Jackrabbits travel to Lincoln to take on embattled Pelini, Huskers

So, this should be quite the football game this week, huh?

On the heels of Nebraska getting demolished in the second half against UCLA and one of the Cornhuskers’ best quarterbacks in school history tweeting that the defensive coaches should be fired and their head coach having to answer questions about a profane rant against Nebraska fans, this isn’t exactly a high time for the Huskers.

And ho hum, SDSU rolls into Memorial Stadium for the second time in four years, unbeaten through three games in 2013, this time hoping to finish off the upset they left behind in 2010. 

The stage is set for an interesting game, for sure. The Jackrabbits play at Nebraska Saturday at 2:30 p.m., and the pressure is not on the yellow and the blue. 

“Unfortunately, in our business after Nebraska losing one game, there’s a lot of pressure on them,” SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier said. “That’s an intense environment. And if things don’t go well, the fans could be not against us but against them.”

The spotlight has been red hot in Lincoln since the Huskers lost, 41-21 to UCLA, where the Bruins scored 31 unanswered points in the second half en route to the win. Pelini also offended many NU fans when he said that “we don’t need him,” referring to the comments made by former national championship-winning quarterback Tommie Frazier. Frazier had suggested that the whole defensive staff needed to be fired. 

Pressure only intensified Monday when the sports website Deadspin was tipped off to audio from 2011 that revealed Pelini using multiple expletives when talking about Nebraska fans and two local newspaper reporters. Since that news broke, Nebraska has been in the news for all of the wrong reasons and Pelini and NU administrators have been reeling to defend their coach and program. 

As if that wasn’t enough, Huskers quarterback Taylor Martinez was held out of practice early in the week. Martinez is wearing a walking boot this week and his status is officially questionable prior to Saturday. NU has been getting a pair of backups some work in case Martinez can’t go. 

Maybe the Huskers’ focus has moved from this week’s opponent but they’re saying all of the right things. 

“Stay focused,” defensive end Randy Gregory said. “South Dakota State are not world beaters. I’ve seen them on film, but you can’t take anyone lightly. We just got to take it serious from here on out.”

So it’s a little ironic that the Jacks will play a team that has made such waves in the last week because SDSU rarely makes waves of any kind. Stiegelmeier has gone out of his way to make sure that his team focuses on football and that the team will not be in awe of the scene Saturday in Lincoln. 

After all of that, let’s not forget who’s favored in this game: Nebraska by 22 points. 

“I think it’s natural to look forward to this game,” Stiegelmeier said. “I don’t think we’ve overlooked any of our opponents to this point. But I don’t think it’s the Super Bowl and you get so high that you lose track of how to play your game of football. It’s going to be a great test because we’re not going to face better athletes this year or a more storied program.”

Nebraska got a taste of the Jackrabbits in 2010, where SDSU provided a scare before the Huskers won 17-3. 

“Last time they came in here and they probably should have beaten us,” senior offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles. “They had a couple touchdowns called back. That was my redshirt freshman year, so almost four years ago … It doesn’t matter who’s coming in here. It doesn’t matter if it’s South Dakota State, Ohio State, Alabama or Wyoming.”

Like annual games against NDSU or USD, the Nebraska game has been circled on the schedule. Except it’s only the second time in four years and could go away for a while with a Big Ten moratorium on scheduling FCS games looming. 

“It’s a big game,” junior receiver Jason Schneider said. “As a freshman, you pick out the games on the schedule during your time that are going to be big games in front of big crowds in your career and this is certainly one of them. They’re a good team. We’re going to have to come ready to play if we’re going to win.”

Although the Jacks are 0-5 in their previous FBS games, the emphasis remains that this is a business trip and that the Jackrabbits should be prepared to perform in such a manner. 

“That’s really excited for our fans and everything but we need to treat them like any other team,” linebacker T.J. Lally said. “We can’t really play the high and low game otherwise we’ll wear ourselves out.”