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Big 12 Blog: And the 12th Man Takes It
The kinder, gentler Bo Pelini
The kinder, gentler Bo Pelini
Posted Nov 23, 2010

Last Saturday night in College Station, the famous A&M 12th man once again showed his face. Only this time he was decked out in black and white stripes. But there was far more under the covers here than just that controversy...

Texas A&M beat the Cornhuskers 9-6 this weekend, in a battle marked by drama, and more drama. And a whole lot of yellow laundry.

Nebraska lost its first road game of the season only a few scant months after declaring its break-up from the Big 12 and announcing a new steady, the Big 10. That’s got a Sweet 16, High School ring to it, doesn't it.

Only in this case, the 16 in question was the number of penalties enforced on the Huskers. 16 penalties for a total of 145 yards, including one of the season’s most questionable personal fouls (and most costly, in terms of the game’s final score).

A&M, meanwhile, entered the contest as the second most penalized team in the Big 12. Yet in a game where officials were handing out infractions like a Pez dispenser, the Aggies were only given two. Yes, just a wee bit ugly.

Enter now the conspiracy theorists.

Is Nebraska being punished for forsaking the Big 12? That's your call (pun intended), but a few personal fouls here and there, some intentional grounding and unsportsmanlike conduct flags – all judgment calls – and that's pretty much the ballgame.

Flashback… The score’s tied 6-6 in the fourth quarter, and the Aggies have the ball third and long. The pass is thrown – incomplete – the Cornhuskers are celebrating. Wait, there's that powerful, little yellow flag on the ground. Roughing the passer.

To those not bleeding maroon or black/white, it was pretty clear that Nebraska's Courtney Osborne was in the air as Tannehill threw the ball – creating a situation in which contact could not have been avoided. Moreover, that it was at the very best a bang-bang call. Considering most of the hits that go uncalled during a football game, we would have preferred the refs just swallow the whistle there – particularly as it was at the end of, and had such a profound effect on, the game.

Instead of the Huskers getting the ball back, Texas A&M was gifted 15 yards, a first down, and moments later the game winning field goal.

Now we love the food in College Station as much as the next writer, but it’s hard to argue that key play in particular didn't smell of home cookin’.

We Yell Because We Love

Lost in all this controversy were two things of perhaps greater importance: Nebraska coach Bo Pelini’s temper and the Aggies’ excellent performance. A&M’s defense played their hearts out and the offense has taken a major turn for the better since Ryan Tannehill took over at quarterback in late October. After three straight losses early, the Aggies now have five wins in a row. Congrats to them. This win keeps A&M alive in the Big 12 South.

Meanwhile, Nebraska still controls its own destiny in the North, needing only a win against Colorado this week to clinch it. However, with quarterback Taylor Martinez hurting and many "issues" to work out, that’s far from a given. That over-penalized night and the doubts/distractions it raised couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Huskers.

Frustration got the best of Nebraska, and it showed. Coach Bo Pelini is under heavy scrutiny now for losing his patience and displaying a little rage towards, well, everyone. Pelini has since apologized for screaming at his players for mistakes and referees for questionable penalties. The latter only succeeded in adding to the list of penalties, as he earned himself an unsportsmanlike conduct flag in the fourth quarter.

However, Pelini’s aggressiveness should come as no surprise to Cornhusker or Big12/SEC fans (or Nebraska administrators for that matter); he is a very passionate man who wears his heart on his sleeves. Or fists, depending.

That might be fine and dandy in the heat of battle, but to lead a team through the choppy waters of a national championship season, Pelini must find a measure of self-control. Martinez was unfortunate enough to receive some of this rage, confronted by Pelini, his face raging and poking the teenager in the chest. Just a bit over the top, coach. Taylor managed to show no emotion throughout this spectacle, but you can bet he was one of the few.

One of those few not being Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman. "I think it was unfortunate," Perlman said, "and I think it's something we'll have to address with Bo." A few moments later, said apology was forthcoming.

The problem many people had wasn't so much the yelling itself, but the manner and frequency in which the action took place. College football coaches drill their players hard – it's a brutal sport, and part of coach’s job to toughen his players. Yelling has always been a part of the game; indoor voices aren't a common practice. But on a nationally televised game, poking the quarterback in the chest while you're salivating like a rabid animal… Probably a bit too much, coach.

As noted above, Nebraska will play Colorado this Friday with the Big 12 North title on the line, and the game will justifiably get a lot of attention because of that. Last week brought out the demons in Pelini, but hopefully he can overcome the drama and show what kind of coach he really is with the spotlight back on.

"The game's irrelevant," Pelini claims he told his team before departing the state of Texas. "At the end, we still control our destiny."

For the sake of Husker fans, we hope he can control his destiny better than his temper.

Liz Gonzales writes on the Big 12 and CFB. Email her at

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