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September 17, 2012
It was business as usual for Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini on Monday.
After leaving Saturday's game against Arkansas State at halftime in an ambulance with an unknown medical condition, Pelini returned to work on Sunday and was with his football team to begin preparations for Idaho State.
Pelini addressed the media on Monday for the first time since his medical incident on Saturday. He said leaving the game was not easy for him, but in the end NU's medical staff made the right call.
"Well obviously if you know me, it wasn't something I wanted to do," Pelini said. "Like I said, there comes a certain point where if they don't like something, you have to listen to what they say. They're the experts, not me. It's nothing to apologize about. First and foremost is that you want to be healthy and you don't want something to happen that doesn't need to happen."
Pelini said on Monday that he's been cleared with a "clean bill of health" by the doctors and nothing in his life style will have to change going forward.
If anything, Pelini is an example of one of the few head coaches in college football that doesn't believe in the 17 hour workday. He preaches balance to his coaches and players, always making sure there is allotted time for them to spend with their families. Whether that's sending his assistants home at 6 pm on Thursday nights or letting everyone go home for dinner on Sunday night's when they begin preparations for their new opponent.
That has always been how Pelini runs his program, so nobody should look at Saturday's incident as Pelini "overworking himself."
"One thing I don't want is anybody to make this out to be that I'm overstressed," Pelini said. "I've never had one issue. It was an isolated incident. There were a number of factors that probably contributed to it. I am healthy and there are no issues there whatsoever, because honestly I wouldn't be sitting here today. I have tremendous balance in my life. I'm not a really stressed out person. I'm just not.
"Probably the biggest stress I have is getting from here to my kids' games and making sure I'm handling the time here along with the duties of who you want to be as a father. You have to make sure you have balance. There are no issues going forward. I feel great. There are no problems and let's talk about Idaho State."
One of the biggest challenges for offensive coordinator Tim Beck this week will be managing running back Rex Burkhead's workload.
I would like to see Burkhead get around 10 carries of good work, but after that it makes sense to back him down. There's no need to push his carries much higher than this, because all you really want to do is shake off the rust.
A game like Saturday's should allow Imani Cross and Braylon Heard to get over 10 carries apiece, while Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah probably won't have to be leaned on as heavily.
FCS games are bad for everybody
Nebraska fans are probably one of the few fan bases in college football that will still sellout their stadium for a bad FCS game.
At places like Florida State, Penn State and Florida you are seeing plenty of empty seats for games like this. Even for Penn State's win over Navy on Saturday there were just 98,792 in attendance. In FSU's win over Savannah State there were just over 71,000 in attendance. Keep in mind these were the announced attendances, so the actual crowd numbers were probably even less than this.
What I am saying is NU better look long and hard at scheduling these types of games going forward. Asking people to pay between $65 and $100 a ticket for a game against Idaho State is not an easy sell. The sellout streak at Nebraska is the best thing they have going, and it will be a game like this in the future that could tarnish that, especially when the stadium capacity increases to over 90,000 in 2013. Even for last week's 11 am kickoff against Arkansas State there was a large pocket of empty seats in the top of the student section in the south end zone.
In 1992 I can still remember when Nebraska played Middle Tennessee State, and if memory serves me right a group of local Lincoln business men bought up the leftover tickets, which ultimately kept NU's sellout streak going during a rough stretch from 1990 to 1992. I suspect something like this would happen again before they ever let a streak like this go, but it's a game like this where you could see empty patches of seats in the stadium. Thankfully the kickoff is at 2:30 pm and not 11 am, because those early kicks seem to be crowd killers.
If you are going to play an FCS school, I'd rather see Nebraska go against somebody more regional like one of the four Dakota teams, because at least you know they will travel a good fan base down for the game.
Around the state
***Thursday's Lincoln Southwest vs. Lincoln Southeast game doesn't have near the luster as we thought it might at the start of the season. The Silver Hawks have lost two in a row, while the Knights dropped a week three game against Millard South, but bounced back last week with an impressive win over Creighton Prep.
Rivals.com Midwest recruiting analyst Josh Helmholdt will be in Lincoln for Thursday's game to watch Husker commits Josh Banderas and Christian Lacouture for Southwest, and rising 2014 prospects D.J. Foster and Luke Gifford for the Knights.
Banderas went down last week against Omaha North in the second half with an ankle injury. I'm told don't expect to see Banderas practice much this week, but he still expects to go on Thursday. Last year the game with these two schools drew a regular season high crowd of over 8,500 people.
***I really liked what I saw from Omaha North's Casey Sayles against Lacouture in their match-up last Friday. I thought Sayles more than held his own, and got the best of Lacouture on a couple of different occasions. It's hard to figure out why he doesn't have any more Division I offers at this point.
***2015 Bellevue West wide receiver Clester Johnson Jr. had seven catches for 112 yards in the Thunder Birds win over Papillion La Vista South on Friday. Johnson is the son of former wide receiver Husker Clester Johnson Sr. He's done some pretty impressive things for this stage of the game.
Three and out
***Senior center Justin Jackson told me today that he's done his best on working on his shotgun snaps to quarterback Taylor Martinez. Jackson has taken extra reps with John Garrison after practice, which paid off on Saturday. Jackson didn't have a single bad snap against Arkansas State.
***With another spread offense this week Nebraska won't know what to do with itself when they start preparing for more traditional offenses like Wisconsin's. You could argue that this is has been one of the more challenging pre-season schedules for Pelini to prepare for, mainly because three of the four teams had new coaching staffs going into this season.
***As I watch Big Ten football each Saturday, really the only two match-ups that worry for Nebraska right now are Michigan and Ohio State and that's because of Denard Robinson and Braxton Miller. I think things set up pretty nicely for the Big Red as they get ready to begin league play in another week. Whoever comes out of the Legends Division this year will be a heavy favorite to take home the Big Ten crown in Indianapolis.
Sean Callahan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and he can be heard each day at 6:50 am and 4:50 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha during the football season. He can also be seen on KETV Channel 7 TV in Omaha during the fall and each week he appears on NET's Big Red Wrap Tuesday's at 7 pm.