Walk-on wide receiver Sam Burtch caught a 26-yard TD pass Saturday.
By Randy York
Bo Pelini reinforced his reputation as a man of priorities Monday, leading off his weekly press conference with his personal condolences and Nebraska’s collective concern for the tragic loss of UCLA’s Nick Pasquale, a redshirt freshman walk-on receiver who was hit by a car and killed while walking in his hometown of San Clemente, Calif., early Sunday morning. Pasquale was 20.
“I speak for everybody associated with the University of Nebraska in offering our condolences to Nick Pasquale and his family, UCLA and everyone associated with the program dealing with the tragedy that they are dealing with,” Pelini said. “That’s a lot bigger than any football game. The thoughts and prayers of everyone associated with Nebraska are with Nick, Nick’s family, Coach (Jim) Mora, the football team and everyone associated with UCLA in getting through this because obviously this has to be a very difficult time for them.”
Nebraska will ask its 327th consecutive home sellout crowd of 91,000-plus for a moment of silence to honor Pasquale and to show the Huskers’ respect for UCLA players, coaches, families and fans dealing with a heart-breaking tragedy at the same time the Bruins are preparing for a marquee match-up between Top 25-ranked teams. UCLA will honor the memory of Pasquale, a feisty 5-foot-7 walk-on who played for the first time in the Bruins’ 58-20 season-opening win over Nevada, by wearing a No. 36 emblem on their jerseys. Nebraska will honor the inspirational player teammates called Rudy, by wearing stickers of Pasquale’s number on their helmets. “The fact that he got to play football here was a dream come true for him,” UCLA Coach Jim Mora told the Los Angeles Times. “We need to honor that, and shine light on that, with the way we play.”
After his opening statement acknowledging UCLA’s sense of loss, Pelini shifted the focus back to football, and he covered enough ground for The N-Sider to compile 10 Bo-lieveable quick hits, all designed to help you count down the days before UCLA visits Lincoln. Please consider Bo’s insights as part of your personal game planner for the 11 a.m. nationally televised kickoff on ABC.
Sean McDonough will handle the play-by-play 15 months after telling USA Today that he literally had a hole in his head following a scary experience requiring surgery. McDonough’s ABC analyst Saturday will be Chris Spielman, a College Football Hall-of-Famer, two-time All-America linebacker, 11-year NFL veteran, father of four and cancer warrior along with his wife Stephanie, who was diagnosed with the disease.
Before Nebraska and UCLA put on their running shoes to see which team gets to the finish line first in this year’s track meet (UCLA won last year’s 100-yard dash 36-30 in LA), Spielman, a popular motivational speaker, has to appreciate the way Pelini, a fellow Ohio State graduate, opened Monday’s press conference in Lincoln.
Here are our 10 Bo-lieveable quick hits to help you see what Bo sees:
1) Nebraska improved from game one to game two. “We made some progress as a football team, but still have a long way to go to get where we want to be,” Pelini said.
2) In 2012, Pelini pinpointed 300 yards of UCLA’s offense coming after first contact. “Their offense is built on speed and creating one-on-one opportunities,” Pelini said.
3) Nebraska’s team speed is better this year. “Everyone’s flying to the ball,” Bo said. “You’re going to miss some tackles.” The key? “Make sure you minimize the mistakes.”
5) For a young team, every single day is like an education. “You see it. You experience it,” Pelini said. “Usually, you learn a lot more from failure than you do (from) success.”
6) Quarterback Brett Hundley is “smart and understands UCLA’s offense,” Pelini said. “He’s athletic and has a firm handle on what they do and why. He’s a playmaker.”
7) Sam Burtch caught a 26-yard TD pass Saturday. “You’ve got to love it,” Pelini said. “He had a great spring … worked his butt off … we have a lot of confidence in Sam.”
8) On having redshirted too many freshmen last year, a costly mistake when injuries mounted, “I’m not scared to say I screwed up,” Bo said. “Looking back, I wish I had done it differently.”
9) Pelini has never been big on statistics. “I don’t care if we win 50-9 or 10-9,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s about doing what you have to do to win a football game.”
10) Players and fans like the Huskers wearing “Unrivaled” uniforms. “I think it’s been good for us in recruiting,” Bo said. “It just gives you a different look for a game.”
Knowing the media wants more insight, Bo continued without being prodded. “I think adidas and our administration have done a good job of working together to have something that isn’t so ‘out there.’ Let’s face it. Nebraska and the fans and this place are all about tradition. That will never change here. I think they’ve done a good job of having something different without being outlandish. Even though it’s an alternate look, it’s still a fairly traditional look that doesn’t go against the values of the program.”
Even after all that, one reporter had to ask Pelini about the benefits of alternative jerseys. “That’s way over my head,” Bo said, laughing at his own quip and proving once again that he has a sense of humor to match his passion.
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Voices from Across the Nation
I read your article about Bo Pelini’s comments regarding UCLA’s Nick Pasquale. Very impressive for a coach to put things in perspective like that. I don’t think I have ever seen a college football team pay respects to an opposing team the way Nebraska is doing for UCLA this weekend – a moment of silence and having Nebraska’s players wear #36 on their helmets. I am a UCLA alum and will be at the game in Lincoln this Saturday with some of my former UCLA classmates. On behalf of all UCLA people out there, we really appreciate the sentiment. Looking forward to a great game. Go Huskers and Go Bruins! John Reilly, Redondo Beach, California