Pelini Returns to Ohio Stadium

By Kyle Rowland on October 2, 2012 at 5:00p

Nebraska hasn’t visited Ohio Stadium since 1956. That could be characterized as a long, long time. But on Monday, Cornhuskers head coach Bo Pelini said it’s been that same amount of time – “a long, long time” – since he’s been to the Horseshoe. A two-year starter at free safety and senior captain, Pelini’s roots in Ohio run deep. 

Pelini was a member of the Buckeyes from 1986-90.

He graduated from football power Cardinal Mooney in Youngstown before traversing west to Columbus and has recruited the state as a coach.

“Ohio State is very popular throughout the state,” Pelini said.

He played under Earle Bruce and John Cooper at Ohio State. Pelini received the Bo Rein Award his senior season, which goes to the team’s most inspirational player, and was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection.

During his freshman year, Pelini was involved in one of the Buckeyes’ most infamous plays. Ohio State hosted Iowa the week before the Michigan game in 1987. Trailing 29-27 late in the fourth quarter, Iowa faced 4th-and-23 at the Ohio State 29-yard line. It looked like an impossible situation for the Hawkeyes, but they completed a long pass and Pelini missed a tackle at the one-yard line as Iowa scored the game-winning touchdown.

Bruce and his staff – graduate assistant Urban Meyer included – were fired the next week.

Meyer and the then-freshman Pelini struck up a relationship and have stayed in touch through the years that have seen each become successful head coaches.

“We’re both northeast Ohio guys,” Meyer said. “Have a really good relationship with Bo. Lot of respect for him as a player.  He was a redshirt freshman, I believe, when Coach Bruce was the coach here in 1912 or something like that. It was 1986, I believe, '87 was when Bo came in. But I got along with him great. We've coached against each other a couple of times when I was at Florida and he was at LSU. Very good coach.”

Despite his connections to Ohio State and the state of Ohio, Pelini has been downplaying the storylines, much like he did last season when Ohio State traveled to Lincoln.

“I’m in a different time in my life and a different place,” he said. “I have a job to do and that’s all I’m concerned with.

“I have pride in where I went to school and my career there. But that has nothing to do with Saturday. It doesn’t really make any difference what happened in 1986-1990. That’s a different time in my life.”

In last season’s game, Ohio State had a 27-6 lead in the third quarter. Then Braxton Miller left the game with a leg injury and Nebraska reeled off 28 unanswered points to shock the Buckeyes. It was the largest lead Ohio State had ever given up.

The game is at night and a hue of red will overwhelm the stadium once again. But Ohio State gets to enjoy all the advantages of playing in its home stadium.

“It’s a great venue,” Pelini said. “It’s a great environment with great tradition. It will be a great place for our kids to play and a great experience.”

Luke Fickell is back in his comfort zone.

Return to Normalcy

Luke Fickell is doing the same thing he was doing a year ago at this time: preparing for Nebraska. But in 2011, he was the interim head coach of 3-2 Ohio State. Now Fickell is back in his defensive coordinator position and the Buckeyes are 5-0.

What a difference a year makes.

The Ohio State football program was still reeling midway through the season last year. Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor were long gone, but issues kept cropping up. Player suspensions became what seemed like a weekly occurrence and possible NCAA sanctions were the 3,000-pound elephant in the room. 

For more than a decade, Fickell was an understudy waiting for the opportunity to become a head coach. It finally came, but no one – not even Fickell – imagined it would come at his alma mater.

Facing unimaginable circumstances, Fickell led Ohio State to a 6-7 record in a year that redefined controversy.

“'You can’t get some of those experiences just reading about it or seeing it or trying to study it,” Fickell said. “To actually do it is invaluable.”

After Urban Meyer was hired the week after Ohio State’s first loss to Michigan since 2003, he decided to retain Fickell. He gave him the title of co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. Meyer also brought in Everett Withers, who was in a similar interim head coaching position as Fickell last season at North Carolina, to help out as the other defensive coordinator.

Through five games, Fickell and Withers have Ohio State ranked in the top half of all defensive statistical categories. The Buckeyes have tended to be a bend-but-don’t-break unit, but just turned in their finest performance of the season, holding Le’Veon Bell to 45 rushing yards on 17 carries.

Ohio State is 5-0 and ranked 12th in the nation with a night game in Ohio Stadium versus Nebraska on tap.

Prepping the Buckeye defense for the Cornhuskers is just fine with Fickell. He’s spent virtually his entire life in Columbus, Ohio, and in the shadow of the Horseshoe. Coaching at Ohio State, even if it isn’t the head job, is just fine.

“It was a great experience,” Fickell said. “You learn a lot about yourself, you learn a lot about others and you know who really has your back and how people react and respond in situations.

“There’s no doubt, you can’t get that experience anyplace else.”

The first of two injuries Braxton Miller suffered on Saturday.

Rest Easy

The 12-to-15 carry range for Miller was breached again in Ohio State’s 17-16 win at Michigan State, and Miller was hit many more times than just on his 23 carries. But he gained 136 yards and Ohio State won.

Production and Ws. That’s what Meyer is seeking, and Miller has given him both.

“Without Braxton Miller, I know we aren’t 5-0,” Meyer said.

Twice against Michigan State, Miller went down and did not get up until trainers worked on him. He was hit late out of bounds on one and careened into an equipment box. The other time Miller came when his knee buckled.

Sunday was a day to recoup.

“He didn't do much (Sunday)”, Meyer said. “He's a little sore.”

It’s tough to avoid when your quarterback doubles as a running back, but Miller’s body took several shots that didn’t have to be administered.

