Bo Pelini was easily the most talked about coach on the hot seat heading in to 2014, and after a season that saw his team do what it always did — win enough games to be good, but not good enough — he was let go by AD Shawn Eichorst.
How did Pelini go from getting his team to a Big Ten title game in 2012 to fired just two years later? Let’s take a look at the 2014 Nebraska Cornhuskers season and the good, the bad and the ugly that was.
Nebraska may not be as used to trophy games having meaning, even if your season doesn’t have much meaning. However, the annual regular season finale against Iowa for the Heroes Trophy provided about as good a moment as possible. It also provided one of the most ironic moments of the Pelini tenor as well.
The Huskers took down the Hawkeyes 37-34 in double overtime in the annual Black Friday matchup, giving Bo Pelini a nine-win season for the seventh season in a row. It was also perhaps one of the best wins of the Pelini era, as his team picked him up with is back against the wall.
Down 17 points and looking a third-straight loss in the face, quarterback Tommy Armstrong, Jr. put his team on his back and erased that 17-point lead. He also hit Kenny Bell for a 9-yard touchdown pass in double overtime, sending the Huskers to victory in the trophy game.
It would be the last win Pelini had at Nebraska, as Eichorst would take a bit of time and then fire Pelini for his lack of championship football and a clear personality clash happening with the fans and administration.
As great a feeling as that regular season ending win was, it wasn’t enough to make up for some other bad moments of the season. While we could talk about the losses to Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan State here, it is what happened after Pelini got fired that was really bad (and one could argue ugly as well).
Following his firing by Eichorst, Pelini gathered his players for a closed-door meeting off campus. What Pelini didn’t account for was the availability of recoding options, and that meeting was recorded. It also was leaked to the press and boy was it bad for Pelini.
The now ex-head coach went on a profanity laced tirade against AD Shawn Eichorst, completely burning any bridges that could’ve been to the ground. He claimed Eichorst had “no integrity” and hinted that Eichorst also had no core values he believed in.
Perhaps the coup de grace was Pelini’s words about what went down between the two after the season, where he claimed Eichorst wasn’t really “a man” in so many words.
“I didn’t really have any relationship with the A.D.,” Pelini said, via the Omaha World Herald. “The guy, you guys saw him (Sunday), the guy’s a total p—-. I mean, he is. He’s a total c—.”
That was a bad way to make your exit as a head coach, but not surprising given the knowledge we all have had access to about Pelini. To say he is a hot head would be putting it mildly, and while his players may have loved him it was also all they knew and many have already bought in to Mike Riley and what he stands for — nearly the complete opposite of Pelini.
If you’ve been waiting to hear the words Wisconsin and ass-kicking in the same sentence, here you go. Wisconsin gave Nebraska its third ass-kicking in four meetings as Big Ten conference foes and this may have been the worst of them all despite the 11 fewer points scored in this contest versus the 2012 Big Ten championship game.
Just how ugly was this game? Well, let’s start with Nebraska going up 17-3 on the No. 20 Badgers inside Camp Randall. By the early part of the second quarter it appeared Nebraska was going to firmly control this contest, taking advantage of bad play after bad play and eating up short fields for a quick 17-3 lead.
It all changed on a dime though, as star running back Melvin Gordon was about to do in Nebraska for the second time in his career. Only this time it would be the most embarrassing moment of the Pelini era on defense.
After a 5-yard touchdown run by quarterback Tommy Armstrong, Jr. put the Huskers up 17-3 with 14:14 to go in the second quarter, Melvin Gordon broke out for a 62-yard touchdown run just two minutes later.
By the time the third quarter was over, Gordon had racked up 408 yards on just 25 carries and had four of Wisconsin’s seven rushing touchdowns.
UW would go on to win 59-24, and slam the door shut on any hope that Nebraska had to win a Big Ten West division title. No way around it, this game was ugly on defense, got ugly on offense when Wisconsin settled in and was exactly the reminder of why Pelini needed to go.
He had no answer to anything Wisconsin was doing, and has had next to no answer to what the Badgers did in games that weren’t played at Memorial Stadium. Consider the Badgers to be Pelini’s glass ceiling if you will, because he could never seem to get beyond them or other teams of that ilk.