"I told the defense that they played their tails off," he said.
As for the offense, he said, "They got a good you-know-what chewing."
Taylor Martinez ran for 157 yards and two touchdowns and Roy Helu Jr. had 107 yards and a TD, but the Huskers (2-0) committed four turnovers and had 10 penalties for 123 yards.
The defense carried the day. The Blackshirts intercepted Nathan Enderle five times, with DeJon Gomes and Rickey Thenarse taking theirs back for touchdowns, and they recorded seven sacks against the Vandals (1-1).
The uneven performance was a red flag to Pelini, whose team faces a major road test next Saturday at Washington.
"Our attention to detail needs to pick up. Our attitude needs to pick up, and our standards need to pick up," he said. "We'll get that fixed. We'll be fully ready as a football team to go to Seattle. I promise you that."
Martinez went over 100 yards rushing for the second straight game, but he fumbled and threw an interception that resulted in Idaho's first touchdown.
"We didn't come out very strong at all," he said. "I didn't think it was a very good game at all."
It was a brutal day for Enderle, who grew up rooting for the Huskers and was playing in his home state for the first time since high school.
The fifth-year senior from North Platte was sacked five times, and he threw three of his five interceptions on consecutive possessions in the second quarter. Nebraska converted each of those second-quarter picks into touchdowns to go up 31-3 at half.
Safety P.J. Smith, who had the first pickoff, said Enderle never took his eyes off his intended receiver.
"A couple of us on the sideline were saying that he's throwing presents to us," Smith said. "It was Christmas to us, basically. We should have had a couple more. But we got five, so that's good enough."
Helu scored from 58 yards the play after Smith pulled in a pass tipped high by teammate Prince Amukamara.
Gomes jumped in front of a ball intended for Maurice Shaw and took it 40 yards to the end zone for a 24-0 lead, and Thenarse followed with a 47-yard return after he swiped another pass meant for Shaw.
The Vandals couldn't run up the middle against Nebraska's front four, and they couldn't make the corner when they tried to go outside against the faster Huskers.
Enderle was 16 for 31 for 141 yards and was pulled midway through the fourth quarter after throwing his fifth interception to Alfonzo Dennard.
"It was rough," Enderle said. "You don't like to have a game go that way, but when it does, you've got to move past it and go to the next play. You can't fix stuff that already happened. Then you over-exert yourself and end up making more mistakes."
Brian Reader came in and was sacked twice before he put together a 10-play, 98-yard TD drive against Nebraska's backups.
Gomes finished with a team-leading 10 tackles, and Jared Crick had 2½ sacks and four tackles for 32 yards in losses for the Huskers.
"You play a team like that, and you can't turn the ball over," Vandals coach Robb Akey said. "That really killed us. That's what hurt the most."
Martinez, who was impressive last week against Western Kentucky in his first start, showed again how dangerous he is on the zone-read option.
He scored from 67 yards after pulling the ball out of Helu's belly, heading right and making a fast left between his guard and tackle before accelerating in open field.
Martinez's second TD came from 20 yards after he had a 38-yarder erased by a holding penalty far behind the play.
As good as Martinez was on the run, he seemed hesitant in the passing game. He fumbled as he got sacked, killing a drive after the Huskers had moved inside the Idaho 10. Later, he threw an interception that resulted in Idaho's first touchdown.
Nebraska's first possession was marred by a clip and an unnecessary roughness penalty. Another drive stalled after a false start and a clip left Nebraska with a first-and-30.
Receiver Niles Paul fumbled when he took a direct snap on the first play of the third quarter, and Dontrayevous Robinson fumbled at the Idaho 1 in the fourth.
The mistakes overshadowed the fact the Huskers piled up 471 total yards.
"We have high standards around this place," Pelini said. "It was pretty obvious that we were careless with the ball, we were undisciplined, we had too many penalties.
"When we're hitting, we're a pretty good football team. We lost our focus and something happened in there. That won't happen again."