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Neb's Pelini: Comment on fan lethargy not rip job

By Eric Olson

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 16 2010 2:36 p.m. MST

LINCOLN, Neb. — Bo Pelini isn't one to backtrack.

On Tuesday, the fiery Nebraska coach said he was merely making an observation, not ripping the fans, when he said he was disappointed with the "dead" atmosphere at Memorial Stadium for last weekend's Kansas game.

Some fans reacted with anger on radio shows and websites, saying Pelini shouldn't insult the people who pay the bills and have sold out an NCAA-record 310 consecutive home games since 1962.

Others say Pelini spoke the truth and that the fans need to ramp up the volume to support the Huskers and make the stadium more intimidating to visiting teams.

Pelini first commented about the crowd on his weekly television show, taped shortly after Saturday night's 20-3 win over the Jayhawks. On Monday he said, "I felt like I was at a scrimmage."

Pelini didn't back off Tuesday. He said after his weekly news conference that the stadium was quieter than it's ever been in his three seasons at Nebraska and that just before the team came out of the locker room for kickoff "you could hear a pin drop."

Nebraska football is king in this state of 1.8 million, and the fans are proud and passionate. Over each stadium entrance is a sign that reads: "Through These Gates Pass the Greatest Fans in College Football."

Fans already were a bit sensitive after receiver Niles Paul, criticized for his poor outing in the loss to Texas a month ago, said he plays for his coaches and teammates, not the fans.

Pelini dismissed the fan fuss.

"There are going to be fans that are always a little disgruntled," he said, adding that he didn't believe his comments indicate a disconnect between the fans and the program. "It was just an observation."

Rod Hansen of Omaha, who has attended 314 consecutive home games, said fans have a right to be upset.

He said he supports Pelini as a coach and likes the direction of the program. But he said Pelini should concern himself more with what happens on the field than in the stands.

"He stepped in it," Hansen said. "I don't know what his thinking is."

Hansen said he and other fans near him "hollered our guts out" for a defensive effort that held Kansas to 87 yards and five first downs. The offense, which went three plays and out on its first two possessions and punted six times, scored two touchdowns but otherwise didn't do much to excite the crowd.

"Fans have to have something to yell about," Hansen said. "It's not that they're not into the game. You've got to have a good play here and there."

Johnny Rodgers, the Huskers' 1972 Heisman Trophy winner, said he can't fault the fans.

"It was a boring game," he said. "I don't know how excited you could get about it. The coach can say what he wants about the fans, but he can't forget that they've been showing up in force since before I was playing and they're always at the road games."

Nebraska was a 35-point favorite over the Jayhawks and the game time was moved to 6 p.m. to accommodate a pay-per-view telecast. Conditions were crisp the day after a snowstorm, with the temperature 34 degrees at kickoff and a light breeze.

Pelini has often complimented Nebraska fans for their willingness to travel to away games and bowls.

He said the fan base at Texas A&M, Saturday's opponent on the road, is similar — with one exception: "Our fans are better than the Aggies' fans."

Pelini said A&M has a unique culture and set of traditions.

"I know they have some kind of thing on Friday night, like cheer practice," Pelini said, referring to the midnight pep rallies dating to 1913 known as "Yell Practice."

Asked if Nebraska fans, in light of their performance at the Kansas game, need cheer practice, Pelini smiled and lowered his head in a mock expression of defeat.

"I've got enough to worry about," he said.

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