Published Monday, November 11, 2013 at 12:01 am / Updated at 11:01 pm
FIRST DOWNS AND SECOND GUESSES
Shatel: Armstrong, young defense seem to bode well for Bo

If Bo Pelini ever needs an update on his future at Nebraska, he can always tune into the media or fan message boards. It's readily available.

But the Nebraska coach hasn't heard a word from the source who matters — Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst — and that's fine with him.

Pelini said on Monday that he has a good relationship with Eichorst and gets phone calls and texts of encouragement and support from Eichorst, typically before or after football games.

So has the AD said anything about how he feels about the job Pelini is doing — or his future at Nebraska?

“No — why would it come up?” Pelini said. “If you look at our record here ... I don't know why it would be a topic. I've got a five-year contract. I don't pay attention (to the talk). I'm busy trying to win football games.”

I've had many fans and readers who want to know what Eichorst is thinking and wonder why the AD hasn't made a statement on the season or the program. People want tea leaves to read.

And that's exactly why Eichorst, like most athletic directors, is silent while a season is in progress. Statements bring tea leaves and they are usually misread.

I stopped by Eichorst's office on Monday to ask about the football program. He politely declined. Before the season, Eichorst said he supported Pelini and believed he would work toward winning a championship at NU. Reporters who follow Eichorst and fans who call into his radio show will learn that the preseason statement is the one that holds up until after the season.

That's his policy, whether 12-0 or 6-6.

What Eichorst did offer was a huge smile on his face, after one of the most successful Husker sports weekends in memory. Including the dramatic football win at Michigan.

I don't know Eichorst. But he's a Wisconsin kid who grew up in Big Ten country. I know Big Ten people. For them, there are few things more magical — that bring automatic credibility — than leaving the Big House with a W.

Especially with a freshman quarterback.

Tommy Armstrong's emergence is a huge wild card here. Consider, next year's schedule was one that a lot of folks were circling for a big year, with the “if” being an inexperienced quarterback. Now, Nebraska will enter 2014 with an experienced quarterback. Who looks and plays the part.

It's human nature to sit on your message board sports bar and try and predict what has to happen the next three games. Eichorst has no history at NU, and very little as an AD, so we're all grasping here.

I have to think that the Michigan win, along with the development of Armstrong and that young defense — and the hope they provide — puts Pelini in a good position. But there are three games left. Does Bo have to win the Legends? Or simply avoid a meltdown? Is he already good? Will any decision be made by Eichorst, or will Chancellor Harvey Perlman have input?

Eichorst just smiled. And said, “Go Huskers.”

» There's a lot of good stuff in Vahe Gregorian's profile of Mark Mangino in Sunday's Kansas City Star. The former Kansas football coach is now assistant head coach at Youngstown State, has lost more than 100 pounds and has a new positive attitude.

One of the best nuggets in the story was when Gregorian asked Mangino, who was accused of losing his temper and using insensitive language with players, if he had a temper problem when he was at KU.

Mangino, who like Pelini is from Youngstown, Ohio, said, “Do I have a temper problem? I don't think it's a temper problem.

“Let me explain it to you like this in cultural terms: In Youngstown, Ohio, in the state of Ohio and Pennsylvania, it's called 'passion,' 'fierce competitor,' OK?

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“It was good for me at a lot of stops. Just not one.”

» Here are my highly researched best guesses for Nebraska's postseason bowl scenarios.

1. Win Big Ten and go to the Rose Bowl (no snickering, please). Probable opponent: Stanford or Oregon.

2. Win Legends Division, finish second in Big Ten and head to Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla. Probable opponent: SEC (Missouri or Texas A&M).

3. Don't win Legends and head to Tempe, Ariz., for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Probable opponent: Big 12 (Texas Tech or Oklahoma).

The wild card in this is Wisconsin sneaking into a BCS bowl. Then NU would probably head to Tampa.

You'd take Texas A&M, Missouri or Oklahoma right now, right?

» Back in 1984, Michigan lost to BYU in the Holiday Bowl, propelling the Cougars to the national championship. After the game, the late Bo Schembechler complained about how BYU linemen were holding the entire game. I thought about that on Saturday, watching Michigan's offensive linemen holding Randy Gregory and friends.

» Watching Nebraska dismantle Florida Gulf Coast on TV last Friday, in front of an amazing atmosphere, I thought I was watching another basketball program. Everything looked great. But isn't it time to move past Tommy Lee? Or was he a good luck charm?

» So now we know why Creighton and Nebraska are reluctant to play Derrin Hansen's UNO team. The Mavs looked like they belonged on Iowa's court. They are going to knock off one of those teams one year. And then they'll really have trouble getting a game.

» I know it's November. But Dean Blais' UNO club sits in first place of the NCHC after winning three out of four from Denver and North Dakota on back-to-back weekends. Would anyone like their preseason poll ballot back?

» I've put off an opinion on the Miami Dolphins story because details still keep coming out. But I will say this. I don't know how anyone can call a lineman soft just because he went to Stanford. Did you watch the Oregon game last week?

» So which offense would you rather have, Stanford or Oregon?

» People ask, but it's too soon to rank Ameer Abdullah on the Nebraska backfield wall of granite. Wait until he's finished, and by all rights that will be after 2014. By then, he may be way, way up the charts.

» Sure, it was a big sports weekend around these parts, but one of the great wins was by coach Joel Long's basketball Heat. No, not that Heat. These third-grade girls are relentless. They have a 120-second shot clock and the refs let them play. The NCAA rules committee has not ruined their game yet.

» My new favorite sports quote is “Sports hurt.”

It was said by Gabe Miles, the 9-year-old son of Nebraska men's basketball coach Tim, four years ago. Gabe was five, playing catch with the football with Tim. Dad put a little extra mustard on one and he caught Gabe in the mouth.

Dad rushed to the son to see if he was OK. That was when 5-year-old Gabe said, “I'm all right. Sports hurt.”

They should engrave that on every entrance to every stadium and arena. Darned right sports hurt. That's why we love 'em.

» One more and I'm outta here: On this Veteran's Day, a very special day, I just have one message to all the women and men who served and serve our country so valiantly and selflessly. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

* * *

Video: Nebraska coach Bo Pelini



Video: Nebraska offensive lineman Brent Qvale



Video: Nebraska defensive back Ciante Evans



Video: Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong



Video: Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah

Contact the writer: Tom Shatel

tom.shatel@owh.com    |   402-444-1025    |  

Tom Shatel is a sports columnist who covers the city, regional and state scene.

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