Don’t call it a homecoming for Nebraska's Bo Pelini
Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 5, 2012 00:10
During Ohio State’s annual Homecoming football game Saturday, many OSU alumni will be back in Columbus to cheer on their Buckeyes. One alumnus, however, will be representing the Buckeyes’ opponent.
That alumnus is Bo Pelini, the coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, who will be playing the Buckeyes in Ohio Stadium at 8 p.m. Saturday. Pelini, who played free safety at OSU from 1987-90, will be going against his alma mater in Columbus for the first time in his head coaching career.
Pelini said his history at OSU will not affect him on Saturday.
“I have pride in where I went to school and my career there. But that has nothing to do with Saturday,” Pelini said in Nebraska’s press conference Monday. “I’m in a different time in my life and a different place. I have a job to do and that’s all I’m concerned with.”
As for the game itself, the No. 21 Cornhuskers (4-1) will be hoping to upset the No. 12 Buckeyes for their first loss of the season. Pelini acknowledged that the game will not be easy.
“We know we’re going to have to play our best football on Saturday,” Pelini said during the Big Ten coaches’ teleconference on Tuesday. “We’re playing a really good football team.”
Cornhuskers senior running back Rex Burkhead said the physical play of OSU’s defense stood out in the Buckeyes’ win against Michigan State.
“I saw they were getting a big push on the offensive line. They were making it tough to make reads in the backfield and have lanes open up,” Burkhead said during Nebraska’s press conference. “I think penetration was the key thing they were getting.”
As for the Buckeyes’ offense, Pelini said “we’ll see on Saturday” whether his defense is able to match up with OSU sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller and the Buckeyes’ offense.
“Braxton Miller does a really good job,” Pelini said. “He’s a real threat to run, pass, they do a lot of different things to feature him. It puts a lot of stress on you.”
Pelini added that while Miller might stand out, he is not the sole reason for the Buckeyes’ offensive success.
“Everyone, and deservedly so, gives a lot of credit to Braxton Miller, but they, first and foremost, they do a lot of good things to enable him to make plays and they have a lot of good pieces around him,” Pelini said. “He’s not out there playing by himself. It’s a team game.”
OSU coach Urban Meyer said the game will be a challenge, and that the team will have to make some changes to win this game.
“We’re going to have to do some things that we haven’t done, and I’m not sure how we’ll adapt to that,” Meyer said. “I’m glad it’s (at) home.”
Meyer knows the coach on the other side well: Meyer was a graduate assistant with the Buckeyes in 1987, Pelini’s freshman season. Meyer said he had a lot of respect for Pelini as a player, and that he has not changed much as a coach.
“I have a really good relationship with Bo,” Meyer said. “(As a player, he was) just a real tough guy, just like his personality is now.”
Pelini, who knows first-hand what it’s like to play inside Ohio Stadium, said it will be a “great environment” on Saturday.
Cornhuskers senior safety P.J. Smith expressed his excitement to play in the Horseshoe during Nebraska’s press conference but added that his team must keep its “emotions normal.”
“It is going to be crazy, it is going to be wild, but it will be fun,” Smith said. “We just got to go out there and execute the game plan.”
The Buckeyes, who have won their first five games of the season, will be trying to avenge their loss to the Cornhuskers from their first-ever matchup as Big Ten opponents last season. In that game, the Buckeyes held a 27-6 lead in the third quarter, but gave up 28 unanswered points to lose 34-27.