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Husker’ Pelini says defense vs. UCLA sickened him

SHARE Husker’ Pelini says defense vs. UCLA sickened him

LINCOLN, Neb. — Bo Pelini still felt awful Monday, two days after Nebraska's defensive meltdown at UCLA.

"I've been sick to my stomach since that game," Nebraska's coach said. "I felt we should have won that football game. We didn't, and it hurts. It's hard to live with. But you know what, you move on. You have to. That's part of the deal. That's part of this profession. It's sickening. You can't turn back the clock."

The Cornhuskers (1-1) surrendered 653 yards — the second-most in program history — in the 36-30 loss that dropped them out of the Top 25.

Now they must prepare to face another spread offense when Arkansas State (1-1) visits Saturday. The Sun Belt Conference's Red Wolves feature one of the nation's top dual-threat quarterbacks in Ryan Aplin, who has opened the season with two straight 300-yard passing days.

Pelini looks at the game as additional preparation for Big Ten opponents that run the spread, like Ohio State and Northwestern.

"We will be tested," Pelini said. "It'll be kind of a good follow-up to the game we just played. We need to get better in that area. I think it comes at the right time for us to kind of make another jump and evaluate how far we're coming."

Pelini spent most of his half-hour news conference discussing what went wrong against the Bruins.

Missed tackles, a problem against Southern Mississippi in the opener, were an even bigger issue against UCLA. The defensive front was neutralized by the Bruins' young offensive line. There were blown assignments, especially in the first half.

"We have a long season ahead of us," Pelini said. "We have to work through the thing. We're looking at every possible thing we need to do to get better. You can't sit there and worry about what happened. You've got to use what happened to make yourself better as you go forward."

That message already has been delivered to the players, linebacker Alonzo Whaley said.

"How we respond is solely on us," he said. "A lot of people are still walking around with that hangover. At the end of the day, you critique the film and you have to move on. At the end of the week, I'm positive with the leadership we have that we'll make that positive energy and move on and grow from this loss."

Pelini, defensive coordinator for LSU's 2007 national-championship team, said UCLA's Brett Hundley-led offense was an example of the challenge defenses face these days.

Nebraska went against spread offenses like UCLA's almost every week when it played in the Big 12. Pelini said he began placing more emphasis on linebacker play and altered his system after the Huskers' 2011 move to the Big Ten, where the spread is seen but not as often.

Whaley said the Huskers' problems had more to do with fundamentals than scheme. The missed tackles, he said, were inexcusable.

"I think it's just the mental attitude of want-to when you get in position to secure a tackle," Whaley said. "In order to beat good teams you have to secure tackles and you have to make plays and not give them yards after contact."

Quarterback Taylor Martinez had said before the season that the year would be a disappointment if the Huskers didn't win the national championship.

The Huskers aren't out of just the national picture, they're out of the Top 25 for the first time in three years.

Martinez seemed unfazed Monday, noting that the Huskers still can win the Big Ten.

"Life goes on," he said.