It all started with a quote from junior wide receiver Kenny Bell. Captured by Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal Star, Bell was an immediate critic of the Huskers' performance against Wyoming.
There was nothing to celebrate. I felt like we lost this football game tonight. I'm hurting. ... It’s humbling. It’s a humbling sport. We can’t walk on the field and say, ‘We’re Nebraska, we’re going to win this football game.’ Hats off to Wyoming, but we should have buried those guys when we were up 16 (points). When you get a team down like that, you have to come out and you have to have the nastiness, you've got to have the edge to you that says now that you’re down, I’m going to keep you down there. And we didn’t have that tonight. That’s everybody. That’s every single one of us.
Bell's words were just the beginning. The leaders of the Nebraska team, including head coach Bo Pelini, came forward in Monday's weekly press conference with additional words that challenged the capabilities of this team. That challenge is to get better and to prove that the Nebraska Cornhuskers are a team worth paying attention to.
When asked about Bell's statement during the press conference, senior quarterback Taylor Martinez was quick to stand by his teammate. "We weren’t very happy with ourselves that we let them come back into the game," Martinez said. "Great teams don’t let that happen."
Martinez noted that the team woke up this morning with the realization that it's a new week. Pelini confirmed the players will be in watching film as soon as possible, striving to learn and make the jump between Week 1 and Week 2.
While some may criticize Pelini's optimism during the press conference, it should come as a positive sign for fans. Martinez was also positive, despite a bruised shoulder that, while sore, will not keep the quarterback from practice or play.
While the leaders of this team could have easily been negative, there really was no reason to be just yet. Pelini is confident in the jump his team will make before facing Southern Mississippi.
Senior offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles agreed. "We have a chance to be a really good football team, but it’s not just going to happen." Sirles said during the press conference. "It’s going to take a lot of hard work."
That work to become better began immediately after the Wyoming game. Bell started the challenge by expressing his disappointment. Pelini, Martinez and Sirles were there to support Bell's feelings but reiterate the talent of this team.
Defensively, the Huskers are young. Senior cornerback Ciante Evans acknowledged that, adding that communication will be key. Going forward, he expects the young group to improve. It helps having the leadership of Evans and the Blackshirts as support.
Last Saturday's matchup against Wyoming may not have ended exactly as planned, but it provided the wake-up call the team needed. From there, the challenge the leaders of the Huskers have put in place is that this team can and will make the jump before Week 2. Even more, the bar has been set that the Huskers will progress weekly and improve into the team they know that they are capable of being.
Fans may be putting the pressure on this team, but for the Husker leaders, it's a challenge worth taking.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes are courtesy of the Nebraska weekly press conference, via Huskers.com.