Lincoln, Neb. Nebraska athletic director Steve Pederson pledged his support Monday night to Bill Callahan and the rest of the football coaching staff in the wake of a 35-point loss to Missouri.
"What I've tried to do is be supportive and encouraging and make sure our coaches and players know we have tremendous confidence in them, belief in them, and we're doing all we can to help them succeed," Pederson said on his weekly radio show on the Husker Sports Network. "We just don't leave people hanging out. That's not my way. We're keeping them pepped up and focused, our players in particular. It's important that they get rejuvenated."
Pederson did not take calls from listeners.
Fan unrest has been fueled by four straight uninspired defensive performances. The Cornhuskers (4-2, 1-1 Big 12) have allowed 600 yards in two of their past three games and have surrendered 40 points in three games for the first time since 1943.
The Huskers were booed in the second half of a 41-40 win over 23-point underdog Ball State. They beat Iowa State 35-17 the following week, but the defense was on the field for 102 plays against the Big 12's bottom-ranked offense.
Missouri's Chase Daniel passed for a career-high 401 yards, and the Tigers gashed the Huskers for more than 600 yards while beating them 41-6. Nebraska's offense failed to score a touchdown for the first time in 33 games.
Pederson said he has tried to maintain a "steady hand" as the Huskers have struggled.
"First and foremost, you have to believe you're going the right direction," he said. "As we all know, there are going to be wins and losses. Earlier in my career, I got maybe more emotional and reactive than I should have. Over the last seven or eight years, I've tried to keep that a little bit in check."
Pederson said the coaches and players have high character, "and I believe these are times where you call on your own character to get you through these things."
He said it's important for the coaches and players to unify during tough times.
"I've always believed some of the most memorable experiences you have in athletics are when you go through the toughest times together," Pederson said.