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Archive for Saturday, August 30, 2008

Pelini’s goal to erase sour 2007 memory

August 30, 2008

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— Those fans who chanted "We Want Bo" after Nebraska's 2003 Alamo Bowl victory have waited five long years for this.

The Bo Pelini era at Nebraska begins tonight when Western Michigan visits.

Since Pelini was last seen at Memorial Stadium for a regular-season game, he's worked at Oklahoma and LSU and Nebraska has dropped to the bottom half of the Big 12.

Bill Callahan has come and gone, and so has the athletic director who spurned Pelini in '03, Steve Pederson. Tom Osborne, who coached the Huskers to dominance in the 1990s, came back as athletic director and fired Callahan and hired Pelini for his first head coaching job.

Yes, a lot has happened since that 17-3 bowl victory over Michigan State, when Pelini was the defensive coordinator-turned-interim head coach and fans chanted his name as he walked off the field.

"It feels like about 20 years ago," he said this week.

Pelini, 40, brings championship pedigree after winning a national title as LSU's defensive coordinator last season.

He faces a major task with the Huskers, who plummeted to the bottom of the Big 12 North last season with what statistically was the worst defense in program history.

For the Big Red faithful, it's time to make some new memories after Oklahoma State handed Nebraska its worst home loss in 49 years (45-14), Missouri beat the Huskers by 35 points and Kansas hung 76 points on them. Nebraska's 5-7 record marked its second losing season in four years.

"We really need to play a game right now so people will stop talking about last year," receiver Niles Paul said.

Pelini, who grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, and played for his home-state Buckeyes, said he knows how important it is to Nebraskans for the Huskers to return to national prominence.

"I want to make them proud," he said. "I don't want to let anyone down."

Offensively, the Huskers played well enough to win last year, and they return what figures to be a solid line and one of the Big 12's best groups of running backs in Marlon Lucky, Roy Helu Jr. and Quentin Castille.

"Hopefully, 50 points a game will win," quarterback Joe Ganz deadpanned.

"You only have one chance to make a first impression, and that's what we're doing," Ganz said. "It's a big statement game for us ... This game is the Super Bowl to us, really, and we've got to approach it like that."

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