“Eight times he shouldn't have been hit,” Meyer said. “He’s scrambling around, throw the ball away, find a receiver or give the ball. So we're going to go try to win a game, and Braxton's our quarterback and our best player – the guy with the ball in his hands. (Hits are) always a big concern when any time you have your quarterback involved, he's a gifted guy. He’s going to help us win.”

Meyer said it should be a normal week of practice for his star quarterback. If needed, though, Meyer isn’t opposed to letting Miller take fewer reps while allowing his body to refresh.

“Braxton doesn’t need a lot of conditioning,” Meyer said. “His stamina’s pretty good. You just need to get him healthy.”

Taylor Martinez led a spirited comeback Saturday.

Good Crop of Cornhuskers

Miller had 315 total yards against Michigan State, but three turnovers took some luster away. Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez had 288 total yards and zero turnovers, as the Cornhuskers overcame a 17-point second-half deficit to beat Wisconsin, 30-27, Saturday night. It earned him co-offensive player of the week in the Big Ten.

Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter also won the award.

Martinez threw for 181 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 107 yards and a score in the thrilling win over the Badgers.

And he wasn’t the only Nebraska player honored by the conference this week. Punter/kicker Brett Maher was named special teams player of the week.

Maher kicked the game-tying field goal and game-winning field goal against Wisconsin. He made three of four field goal attempts and also averaged 46.7 yards on three punts, pinning one at the 10-yard line. It forced Wisconsin to have to go 90 yards on its potential game-winning drive.


Comments Show All Comments

painterlad's picture

I usually have an excellent memory concerning former Buckeye players, but I honestly can't recall Pelini playing at OSU.

To err is human. Really sucking requires having yellow stripes on your helmet.

Buckeye Chuck's picture

Keep in mind that when he was here, he went by "Mark Pelini." I was surprised to realize that the Bo Pelini making news as an assistant was the same guy who was part of some really poor defenses in Columbus.

The most "loud mouth, disrespect" poster on 11W.

Culp's Freaking Hill's picture

That's right.  He was nicknamed Bo after Browns RB Bo Scott, who is also a Buckeye.

Twitter: @conquestnorman

cinserious's picture

Is "Mark Pelini" supposed to be some kind of 'FickellIsEinhorn'?

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

BuckeyeVet's picture

Painter - I agree. I think it's a scam. He actually went to PSU, but doesn't want to admit it. Trying for an upgrade by pretending to have gone to OSU. Sneaky!

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."          - Groucho Marx

"The recipient of Oyster's ONLY down vote".

3technique's picture

He looks 45 in that picture. When I read the coaches he played for I would have thought for sure it would it have been Woody.. Guys looks old and any player who can not look on his days at OSU with fond memories deserves to be taken to the woodshed this saturday! GO BUCKS!!!

Haybucks's picture


If the world comes to an end, I want to be in Cincinnati. Everything comes there ten years later. -  Mark Twain


johnblairgobucks's picture

I was at that game in 1987 with my dad.  4th and 23 from the 29 yard line.  Iowa completed about a 10 yard pass to tight end Marv Cook and he rambled from the hash mark, up the sideline, to win the game......ughhh. 
OSU went 6-4-1 that year, Earl Bruce got fired, and OSU got pummeled by Indiana and RB Anthony Tompson 31-10 in Columbus.
I can recall many fans, tailgating before the game (the big RV tailgate spot used to be in the St. John Arena parking lot), wearing "Fire Earl Bruce" buttons.  There was even an airplane flying over the stadium during the game, dragging a banner which read "Earl must Go".
Funny thing about '87, OSU won the first 2 games against West Virginia and Oregon, then tied the third game against LSU........ do that today and we would be top 5.  Oh, and we beat Michigan too, that year.

Doc's picture

Kick some Cornshucker ass boys!  Is it Saturday yet?!?!?!?

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

causeicouldntgo43's picture

It's OK to hate the former Buckeye, Mr. Pelini, for a day, this Saturday to be specific.....

gravey's picture

I was at OSU when Pelini was there.  He was a quiet guy pretty much all around.  The good players generally weren't all that public...not at the bars, etc.  He was surely in that category.  But the 5th string defensive end...those kind of guys were out every-other night (like me!).  Gotta cash in on that celebrity with the ladies while it lasts!!!
I hope he coaches well...can't root against a Buckeye...but I hope his team plays like crap.

a9entsmith's picture

4th and 23 on the OSU 29 and they go for it?! Iowa must've had the Bauserman of kickers in '87.

cinserious's picture

Why does it seem like there arn't many major-college BCS coaches out there that arn't from the great Buckeye coaching tree? That as well as the overwhelming alumni and fanbase OSU has, it makes sense why there are so many haters out there including former members of the Buckeye family and natives of Ohio like Brady Hoke.

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

CowCat's picture

^ So true.
If you consider coaches who A) are from Ohio and/or B) coached college ball in Ohio, you get ...
Woody Hayes
Jim Tressel
Urban Meyer
Bo Schembechler
Lou Holtz
Don James
Pete Carroll
Nick Saban
Les Miles
Bobby Stoops
Bo Pelini
Sid Gilman
Mark Dantonio
Brady Hoke
... and more that I'm forgetting.   If you throw in pro ball as well, you can add Bill Walsh, who invented the "west coast" offense in Cincinnati.   And a guy named Paul Brown ...

"We get paid to score touchdowns, not kick field goals"
-- Urban Meyer

hodge's picture

Ara Parseghian, Frank Solich, Gary Moeller, Joe Tiller, Chuck Noll...the list goes on and on.

Hockeybuck's picture

The article is incorrect.  Iowa won 29-27, which explains why they had to go for it on fourth and 23.  They were down 27-22.