The ‘Only Thing We Could Control’

Nebraska rushed for 347 yards in its 42-13 win over Arkansas State, and its running backs combined for 48 rushes for 293 yards in the easy victory, one that was marked primarily by Bo Pelini’s hospitalization at halftime (he’ll be fine, don’t worry.)

via Arkansas State vs. Nebraska: No Rex Burkhead, No Problem for Huskers | Bleacher Report.

“He will be fine, don’t worry,” writes The Bleacher Report’s Adam Jacobi. I assure you, I wasn’t.

The passing of Coach Bo Pelini into that Great Equipment Room in the Sky would have been just the kick in the pants Huskers fans needed after all the garment-rending and teeth-gnashing last week that followed in the wake of a moribund loss to U.C.L.A. It’s just football, after all, right?

Alas, medical tests showed no diagnosable defect in Mr. Pelini, to hear him say so, anyway, and so perspectives remained warped all across Nebraska.

“We did it for him out there, we did it for each other,” linebacker Will Compton tooted after the game.

Not quite wanting the promotion to mascot, Mr. Pelini cooed, “Everything is fine.”

The Trip to the Hospital in an Ambulance, of course, is better known as the go-to move for nervous, soon-to-be-jilted husbands in the movies. You can just hear Mr. Pelini whimpering, “Doesn’t seeing me in the hospital remind you of how much you love me?”

I hope Mr. Pelini got the answer he was hoping for after taking the temperature of his probably-restive locker room. It certainly hasn’t been easy for him this season. Four players have bailed out on his program so far, and his reputation as a defensive genius is thoroughly dented. Even team boosters feel no compunction about haranguing assistant coaches.

“We can’t control a guy leaving the team,” safety Daimion Stafford told The World-Herald. “We can’t control the past. Only thing we could control was Arkansas State.”

And that was the problem with Saturday’s victory: It seemed about as informative as Mr. Pelini’s medical tests. What can you learn about a comfortable victory against a team like Arkansas State?

Probably, the defense, using both three- and four-man fronts and several untested players, was better. Arkansas State, we are told, is no slouch on offense, and managed to score 34 points two weeks ago against now-third-ranked Oregon.

“We made a statement,” Stafford said, apparently without irony. That statement apparently was, Hey, two times out of three, we’ll win a game.

Certainly, the offense continued playing well, displaying the versatility and depth fans wish the defense had. Taylor Martinez threw only one incompletion in 14 attempts, and a stable of running backs — not including the still-injured Rex Burkhead — galloped for 347 yards, led by the sophomore Ameer Abdullah.

Mr. Abdullah, projected as maybe the lead backup heading into the season, had 30 of the 48 carries by running backs, and finished with 167 yards.

“I like running the football,” Mr. Abdullah bleated after the game.

Comments like that are enough to make a guidance counselor soil himself with excitement.

The highs and lows of the afternoon left John Papuchis, the defensive coordinator who took charge of the sideline while Mr. Pelini was at the hospital, sounding a little like a guidance counselor himself: “There are so many life lessons our guys can take from this.”

Here’s one: Devoting your life to an unrewarding, stressful career in football is harmful to your health.

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