week. We really do,” Els said. “We need that extra week to be able to go back to square one, make a lot of changes and see if we can do something, because right now defensively we're not getting anything done.”
Pelini did not go into possible changes, but said this week will be about “getting back to fundamentals.” As with past bye weeks, Nebraska will try to get done what it needs to get done while also finding some rest for its players, this time at the season's midway point.
The past four bye weeks during the Pelini era at Nebraska have all come sooner in the schedule.
“You want to get them some rest,” he said. “You don't want to do too much, but you want to keep them sharp. We've got to use this week to get better. There's a fine line there — don't do too much, but don't do too little.”
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Ohio State (6-0) became the sixth team to score 60 points on Nebraska in its 124 years of football. Sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller caused some of the biggest problems with his mobility as the Buckeyes averaged 8.03 yards per play.
But Pelini said again that the Huskers' need for better execution was at the top of his list of concerns.
“They played well,” he said. “They're a good football team. We made 'em even better. We didn't play well.
“The quarterback's a good player. They got some good talent. They use it well.”
When asked about the NU defensive line's production Saturday night, Pelini said stopping the run is a team effort and not just on the front four.
“Our problems, a lot of them, were self-imposed — guys not playing individual techniques the right way and not reading and getting to their responsibilities,” Pelini said. “That's a team-wide game. We had some guys that were unblocked that didn't make plays at times. For whatever reason, we lost our composure and didn't execute the way we're capable of executing, and that goes beyond the defensive line.”
Can NU turn it around before traveling to Northwestern on Oct. 20? Will the week off help with healing some wounds?
If nothing else, the Huskers' toughness will be challenged in the next few weeks.
“It's just like anything else, you can't let bad things accelerate,” NU assistant coach Ron Brown said. “You have to be able to stop things. That's what great players, great teams, great men do. You have to have a level of resiliency. You have to turn the tide.”
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