COLUMBIA — Nebraska coach Bo Pelini doesn't celebrate his successes.
That has nothing to do with the fact that the Cornhuskers’ three wins have come against Western Michigan, San Jose State and New Mexico State. It’s just not something he does.
“Honestly, I don’t get real high when we win,” Pelini said. “I’m not a guy who’s jumping around for joy when we win a football game.”
But although Pelini doesn’t celebrate success, he has no problem getting upset over failure. When the Cornhuskers are on the losing end, as they were against Virginia Tech last week, the normally stoic coach lets his emotions show—and that’s the way he likes it.
“I’m a poor loser,” Pelini said. “I’m not very fun to be around the next day. I take losses hard, I’ve taken them hard as a coordinator and a position coach. When I start enjoying losses or when I can handle it well, it’s time for me to go into another profession.”
On Saturday, the Missouri Tigers will try to make the weekend unpleasant for Pelini, who admits his team is still “a work in progress.”
“That’s just reality and we’re still working,” Pelini said. “I like the passion they are playing with, I like the effort we’re giving, but we are not executing consistently. You’re seeing progress in guys, but then you’ll have a breakdown here, a breakdown there, and against a team like Virginia Tech, a team like Missouri, they hurt you, and it’s hard to overcome.”
Pelini stressed that breakdowns are something Nebraska will have to avoid in order to defeat MU. In their meeting last year in Columbia, the Cornhuskers suffered several breakdowns against the Tigers’ offense, leading to a 41-6 loss — Nebraska’s worst loss to Missouri since a 47-6 defeat in 1947. That result was a sharp contrast from 2006, when MU quarterback Chase Daniel first played Nebraska. In that game, the Cornhuskers pressured Daniel throughout the game and eased to a 34-20 win.
Despite the disparity in the results of the last two meetings, Nebraska defensive end Zach Potter said he didn’t think there was much of a difference between the two games. “We just played better on a certain day,” he said. “We just got pressure on him (Daniel), and he was a younger quarterback then. He was a sophomore, so he hadn’t played that much. He’s more mature now. He’ll be in there Saturday, and hopefully we get some pressure on him, just like we did a couple years ago.”
Getting pressure on Daniel has proven difficult for MU’s opponents so far. Through four games, only Illinois’ Martez Wilson has managed to sack Daniel. Pelini and his players partially attribute that to MU’s formation, which has Daniel standing several yards behind center Tim Barnes. But Pelini said he still thinks pressuring Daniel is both possible and necessary, even if the Cornhuskers can only rush and not sack him.
“You have to, you can’t just let him sit back and make a sandwich, because he’ll give you some problems,” Pelini said. “He gets rid of the ball quick, but it doesn’t mean you can’t affect him or try to affect him some. You have to give them a lot of different looks and mix it up.”
Pelini’s other big concern, one that has nothing to do with the Tigers, is limiting distractions surrounding this game. Along with this game being the Big 12 opener for both schools, the Cornhuskers will host their second consecutive nationally televised game. The hype is something Pelini would just as soon do without, considering how important the game is.
“You’ve got to win in your conference, win in your division,” he said. “There are a lot of things telling you it’s an important game, but it doesn’t change what you need to do. You can’t get focused on that stuff, being on TV or anything else.”
The Cornhuskers appear to have at least minimized one distraction. While the MU players have been reminded of not having won at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., since 1978, the Cornhuskers have been asked about a 15-game home winning streak against the Tigers.
Like their counterparts in Columbia, it’s a question they’ve grown tired of answering. “It’s pressure on our plate, but I don’t think it’s going to affect us,” Potter said. “I don’t think we’re going to go out there and say, ‘We have to win this, otherwise, it’s the first time they’ve won up here since 1978.’ A win is a win. They haven’t been able to play as well here, I guess.”