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"Volcanic" Bo Pelini - Reality or Media Creation?

There's still a lot of anger surrounding the Capital One Bowl loss, and for good reason. Beyond a first quarter in which Nebraska scored 13 points, looked good and had a lead (somewhat like the Wisconsin game), the team played a decent second quarter, and then due to a great play by Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina went into the half with a 16-13 lead.

Husker fans got to watch a total team meltdown in the second half and saw their head coach once again go after the officials. Announcer Joe Tessitore referred to Bo Pelini as "volcanic" at one point and Husker fans were left with the feeling that Pelini had been a screaming madman most of the game.

I reviewed the game against South Carolina to see, specifically, at what point Pelini turned "volcanic" and how his eruption affected the team.

You might think that Pelini was a monster throughout the entire game, but it wasn't until the fourth quarter that Pelini went after the officials. Critics might point out his halftime interview, where he blew off Quint Kessenich, telling him "We'll be fine" instead of answering his question about the touchdown pass to Ashlon Jeffery. How you feel about that is probably related to how you feel about halftime interviews. For me they're a media creation that's not looking for information about the game (what coach in his right mind will give you anything you don't already see), but looking for the type of reaction Kessenich got from Pelini. They're looking for sensation, not facts. That should be no surprise, given today's media, but it bears reminding. (BTW, does anyone believe that Pelini would have blown off Holly Rowe, Jenn Brown or Erin Andrews that easily? I don't think so.)

Fast forward to the fourth quarter, and a look at what went on.

The fourth quarter started poorly for the Huskers, and as we know, things didn't get any better as it went on. The fourth started with a punt return to South Carolina. What looked like a block in the back earned a penalty, but the flag was picked up with no explanation from the official.

On the ensuing play, the Gamecocks get a questionable pass interference call against Ciante Evans, when the ball sails over the head of the USC receiver. Two things of note about the call - first, that the ball was so far beyond the receiver it could have been ruled uncatchable, and that most of the game Husker fans had watched a very physical duel between Jeffery and Alfonzo Dennard without a single pass interference call between them.

At 14:44 in the fourth quarter, the announcers give us, "Bo Pelini doesn't like it", referring to the pass interference call, and a camera shot shows Pelini, who still looks fairly calm on the sideline.

At 13:30, the Gamecocks pick up a 3rd-and-18 after a failed blitz left Evans in single coverage against Sanders.

At 12:44, we're treated to a shot of Pelini on the sidelines, quite animated, screaming, "Throw the Flag". There are no apparent profanities, but it's clear that Pelini upset about something.

This exchange occurred a play after South Carolina was called for holding, a play in which Jason Ankrah is held, then cut from behind by the USC lineman that held him.

The television crew shows us a brief exchange between Pelini the officials, complete with the Pelini angry face, and honestly, when Pelini gets his angry face on, he's pretty damned intimidating.

A short while later we see another camera shot of Pelini, who is fairly calm on the sideline.

After the ensuing TD, Pelini looks agitated. That's understandable - it was a defensive breakdown by the secondary that allowed an easy score. The way Nebraska was playing, I'm sure most Husker fans were saying much worse things at their televisions.

At 12:25, we're treated to an angry shot of Pelini yelling at Josh Williams to "come out" and Pelini gives him a glare as he comes off the field. Again, you got a close up shot of Pelini with the angry face along with the glare, which, when concentrated, might be capable of melting any substance known to man.

At 12:11 - we hear from the announcers that during a break that Pelini went on an "absolutely volcanic tirade" at one of the officials. We don't see any replays of it, we just hear it from the announcers. Pelini was upset about a missed call in which he wanted a personal foul called against a South Carolina player (during the earlier shot, you can tell that he felt a Gamecock player punched a Nebraska player, but no penalty was called).

Through most of the rest of the fourth quarter, Pelini appears to be fairly calm on the sideline. Unfortunately, the team is done. There's little life left in them, save a few players.

There are no reports of Pelini having a meltdown during the post game press conference, only that he stated that he felt Nebraska was still a better team but didn't play like it during the bowl game. He's complimentary towards the Capital One Bowl and South Carolina. There is no "You Saw the Game What Did You Think" moment.

Nebraska was penalized 10 times for 58 yards, while South Carolina received six for 66.

The common theme amongst Husker fans (myself included, in fact, my first comment on a phone call after the game was "When Pelini loses it, his team loses it.") is that when Pelini loses his cool, his team does the same - that he forgets to coach, earns the ire of the officials, and everything falls apart from there - the officials give him no calls and start earning even more penalties than they did before Pelini got on their case.

The reality is - in this game; the team had already lost its cool before Pelini did (as Mike alluded to in his post game Capital One Bowl report card). Entering the fourth quarter, the Huskers had seven penalties for 35 yards, while the Gamecocks had four for 45 yards.

The final three penalties in the fourth quarter were the questionable pass interference call against Evans, another false start against Jermarcus Hardrick, and a personal foul against Daimion Stafford. Only two of those penalties occurred after Pelini's "volcanic" eruption.

Pelini's behavior has been pretty stellar this season, save the Ohio State postgame press conference in which he became agitated with Dirk Chatelain because of a hatchet job piece Chatelain had written about Taylor Martinez. Pelini's heartfelt postgame presser after the Penn State game earned him some kudos, although you might have already forgotten about that.

If you go to the Omaha World Herald web site today, you'll see the following photo that headlines their video section - Bo Pelini in the face of a referee. This, despite the fact there isn't a video I found that contains an image similar to this, nor are there any clips of Pelini berating an official. You wouldn't know that without looking however, as you're left with the idea that "Today's Top Video" is one of angry Pelini and a poor helpless official whose job it is to take this kind of abuse.

Omaha World Herald slant against pelini
You're being manipulated. You understand this, don't you?

It's not unlike the Pelini photo that headlines this article. Corn Nation uses Associated Press photos, the same used by the World Herald and thousands of other media sites around the country. If you go through those photos, you'll find many many more of the Pelini angry face than you will of Pelini looking like a happy camper. The emphasis is obvious - the media would like you to believe that Pelini spends most of his time angry, especially if he's talking to someone in a black and white shirt. Does anyone honestly believe that Pelini spends the majority of his time angry?

The loss to South Carolina will stick with Husker fans over the course of the offseason. That's a long time for thing to fester. What'd I like to ask is this - are you really upset with Bo Pelini's behavior at the bowl game, or are you completely disgusted with how your favorite team played and you need a place on which to focus your blame?