Published Saturday, November 3, 2012 AT 10:11 PM / Updated at 10:16 PM
Pelini wants Nebraska to play smarter
Jon Nyatawa Omaha World-Herald

Coach Bo Pelini wanted to make it clear after Saturday’s 28-24 win at Michigan State: He’s concerned about the mistakes that nearly proved costly.

Three turnovers. Nine penalties for 72 yards. The undisciplined approach at times by his defense, especially against the run. The struggles inside the red zone.

“You can’t live like that all the time,” Pelini said.

It will continue to be addressed going forward. “We’ve just got to keep talking about it, and working at it, and striving to get better at some of those areas — that I think are holding us back from playing with the type of potential I think we’re capable of,” Pelini said.

But with all that said, Nebraska still found a way to win. The Huskers were down 24-14 with nine minutes left, and they managed to get the victory. That should be celebrated, according to Pelini.

Said Pelini: “We don’t always play as smart as we need to play, but one thing you can’t question about the guys in that locker room is the kids play with heart. And it really means a lot to me. … There’s a great bond. I’m proud of the kids and I’m happy for them.”

Some other tidbits are below. Much more to come on the comeback win.

>> Nebraska, without any timeouts left, had the ball on the MSU 20-yard line with the clock winding down. Could have settled for a field goal. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck asked Pelini if they should play it safe. But Pelini trusts Taylor Martinez. “I said, ‘Let’s go win the football game right here,’” Pelini said. Martinez eventually found Jamal Turner for the game-winner.

>> Martinez finished with 205 rushing yards. He completed 16 of his 36 pass attempts for 160 yards. He totaled four touchdowns. Martinez is now the all-time Nebraska leader in total offense. Said Pelini: “He put the team on his back at the end of that football game and made some plays.”

>> The go-ahead, 5-yard touchdown pass to Turner was the exact same play from a week ago, when the sophomore receiver lost the football in the lights against Michigan. Turner took the visor off his helmet before Saturday’s game to help prevent that.

>> Beck said he figured that tight end Kyler Reed would be open on the fourth-and-11 play on the final drive because of the way Michigan State was aligning within its prevent defense. The back-end zone was so deep, he assumed Reed could get open past the linebackers. The pass play resulted in a 38-yard gain.

>> Pelini considered punting the football on fourth down with about three minutes to go. But he had all three timeouts and he thought his defense could get a stop. So Nebraska went for it. Didn’t get it — but the Blackshirts forced a punt. And Martinez did the rest.

>> Kenny Bell was the one who got blown up by an MSU defender on that key personal foul in the fourth quarter, wiping out Darqueze Dennard’s touchdown return after that interception. Here’s what Bell remembered (or didn’t remember): “Johnny Adams smoked me. Oh, he hammered me. I was seeing stars.”

>> Sophomore running back Ameer Abdullah said he felt healthy before the game Saturday. He was dealing with “nothing more than just ordinary injuries that you get.” After 22 carries, Abdullah said he felt “fine” after the game, too.

>> Turner on the scene inside Nebraska’s locker room after the win: “Yelling. Hugging. Just crying, almost. It was crazy.”

About Jon Nyatawa

Jon Nyatawa has covered local sports, primarily Nebraska football, for The Omaha World-Herald since 2008. He and his laptop, cell phone, tape recorder, pen and notebook all live in Lincoln. Follow him on Twitter: @JonNyatawa. Email him here: jon.nyatawa@owh.com. He welcomes feedback.