Today's Nebraska football game against Iowa almost has become a sideshow to the "Is Bo Pelini being fired or not?" storyline. Or in the eyes of some, it's not "if" but rather "when". I'll cut to the chase: I don't believe Bo Pelini should be fired. That doesn't mean that I'm happy with an 8-4 record, but considering the circumstances that got Nebraska to this point (young defense and 12 players on the two-deep offensive roster), 8-4 is actually a fairly good record. (Did anybody see yesterday what the Green Bay Packers are like without Aaron Rodgers? That's what injuries at key positions and with this quantity can do to a team.)
Starting out the day, I thought Nebraska was going to have a good day offensively until Taariq Allen got penalized for stepping out of bounds before catching a 32 yard pass down to the Iowa 17 yard line. Next play, a bad interception. Two plays later, another bad interception. 7-0 Iowa.
More special teams blunders put Nebraska inside their own five yard line, and the resulting punt gave Iowa another short field. Now it was 14-0, and things were looking awfully bleak at halftime. Nebraska did put together a really nice drive to open the third quarter, and it seemed to be game on. Until the refs decided to penalize Zaire Anderson for pass interference on a pass thrown 15 feet over C.J. Fiedorowicz's head. Horrible call. Then the officials flagged Pelini 15 yards for apparently waiving his hat too close to the referee. Still Nebraska didn't seem to be out of the game until Pelini made one of the worst call's of his coaching career.
Kirk Ferentz smelled it coming, and called time out. Just to be on the safe side, he sent his base defense back out onto the field. And the fake punt was stuffed in Nebraska territory. One play later: Boom... 24-10. Still, it wasn't over. Nebraska battled back, and after a defensive stop, Nebraska seemed ready to finally mount the comeback over their mistakes. And then another happened, as Ameer Abdullah got popped in the helmet and fumbled. And that's all she wrote. Nebraska got desperate late, going for an ill-advised fourth down on their side of the field to allow a garbage touchdown late. That was the ball game.
A short postgame press conference seemed to signify where this is heading. Pelini called the pass interference a "chicken-sh*t" call. He was both right - and wrong. Right, because it was a bad call. Wrong, because Pelini can't say that in public. At the very least, Pelini will likely be sanctioned by the Big Ten for publicly criticizing the refs.
Unless, of course, Shawn Eichorst acts first. I didn't really believe it before today. I sense most people didn't believe it before today. But now, everybody seems to. And it's pretty darn clear this one could be even more divisive than the Solich firing ten years ago if it's not handled correctly. Fans are clearly split on whether Pelini should stay or go. But making it even tougher are the comments of the players; they clearly love Pelini and stand behind their coach 1000% percent.
Should that count for something? It should. But I'm not sure what formula Eichorst will use in making this decision. And neither does anybody else outside of One Memorial Stadium. But here's how I would evaluate the situation: I'd sit down and ask Bo what went wrong and what needs to change moving forward. Eichorst played the game, and it's his responsibility to determine if that's truly going to take Nebraska to the next level.
I don't know if that's what Eichorst will do. I just hope that Nebraska still has a chance of avoiding another nuclear winter like 2003-04.