Mark Anthony Pelini is 47 years old. This season marks his 24th in college coaching, his eighth as a head coach.
All this to say: at this point in his career, the man is who he is and that isn't changing. And who he is is a coach that has spent so long cultivating and nursing a temper that his anger has now grown to a point where Pelini is either unwilling or unable to tame it, no matter the cost to him personally or those around him.
The latest example came Saturday, when Pelini's outburst cost his team a game it could not afford to lose.
The situation: Youngstown State leads North Dakota State 24-20 with just over a minute to play, as the Penguins' defense forced North Dakota State to a 3rd-and-3 at the YSU 17 with 1:20 remaining. The Bison tossed a hurried heave which fell incomplete, but officials flagged Youngstown State for pass interference. The flag was - unquestionably - a questionable one. Even the North Dakota State TV crew admitted as much.
But what happened from there was so typical Pelini it may as well have been the 2009 Big 12 championship game, Nebraska's 2010 visit to Texas A&M, a Huskers safety catching a finger to face against Penn State in 2012, his meltdown against Wisconsin in 2014 or any of the other tantrums he threw over the years. In fact, after the play-by-play announcer says he'd never seen a scene like this, the color analyst quips, "Nebraska fans have."
Consider the following:
- After the flag, Pelini loses focus so badly he allows North Dakota State to burn 35 of the final 70 seconds despite holding two timeouts in his back pocket.
- Pelini can be seen mouthing "fucking coward" to an off-camera official.
- Before starting the ensuing possession at its own 30-yard line, Pelini draws an unsportsmanlike conduct call, pushing the Penguins back to the 15.
- The TV sideline reporter relays the officiating crew has become so uncomfortable with the environment with the Stambaugh Stadium environment they've requested a police escort off the field.
- After two incomplete passes and a sack, Pelini draws another unsportsmanlike conduct flag.
- We don't see it on camera, but the color analyst says Pelini bumps an official.
- After Youngstown State's final heave falls incomplete, Pelini chases toward two more officials for some additional barking before shaking NDSU head coach Chris Klieman's hand.
— Rudy Towle (@rudytowle) November 15, 2015
To recap: that's 35 seconds and 19 yards (which would have been 30 if YSU wasn't already so backed up from its first 15-yard flag) Youngstown State has to make up because of its head coach. Yet after the game, Pelini unironically states, "I wish the kids could have decided the game."
His temper already cost him the Nebraska job, so what's one single game on the FCS level. Why would he change at this point?
Actually, that's not fair. One thing has changed about Pelini. After losing precisely four games in all seven of his complete seasons at Nebraska, Saturday's result gave Pelini his fifth loss this season.