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Nebraska Football: Huskers' Loss to USC a Fitting End to Bo Pelini Era

Published by Bleacher Report on Sun, 28 Dec 2014

When time expired at the Holiday Bowl, it was official. The Bo Pelini era was over at Nebraska. It was a fitting ending, too.That's not to say that the Huskers didn't put up a fight. They did. It just wasn't enough.And isn't that what feels the most familiar about Pelini's time at Nebraska'During his tenure, Pelini never had less than four losses with the Huskers. On the other hand, he also never had less than nine wins. The struggle was that the former Nebraska head coach just couldn't get over the hump.Against USC, Nebraska faced the same issue. That's why the 45-42 loss at the hands of USC stings so much. The Huskers could have won. The opportunities were there. It just didn't pan out.You can blame some of it on the play calls. There were two opportunities where Nebraska left two field goals on the field in favor of going for it on fourth down. Neither time resulted in what the Huskers wanted.It could also be blamed on the mentality of the Nebraska team. After a rocky month, it was clear there was a lot of emotions on the field. At one point, 93.7 The Ticket's John Gaskins noted that Nebraska coaches were fighting on the sidelines while interim head coach Barney Cotton broke them up.However, it seems like Pelini's memory is what put the fight in the Nebraska players. From an empty bus seat in his honor, to his name placed on helmet decals and towels, Pelini was everywhere with the Huskers. In this final game before the new coaching staff takes over, it felt like Pelini's staff could finally pull it off.Against Michigan State, Wisconsin and Minnesota, Nebraska was unable to overcome the hump in 2014. The Huskers got close against Michigan State and Minnesota, rallying late to keep the hope alive. It just wasn't enough in either game.That's always been the challenge for Nebraska under Pelini. Defeating ranked opponents and winning in the national spotlight have plagued the Huskers and it became clear that Pelini wasn't sure how to fix the problem.Nebraska can still be proud of the performance against the Trojans, though. The Huskers finished with 525 total offensive yards and some strong showings from the Blackshirts.Senior I-back AmeerAbdullah increased his career rushing total to 4,588 yards, which was only 192 yards shy of Mike Roziers Nebraska record of 4,780 career rushing yards. Freshman wide receiverDeMornay Pierson-El had a career-high eight receptions, which also set aNebraska bowl record and freshman safety Kieron Williams blocked two USC punts in the game. And those are just to name a few of those who made big plays for Nebraska.Yet, it still wasn't enough and it feels oddly similar. Even the one second that was added back on the clock (by Big 12 referees) at the end felt familiar to a certain moment in Big 12 history. It was enough to even get former Texas head coach Mack Brown talking.After the game, Cotton answered a question about the final attempt to go for it on fourth down."I was very proud of them. ... We just came up a little short at the end," he said.Yet, that comment about one play felt like it could sum up much more. After all, Pelini came up short many times during his tenure, especially in big games. He was 9-17 against ranked opponents for the Huskers (he was 9-14 to start the season, per The Wall Street Journal),which left many fans hoping for more.The Holiday Bowl was the end of one era for Nebraska, but it's also the beginning of another. Will things be different'Only time, and a fair chance to Mike Riley, will tell.All quotes obtained via the Huskers post-game press conference, unless otherwise noted.
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