Lincoln, Neb. Nebraska coach Bo Pelini isn’t sure his team’s pregame routine for home games is broken, but he’s going to try to fix it anyway.
The No. 14 Cornhuskers have been better on the road than at home, as measured by winning percentage, in Pelini’s three seasons.
Pelini said he doesn’t know if it’s a coincidence or if there are tangible reasons for the discrepancy. With seventh-ranked and unbeaten Missouri visiting on Saturday, he’s taking no chances.
Pelini said Tuesday he would change a couple items on the schedule the team follows in the 24 hours before a home game. He declined to go into specifics.
“I’m not totally buying into the whole thing, but you just don’t want to assume it’s not an issue,” Pelini said. “We’ll do some things just a little different. It’s nothing drastic. To me, it’s all about making sure the distractions are eliminated and give them the best opportunity to have their focus in the right direction.”
Receiver Brandon Kinnie said he hasn’t heard what the changes will be. He said he doesn’t consider the home-road issue significant.
“It should be the same wherever we play,” he said.
The Huskers’ 51-41 win at then-No. 17 Oklahoma State last week marked their seventh straight Big 12 road win. They were dominant in their two other road games, at Washington and Kansas State.
They opened the season with easy home victories over Western Kentucky and Idaho, but they’ve turned in two straight lackluster performances in Lincoln, beating South Dakota State, 17-3, and scoring no offensive touchdowns in a 20-13 loss to Texas.
“Last week, everyone built up Texas into being a big game and we didn’t win,” receiver Mike McNeill said. “All of a sudden, we’re not good at home. We won all the home games before that. I don’t know that we’re trying to erase that. It’s just another game, and whether it’s home or away, we’ve got to go out and execute.”
Pelini has lost three of his last five conference home games and is 5-4 all-time in Big 12 games in Lincoln. Overall, his winning percentage is .737 at home compared with .750 on the road.
Pelini has said he senses his team concentrates better on the road because the players don’t have to worry about things on the periphery, such as entertaining family members. Neither do they have to worry about the high expectations of fans, who have sold out Memorial Stadium an NCAA-record 308 straight times since 1962.
The Huskers have had three home win streaks of 20 games or more over the past 25 years, including a 47-game streak. They haven’t won all their home games in a season since 2001.
“I think everyone says it’s their house, protect it, you’ve got to win at home,” McNeill said. “Obviously that’s important. We’ve been pretty good on the road. Not that we haven’t been good at home, but it’s definitely something that we know we need to do better at. Just little things, for whatever reason have made us play differently at home.”
Missouri (7-0, 3-0 Big 12) also has been tough on the road, going 10-3 since 2007. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert is 5-1 in away games. The Tigers beat Texas A&M, 30-9, two weeks ago in their only road game this season.
They welcome the challenge of going to Lincoln. Missouri, off to its best start since 1960, is a half-game up on preseason favorite Nebraska (6-1, 2-1) in the Big 12 North. The winner gets the inside track to the division title.
“Nebraska has been ranked in front of us up until the last two weeks, so I think there is the same target on their back as there is on ours,” Missouri receiver T.J. Moe said. “Maybe they stumbled a little bit against Texas, but the same thing goes for them. They’ve been picked in front of us in the North all season long and we’ve been playing with a chip on our shoulder.”