Published Tuesday, September 10, 2013 AT 12:21 PM / Updated at 1:56 PM
Bo talks NU defense, freshmen, motivation on Big Ten call
Rich Kaipust Omaha World-Herald

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini didn’t hesitate Tuesday when asked on the Big Ten teleconference why the UCLA offense can be hard to stop.

“They create space,” Pelini said. “It’s all about creating space and kind of spreading you out, and trying to create room for their playmakers – get guys in one-on-one situations, one-on-one opportunities – and I think they do it very, very well.

“They know what they want to do offensively. They tweak some things week-to-week, but they kind of run what they do. I think their quarterback has a good handle on how the offense works and how to make it work for him.”

Nebraska had obvious trouble defending UCLA last season. With several changes in personnel, are the Huskers better equipped for quarterback Brett Hundley and the Bruins?

“We’ll see how it plays out on Saturday,” Pelini said. “I like our plan right now.”

Pelini said it mostly comes down to execution and making plays in those one-on-one situations.

“We didn’t do that very well a year ago,” he said. “We missed a lot of tackles which really hurt, which added up to a lot of yards after first contact. Obviously that’s an emphasis this week. But you can emphasize it all you want, but you get to Saturday you got to make plays.”

Some other Pelini items from the Big Ten call:

>> Pelini talked about being familiar with UCLA coach Jim Mora Jr. and his father from his time in the NFL: “I’ve known him for a long time and he’s a good football coach, and I’ve obviously got a lot of respect for his father, who did so much over a long period of time in the NFL and was a heck of a football coach, and even a better person.”

>> Pelini was asked if NU players are motivated by the 36-30 loss to UCLA last year in Los Angeles: “I don’t think they are. It’s a different time, different football teams on both sides. Believe me, our team has a lot of respect for UCLA and their program and what they’re doing. That in itself better get you motivated because you know the type of challenge that is coming our way.”

>> On the NU staff’s trust in true freshmen Josh Banderas and Nathan Gerry, who both started defensively against Southern Mississippi: “I think they’ve handled it well. They’re mature guys that show good instincts that are still learning. Believe me, both of ’em are still a work in progress.”

>> Pelini said it’s a similar case with JC transfer Randy Gregory at defensive end: “He’s coming along. Very similar to Banderas and Gerry in that he’s a work in progress. He’s only played two games at this level, but he’s a talented young man who’s working hard at it and doing everything he can to make himself a better football player.”

About Rich Kaipust

Rich Kaipust is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and covers Nebraska football. You can follow Rich on Twitter (@RKaipustOWH) or email him at rich.kaipust@owh.com