A reporter has to try, right? And one did.
Bo Pelini was asked (paraphrasing here) if the Nebraska football team’s trip to Ohio State this weekend would be personally special. Pelini, who’s from Youngstown, Ohio, earned four letters at Ohio State as a safety. He started for two seasons and was a co-captain as a senior in 1990.
His coaches were Earle Bruce, one season, and John Cooper, three.
The first part of the exchange went like this:
Reporter: “Why not?”
Pelini: “Why would it?”
Well, didn’t he have a soft spot in his heart for his alma mater (paraphrasing again)?
“No, not anymore,” said Pelini. “I’m at a different time in my life, different place. I mean, I have a job to do. That’s all I’m concerned with.”
Another reporter asked when Pelini had last been to Ohio Stadium for a game.
“I don’t know, long, long time ago,” Pelini said.
He was a grad assistant at Iowa in 1991 and the Hawkeyes played at Ohio Stadium that season, so it could have been then. Or he coached the quarterbacks at his high school, Youngstown’s Cardinal Mooney, in 1993, so maybe he saw a game in Columbus that season.
In any case, the line of questioning at Nebraska’s weekly news conference on Monday was predictable enough, as were Pelini’s responses – as should have been the case. This is not a time for sentimentality or distractions. This is business.
Defending against Braxton Miller is of more concern than a homecoming, for example. Miller is the Buckeyes’ quarterback. He’s mobile, and mobile quarterbacks have given Nebraska troubles. Miller “is like a tailback back there,” said Pelini. “He’s elusive, and makes a lot of people miss.”
That was apparent last season at Memorial Stadium. Miller’s leaving the game with an injury was a factor in the Huskers’ rallying from a 27-6 third-quarter deficit to win 34-27.
The comeback was the largest in Nebraska football history.
The Huskers’ comeback from a 27-10 third-quarter deficit in last week’s 30-27 victory against Wisconsin was tied for second on the all-time list. It also was a good start in the Big Ten for Nebraska, of course. But the celebration was short-lived. It “ended after I walked out of that locker room,” Pelini said.
“That’s it. It was time to get back to work.”
Ohio State, which isn’t eligible for the Big Ten championship or a bowl game because of NCAA sanctions, is 5-0 and ranked No. 12 under first-year coach Urban Meyer.
Meyer was a grad assistant at Ohio State when Pelini was there, and the defenses Pelini coordinated at LSU had to deal with Meyer’s Florida teams. So there’s another predictable angle for reporters this week. Does Pelini relish the match-up with Meyer, whose background is offense?
“Neither one of us is playing,” said Pelini. “It’s our football teams going against each other, and it will be a great challenge for us.”
Prime time, national television, in a hostile stadium seating more than 100,000 . . .
Welcome home, Bo.
The reporter who initiated the subject came back to it, briefly, later.
So didn’t Bo have a good experience at Ohio State (paraphrasing)?
“What do you want me to say? I mean, I guess I’m not following you,” Pelini said.
What followed was a statement not a question: A lot of people have pride in where they went to school.
“I do have pride in where I went to school and my career there, but that has nothing to do with Saturday, you know what I’m saying? It doesn’t really make any difference,” said Pelini. “What happened back in ’86 to ’90 . . . I mean, that’s a different time in my life.”
OK, how about players. Senior safety P.J. Smith was among those asked if the Huskers would be trying to win the game for Pelini because of the homecoming. “We want to win every game for Bo, and this team, and this state,” Smith said, pointing out what would seem to be obvious.”
Whether or not Pelini played at Ohio State shouldn’t be a factor.