Pelini's volatile behavior became the storyline of Saturday's 9-6 loss at Texas A&M, more so than the fact the 16th-ranked Cornhuskers now probably have to beat resurgent Colorado on Friday to win the Big 12 North after starting the season with national championship hopes.
Pelini's foul-mouth berating of the officials and quarterback Taylor Martinez made for must-see TV for ABC, but it also drew an admonishment from Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman and criticism from fans who say Pelini embarrassed the state and program.
"I always believe it's OK to disagree with a call," Pelini said. "It's not OK to make it personal. At times during that game, probably in my quest to fight for the kids on our football team, I let it get personal. For that, once again, I'm sorry. I regret that."
Pelini's sideline rants have been scrutinized since he took over in 2008, but his rage seemed to peak in the A&M game as the Aggies (8-3, 5-2 Big 12) shut down the Huskers (9-2, 5-2).
Officials drew his ire for calling 16 penalties for 145 yards, both school records.
Martinez left the game with five minutes in the first quarter after aggravating his right ankle sprain, and he didn't escape Pelini's wrath, either.
Martinez, who returned to play the second half, was on the sideline in the second quarter when Pelini approached him. The redshirt freshman showed no emotion as the coach yelled at him, pointed his left index finger at him and poked him just above the collar.
Pelini declined to say what prompted the exchange, which was captured by ABC cameras and was viewed more than 109,000 times on YouTube in the 24 hours after the video was posted. Martinez does not speak to the media except after games, and then not always.
"My policy is I don't talk about what happens in our family," Pelini said. "I can say this: the things that are out there speculating over what that was (about) are completely off base. Taylor is with the football team. He and I are on the same page and there are no issues there. We put all that behind us."
Pelini acknowledged that Martinez was not with the team for its Sunday "shakeout," which he described as a short jogging session that helps players loosen up after the previous day's game. Martinez's absence sparked Internet rumors that he had quit the team.
Pelini said Martinez's absence was excused and that he wouldn't have been able to jog anyway because of his injury.
Pelini said Martinez play against Colorado if he's healthy.
Perlman, the chancellor, had called Pelini's behavior "unfortunate" and said it did not represent the university or the football program well. Pelini and Perlman discussed Saturday's chain of events, and the coach said he has the administration's full support.
"We're on the same page," Pelini said. "I have total respect for him, the administration, the job they have to do."
Pelini said he told the chancellor he would tone down his behavior?
"Yeah, absolutely," he said. "Believe me, I assured him it won't happen again."
Perlman declined to comment Monday.