Pelini expresses concern over Huskers' mounting personal fouls

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Coach Bo Pelini is telling his players to keep their cool.

The Nebraska Cornhuskers have committed eight personal fouls in five games -- not counting the flag Pelini got for unsportsmanlike conduct against Virginia Tech.

"When there is an either-or situation in the heat of the moment, if the situation calls for it, you have to learn to pull off of it and not take the shot. We're not always doing that," Pelini said during the Big 12 coaches' teleconference with reporters.

The Huskers were called for two personal fouls in Saturday's 52-17 loss to Missouri.

Defensive end Zach Potter initiated helmet-to-helmet contact with quarterback Chase Daniel in the first quarter. Offensive lineman Matt Slauson was called for a personal foul in the middle of the fourth quarter.

"We need to play smarter," Pelini said. "Not only the personal fouls, but putting ourselves in first-and-15 and some of the things that happen there. We need to be more disciplined and take care of that aspect. Too many penalties."

He also said there was insufficient evidence to prove Daniel's claim that a Cornhuskers player spat on him before Saturday's game in Lincoln. Pelini said he spoke with his team and talked with Missouri coach Gary Pinkel and characterized his investigation as a lot of "he said-he said." As for whom Daniel accused specifically, Pelini said it was "a little bit gray."

Pinkel said Monday that he had "communicated with Nebraska" on Sunday "and I'm not going to mention anything else about it."

Daniel also didn't want to pursue the topic.

"It's done with, it's a dead issue like Coach Pinkel said," Daniel said. "If we focus on the past or anything like that, then we won't be doing our job."

The Huskers go into Saturday's game at No. 7 Texas Tech on pace to set a school record for penalties in a season.

The Huskers have been flagged 46 times for 374 yards, and their average of 74.8 penalty yards ranks 115th out of 119 Football Bowl Series schools.

The 2003 Huskers set the season record of 89 penalties, and the 2002 team set the penalty yardage record of 784.

The 14 penalties against Missouri tied the Nebraska record. Through five games last season, the Huskers had been penalized 33 times for 318 yards.

Pelini's fiery demeanor has been received well by players and fans after four years of the aloof Bill Callahan.

But his unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Virginia Tech wasn't his first run-in with officials. He also was flagged for the same infraction when he was Nebraska's interim head coach for the 2003 Alamo Bowl win over Michigan State.

Athletic director Tom Osborne declined to comment on Pelini's sideline behavior, saying last week that the issue was between him and Pelini.

Pelini acknowledges he and his assistants must do a better job of conveying to the players the importance of staying disciplined.

"We need to play smarter," he said.