Randy York’s N-Sider
With 10 minutes and 57 seconds left in the fourth quarter Saturday, thousands of Nebraska football fans stood up and raised both arms in the air after Jamal Turner caught a 5-yard slant pass from Taylor Martinez to give the Huskers their first lead over Penn State, 27-23.
Two former Husker receivers didn’t signal touchdown, but they grinned like they just scratched the right numbers on a lottery ticket, celebrated on Nebraska’s east sideline and explained what career touchdown No. 2 means for Jamal Turner after clutch catches in back-to-back, black-and-blue Big Ten barnburners.
“Confidence is the most important thing in the world for a football player and especially for a receiver,” said Niles Paul, a second-year tight end for the Washington Redskins and a guest invited to be inside the ropes with the Husker team Saturday on a bye weekend. “Jamal got that first big touchdown catch out of the way last week at Michigan State, and now he has all the confidence in the world. That was Jamal’s springboard. Now that he knows what he can do, just watch how many more big catches he’ll have in the future.”
Swift Sees Better Routes, More Production
Nate Swift isn’t on an NFL roster, but he left Nebraska as the school’s career receptions leader with 166 catches and ranked second in career receiving yards with 2,476, just three yards behind Johnny Rodgers. Swift agreed with Paul and said, in effect, that Jamal Turner has put his future in good hands – his own. “He’s a pure athlete,” Swift said. “There’s never been any doubt about that from anyone. Confidence is preparation, and he expects great things.”
After clutching a short Martinez pass in the final seconds in East Lansing and then holding onto another tight catch in the north end zone against the Nittany Lions, Turner will have even more pep in his step this week, in practice as well on Senior Day next Saturday when a bowl eligible Minnesota comes to town.
“Being a great receiver is all about running the right routes and knowing you can do it,” Swift said. “When you get your confidence, it gets fun, and you can do amazing things.”
Ability to Judge Himself through His Own Eyes
A more self-assured Jamal Turner will see things better, picture more precise routes and visualize making more winning catches. He no longer has to judge himself through someone else’s eyes. He can judge himself through his own.
That’s the beauty of Turner’s confidence. Instead of the blur in his head from never seeing a college touchdown after making 63 in high school, he’s painting a more vivid picture in his mind again – in high definition, no less.
In the mind’s eye is the power of confidence, a bolder attitude and a more courageous mindset. From now on, instead of worrying about what he hasn’t experienced, Jamal Turner will dial up what he’s proven two weekends in a row – with the game on the line and pressure at its peak.
We all know you have to expect things of yourself before you can do them, and after spending so much time wondering if he could, Turner now knows better. He will no longer consent to doubt or question his ability to be a game-changer.
Big Question: Can Everything Come Up Roses?
He now plays a key role in a Nebraska cast that doesn’t have to be asked “Can you feel it?” Jamal Turner feels it and with two regular-season games remaining, including the regular-season finale at Iowa City the day after Thanksgiving, he’s expecting one more thing. He’s expecting everything to come up roses, even if the season did have a thorny start.
Yes, Nebraska has now overcome four double-digit second-half deficits this season to win. Two were road games – at Northwestern and Michigan State. The other two were magic moments elevated by a determined roar inside Memorial Stadium – against Wisconsin and Penn State.
Last week, Turner told a Lincoln sportswriter that he felt like a new man after making that game-winning catch with a half dozen seconds left on the clock. He said he felt like a better player, and he envisioned everybody looking at him differently than they had all season.
Well, the best thing about building confidence is the big plays – and the swagger – that come with it. And the next best thing is seeing the voltage of confidence surging through the hearts of your teammates, such as:
Taylor Martinez once again thinking impossible is nothing.
Kyler Reed once again laying the long track getting Martinez/Turner to a short end zone.
Ameer Abdullah once again realizing he can stand in for Rex Burkhead.
Sean Fisher knowing he can hit the right spots one series after another.
Alonzo Whaley and David Santos showing what it takes to cause a fumble.
Imani Cross demonstrating how a No. 3 I-back can score two pivotal touchdowns.
Heard being heard
from again. He will be needed down the stretch.
Daimion Stafford finishing with eight tackles and creating two turnovers.
Brett Maher kicking three field goals and pinning the enemy behind the lines as a punter.
Ciante Evans achieving a career-high 10 tackles.
Will Compton matching those 10 tackles and recovering a fumble.
Baker Steinkuhler converting a heat-seeking missile into a quarterback sack.
An entire offensive team, defensive team and special teams knowing it’s never over ‘til it’s over and understanding what their head coach keeps saying … once they can clean up some of their messes, there’s no telling how good they might be … not next season, but today and tomorrow, stepping stones to Indianapolis and Pasadena.
What a program-changer that would be, and what a tribute that would be to a retiring athletic director who brought Bo back to Lincoln.
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