As the Nebraska Cornhuskers prepare to take the field against the Penn State Nittany Lions there are key matchups that both teams are well aware of that must be won. The small games within the game are what ultimately decide the outcome of the overall contest.
Many weeks the Nebraska Cornhuskers coaching staff is referred to as the less experienced of the staffs in a given contest. Of course head coach Bo Pelini has plenty of experience and is becoming one of the longer tenured coaches in the Big Ten, but it must also be recognized that Nebraska was his first and only stop as a head coach. Though Pelini would have you believe that he feels no heat from the seat he sits on — and perhaps he does not — the heat does exist because of the nature of the fan base that so desperately desires a return to glory for their program.
Across the gridiron from Pelini this week is Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien. O’Brien, much like Pelini, is tasked with the impossible — fill the shoes of a legend. Yes two coaches have held the title of head coach at Nebraska between Tom Osborne’s last national championship in his final season in 1997. Frank Solich and Bill Callahan were not able to achieve the lofty expectations of their bosses. As Pelini is now trying to live up to Osborne’s legacy, O’Brien is attempting to live up to the Legacy of Joe Paterno. Paterno may have felt that his legacy was forever tarnished following the Jerry Sandusky child abuse sex scandal, but for many devout Penn State Alumni and fans their love for coach Paterno will never fade. Even if there is resentment for Paterno love for the program is not lacking. The fans at State College will not wait patiently for long before they have their eyes permanently fixed on a Big Ten title. Coach O’Brien is a very popular man on campus currently, but in five years he find himself on a seat equally as warm as Pelini’s if he is unable to gain national recognition for the Penn State Program.
When referred to as inexperienced coaching staffs commentators are not speaking of just the head coaches. It is obvious that to win championships it takes a coordinated effort from the entire coaching staff. Big Ten fans have seen this very clearly in 2013 as the Minnesota Golden Gophers have performed unbelievably well in the absence of their leader head coach Jerry Kill.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers have only one coach on staff with more than ten years of experience in the program, and that is running backs coach Ron Brown who has been with the Huskers for 23 years. The rest of the staff have not been around for more than seven years. Much of this can be attributed to the staff joining the team when house was cleaned following Bill Callahan‘s departure, but the Huskers have also fallen victim to the success of coordinators who have moved on. Under coach Pelini the Huskers have seen offensive coordinator Shawn Watson move on for another coaching position s well as Pelini’s older brother, Carl Pelini, who abdicated his position as defensive coordinator for another coaching position.
The Nittany Lions staff received nearly a complete makeover when O’Brien became head coach. Penn State did retain two defensive coaches in linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden and defensive line coach Larry Johnson who have both been with the program for over ten years. The rest of the staff got their start along with the head coach. Both programs are well coached and this should make for an interesting and enthusiastic aspect of this week’s game.