September 21, 2009

Pelini reflects on potential game-changing plays

The days following a tough loss like the one Nebraska suffered to Virginia Tech on Saturday are always filled with plenty of what-ifs regarding ways the game could have ended differently.

On Tuesday, head coach Bo Pelini talked about a few of the major what-ifs that may have led to a Husker victory had they gone the other way during his interview on the Big 12 coaches' teleconference.

In particular, Pelini was asked about the third quarter pass play to senior wide receiver Menelik Holt in the end zone that initially looked like a touchdown before being ruled incomplete.

After further review of replays of the play, it looks as if Holt indeed caught the ball and came down in bounds in the back of the end zone. Pelini was asked why he decided not to challenge the play that could've put the Huskers' up 19-10.

"I didn't have a good look at it," Pelini said. "I asked the (ref), I said are you reviewing it? I'm under the assumption they're going to review scoring plays, and I didn't have a good look at it. I asked the guy, and he said (Holt) was bobbling it. He told me he was clearly bobbling it going out of bounds.

"That's what I was told on the field. That's why I didn't challenge it, because I couldn't see it. I had no view - we didn't have a view upstairs. I would've been blanked. I mean, I had no idea. I didn't have a good view of the play, so what are you going to do? I didn't want to use a timeout at that point, because I was told he was clearly bobbling it. I didn't have a good look at it."

Pelini was then asked if he thought Holt in fact caught the ball after watching closer replays the past couple days. Not wanting to openly criticize the officials, Pelini was careful with his answer, but ended by saying he thought it should have been a touchdown.

"I've got to be careful," he said. "Honestly, I'm green enough, I'm not sure what I'm allowed to comment on and what I'm not allowed to comment on. I think it's pretty obvious from watching the replay. It looks like he did."

Pelini was also asked about his decisions to not go for it on fourth-and-1 on NU's final drive and not giving junior running back Roy Helu more than one carry when the Huskers had the ball at the goal line.

He said he opted to punt on the last drive because he was confident his defense would be able to stop the Hokies based on the way it had played throughout the game. As for running it more at the goal line, Pelini said he isn't second-guessing the team's play calling in those situations.

"We called the plays we thought were there," he said. "(Virginia Tech) made some plays. Good for them."

Quick hits:

***Despite rumors that junior quarterback Zac Lee was injured during Saturday's game, Pelini said Lee was "fine" and was at no risk of missing any playing time.

***As for Lee, who completed just 11-of-30 passes for 136 yards and a season-high two interceptions, Pelini said he was confident his quarterback would be able to forget about the loss and move on with the rest of the season.

"I don't think it will change him at all," Pelini said. "He's fine. I think he'll come back, and it's just more experience for him, and I think he'll be better because of it."

***While many will point to Virginia Tech's final two pass plays as the reasons Nebraska fell short, Pelini said it was the numerous missed opportunities to put the game away that led to the Huskers' loss.

"You've got to finish things off," he said. "You've got to execute for four quarters, and unfortunately we didn't do that and it cost us. That's what we're working towards, getting that aspect of it fixed. I've moved on. We've moved on.

"It doesn't change, whether we stopped them on that last drive or not, there's a lot of things in that game we've got to get fixed. It shouldn't have come down to that anyway. We had plenty of opportunities to put that game away on both sides of the ball and on special teams. Everybody contributed to us not finishing that game off."

***It will likely take a few more days for the Huskers to fully forget about Saturday's events, but Pelini gave the loss a silver lining by saying it would help the team in the long run by preparing it to play in big games on the road when the conference schedule kicks off in three weeks.

"Playing in a game like that helps you get ready for conference play because you've been tested and you've been in a tough environment," Pelini said. "We know we're going to face that once we get into conference play, so I think we'll be a better football team because of it."

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