Pelini Excited for Today’s Challenge
By Brandon Castel
LINCOLN, Neb. — Bo Pelini has won a lot of football games in his 20-year coaching career.
What started as a graduate assistant position at Iowa eventually became the linebackers coach with the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers and then the defensive coordinator at schools like Nebraska, Oklahoma and LSU.
His head-coaching resume speaks for itself. Pelini has gone 34-12 in his three-plus seasons at Nebraska, despite taking over a team that was 5-7 the previous season under Bill Callahan.
He has won the Big XII North three years in a row, along with three of his four bowl appearances. On paper, Saturday night’s game against unranked Ohio State is hardly a blip on the radar.
But football has never been played on paper. Before he was a coach, Pelini was a safety for Ohio State in the late 1980s and early 1990s under former head coaches Earle Bruce and John Cooper.
“I had a great experience there. I enjoyed my time playing there,” Pelini said this week.
“I have a lot of friendships I've made and played for a lot of good coaches. I played for Coach Bruce and Coach Cooper and a lot of great assistants. I've always said the experience you have helps lead to where you are and what you accomplish.”
Everything that he has accomplished at Nebraska could ultimately lead him back to his alma Mater. The Buckeyes are in the midst of tumultuous 3-2 season that could be the first and last for current Head Coach Luke Fickell.
The 38-year-old former OSU assistant coach took over the program in May following the abrupt resignation of accomplished head coach Jim Tressel. The tough start to 2011 could get a lot worse if the Buckeyes can’t find a way to right the ship this week in Lincoln.
They travel to 5-0 Illinois next week and following the bye week they host undefeated Wisconsin, who is fresh off a 48-17 beat-down of the Cornhuskers in Madison last weekend.
If the snowball keeps rolling down hill, the public clamoring for Ohio State to clean house could reach a deafening pitch similar to what they will hear Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.
Along with Urban Meyer, Pelini’s name would be at the top of the list if the Buckeyes began shopping for a new head coach after the season. That is the last thing Pelini is worried about heading into tonight’s game.
“It isn't more or less meaningful. It's about doing a job,” Pelini said of facing Ohio State.
“I want our team to be better and to walk off the field Saturday night a better football team than we were when we started this week.”
The 43-year old Pelini was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio. His real name is Mark, but he was nicknamed “Bo” after former NFL running back Bo Scott, who played fullback for the Cleveland Browns in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Bo didn’t want to talk much about Ohio State this week after his team’s poor performance against the Badgers last week, but he isn’t the only Ohio native on the ‘Huskers coaching staff.
In fact, the team’s defensive coordinator is Pelini’s brother Carl. The Pelini’s and offensive coordinator Tim Beck all graduated from Youngstown Cardinal Mooney High School.
“You grow up every Saturday just like here it's Nebraska, well for me every Saturday it was Ohio State,” said, Beck, who played his college ball at Central Florida University.
“You can't help but know about their tradition and the excellence of their program and the great players that have played there. It's going to be a fun game and it's going to be a heck of a challenge for us.”
Pelini got the better of the Buckeyes the last time he faced them, which was the 2008 BCS National Championship game. He had already accepted the head coaching job at Nebraska, but was coaching his final game as the defensive coordinator for LSU.
The Tigers beat Ohio State 38-24 at Superdome in New Orleans. There should be considerably less offense in tonight’s game, considering the Buckeyes are dead-last in the Big Ten Conference in total offense and passing offense this season.
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