Huskers' Pelini focused on Huskies
Stiff-arms questions on Miami, Holiday Bowl enthusiasm
The Associated Press
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini was in no mood to be cheerful on his 43rd birthday.
Pelini met with reporters Monday for the first time since the 17th-ranked Cornhuskers' loss in the Big 12 championship game Dec. 5.
He snapped at the suggestion that his team might be less than excited about the Holiday Bowl matchup with Washington, a team the Huskers beat handily in September.
And he cut off questions about the extent of any discussions he might have had with Miami about its head coaching job last week.
The Miami issue is moot, now that Temple's Al Golden has been hired. But multiple media reports out of Florida last week had Pelini pegged as a front-runner for the job, causing a stir among Nebraska fans and local media.
"I already released a statement on that. I'm not addressing that again,'' Pelini said before a reporter could finish asking his question.
Pelini's statement last week said "reports that I am preparing to interview at the University of Miami are false.'' But Pelini wouldn't say then, or Monday, whether he had even informal contact with Miami officials about the job.
Backup quarterback Cody Green said he didn't believe reports connecting Pelini with Miami. "Just like any other thing that happens around here, you take it with a grain of salt,'' he said.
Green said Pelini never addressed the reports with the team. "He loves us, we love him,'' Green said. "If he tell us, 'No, I didn't talk to them,' we're going to be 100 percent behind him.''
Receiver Brandon Kinnie said he and teammates were well aware of the speculation. "Coach pretty much keeps us on our toes with everything and tells us not to pay too much attention to the papers,'' Kinnie said. "We asked each other, 'Hey, did you hear about it?' But we didn't go, 'Hey, what if he leaves?' "
Pelini also tired of questions about the Huskers' level of enthusiasm for playing in the Dec. 30 Holiday Bowl for the second consecutive year and having to face a 6-6 Washington team it beat 56-21 in Seattle in September.
"There's no concern. It's seems like you guys are concerned,'' Pelini said. "No, we earned our way. We're looking to playing a good opponent in Washington. That's how it fell, period, end of story.''
Kinnie said he's excited to play the Huskies again. "I like to showcase my talent regardless of who we play,'' he said, "even if we played them five times already.''
Pelini, an NFL assistant for nine seasons before returning to the college ranks in 2003, said preparing to play an opponent for the second time in a season reminds him of his days in the pros. "Actually, it makes it a little bit easier, probably for both staffs,'' he said. "You have a little bit of familiarity.''
The Huskies won their last three games to become bowl eligible.
"They're a much better football team than we played in whatever that was, September, I guess,'' Pelini said. "Hopefully we are, too.''
Nebraska's practice Monday was its third since the 23-20 loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game. Pelini said it's likely receiver Niles Paul (foot) will be back after missing two games and that offensive lineman Mike Smith (preseason broken leg) could be able to play a limited amount.
"It's the opportunity to win our 11th game,'' Pelini said, "and that's what we're looking to do.''