Pelini will coach his first game against his former school as the 14th-ranked Cornhuskers host short-handed Ohio State on Saturday night.
Nebraska (4-1, 0-1) got a rude welcome to the Big Ten in a 48-17 loss at then-No. 7 Wisconsin last Saturday, getting outscored 35-3 over the final 32 minutes.
"We need some guys to step up and man up and start playing football," Pelini said.
Pelini, who played safety for Ohio State from 1987-90, insists facing the Buckeyes won't weigh on his mind any more than facing another opponent.
"I don't really pay attention. It's not more meaningful, less meaningful," he said. "It's about doing a job, and doing your job right, and doing what you can to get our football team better. I want us to walk off that field Saturday night a better football team than we were when we started this week."
That challenge may be easier than anticipated.
The Buckeyes were expected to get running back Dan Herron and receiver DeVier Posey back from five-game suspensions this week, but athletic director Gene Smith announced Monday their punishments for receiving improper benefits would be extended at least one more game.
It's yet another blow to Ohio State (3-2, 0-1), which has been in the news more for its scandals off the field than its play on it - though that hasn't been going so well either.
The Buckeyes gained 178 total yards - their fewest in a regular season game since being held to 177 in a loss to Iowa on Oct. 16, 2004 - and avoided being shut out at home for the first time since 1982 with only 10 seconds remaining in a 10-7 loss to Michigan State last week.
They also lost starting receiver Verlon Reed for the season with a torn knee ligament.
"How many times have we said, we are going to focus on what we have, not what we don't have and focus on moving forward," coach Luke Fickell said. "So that's what we have to do. We are not going to make excuses for guys. We are not going to allow them to be down."
The last time Ohio State lost two games this early in the season was in 2005, when it also started 3-2.
"We all don't like where we are (in terms of record)," Fickell said. "We all know there's ways we need to get better."
The defense, though, kept the Buckeyes in the game last week, forcing a season-high three turnovers and allowing only 71 yards rushing. Given their struggling offense, keeping Martinez in check becomes a priority.
Nebraska's sophomore quarterback couldn't get much going against Wisconsin, throwing crucial interceptions which allowed the Badgers to pull away. Still, Pelini has confidence Martinez will bounce back.
"Let's face it, the quarterback position is always going to be under the microscope," Pelini said. "Trust me, Taylor had a couple throws he'd like back the other night, a couple things he did he'd like back. When you look at what he's done over the bulk of the season, I'm glad he's our quarterback."
Martinez has completed only 50.5 percent of his passes while throwing five interceptions and four touchdowns. He maintains he does a "good job" reading defenses, though his decision-making has to be better.
He's rushed for 482 yards and is tied for second among FBS quarterbacks with eight rushing touchdowns.
While the Cornhuskers know their struggling signal-caller will take the field Saturday, they're not sure who will be under center for Ohio State.
Braxton Miller went 5 for 10 with 56 yards and an interception last week before being replaced by Joe Bauserman, who also looked shaky before hitting Evan Spencer with a 33-yard scoring pass in the waining seconds.
Ohio State has never played in Lincoln, Neb., winning both all-time meetings at home in 1955 and 1956.