Pelini's bad day knocks Brown from headlines
Unintentionally, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini gave Mack Brown a little break on Monday.
Brown's murky future at Texas, guiding a rapidly descending program, has been one of the few college football stories getting national attention over the first few weeks of the season that does not involve Johnny Manziel.
Now it's Pelini's turn to be in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Two days after another stinging loss for the Cornhuskers, this one 41-21 at home to UCLA, Pelini decided to take on one of the most beloved players in Nebraska history. Then a few hours after Pelini said, "We don't need him," in reply to criticism from former Huskers great Tommie Frazier, the sports website Deadspin.com posted audio of Pelini complaining about fans and the media in a profanity laced tirade.
Amid all the expletives, Pelini also referred to "fair-weather" Nebraska fans, which might be worse than the cussing to many in the (hash)GBR (Go Big Red) tribe.
The day ended with statements from Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman and athletic director Shawn Eichorst expressing disappointment in the coach, and Pelini apologizing.
"I take full responsibility for these comments," Pelini said in a statement released by the school Monday night. "They were spoken in a private room following the Ohio State game. I was venting following a series of emotional events which led to this moment. That being said, these comments are in no way indicative of my true feelings. I love it here in Nebraska and feel fortunate to be associated with such a great University and fan base. I again apologize to anyone whom I have offended."
Ironically, Pelini was the fans' choice when he returned to Lincoln in 2008 to clean up the mess left behind by Bill Callahan's tenure with the Huskers.
Pelini had been defensive coordinator under Frank Solich and became interim coach when Solich was let go after the 2002 regular season. Pelini led the Huskers to a bowl win and fans loved his intensity and hard-nosed style.
But since coming back, Nebraska has been stuck in a rut. There are worse ruts to be stuck in. Pelini is 50-21 and 29-11 in conference since returning to Lincoln. But the Huskers haven't won a conference title or contended for a national championship. And since Ndamukong Suh left town a few years ago, Nebraska's defense hasn't had much bite.
Pelini can be abrasive. He often gets snippy with reporters. His reaction to Frazier's Twitter rant, in which the former All-American quarterback called for Pelini to fire assistant coaches after another poor defensive performance against UCLA, was not at all surprising.
Nebraska fans generally seem to be tired of Pelini. Not enough big wins to satisfy supporters who still long for the glory days of Tom Osborne and his three national titles in the 1990s.
But it's hard to fire a coach that wins nine or 10 games every season. If the leadership at Nebraska was looking for another reason to change coaches, they now have it.
FABULOUS FRESHMAN. Arkansas (3-0) has its next great tailback tandem.
Freshman Alex Collins has rushed for 100 yards in each of the Razorbacks' games, becoming the first freshman in Southeastern Conference history to reach that mark in his first three games. The last freshman to do it at an FBS school was Adrian Peterson at Oklahoma in 2004.
Collins is second in the SEC in rushing (139 yards per game) and sophomore Jonathan Williams (131 ypg) ranks third.
The two might conjure up memories of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones for Arkansas fans. And they make the perfect combination for new coach Bret Bielema, who wants to bring to Arkansas the powerful ground game that he used to win at Wisconsin.
The competition is about to get much tougher for Arkansas, which plays at Rutgers on Saturday, possibly without quarterback Brandon Allen (shoulder).
BULLDOZED. No first year coach is off to a worse start than Willie Taggart at USF.
The Bulls fell to 0-3 after a 28-0 loss to Florida Atlantic, a team that lost its first two games by a combined score of 65-19.
"We've got to find a way to produce some offense," Taggart said Monday. Specifically from the passing game, where the USF has run through three quarterbacks and completed 37 percent of its passes for 129 yards per game.
Taggart grew up not far from Tampa, Fla., was an assistant under Jim Harbaugh at Stanford and did a nice job building Western Kentucky, his alma mater, into a bowl team. The 37-year-old was pegged as a rising star in coaching and a perfect fit for USF. But it looks as if he'll spend his first season in cleanup mode. The Bulls are off this week before playing Miami.
-Utah State plays at Southern California on Saturday and there is little doubt that the best quarterback on the field will be playing for the Aggies. Chuckie Keeton is completing 83 percent of his passes with 12 TDs and one interception. USC may have finally fixed its quarterback issues. Cody Kessler went 15 for 17 for 237 yards and no interceptions in a rout of Boston College.
-Rutgers could also be using a backup quarterback when it plays Arkansas on Saturday. Starter Gary Nova has a concussion and coach Kyle Flood said he hoped to find out Tuesday if Nova can play. If not, Chas Dodd, who started eight games in 2011, would get the nod.
-Alabama now ranks 86th in the nation in total defense, right behind Central Michigan and in front of Louisiana Tech. Call it being Manzieled.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphdrussoAP