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Nebraska coach Bo Pelini can’t fake his disdain for his defense

LINCOLN NE - SEPTEMBER 14: NebraskCornhuskers head coach Bo Pelini defensive coordinator John Papuchis watch final minutes their game against

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 14: Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Bo Pelini and defensive coordinator John Papuchis watch the final minutes of their game at against the UCLA Bruins Memorial Stadium on September 14, 2013 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)

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Updated: October 16, 2013 7:00AM



Like any coach should, Nebraska’s Bo Pelini has stood by his young, struggling defense. It’s rare to find a college coach who blasts his team, or even any specific unit.

But in the world of college football, actions do all the talking. And in Nebraska’s 41-21 loss to visiting UCLA, a call by Pelini showed just how much faith he has in his defense — absolutely none.

With Nebraska down 10 late in the third quarter, Pelini called a fake punt on a fourth-and-three from the Huskers’ 44-yard line that failed.

But there’s no questioning the play call. It was absolutely the right one. The play nearly worked too. The officials needed to take a measurement before awarding UCLA the ball on downs.

The merits of the call aren’t at issue, but rather the circumstances that forced Pelini to make the less-than-ideal call.

After Nebraska went into halftime leading 21-10 and having teased the rest of the conference into thinking it had worked through its defensive growing pains, the third quarter happened. That’s when the Huskers rarely were able to get pressure on UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley and allowed the Bruins offense to carve them up for 236 yards and four touchdowns.

Leading up to the fake punt, UCLA had scored three touchdowns on its only three possessions of the quarter.

Faced with the same situation, Most coaches would have punted — pin UCLA deep in its own territory, stop them on downs and get the ball back with good field position and a chance to cut the deficit.

A modicum of confidence in his defense unit may have caused Pelini to act differently. And knowing Pelini lacked that confidence may have alerted UCLA to the fake.

Two plays later, UCLA scored again. By the end of the game, Nebraska had given up 504 yards of offense and 1,390 through three games.

Maybe that’s enough for Pelini’s public support to waiver.

Email: sgruen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SethGruen



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